Without sounding like too much of an alarmist, there are many poison hazards in the average American home that we don’t even think twice about. Most adults are safe from these products, because we know better than to ingest them. However, we have to be aware of these hazards and ensure they’re secured, because we often share the house with those who may not know they shouldn’t eat or drink these poisons, such as young grandchildren or pets.
These more innocent house guests or housemates may not be aware of how dangerous some of these common household items can be to them. With over two million poison exposures in 2018 alone (the most recent year on record), we know that this innocence translates into a real risk. If you’re about to have guests over or are about to adopt a pet, checking your home for poison hazards is important and can be done while you tidy up.
The kitchen is one of the gathering rooms of the house that people tend to spend a lot of time, and for good reason. It’s where we cook and often eat, and when you’re having company over, it’s where we often lay out the tasty snacks. To ensure food safety, it’s important to regularly disinfect and clean your kitchen so you don’t accidentally make someone sick. On one hand, this is a responsible and safe thing to do, but on the other, most cleaning supplies are common poison hazards in the home as they can be toxic if ingested. Even if they’re considered “green” or “all-natural” cleaners, the mix of chemicals involved in the cleaning product may make the person sick. This is also true of soaps and hand sanitizers.
The scent will make your kitchen smell nice, but it will also make these harmful products more appetizing to young children.
If you have a guest coming over, it’s probably a good idea to clean up the house and then lock the cleaning supplies away. It’s easy for children to misinterpret the bright, colorful bottles, that many cleaning supplies sport, as bottles of juices or sodas. It also doesn’t help that many cleaning products now come with pleasant scents. The scent will make your kitchen smell nice, but it will also make these harmful products more appetizing to young children. By childproofing the kitchen, you can eliminate this temptation. Since you, or others in the house, will likely need hand or dish soap every day, keep them out of reach of small children or help the children wash their hands so they don’t taste the “nice smelling goo” that they could interpret soap to be.
Similar to the kitchen, the bathroom is a place that is cleaned more often than the rest of the house (for obvious reasons), making it a natural place to store cleaners. It’s also a place where younger children may have a degree of privacy while they do their business. This creates a unique window of time where children could get into the various toxins present in the bathroom. For storing cleaning supplies, follow the same best practices for in the kitchen. Clean the bathrooms before company arrives, and then lock the supplies away where kids can’t get to them. If children are at your house regularly, if you babysit for example, invest in childproofing the cabinets for a more permanent solution.
While candles present their own hazards, it’s the potpourri, spray, and oils we’ll be focusing on.
Cleaners aren’t the only toxic substances often found in the bathroom, though. When you use the bathroom for its intended purpose, there may be smells. There are many household items that are used to cover these smells, from spray to candles, to potpourri. While candles present their own hazards, it’s the potpourri, spray, and oils we’ll be focusing on. While potpourri generally isn’t considered toxic to humans, it can be for animals, so be sure to keep it out of reach if this is your preferred method for scent-coverage. When it comes to sprays for masking odors, the toxicity of air fresheners depends on the formulation. Scent gels and reed diffuser solutions can have serious toxic effects on children if they ingest them, and the same is true for certain essential oils, especially when misused. For any of these bathroom fresheners, you can still use them, just make sure that they’re out of reach of children who are too young to understand the dangers of eating the fruity-smelling oil in the bathroom.
Switching gears from cleaning supplies to actual food, for the pets in your home, you have an added level of concern because certain foods that are perfectly fine and healthy for humans can be toxic to pets. Identifying these toxins in your home can be pretty tricky, since the list of foods that are good for us but bad for pets is pretty long. Some general examples are chocolate and coffee/caffeinated products, but even some foods that are healthy for humans, like grapes, garlic, and onions, can make your pets very sick. Garlic and onions are toxic to animals because of the sulfuric compounds that can make them healthy for humans. In animals, it can cause several types of anemia, leading to sickness or death.
It’s a good rule of thumb to assume anything that isn’t made for pets is toxic until you learn otherwise.
To prevent accidental pet poisonings, make sure you pick up any food that is dropped on the floor, just to be safe. It’s a good rule of thumb to assume anything that isn’t made for pets is toxic until you learn otherwise. Only after learning that a food is healthy for your pet can you potentially feed it to them. For this reason, you likely shouldn’t give your pets prepared food, since the combination of ingredients increases the likelihood that it can make them sick. Even if it’s not toxic, their stomachs aren’t made to handle heavily seasoned foods.
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Your home should always be a safe place for you, the others that live there, and the guests that visit. While many adults may be able to avoid many household poison hazards, children and pets may not. As the homeowner, it’s on you to monitor these hazards and ensure there are safeguards in place. Luckily, the same knowledge that protects you from ingesting any toxic substances can also be used to protect others. Just make sure to take some time to think it through and find each hazard so that the wrong person or pet doesn’t.