How Healthy Is Your Home?

Homes can be surprisingly dangerous places.

Aug 24, 2014 at 4:29PM

Homes can be surprisingly dangerous places with the potential for both environmental hazards and safety concerns.

Homes can contain lead-based paint, asbestos, formaldehyde, radon, mold, imported drywall and other substances that can cause illnesses or chronic health problems. Homes are also full of safety hazards from stairs and stoves to bathtubs and swimming pools that can contribute to accidents, injuries or deaths.

Hazards at home
Substandard housing is a significant public health problem, according to Sandra Whitehead, director of healthy community design at the Florida Department of Health in Tallahassee and a technical advisor for the National Environmental Health Association, a nonprofit organization in Denver.

"People who reside in substandard housing are at increased risk for fire, electrical injuries, falls, rodent bites and other illnesses and injuries. Other issues include exposure to pesticide residues, indoor toxicants, tobacco smoke and combustion gases. Burning oil, gas and kerosene can release a variety of combustion products, including carbon monoxide, a well-known cause of illness and death," Whitehead said via email.

Homes can also harbor mold, unhealthy indoor air or residues from illegal drug manufacturing.

"Materials such as carpet and wallboard in homes used as meth labs have absorbed chemicals that can damage the nervous system, liver and blood production mechanisms. Children are at the highest risk, and exposure can trigger birth defects and developmental issues for babies in utero," Whitehead explained.

Home inspection
Many home hazards were originally introduced by builders and contractors, says Jay Gregg, director of marketing at Pillar to Post Professional Home Inspections, a Tampa, Florida-based franchise company with 450 outlets in the U.S. and Canada.

One way to find these hazards is get a home inspection, but that's only a starting point. A home inspector can't move furniture or boxes without the homeowner's permission and even a vacant house isn't 100 percent accessible.

First-time homebuyers especially should seek the help of a home inspector as they have never been through the homebuying process before and are not aware of the potential problems they could encounter as homeowners.

"We can't see behind drywall," Gregg says. "We aren't Superman. People end up doing renovations and (discover that) -- whoa! -- there's funky wiring behind this piece of drywall. There's no way a home inspector could see that."

Home health and safety tips

4 healthy home tips
These tips from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) can make your home safer and healthier:

  1. Keep your home clean and dry to discourage mites, cockroaches, rodents and mold
  2. Be careful with pesticides. Improper use can make health problems worse since residues pose serious health risks.
  3. Keep your home free of lead paint, radon gas, pesticides, carbon monoxide, asbestos particles and other hazardous chemicals
  4. Keep your home well-maintained. Remediate peeling paint promptly, especially if you live in an older home.

6 home safety tips
Preventive measures can make a home safer as well, according to Amy Artuso Heinzen, program manager at the National Safety Council, a nonprofit organization in Itasca, Illinois.

"Every family and every home is different," Heinzen said. "Walk around and assess potential hazards, particularly for the dynamics of your specific family."

Here are some of her tips:

  1. Install a fence around a swimming pool to keep out unsupervised children who can slip silently into a pool and drown without a sound being made
  2. Keep toilet seat lids closed, never leave a bucket of water unattended and never leave a young child in a bathtub without an adult present. A young child can drown in a small amount of water.
  3. Create an emergency evacuation plan and practice it twice a year with your family, preferably during the day and at night. Plan at least two ways to exit your home in case one route is blocked.
  4. Make sure your home's windows aren't painted or nailed shut. If they are, get someone to open them so you and your family can escape in an emergency.
  5. Install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms outside each sleeping area and on every level of your home. Test alarms monthly. If you or someone in your family has impaired hearing, install alarms that vibrate or flash a light.
  6. Make sure your hallways and bathrooms are well-lit at night to prevent slips, trips and falls

"We all live with a certain amount of hazard," Heinzen said. "It's important to educate yourself and take proactive safety measures to do your best to avoid illness and injury while actively living and enjoying life."

This article originally appeared on HSH.com.

Cash machines to help pay for your home improvements
The smartest investors know that dividend stocks simply crush their non-dividend paying counterparts over the long term. That's beyond dispute. They also know that a well-constructed dividend portfolio creates wealth steadily, while still allowing you to sleep like a baby. Knowing how valuable such a portfolio might be, our top analysts put together a report on a group of high-yielding stocks that should be in any income investor's portfolio. To see our free report on these stocks, just click here now.

You may also enjoy these articles: 

$109,935 guarantees marital bliss

Not all green improvements make cents

Current mortgage rates

Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Money to your ears - A great FREE investing resource for you

The best way to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as “binge-worthy finance.”

Feb 1, 2016 at 5:03PM

Whether we're in the midst of earnings season or riding out the market's lulls, you want to know the best strategies for your money.

And you'll want to go beyond the hype of screaming TV personalities, fear-mongering ads, and "analysis" from people who might have your email address ... but no track record of success.

In short, you want a voice of reason you can count on.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich," rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

And one of the easiest, most enjoyable, most valuable ways to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as "binge-worthy finance."

Whether you make it part of your daily commute or you save up and listen to a handful of episodes for your 50-mile bike rides or long soaks in a bubble bath (or both!), the podcasts make sense of your money.

And unlike so many who want to make the subjects of personal finance and investing complicated and scary, our podcasts are clear, insightful, and (yes, it's true) fun.

Our free suite of podcasts

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. The show is also heard weekly on dozens of radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers are timeless, so it's worth going back to and listening from the very start; the other three are focused more on today's events, so listen to the most recent first.

All are available for free at www.fool.com/podcasts.

If you're looking for a friendly voice ... with great advice on how to make the most of your money ... from a business with a lengthy track record of success ... in clear, compelling language ... I encourage you to give a listen to our free podcasts.

Head to www.fool.com/podcasts, give them a spin, and you can subscribe there (at iTunes, Stitcher, or our other partners) if you want to receive them regularly.

It's money to your ears.

 


Compare Brokers