by Fran Connors
Home is where the heart is; and also, unfortunately, where the hazards are. It’s an uncomfortable thought that some lethal lodgers could be lurking within your four walls. Here are five silent but potentially deadly killers to beware of.
The gas used to power your cooker, central heating and water or fires can be deadly. Left unchecked, gas leaks can lead to a host of unpleasant symptoms beginning with fatigue and chest pain and possibly ending with asphyxiation. A leak spreads quickly and combusts easily so can dramatically increase the risk of fire and explosions.
You should be able to smell a gas leak, although a slow leak may make this more difficult. If you suspect something, avoid turning on any lights or electrical appliances and open the doors and windows. Cut off the gas supply, leave the house and call the police or fire brigade.
This deadly gas is produced when burning fuel such as gas, propane, oil, wood or charcoal. The higher the concentration of carbon monoxide in the air, the less oxygen is available, which can be fatal. Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic fumes, carbon monoxide can kill you before you even know it exists in your home.
At low levels, carbon monoxide causes flu-like symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea and fatigue. Young children are particularly susceptible because their bodies process the gas differently to adults. Invest in a carbon monoxide detector and make sure you check it regularly – it could save your life.
Asbestos is a mineral consisting of heat-resistant fibres that can be woven into any product. When the fibres are disturbed, they enter the body, where they remain forever, attaching themselves to the lungs and other organs, causing pleural thickening, asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. These diseases can take decades to develop, by which time it can be too late to reverse the damage.
Asbestos could be present in any building that was built or refurbished before the year 2000 so it’s worth asking a professional to check any products that may contain it, such as insulation, paint and flooring materials. If you decide to make an asbestos claim for compensation, seek expert advice from a specialist lawyer.
Mould and Fungi
When floors, walls and ceilings become wet or aren’t adequately cleaned, the air can become contaminated with menacing spores, causing eye, nose and throat infections, headaches and fatigue. Look out for stained ceilings, dampness and water damage, a musty smell, crumbling, spotted or swollen walls or leaky pipes. Reduce dust and moisture in your homeand consult a professional to minimise the health risks.
Your home may be fraught with hidden fire hazards. Over a third of household fires start in the kitchen, so make sure you never leave your cooking unattended and keep surfaces free of combustible clutter. Wiring can be hugely dangerous – out of sight behind walls, faulty wiring could kick start a catastrophic blaze, while the seemingly innocuous hammering of a nail into a wall could pierce the wiring and start a fire. Always replace damaged or worn out extension cords and cables and keep an eye out for over-heated lamps.