16 Ways Your Home is Making You Sick from 16 Ways Your Home is Making You Sick

16 Ways Your Home is Making You Sick

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16 Ways Your Home is Making You Sick

Lots of household items are potential irritants and/or can cause health complications. The most important fact, however, is the physiological wellbeing of the individual’s exposed to those potential items,” Bruce White, Education Committee Chair at the Indoor Air Quality Association, says. In general, the healthier a person is, the less likely he or she is to be affected by the potential contaminant. “Also, age and previous illnesses can play a role,” he adds. 

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Heaters and air conditioners

Potential problems with them, White says, include carbon monoxide (an odorless, colorless gas that can kill you, according to the CDC), CO2, particulate, mold, and pollens. “Space heaters have been known to start fires,” Spencer Hampy, CIE, CMC, and president of Oasis Indoor Environmental, adds.

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Leaks

Mold, sewage, and bacteria are some more common issues you can be facing if the problem is not fixed. “Hidden mold is everywhere,” White says. Leaks in the ceiling and constantly wet walls can cause structural damage, he adds. “This kind of moist environment attracts termites.” Some molds are infectious; most cause allergic reactions, Hampy adds.

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Painted walls

The concern with paint is the removal of paint with lead in it, Hampy says. “Some older homes have underlying layers of lead paint. When the paint chips children can eat the chips and be exposed to the lead.” If there is scraping or sanding of surfaces with lead paint, the lead contaminated dust can be breathed in and cause illness – mostly neurological but also physical, he adds.

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Carpets

“Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) is the release (volatizing) of chemicals into the air,” Hampy says. Health effects many include eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, loss of coordination and nausea, damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system, according to the EPA. “Some people are highly sensitive to chemicals and can be sickened by these VOCs from new carpeting.” Another big problem associated with carpets is dust. “Anywhere you have dust you can have pollen and dander. Dust mites, which work their way deep into carpets, are a common cause of year-round allergy and asthma. The key is frequent cleaning, White adds.

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Old mattress

Back pain and insomnia can both be the results of a bad or worn-out mattress. Also, bed bugs, tiny bloodthirsty insects, can be a big problem, White says. “It’s very hard to get rid of them; you’re better off throwing out the mattress and getting a new one.” There have been no reported cases of bedbugs transmitting disease to humans. But the blood-sucking insects can cause anxiety and sleeplessness. Other concerns with old mattresses are mold, bacteria, and dander.

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Bed sheets

When was the last time you washed your sheets? Probably at least two weeks ago. You are increasing the chance of oil irritants, dander, pests, and chemical residue, White says. Just imagine all the sweat, body oils, even saliva, and other fluids that remain…You can get an infection even if you have a scratch and go to bed to sleep in such dirty sheets. Also, the dead skin cells that you shed can attract dust mites.

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Bath mat

Anything from the floor increases the risk for mold and dander, White says. It makes sense if you think about it. They are soaked after you leave the shower, providing a moist environment where mold and bacteria can thrive undisturbed. Make sure you follow the washing instructions. They usually need to be laundered once a week at a very high temperature and with bleach. Don’t wash together with bed sheets or clothes.

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Wood floors

Some laminate “wood” flooring has been found to contain high levels of Formaldehyde, Hampy says. It is a colorless, flammable gas at room temperature with strong odor. “The Formaldehyde can cause ill health effects in sensitive individuals.” It can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat. High levels of exposure may cause some types of cancers, according to the EPA. Depending on the floor, VOC can also be a problem, White adds.

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Frost-free fridges

Potential problems with these common fridges include mold at door seals, depending on age refrigerant leaks, White says. They have an electric coil in the freezer that melts frost every four hours, so you don’t have to do it. The water goes down to a tray and evaporates. If that pan has dust, which is likely, then all of it is blown right into your home. Make sure you clean the back of your fridge thoroughly.

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Juice blender

“They are an interesting case,” White says. Most people don’t clean the bottom thoroughly, he adds. “It holds a gasket where bacteria actually stay.” You increase the risk of variety of health issues, White says, such as salmonella, norovirus, and listeria. The CDC issued a warning and recalled certain dairy products after several deaths. Past outbreaks have been due to listeria in raw vegetables.

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Vacuum cleaner

“A poor vacuum cleaner will stir up allergens instead of properly capturing them and removing them from the environment,” Hampy says. These cleaners spit fine dust and bacteria back into the air. “This causes allergic reactions in sensitive people.” Other common concerns include airborne dust such as molds, pollen, dander, hairs, and pest particles, White says.

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Multi-purpose cleaners

A big concern, as is the case with carpeting, is chemical sensitivities, Hampy says. White adds inter-reaction with other chemicals, disinfectant reactions, and residual on surfaces. The multipurpose cleaners widely used for windows and kitchen items have 2-butoxyethanol, the ingredient that gives cleaners their distinct smell. Side effects include breathing problems, low blood pressure, lowered levels of hemoglobin, and metabolic acidosis (high levels of acid in the body), according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

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Shower head

Legionella bacteria commonly live in the shower head, White says. The disease, which is a type of pneumonia, will not affect a healthy individual much, but it can cause shock in the lungs of a sick person. The bacteria spread through mist. Another concern with the shower head include fungal deposition, White adds.

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Hidden mold

Mold in a home (or any inhabited building) creates an unhealthy environment as mold spores can become airborne, Hampy says. “Some molds are infectious in nature and can cause serious health issues in immune compromised individuals or those particularly sensitive to certain molds.” There are some molds that are called “Toxic Molds” but the toxicity of mold is not well known and has been blown out of proportion, he adds. “Mold usually causes allergic reactions and can be of serious concern for asthmatics.”

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The sofa

“Your couch is killing you” has another meaning other than sitting too much is bad for your health. A study on fire retardants showed that all 22 mothers and 26 children tested were exposed to a fire retardant called TDCIPP, a likely carcinogen, according to EWG, and the average concentration in children was nearly five times that of their moms. People end up with fire retardants in their bodies mainly by inhaling or swallowing dust which hides in sofas, just like mattresses and other furniture.

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Your deck

Mature Nature can take a toll on your deck. Water and weather eventually lead to corroded brackets, metal fasteners and joist hangers. Don’t take a chance as the deck can suddenly collapse, causing serious damage and even death, depending where you are. Inspect it regularly and replace corroded metal hardware with stainless steel.

16 Ways Your Home is Making You Sick