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tips for a safe home

You don't need to spend a bundle to keep your home safe from environmental and man-made hazards.

All it takes is knowledge of what can go wrong, and a few simple steps to prepare yourself.

Being prepared to act when an accident or a fire occurs and having the necessary detectors in good working order to give you warning will help you rest easier.

first aid: because accidents happen.

Because accidents happen, you'll want to be prepared to treat scrapes, burns, bites, and other minor and major mishaps that may occur at home.

A prepackaged first aid kit is the simplest solution; these come stocked with all the bandages, tools, and antiseptic wipes you may need. But it might be less expensive to create your own kit.

Make sure you have the following essentials in your medicine chest: adhesive bandage strips, gauze pads, sterile cotton balls, antiseptic wipes (or an antiseptic solution), a chemical-activated instant cold pack, eyewash, blunt-tipped scissors, tweezers, a thermometer, cotton swabs, and activated charcoal and syrup of ipecac in case of poisoning.

And be sure to keep the phone numbers of your nearest poison-control center, your pharmacy, and family members' doctors in your cell phone.

fire and smoke.

Because the toxic gases from a fire could keep you from waking up should a fire ignite while you're sleeping, maintaining working smoke detectors for every level of your home is a must.

Install detectors on the ceiling (smoke rises) in every bedroom and outside bedroom doors, at the top of the stairways, and in any den or office in the basement. 

Test the devices monthly and replace the batteries at least once a year.

Fire extinguishers should also be kept on each floor as well as in every bedroom and in any room where a fire could occur, such as the kitchen or a workshop. Check fire extinguishers monthly - it could keep a small mishap from becoming a disaster.

Another safety must-have is a carbon-monoxide detector. This deadly, colorless, odorless gas is becoming a threat in more and more of today's energy-efficient and airtight homes.

The source of carbon monoxide is usually faulty burning in, or poor venting of, a furnace or another appliance. Your first defense is to maintain these items properly. Carbon-monoxide detectors, which resemble smoke alarms, are an essential backup.

environmental hazards: asbestos and lead paint.

If your home was built before 1978, it may contain asbestos around furnaces, pipes, heat ducts, and boilers; in the adhesive and backing beneath your linoleum floor; and in "cottage-cheese" ceilings. The dust of this carcinogen can cause serious lung ailments when inhaled.

If the asbestos is in your garage near the furnace and you rarely go there, you should simply be aware of it and regularly check its condition. Asbestos generally is not a problem unless it's disturbed (by a leak in the roof or a child's bouncing ball, for example).

If it's crumbling or otherwise in poor condition, hire a licensed contractor experienced in asbestos removal to seal it, repair it, or get it out of your home.

Lead paint, which is common found in homes that were built before 1980, has also made today's environmental dishonor roll.

Lead-tainted dust can escape during cleaning, and if enough of this substance is ingested or inhaled, it can cause permanent brain damage and other serious harm, especially to children, mothers-to-be, and older adults.

If you live in an older home, you might want to hire a trained professional to conduct a hazard assessment.

To check for lead yourself, chip off a bit of suspect paint - right down to the bare wood - and then either send it to a laboratory for analysis or buy an inexpensive test kit online.

If you do find lead, cover the area with wallpaper, paneling, or new lead-free paint, and frequently wash children's hands and faces as well as toys and pacifiers to reduce their exposure to dust containing lead. Once tainted surfaces are covered, they are usually considered safe unless they chip or peel.

radon gas.

The second leading cause of lung cancer, radioactive radon gas is a serious environmental threat in many parts of the world. Typically, this odorless element moves up through the soil and seeps into buildings through cracks and pores in the foundation and through gaps in floors.

Trapped inside, it can build to dangerous levels. If a test kit (available online) indicates radon is present, hire a certified radon professional to prevent infiltration.

Visit the Clean Organized Home Store for the products and supplies to help you keep your home and family safe.

Related Pages

› Tips for a Safe Home


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About the Author

Tara Aronson

Tara Aronson is a native Californian. Having grown up in San Diego, she studied journalism and Spanish to pursue a career in newspaper writing. Tara, whose three children - Chris, Lyndsay, and Payne - are the light of her life, now lives and writes in Los Angeles. She also regularly appears on television news programs throughout the U.S.