There are many hidden hazards in our everyday environment. Researchers have discovered over time that some of our everyday items may be more toxic than previously thought. Although technological advancements have brought welcomed convenience to our lives, they have also brought along concealed dangers that we need to look out for. This article aims to reveal these hazards and how to manage them.
1. Cleaning Products & Air Fresheners
Cleaning products and air fresheners are used practically every day in our homes and workplaces. However, according to the University of California at Berkeley, these products can be dangerous as they emit toxic levels of pollutants when overly used in an enclosed, unventilated space. Even non-toxic compounds found in these products like terpenes can react with ozone in the air to produce a toxic blend.
Air fresheners contain many volatile organic compounds and can be up to five times more concentrated indoors than outdoors. This is toxic enough that it can cause cancer in some animals.
You must always maintain good air circulation when cleaning enclosed spaces to ensure you aren’t breathing in dangerous levels of chemicals. You may also opt for alternative cleaning solutions that are less harmful to you and the earth.
2. Microwave Ovens
Microwave ovens heat food using microwaves, a form of electromagnetic radiation similar to radio waves. The microwaves generated cause water molecules in the food to vibrate and produce friction, resulting in the heating of food.
Faulty microwaves can distribute radiation leakage that can be very harmful. Microwave radiation can heat body tissues the same way it heats food. Exposure to high levels of microwaves can cause skin burns or cataracts. The most common cause of microwave oven leakage is faulty or worn out door seals. This can occur from mistreatment, food build up, or the age of the microwave. Regular microwave testing can help identify if your microwave is leaking harmful radiation.
Microwave testing is particularly important in the retail food industry. It’s important to ensure that your microwave is shielding you, your employees, and your family from radiation leakage. Call a professional to perform an energy efficiency test to determine if the microwave has the correct power output, thus ensuring food is cooked for the required amount of time.
3. Lead Paint
The American government once declared lead to be the greatest environmental threat to children. Lead is particularly dangerous to children because their developing bodies absorb more lead than adults do and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.
While you might think that lead paint is not still an issue, many properties built before 1978 contain lead paint. Many could still be living or working in buildings that have not fully disposed of lead paint and its harmful effects.
What’s more important to note is that the inhalable harmful lead particles are released when lead paint begins to peel away, which is a common wall condition of old properties. Therefore, don’t try to remove lead-based paint by sanding, scraping, or burning it as that will release the toxic metal. Call a professional instead.
4. Portable Appliances
If your electrical appliance or its wiring is faulty and your safety switch does not trip within the required time, fatal and harmful injuries such as electric shock can occur. Regular RCD (residual current device) safety switch testing can help you avoid dangerous occurrences in your home and workplace. Testing and tagging your electrical equipment is also crucial to ensure it’s safe for use.
An RCD’s main purpose is to prevent severe electric shocks from occurring. It acts as a life saving device; it detects and halts the power in an electrical socket, preventing dangerous electric currents and fatal electric shocks. RCDs are usually located on a switchboard but can be used portably. Every home and workplace should enlist in regular RCD safety switch testing to ensure they are working correctly.
5. Laser Printers
According to the Queensland University of Technology, some laser printers emit ultra-fine particles that can be harmful to your health. The National Institute of Public Health confirmed these findings when it found that laser and inkjet printers can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other harmful contaminants.
Studies thus far have shown that concentrations of the discharged particles normalise after several minutes. However, certain particle sizes and exposure times have been linked with heart and lung disease, even cancer, with some producing effects similar to exposure to cigarette smoke.
Due to this, laser printers could pose a health risk to office workers who sit in close proximity to them for long periods of time. Indoor particle counts in office air increase fivefold during work hours due to printer use. Printers have been found to release more particles with new toner cartridges and when printing graphics they use more toner.
However, not every printer poses this risk. In the Queensland study, only 40 percent of the printers tested released ultra-fine particles and 27 percent of those produced high concentrations of them. The discharges also varied with the type of printer, its age, and toner cartridge. If you’re looking for less harmful printers, Energy Star certifies those that use less electricity.
6. Power Sockets
Power sockets are common in all types of buildings, but they’re dangerous when faulty. Coming into contact with an electrical installation that is active due to a fault condition can cause someone to suffer from a severe electric shock, which can result in serious injury and even death.
Because of the severity of coming into contact with an electric fault, it’s important to have your electrical installations and power points tested for earth fault loop impedance. An Earth Fault Loop Impedance Test is the process of having your electrical installations and power points tested to avoid electric shock and injury.
It’s designed to test the electrical earth of all power points and electrical installations and discover any faults within your electric circuit. This is crucial to ensure you and your employees’ safety.
Carpet is widely used in homes and offices, be it wall-to-wall or modular. While carpet isn’t inherently harmful, it has been linked to several health issues. The glue and dyes used with carpeting have been found to release volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can be dangerous in high concentrations. However, the early releases will diminish 72 hours after installation but low level emissions can linger for years after.
While scientists are still researching the potential dangers of chemicals in carpets, the Carpet and Rug Institute in the United States has developed two Green Labels that guarantee lower VOCs. It also studies indoor air quality associated with carpets. If you are planning to or have just installed carpet on your property, ensure the area is well ventilated to reduce VOC accumulation.
8. Upholstered Furniture
Upholstered furniture like sofas contains bacteria, fungi, and dust mites in quantities that are at potentially dangerous levels. It’s also home to hard and dead skin flakes, and protein stains left by traces of sweat, blood and urine that embed themselves into the fabric of your furniture. Exposure to these residues and microorganisms can lead to skin allergies, hay fever, or serious respiratory illnesses such as asthma.
Dust mites are microscopic bugs whose excrements feed fungi alongside millions of bacteria. Dust mites themselves feed on flakes of shed human and pet skin cells, pollen, and fungal spores. Dust mite excrement can be the cause of sinus symptoms, poor sleep, headaches, itchy or watery eyes, depression, sneezing, and fatigue. There are also pathogens found in dust mite excrement that can be responsible for eczema and other foul skin conditions.
In order to keep your furniture in the best possible condition, you should seek professional cleaning services at least once every six months.
9. Pressed Wood Products
Pressed wood is fabricated wood, as it’s made out of various pieces of logs combined. It also contains particle board, fibreboard and insulation, which were popular construction materials in the 1970s. Some glue that holds the compounds in place contains urea-formaldehyde, which US EPA estimates to be the largest source of formaldehyde emissions indoors. On top of that, this emission can increase in more humid environments.
Exposure to formaldehyde can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, wheezing and coughing, fatigue, skin rash, and severe allergic reactions. It’s been found to cause cancer in animals, which leaves open a possibility for the same in humans.
If your home or office contains pressed wood products, use air conditioning and dehumidifiers to reduce humidity levels. If you’re bringing in new pressed wood products into your property, keep the area well ventilated to reduce formaldehyde buildup. Try to buy ‘exterior-grade’ pressed wood products as they’re lower-emitting because they contain phenol resins instead of urea resins.
10. Compact Fluorescent Lamps
Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) are a type of fluorescent lamp. Many models of CFLs are designed to replace traditional incandescent bulbs that fit into many common light fixtures, including table and floor lamps. They’re very energy efficient, using approximately one quarter of the energy compared to traditional incandescent bulbs.
CFLs emit very low levels of UV, so how are they hazardous? The bulbs still contain mercury. While they don’t emit mercury when lit, it could be exposed if the outer glass tubing were to break. If you do break one, carefully clean up the entire residue following these instructions.