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Hazards in the Home

Home may be where the heart is, but it is also – unfortunately – where a whole host of hazards are. We have come a long way over the years, bringing awareness and enforcing legislation for things like asbestos, lead paint, radon and carbon monoxide, but there are other real threats that loom large. In a recent article on MarketWatch.com, four such hazards are highlighted and they are ones that many of us have never given a second thought.

The Wrong Smoke Detector

Most of us feel very comfortable knowing that our homes are fitted with working smoke detectors. As long as they are UL approved and we check our batteries twice per year – that should be sufficient, yes? Well, not really. There are two main types of smoke detectors designed for home use: ionization and photoelectric. 95% of homes are fitted with ionization units as they are the least expensive and most easily found. Statistics show, however, that these popular detectors take an average of 20 minutes longer to detect smoldering fires – fires that begin with things like cigarettes on synthetic fibers or faulty electrical wiring. While the ionization units trip more easily with fast flames or quick smoke plumes from things like burnt toast, they do not react quickly to the thick, slow-moving smoke from smoldering fires. It is suggested that photoelectric detectors be placed in vital areas of the home like the kitchen, bedrooms and basements, but in areas like hallways, bathrooms and living areas, ionization units should do fine.

Old Gas Lines

If your home was built between 1860-1915, chances are you have defunct gas lines that were formerly used to supply lighting to homes. Many have been capped off or converted to electricity, but if they are active and open, there is a very real danger of explosion if disturbed during construction. Even some modern lines made from thin stainless steel tubing were found to be susceptible to lightening strikes. It doesn’t even need to be a direct strike, according to experts – just enough heat and energy in the approximate area can create an explosion. If you are homeowner with have any concerns about your gas lines, contact a private gas line specialist to first determine if you or your municipality is responsible. In many areas, gas line reconstruction is on the public infrastructure “to-do” list but can be moved along with enough pressure from the community.

Light Construction

Light or “truss” construction, while great for starter or inexpensive homes, has shown to be a major factor in more swiftly moving and more destructive fires. While sturdier homes are made with wood joined by bolts, screws and nails – lightweight structures are put together using gussets that join corners – gussets that are simply clamped onto the area that needs fastening. The main problem with truss construction is that in the case of a fire, the heat generated is often enough to pop the gussets out as easily as they were popped in. While there isn’t much one can do to change this basic structural feature, it is very important for homeowners living in a lightweight construction home to take extra precaution against fire.

Topsy-Turvy Appliances

There is now one more good reason to not let your television be your child’s babysitter. Between 2000-2010, nearly 170 children were killed from large, flat-screen televisions tipping over and causing fatal head or internal injuries. While making sure that the television is on a very low media table (never on a high dresser) can help decrease the risk of serious injury, the best way to avoid problems is to have large flat-screens professionally mounted to the wall. Using a skilled installer is crucial because if a wall-mounted TV is not properly secured, it can pose even a greater risk to children than one simply placed on a table.

Another dangerous appliance is the stove – and not for reasons that you may think. According to MarketWatch, in 2008 Sears settled a multi-million dollar lawsuit as a result of more than 100 deaths or injuries from faulty mounting mechanisms on stoves. The vast majority of stoves sold today are light enough for even small children to tip over if they climb or grab onto the unit, and if not properly mounted, can cause very serious problems.

While these risks may seem to be remote, “better safe than sorry” is really the takeaway. Installing a few photoelectric smoke detectors in key areas, making some calls about your current gas lines, being extra fire-cautious in homes built of light construction and properly mounting appliances can mean the difference between a safe, healthy home and a major disaster.

Credit: Diana Cammarota