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Hidden Dangers at Home

21 November 2014

Since 1985, there’s been a group awarding a prize known as the “Darwin Awards.”  The term award is deceiving because the point of an award is to recognize an achievement.  The Darwin Awards are a little bit different because they are awarded to people that caused serious self-inflicted injury or death through stupidity.  A Californian named James Elliot took first prize in 2013.  When his .38 caliber revolver failed to fire at his intended victim during a hold-up in Long Beach, he peered down the barrel and tried the trigger again. This time it worked.  Common sense should have told Mr. Elliot that his tactic would have ended poorly.  Thankfully, most of us have this trait.  However, not every danger is as black and white as the above example.  There are some hazards in your home that you may not even be aware of.  Allow us to identify them for you.

Mercury: The most common places mercury can be found in the home are compact fluorescent light bulbs, circular thermostats and thermometers.  It’s important to note that mercury containing objects do not pose a threat until they are broken and the mercury escapes.  Inhalation of the vapors emitted by mercury can cause shortness of breath, memory loss, high blood pressure and kidney damage.  Cleanup is best left to professionals because mopping or sweeping mercury up can actually cause the spill to spread.

Formaldehyde: Formaldehyde is used in countless products for the purpose of acting as a bonding agent.  It can also be created as other chemicals break down.  The more formaldehyde that is emitted into the air, the more of a health risk it poses.  Side effects of exposure can include: nausea, headaches, coughing & wheezing, rashes and chest tightness.  Minimize your exposure by choosing real wood furniture and cabinets over builder grade materials, skipping wallpaper and maintaining your chimney so that smoke is directed outdoors.

Flame Retardants: Flame retardants are often found in carpeting, electronics and furniture.  The purpose of these chemicals is to slow the burn process of these items during a house fire.  The downside to these chemicals is that they have been linked to fertility issues and cancer.  In order to minimize your exposure select furniture that is naturally less flammable such as leather, wool and cotton.

Furnace: As furnaces age, they risk developing cracks in the heat exchanger.  This leads to the possibility of carbon monoxide leaking into your home without being noticed.  Symptoms to be mindful of are incessant headaches, nausea, disorientation and burning of the eyes and nose.  Regularly maintain your furnace and keep a carbon monoxide detector close to it so that you are alerted immediately if this is occurring in your home.