Home is any place where you feel safest. Or at least, it should be.
Most of us spend so much time making the places we live in clean, comfortable, and suitable for human habitation. Ever since mankind discovered the existence of bacteria, we’ve learned to use the magic of soap and water to keep them at bay.
And yet, people still fall ill even while living in the most spotless houses. It could be because being a little too clean can lower one’s resistance to germs, but often, it’s due to some very unlikely culprits lurking in every home:
Unless you’re a (non-Korean) bachelor living by yourself, your medicine cabinet at home is likely to play host to a couple of tubes of mascara, lipstick, or other products that even I can’t name despite being a girl and all.
The good news is, if you’re a (non-Korean) guy, you’re not at risk. Us girls (and Korean superstar guys) who do use them, on the other hand, need to tread more carefully.
Sure, most quality make-up products contain preservatives that repel bacteria, but these are weakened by exposure to heat, saliva, and other pollutants on your hands. So, if you frequently leave your makeup bag lying in a patch of direct sunlight or use months-old mascara or eyeliner (that you sometimes moisten with water or a bit of saliva), you’re probably at risk for serious eye infections.
To avoid this, throw out mascara that’s more than four months old and dump eyeliners or eyeshadows that you’ve been using for a year. Oh, and washing your hands before putting on make-up helps too.
2. Household cleaners.
We stock up on detergents, bleach, and deodorizing sprays since we use them to disinfect our homes. Ironically, while they do keep surfaces sparkling clean, certain chemicals in them have been found to be lung and eye irritants. Orthophenylphenol (say what?), for example, is a common ingredient in Lysol and is cancerous. Yikes.
Fortunately, some enterprising environmentalists have caught on to this and many of them now offer healthier alternatives that contain mostly natural components.
3. Clothing hampers.
I know what you’re thinking. How on Earth can a clothing hamper be dangerous? It’s not like you can seriously injure someone by hitting them on the head with these, right? (By the way, I mean fabric clothing hampers like these and not those futuristic, metal ones that cost an arm and a leg. Now, THOSE are dangerous.)
Well, toddlers sometimes like to build forts or tunnels out of stuff lying around the house and a nice, cylindrical clothes hamper like the one mentioned above looks like something they’d like to burrow into.
Trouble is, the hamper wires can come loose if there’s a tear in the fabric, and they can cut across the eyes of any toddler playing hide and seek within. This sort of injury is not only immensely painful, but it also requires immediate emergency surgery to minimize the damage.
Not keen on rushing your toddler to the emergency room on a Saturday night? Replace any hampers covered in fabrics that have started to fray, or better yet, get a sturdier hamper, one with no wires inside it.
4. Aerosol sprays.
Apart from contributing to ozone layer damage, aerosols are also really bad for your lungs; the chemicals used to propel hair products or antiperspirants into the air or onto your skin can trigger asthma or allergy attacks.
If you can’t bear the thought of going out without styling your hair, fret not because pump-type canisters that turn hair mousse into foam are a safer bet.
5. Antibacterial products.
Avoiding toothpaste, deodorant, and antibacterial soap sounds unsanitary and is bound to be terrible for your career or relationship prospects (because who wants to work or go on a date with someone who smells like a sewer?).
So, it completely sucks that 75% of those hygiene products contain triclosan, a toxic chemical that is highly effective in killing odor-causing bacteria, but could very well kill you in the long run (think cancer, muscle impairment, etc.), especially when you apply it to your body several times a day. Makes you think about how many times you brush your teeth in one day, right?
Thankfully for your office mates and significant other, you don’t have to go without toothpaste or deodorant to avoid triclosan. Thanks to the recent findings on its harmful effects, many manufacturing companies have removed it from their products. On your next grocery trip, take a good look at the product labels and opt for the ones that don’t list triclosan on them.
6. Unpleasant smells (e.g., from sewer gases).
Speaking of disgusting odors, the rank aroma of sewers aren’t just a nightmare for your nostrils. They also pose a serious health hazard.
Sewer gases contain methane, which is actually odorless, but can bring on headaches and even heart palpitations. Worse still, letting them build up leaves everyone in the house vulnerable to explosions since these gases can potentially be ignited by the smallest spark if they’ve been collecting for a while.
So, for everyone’s safety (and sanity), have any weird smells in your house checked out as soon as you are able.
7. Gas stoves.
The biggest indoor hazards are combustible gases like carbon monoxide and methane (see above). Faulty gas stoves or gauges are the common culprits for their presence, so if you smell something funny in the air, try not to light up a cigarette just yet lest you end up burning the house down.
To reduce the risks of accumulating combustible gases, inspect your fuel-burning appliances at least once a year and install alarms for carbon monoxide levels on each level of the house for added security. You can also switch on over to electric or induction stoves for better peace of mind.
That fresh coat of lovely daffodil-colored paint on your walls might be pleasing to the eyes, but it could be downright nasty to the rest of you. Most paints and solvents are chock-full of volatile organic compounds or VOC’s. Their fumes tend to stress your heart and lungs, and can lead to you developing an irregular heartbeat.
As with triclosan-laced products, you can minimize the risk of inhaling harmful paint fumes by choosing latex and water-based paints over Alkyd and oil-based ones. When repainting a certain room, make sure to keep it well-ventilated and don’t stay in there until all the nasty fumes have evaporated.
It isn’t so much the clothes themselves that are harmful, but the chemicals used to make them waterproof, shiny, colorful, or whatever else is fashionable these days. Formaldehyde, which irritates the upper respiratory system (and is used to preserve dead bodies), is one of them.
Garments that are frequently dry-cleaned also tend to be riddled with perchloroethylene or PERC, a solvent classified by the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA as a probable carcinogen and perhaps even a neurotoxin.
A healthier choice would be going for clothing made of untreated fabric like cotton and airing out dry-cleaned garments in a well-ventilated area or returning them to the cleaners for another go if they come back to you smelling like strong chemicals.
10. Contact Lenses.
These things come into direct contact with your eyes, so failing to keep them and their cases clean can put you at risk for eye infections and even blindness.
To keep your sight (and your look) fresh, always wash your hands with soap and water before touching the lenses, and clean your lenses case by rinsing out the used solution. Replacing the cases every three months is also a good idea.
As the cliché goes, one ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Keeping our homes free of disease and danger will always be a constant, but as the list above shows, it does pay to go into battle with both eyes open.