Category Archives: Home improvement

Child Poisonings

download-20You can you do a lot to avoid child poisonings in your home.

  1. Keep all household chemicals and medicines locked up, out of sight and out of reach.
  2. Use child-resistant packaging properly by closing the container securely after each use. Some products also come in child-resistant blister cards, which avoid the need to re-secure.
  3. Call 800-222-1222 immediately in case of poisoning.
  4. When products are in use, never let young children out of your sight, even if you must take them along when answering the phone or doorbell.
  5. Keep items in original containers.
  6. Leave the original labels on all products, and read the label before using to understand correct use and dosage.
  7. Do not put decorative lamps and candles that contain lamp oil where children can reach them. Lamp oil can be very toxic if ingested by young children.
  8. Always turn the light on when giving or taking medicine. Check the dosage every time.
  9. Avoid taking medicine in front of children. Refer to medicine as “medicine,” not “candy.”
  10. Clean out the medicine cabinet periodically and safely dispose of unneeded and outdated medicines.

Indoor Air Quality At Home Tips

download-18In the air we breathe outdoors, we know that smog and other pollutants are a big cause for concern. But don’t assume that the air quality inside your home is perfectly safe. A number of chemicals found in the home can pollute the air, making indoor air quality testing essential for a healthy home.

The Clues: Signs of Indoor Air Quality Problems

How do you know if you should be concerned about your indoor air quality? Look for these common warning signs that may indicate you have indoor air pollutants:

  • You feel sick at home and better when you’re away.
  • You’ve noticed problems, even just extra dirt, around heating or cooling units.
  • Air doesn’t seem to be circulating properly in the house.
  • You spot mold in your home.
  • Your indoor air is humid, resulting in condensation.
  • There’s been damage to a chimney or flue.
  • Your home’s construction is too tight.
  • You’ve noticed changes in your health after renovating or remodeling.
  • The air in your home always smells old or stuffy.
  • There’s an odor in the air that you can’t get rid of.

If you suspect you have an issue with indoor air quality, you can perform tests to see if specific air pollutants are infiltrating your home and possibly affecting your health.

Improve the air quality in your home year-round with these seasonal tasks.

The Culprits: Potential Air Pollutants

Before you test your indoor air quality, you need to know what you’re looking for. Here are some of the most common indoor air pollutants that could be contaminating your home:

  • Asbestos
  • Radon
  • Lead and lead dust
  • Household chemicals
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Formaldehyde
  • Dust and molds
  • Pet hair and dander
  • Rodents and cockroaches

The Sources: Where Indoor Air Pollutants Originate

There are many ways that air pollutants can contaminate the air inside your home. Most often, chemicals or materials inside the home emit gases or particulates. Poor ventilation and circulation don’t allow contaminants to flow out of the home; very humid homes and climates are also a breeding ground for contaminants.

Here are some sources of indoor air pollutants that can impair your indoor air quality, particularly when ventilation isn’t good:

  • Household chemicals, solvents, and cleaning products
  • Malfunctioning space heaters
  • Poorly vented furnaces or stoves
  • Outdoor air pollution that gets in
  • Pesticide use
  • Wood, kerosene, oil, gas, and coal burned for heat
  • Insulation made with asbestos
  • Carpets, furniture, and rugs that have been treated with chemicals or have become wet
  • Tobacco products and smoke

Great tips for pest control

download-19You can still protect your home, yard, and garden from harmful pests like fungi, rodents, and insects without putting yourself at risk of health effects due topesticides. While there are many potential risks associated with pesticide use, natural, chemical-free alternatives for pest control are safe and effective.

The Dangers of Chemical Pesticides

The problem with pesticides is that they can be extremely harmful, and exposure can cause a variety of symptoms and health problems:

  • Pesticides can enter the bloodstream if they’re inhaled or come in contact with skin; they can also be potentially fatal if they are swallowed.
  • Children, pets, farm animals, and wildlife are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of pesticides. Nausea, headaches, vomiting, and dizziness are common effects of pesticides, which can also severely damage the skin, nervous system, and respiratory system.
  • It’s not always easy to store or dispose of pesticides, either. They have to be kept where they won’t spill or be found by animals or children, and they must be brought to recycling or collection centers specifically designated for household hazardous waste materials.

Discouraging Pests at Home

To minimize the need for any kind of pest control, start by making pests unwelcome in and around your home:

  • Clear clutter. Keep leaves, yard waste, trash, or even old newspapers from piling up inside or outside your home. These cozy little piles make welcome homes for rodents and insects. Don’t give them the opportunity to settle in.
  • Close up cracks. Cracks, gaps in doors and windows, or other open areas where pests can sneak into your home should be sealed or fixed. Without an easy way into your home, pests won’t be as much of a problem.
  • Take care of pets. Keep pets groomed, clean, and free of fleas and ticks. Regular vaccinations and other health precautions will help keep your pets healthy and pest-free.
  • Clean house. Make sure your home is tidy. Keep all areas clean, especially kitchens and bathrooms where mold and mildew may grow, and vacuum carpets and rugs regularly to discourage pest accumulation.
  • Starve pests. Are pests feeding on your pet’s food and water? Cut off their food supply by keeping pet supplies indoors and out of reach of pests; this will be safer for your pets as well.

Going Chemical-Free

Given the health risks associated with pesticide use, you may want to consider these natural methods of pest control to avoid harmful chemicals:

  • Baking soda. Problems with mildew or fungus in your garden? Use a sprayer containing one quart of water and one teaspoon of baking soda, plus a little squirt of dishwashing soap.
  • Insecticidal soap. Instead of a harsh pesticide, try a gentler solution of water, alcohol, and soap to keep bugs out of your garden. You can also purchase this type of pest control solution at certain stores.
  • Get better bugs. Harmful bugs that invade your home and garden, but “good” insects like ladybugs will actually eat the harmful ones. Birds can also help control insects. Plant nectar-rich flowers that tend to attract good bugs, invest in bird feeders, and mulch your garden to encourage nature to take care of your pest problem.
  • Plant a diversion. Find out what your particular pest prefers to eat, and plant it away from what you want to protect in your garden.
  • Pick off insects by hand. Do a regular walk-through of your home and garden to get rid of any bugs you see — and clean off eggs, too.
  • Plant a variety of hardy plants and crops. Stick to flowers, plants, and veggies that can stand up to the threats of pests like fungi and insects without the help of pesticides. Also consider planting a number of different items instead of just one kind of vegetable or plant — this will discourage any one type of pest from multiplying.

Keep your food and stay healthy for it

Do you tune into the news just to find out which food is the latest addition to the “don’t eat” list? Before you continue to shun peanut butter, tomatoes, spinach, peppers, and other foods that have been caused foodborne illness at some point over the last few years, find out what you can do to help improve food safety.

Food Safety: What Is There to Worry About?

The U.S. government, through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), works to prevent and investigate cases of food contamination. The FDA, for example, has a Food Protection Plan focusing on preventing contaminated food from hitting U.S. supermarkets and quickly intervening if contaminated foods do make it to market.

Despite the regulations and controls, however, sometimes food can still come into contact with harmful germs, presenting a food safety issue. And if certain foods, such as raw chicken, aren’t handled in a safe manner, they can quickly contaminate other foods, like nearby fruits and vegetables on your kitchen counter, and lead to illness.

With the recent salmonella scares involving seemingly wholesome foods, what’s really safe to eat?

Salmonella and other food contamination scares shouldn’t make you afraid to eat fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. You can’t spot contaminated food just by looking at it — unless it has obvious mold or rot, but you can be more careful about how you choose the foods that you buy, and how you store and prepare foods.

Be a Smart Food Shopper

Some foods are more likely than others to be contaminated with germs. Likely culprits include:

  • Eggs
  • Foods that contain raw eggs
  • Meat and poultry
  • Fish and other seafood
  • Dairy products, including milk
  • Unpasteurized milk and juice
  • Vegetables and fruits

doesn’t mean that all of these foods are going to be contaminated, just that they are more susceptible to contamination. To insure food safety to as great a degree as possible, follow these tips:

  • Seal and store. Wrap steak, hamburger, chicken, fish, and other meats in plastic bags and store them separately from other foods — to keep potentially contaminated juices from seeping into the other foods.
  • Examine packaged foods. Don’t buy dented cans, jars with loose lids or cracks, or any packaged food with a broken seal.
  • Inspect eggs. Never buy eggs that aren’t refrigerated or those with cracks in the shells.
  • Keep cold food cold. Save the refrigerated and frozen food sections for the end of your shopping trip — make milk, eggs, and other refrigerated products the last things you put into your cart.
  • Keep hot food hot. Pick up prepared or hot foods at the end of your shopping trip, too, just before you check out.

Food Storage and Safety at Home

Do you sometimes leave the groceries on the counter while you take care of a few other chores? Do you leave leftovers on the stove for an hour or two after dinner? You could be contaminating food in your own home. To decrease that risk, follow these smart food storage guidelines:

  • Put groceries away right away. This is especially important for frozen and refrigerated items; get them in the fridge or freezer as soon as you get home.
  • Thaw properly. Allow frozen meats to thaw in the refrigerator or defrost them in the microwave, rather than at room temperature.
  • Cook meat all the way through. Use a meat thermometer to make sure it has reached an internal temperature hot enough to kill any potential bacteria.
  • Put leftovers away promptly. Eat leftovers within two or three days.
  • When in doubt, toss it out. Don’t eat food that you think might have already gone bad.

The benefit of water filter

Are you concerned about the water quality in your home, or do you yearn for better tasting water from your kitchen faucet?

First, consider whether you really need a water purification system in your home. More than 90 percent of the water supply in the United States is safe to drink from the tap, according to the Environment Protection Agency (EPA).

However, some people may need to consider a water purification system to improve water quality in their homes for health safety reasons, including those who have:

  • A high level of lead in their water, as shown by water testing
  • A high level of a contaminant in their water, such as radon in water from a well
  • An extremely compromised immune system, such as those with HIV or who are on chemotherapy

Water purification systems can help to eliminate contaminants that can make you sickor affect the taste or feel of your water supply. Water filter systems may be able to remove:

  • Microbes, including viruses, bacteria, and parasites, such as cryptosporidium and giardia
  • Lead
  • Radon
  • Radium
  • Nitrates
  • Arsenic
  • Pesticides
  • Byproducts of the disinfection process

Water Filter Options

There are a number of factors to consider when deciding on a water filter system. Look for a water purification or filter system that has been certified to meet standards of water quality set by the EPA, as well as one that meets your specific needs. Not every system can remove every contaminant. If you’re concerned about a particular contaminant, like bacteria or radon, find the water filter system that works best at removing that particular contaminant from your water supply.

A water purification system can be either point of use (POU), meaning it filters the water at the particular faucet it is attached to, or point of entry (POE), in which the water supply is filtered as it comes into your home so that you have purified water at every faucet. The system might include a filter, a piece of material that “catches” contaminants like microbes and chemicals in the water, or it might remove or destroy contaminants in another manner.

Point-of-entry water filter options include:

  • Water softeners. A water softener uses an exchange system to correct water “hardness.” Tap water contains calcium and magnesium, which can make the water very hard. This water filter uses sodium or potassium ions to replace the calcium and magnesium ions, which makes the water softer.
  • Aerators. These water filter devices use jets of air to remove certain chemicals, like radon and chemical components of gasoline.
  • Adsorptive media or water filtration. These are often carbon-based filtering systems that trap both solids and liquids in the material of the filter.

Top Tips for Health and Safey

The loveable Disney fish Nemo and the less endearing Captain Nemo will now share their names with a potentially devastating snowstorm. For those in the northeastern United States, the problem has shifted from finding Nemo to avoiding Nemo as the winter storm rolls in.

Many in the Northeast have already begun to prepare with the memories of Super Storm Sandy’s destruction still fresh in their minds. Here are some tips for those still looking to make last-minute preparations:

Stock up on gas, food, batteries, and other supplies. Sandy left many cars without gas and homes without power. If you haven’t restocked your supply cabinets, now’s the time to make sure you have several days supply of food and bottled water, plus flashlights and batteries. Lines are already forming at some gas stations, and they could get a lot worse before they get better. Try and have one full tank of gas ready to go in case of an emergency.

Check your heating systems. The U.S. Center for Disease Control’s website recommends that you “have a safe alternate heating source” — like a clean fireplace or portable space heater. They also recommend checking your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Dress appropriately to avoid frostbite and hypothermia. If you have to go outside, make sure to wear a winter coat, hat, boots and gloves. Don’t touch snow without wearing gloves, and remember that frostbite most often affects the parts of your body not covered by clothing. The risk of contracting hypothermia or being frostbitten increases the longer you are outside.

Be careful when using a snow blower. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, snow-blower accidents are responsible for more than 5,700 annual injuries requiring emergency room visits.

“Keep hands and fingers out of the snow-blower mechanism whether it’s running OR turned off,” said R. Michael Koch, M.D., chief of the microsurgery and replantation service at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, New York, in a press release.

Dr. Koch also recommends wearing thick gloves, paying careful attention when operating the blower, and taking advantage of safety devices built into most snow blowers.

Take precautions while shoveling snow. Using a shovel might seem safer than using a snow blower, but both carry risks. Drinking water, avoiding caffeine and nicotine, and lightening the amount of snow per lift can help you clean your driveway and sidewalks pain-free. Remember, snow can be heavy, and shoveling can be a form of weight lifting. If you have heart problems, consider hiring someone to shovel for you. Overworking yourself can lead to severe consequences, such as heart attacks.

Avoid driving in the snow. The CDC recommends avoiding travel when the weather service has issued advisories. According to icyroadsafety.com, there were 477 deaths due to icy road conditions during the 2008-2009 winter season and 458 deaths during the 2009-2010 season. A major storm like Nemo could inflate those numbers. If you must drive, wait until after snow plows have driven through and cleaned the roads in your town.

Have extra medication ready. If you are living with a chronic condition, like diabetes orhigh blood pressure, medication is a constant need. Nemo could leave a lot of people snowed in, so make sure you have extra supplies of necessary medications.

No smoking zone is the best at home

There’s really no debating it: All homes should be smoke-free spaces. Not only does cigarette, pipe, and cigar smoke expose other people in your home to the dangers of secondhand (and third-hand) smoke, it sharply increases the chances of a house fire and makes your home less desirable to live in and visit.

The Dangers of Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke is more dangerous than it sounds. Declared a human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, secondhand smoke is a combination of the smoke exhaled by the smoker and the smoke coming from the tobacco product itself. This double whammy increases the risk of serious health complications and death.

A smoker in your home compromises his life and the life of everyone around him. And that includes pets: Cats exposed to secondhand smoke have double the risk of developing malignant lymphoma.

Many state governments are taking the health risks of secondhand smoke and indoor air pollution so seriously that they have banned smoking in most public areas, including restaurants, workplaces, and bars. More than half the states and the District of Columbia have put comprehensive smoke-free laws into place.

Some of the specific potential health effects of secondhand smoke include increased risk of:

  • Lung cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Pneumonia
  • Bronchitis
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Coughing
  • Excess phlegm production
  • Wheezing
  • Ear infection
  • Reduced lung function
  • Severe asthma symptoms

Secondhand smoke is particularly dangerous to infants and young children, since their developing bodies are especially sensitive to the effects of secondhand smoke.

A Smoking Ban Should Be Part of Your Fire Safety Plan

Another way smoking in the home can endanger your family is by increasing the chances for a house fire. Smoking-related fires are the leading cause of house fire deaths — just one more excellent reason to ban cigarettes and smoking of any kind in the home.

If that’s not possible, be sure to never allow smoking in bed and carefully dispose of each cigarette that is smoked in and around your home.

What About Third-Hand Smoke?

The smoke from cigarettes, cigars, or a pipe not only seeps into hair and clothing, but can also get into rugs, upholstered furniture, curtains, and other fabric surfaces. Once these particles settle in, they stay long after the smoker has finished smoking. This type of long-term effect is now sometimes referred to as “third-hand smoke” — years later, people who were not even acquainted with the original smoker are still breathing in the smoke residue.

Eating Healthy Tips

In the case of a hurricane or tropical storm, your family’s physical safety is your first concern, so it’s important for you to prepare an emergency plan in advance. But even if your home is not directly hit by a storm, your neighborhood or community could be affected for several days or longer by power outages, blocked roads, and damage to grocery stores, gas stations, and other businesses.

Hurricane disaster experts with the National Hurricane Center, the Red Cross, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency advise each household to put together a preparedness kit that includes such basics as a flashlight, a radio, batteries, maps, a first-aid kit, a manual can opener, medications — and, of course, food and water. But exactly what foods should be included?

Healthy Meal Plans

Every household should stock up on healthy, easy-to-store food items, but it’s especially important to include diet-specific foods for any family members who have high blood pressure, diabetes, gluten allergy (celiac disease), or another health condition that requires a special menu.

Read the shopping lists and sample menus below for choices that can help your family eat healthfully during an emergency; these lists include options for those with diabetes, high blood pressure, a heart condition, food allergies, and more.

To start, plan to create a “hurricane healthy meals kit” that includes essential nutrients from three of the five food groups, says Stacey Whittle, a registered dietitian and co-owner of Healthy by Design Nutrition Specialists, in Santa Monica, Calif. “The most important group is protein, then vegetables and fruits, and then so-called fillers, or starchy items.” A balanced meal would include something from each group.

In an emergency, the top priority is to get enough calories and stay hydrated. “You need to stay fueled and focused and not get sick,” Whittle says. She suggests that the hurricane healthy meals plan provide three meals a day, spread out as evenly as possible. Each meal should have a protein source as its main component, as well as something from each of the other major food groups.

Shelf life is another consideration. “Keep foods that require little or no cooking, water, or refrigeration, in case utilities are disrupted,” says Mitali Shah, MS, RD, LDN, a clinical and research dietitian at Boston Medical Center’s Center for Endocrinology, Diabetes, Nutrition, and Weight Management.

“Plan to have at least a three-day supply of food on hand,” she says. “Canned foods and dry mixes will remain fresh for about two years, but date all food items, and use and replace food before it loses freshness.”

While you’re stocking your pantry, remember to include plastic utensils, paper plates and cups, and cooking fuel, such as canned sterno or propane for a camp stove.

Trappings Can Fan Fire Risk

The risk of burns increases over the holiday season because people are cooking more, putting up potentially flammable decorations and using fireplaces and candles.

“We see a significant increase in burn patients between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Your holiday, which should be full of joy and celebration, can quickly turn tragic,” Dr. Jeff Guy, director of Vanderbilt Regional Burn Center in Nashville, Tenn., said in a Vanderbilt University news release.

Many of these injuries are easily preventable if people are cautious and eliminate potential dangers that could lead to burns.

Guy outlined a number of ways to prevent burns and have a safe holiday season.

Staying in the kitchen and being attentive while cooking can prevent most cooking fires. Keep pot holders, wooden utensils, towels, food packaging and anything else that can catch fire away from the stovetop.

Use turkey fryers outdoors and keep them a safe distance from the building. Never overfill a fryer with oil and never leave it unattended.

When you buy an artificial Christmas tree, select one with a “fire resistant” label. When buying a real tree, check for freshness. It should be green, the needles should be hard to pull, the trunk should be sticky with resin and the tree shouldn’t lose many needles when it’s hit.

Keep fresh trees away from fireplaces and radiators and keep the tree stand filled with water. A well-watered tree is usually safe but it can take just a few seconds for a dry tree to be ablaze, Guy said.

Check new and old sets of Christmas lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed wires or loose connections, and discard damaged sets. Don’t overload extension cords and never use electric lights on a metallic tree.

Don’t burn wrapping paper in the fireplace, because it can ignite suddenly and burn intensely. Place candles away from trees and other decorations and in locations where they can’t be knocked over. Never leave candles unattended.

Tips for Save Your Lives At Home

By the time flames are roaring through a house, it may be too late to stop the fire. Even worse, it may be too late to safely get your family out of your burning home. Fires can start and spread quickly, often while you’re asleep. So to protect yourself and your family from fires, install a smoke alarm in every crucial area of your home.

Buying a Smoke Alarm

A smoke alarm, also called a smoke detector, can sense a fire early on and warn a family of impending danger before tragedy strikes.

Smoke alarms are sold at hardware and home improvement stores, and even some supermarkets. You might even be able to get a free smoke alarm from your local fire department.

You can buy a smoke alarm that runs only on battery power or one that is wired into the electrical system of your house and runs on electricity with a battery backup. Above all, each smoke alarm you buy must carry the UL (Underwriters Laboratories) label on it.

There are three types of smoke alarms on the market:

  • Ionization smoke alarm. This alarm detects big, open flames.
  • Photoelectric smoke alarm. This alarm detects a smoky fire that’s smoldering, before any big flames get started.
  • Dual sensor smoke alarm. This is a combination smoke alarm that detects both types of fires.

You should have both an ionization and a photoelectric smoke alarm, or a dual sensor smoke alarm. And, remember, you will need smoke alarms at multiple sites throughout your home.

Installing a Smoke Alarm

A smoke alarm tucked in a far corner of your home might not detect smoke from the opposite end of the house until it’s too late. So it’s important to install a smoke alarm on each floor of your home — don’t forget your basement — and at strategic areas on each level if you have a lot of square footage. Install a smoke detector near sleeping areas, even inside the bedroom of any household member who is difficult to arouse from sleep, and put another one in your kitchen. Install them high up on walls, near the ceiling, since smoke will rise quickly.

Don’t install your fire alarm:

  • Near a window
  • Just above the stove where steam is likely to set it off
  • Near a fireplace
  • On the ceiling right next to a wall
  • On the wall right next to the ceiling
  • Above doors or heating and cooling ducts

You will need an electrician to install a hard-wired smoke detector that runs on electricity, but installing a battery-powered smoke alarm is pretty simple. Most battery-operated smoke alarms can be attached to the wall using a regular screwdriver. Some even come with an adhesive pad that affixes the smoke alarm to the wall for you.