5 Ways Your Home Could Kill You (or Just Make You Really Ill)

Your home could be a source of illness, and even death, in more ways than you probably realize

Credit: iStock / timmy

Beyond toxic chemicals lie everyday items that can harm you at home

You love your home, but does your home love you? Or is it slowly trying to kill you?

You might think you’re master of your domain, but don’t delude yourself. The scary truth is that while most consider their homes a cozy haven of comfort and safety, danger lurks around every corner.

Here are five ways your home could be killing you softly (or just making you want to throw up).

Killed by Clutter  

IMAGE: Flickr / Christian Lopez

Clutter in its extreme – hoarding – is becoming so dangerous that people are actually dying from it. This winter, three people in a Montreal home were found under enormous piles of plastic bins, pet crates, Christmas decorations and garbage bags filled with empty tins and plastic bottles. The clutter presumably blocked or broke the heating ducts, which resulted in hypothermia and two deaths.

In another extreme case, a woman in Orlando, Florida, suffocated under piles of her own clothes. Her husband reported her missing and started looking for her immediately but couldn’t see her body past all the boxes and piles crammed in their home. There was so much clutter it took the local police two visits and nearly 10 hours before she was found in her own home.

Felled by Furniture

IMAGE: Flickr / davidd

If you’re constantly having to contort yourself to move around your home, there’s something wrong with your furniture placement and you’re at risk of injury. More people end up in US emergency rooms because of fall-related injuries in their home than from any other cause.

To make your home a safe haven, ensure there are natural pathways in all your rooms. This is increasingly important as you get older; it’s been proved that Alzheimer’s patients have a greater success rate at manoeuvering through rooms that give special attention to the layout of furniture.

Seized by CFLs

IMAGE: Flickr / Phil Dragash

Compact fluorescent light bulbs may be eco-friendly and economical, but they can also be dangerous to your health.

Doctors have found that the flickering from fluorescent bulbs can cause dizziness and even migraines for people who are prone to such discomforts. For those with skin conditions like eczema and lupus, CFLs can actually worsen skin rashes.

Worse yet, for people with certain autoimmune diseases such as lupus, these lights may even trigger seizures.

Poisoned by Toxic Fumes

IMAGE: Flickr / Ben

If you’re feeling too tired to take out the trash or make a meal, you might be suffering a long slow poisoning from a buildup of common household chemicals.

Heard of radon? It’s actually the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States (after tobacco), and is responsible for 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year. Radon is an invisible, odourless, radioactive gas produced by decaying elements in the ground. It seeps into homes through cracks in the foundation and builds up in homes with poor ventilation.

Formaldehyde, found in fertilizers, glues, plywood, fibreboard, particleboard, some types of insulation, certain disinfectants, antibacterial soaps and even beauty products, is also a carcinogen and its vapours can cause dizziness and headaches, irritate your eyes, nose, throat and skin, and can trigger asthma attacks.

And don’t forget all the toxic fumes you invite into your home from laser printers, air fresheners, plastics and detergents, all of which carry harmful gases.

Bloodied by Paint

IMAGE: iStock / GBlakeley

Ever wonder why barns are often painted red? That’s because blood has been a common ingredient in paint formulas for years. Blood from livestock was used to colour paint, as were milk, beeswax, clay and lime. If red isn’t your colour, you’ll also want to watch out for golden yellow paint, which was produced by adding evaporated cow urine.

And if you ever come across a distinct tarry brownish-violet, either marvel at the ingenuity or run far, far away: this colour was achieved during the 18th to 20th centuries by grinding up the carboniferous corpses of excavated Egyptian mummies from communal tombs. So, if you’re looking for all-natural paints, which are experiencing a resurgence in popularity, make sure you check what’s in them if you’re at all squeamish.

Still, it’s all better than what’s found in commercial paints. Toxins in these paints – formaldehyde, benzene, butane, propane, fluorinated hydrocarbons, etc. – are released for years after application and repeated exposure can cause brain damage, memory loss, slurred speech and even the development of certain autoimmune disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis, brain cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

Cow urine not sounding so bad after all?

No one ever said maintaining a clean, safe home was easy. But now you have even more of an incentive to treat your home like a castle.