Household Safety Statistics
The home is generally thought to be a place of safety and security, but many homes are filled with potentially dangerous substances and products that can harm occupants, especially children and pets. Many times, consumers are unaware of household dangers until an injury or death occurs, and they may be unaware of household product recalls until it is too late.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), household consumer products injure an estimated 33.1 million Americans every year, as a result of both accidents and manufacturing errors.
Common Hazards in the Home
The top five household hazards identified by the CPSC include magnets, recalled products, furniture tip-overs, windows and window coverings, and pool and spa drains. To keep homes safe, the CPSC recommends the following safety tips:
- Keep loose magnets, magnetic pieces, and other small objects away from children
- Stay informed about product recalls
- Check that furniture (TVs, bookcases, desks, chests, etc.) is stable or anchored to a wall
- Don’t rely on window screens to prevent falls from windows
- Use cordless window blinds or keep cords permanently out of the reach of children
- Inspect pools and spas for entrapment hazards and use drain covers
Other Household Hazards
Small, portable appliances and large, stationary appliances can pose risks to consumers and are often recalled by manufacturers for faulty wiring or shock hazards. Countertop appliances should always be unplugged when not in use to avoid overheating, as fires and electrical shocks have been reported from faulty wiring in appliances such as toasters, microwaves, and mixers. Larger appliances such as refrigerators or ranges are often recalled for wiring problems. Heating appliances such as space heaters should never be left unattended or used while sleeping. Rechargeable batteries can sometimes overheat in laptop computers or other rechargeable items.
Caution should be used to keep potentially harmful items out of the reach of children. All prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, herbs, cosmetics, and cleaning agents should be kept out of sight and reach, and child-proof or child-resistant packaging should be chosen if possible. Keep all chemicals and products in their original packaging to ensure accurate identification of items. The Poison Prevention Packaging Act requires that child-resistant packaging be used on all medications, unless the product label includes a notice that the product is intended for homes without children.
Cribs and bunk beds can pose falling hazards and suffocation dangers, especially to young children. Cribs are often recalled for not meeting federal requirements for crib safety, especially in cribs with drop sides, unsafe slat widths, gaps around the mattress, or improper construction materials. Fall injuries and entrapment can occur if unsafe cribs or bunk beds are used. Other hazards in the bedroom include mattresses that do not meet CPSC flammability standards, and electric blankets that can pose a fire hazard.
Windows and window treatments may be unsafe for children and can pose falling or strangulation hazards. Window screens should not be expected to keep children or adults from falling out of windows, and window guards should be utilized if children will have access to a window. Window blind cords should be kept out of the reach of children, and there should never be a loop in the cord, as strangulation could result. Window blinds are often the subject of recalls due to strangulation incidents.
Households should be thoroughly inspected for potential fire hazards and electrical dangers to avoid unsafe situations. Fire safety and fire prevention steps should be taken to ensure that appliances, extension cords, and surge protectors meet all federal electrical standards. Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) should be used on all electrical outlets, and electrical cords should never be used if they are frayed or cracked. Outlets should never be overloaded, feel hot to the touch, or give off an electrical shock. Plug protectors should be used on all unused electrical outlets to keep fingers and objects out of sockets, especially if there is a child with access to the outlet. Lamps can pose fire hazards if they are placed near drapes or bedspreads, and appliance extension cords can cause problems if they are left plugged in for long periods of time when the appliance is not in use.
To keep homes safe from fire, install smoke alarms on every floor and near sleeping areas. Test the smoke alarms often and remember to change the batteries regularly, as smoke alarms are sometimes recalled for wiring or battery defects. Fire extinguishers should be placed in kitchens and other accessible locations in the house. Fire safety and fire prevention steps can prevent the majority of accidental home fires.
Toxins and Chemicals
Many dangers in the home may be invisible to the eye, such as carbon monoxide poisoning, Chinese drywall fumes, or lead paint hazards. Air quality can be monitored by CO2 detectors and other devices, but dangerous air quality is often hard to identify. Faulty air purifiers can product ozone, a gas that is toxic to both humans and animals. Chemicals such as pesticides, drain cleaners, and paint should always be kept in their original containers and out of the reach of children.
Products used in the garage and outdoors can pose hazards to consumers, especially in the case of faulty equipment such as lawn mowers, ladders, electrical power tools, fuel storage containers, and garage doors. Automatically-reversing garage doors should be used to prevent entrapment or crushing injuries, and all electrical cords should be checked often for fraying or cracks.
- Consumer Product Safety Commission, Safety Tips: http://www.cpsc.gov/tips.html
- U.S. National Library of Medicine http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/householdproducts.html
- University of Maryland Medical Center, Household Safety Checklist: http://www.umm.edu/non_trauma/check.htm