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Hidden health hazards at home

Home sweet home; a safe haven. However, even in the most safety-conscious households, there are potential dangers hiding in plain sight. Evelyne Makena outlines some of the things that pose risks to us 

1. Flaking paint

Paint is one aspect of interior décor that’s hard to miss in most houses. Though it appeals to the eye, paint can be a source of serious health problems. The majority of paints in Kenya contain lead, a toxic compound.

According to a study carried out last year, 70 per cent of all paint brands in Kenya contain dangerously high levels of lead.

When ingested, especially by children, lead causes harmful effects such as learning disabilities, visual disorders and developmental delays. High exposure to lead causes poisoning, which can cause impaired brain and nervous systems and anaemia.

2. Air fresheners

Whether it’s fruity, floral, spicy, tropical or outdoor, the preferred scent of your home is just an air freshener away. Despite the popularity of air fresheners, they are a big cause of indoor pollution and are potentially harmful.

Fragranced air fresheners contain chemicals that can cause headaches, cause nose, eye or throat irritation and damage vital organs such as the liver, kidney, nervous and the respiratory systems.

Fragrances exposure to skin can cause allergic reactions such as rashes. Besides, when not properly disposed flammable air-fresheners can cause burns if ignited.

3. Extension cords

Using extension cables is one of the most convenient ways of powering tools and appliances. But if not correctly used, they can cause fire and injury. Ideally, the cables should not be placed under rags, heavy furniture, on doorways or walkways.

They should not be placed behind heaters or radiators as that’s a fire hazard. Cords-related injuries include sprains, fractures and burns. Worn-out cables should be repaired or replaced, pay attention to cord quality, use for the right purpose and don’t overload them.

4. Antibacterial soap

Antibacterial soaps are often touted as being more effective in cleaning and killing germs than regular soap and water. However, many antibacterial soaps contain a chemical triclosan, that causes antibiotic resistance to bacteria.

Continued use of these products essentially renders them useless in protecting from harmful bacteria. Also being ‘overly sanitised’, hampers development of the immune systems exposing one to infections.

Chemicals in antibacterial soaps also interfere with hormone functions and can lead to multiple problems such as infertility, obesity, poor sperm, and cancer. Use of sanitisers causes similar health problems.

5. Mixing cleaning solutions

You may think that mixing cleaning solutions such as toilet cleaner and bleach increases their effectiveness. But mixing these chemicals can often lead to dangerous results. Chlorine, which is a common ingredient in bleach if mixed with an acid-based toilet cleaner produces toxic chlorine gas.

Exposure to this gas can lead to lung complications, irritation in nose, throat and eyes and in worst  case scenarios, death.

Other products that contain acid and should never be mixed with bleach are vinegar, window cleaners and automatic dishwasher detergents.

6. Poor quality mattress and risky bedding

Your bed is meant to be a comfortable haven, where you retreat for rest. Sleeping on a mattress that does not meet your needs will not only deprive you of good sleep, but also ruin your health. 

Chronic back pain and high stress levels are consequences of sleeping in a mattress of poor quality. And while making a bed immediately after waking up seems like a good tidying habit, it creates a favourable environment (damp and warm) for germs and bacteria that cause flu and food poisoning to thrive.

Bedding also trap dust mites from the environment, which irritates allergies, asthma and eczema. Ideally, bedding should be left to air after waking up as that provides enough time for moisture to dry out.

7. Worn out sneakers

There is a chance that you have a pair of sneakers you love so much, which you have had for years. But if they are already worn out, it’s time to let go. Sneakers offer ankle support and cushion the body as one engages in physical activities like running or walking.

Even the slightest wear on sneakers can lead to injuries not only on the legs, but the entire body. Worn-out sneakers, which do not provide arch support, makes one prone to muscle tears, inflammation, knee pain and tears.

8. Moulds

At home moulds are common in damp bathrooms, kitchen and carpets. Exposure to mould spores is responsible for health problems ranging from allergic reactions, nasal congestion, eye irritation and chronic cough.

Dangers of moulds are more pronounced on children and those with pre-existing respiratory ailments such as asthma. Moulds are not always easy to see, but one easy way of detecting them in the house is through a musty odour.

9. Pets

Pets may carry disease-causing parasites that can be transferred to humans. Pets that are not regularly vaccinated may also spread fatal zoonotic diseases such as rabies.

Animal faeces carry harmful bacteria and worms such as hookworms and ringworms. Scratches and bites from playful pets can spread bacterial infections that exhibit symptoms such as fever, headaches, swollen glands and fatigue.

Due to low immunity, children are particularly at risk of contracting diseases from pets. Cats and dogs can trigger allergies. Good hand washing practices are important, especially after touching animals to prevent spread of diseases.

  10. Medications

Leaving medicines within the reach of children poses a health hazard. If ingested by the children, they cause poisoning. Also, when taken past their expiry date, medicine can be harmful.

Safety tips such as carefully reading the dosage of the drugs before taking them apply in ensuring that drugs, which are meant to restore health do not end up downgrading it.

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