Seven ways your house could be slowly killing you

Wednesday November 06 2019

Indoor plants that double up as natural insecticides have a combination of chemicals that could cause harm to children and pets around the home if ingested. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH


The home is the epicentre of daily life. Whether one lives alone or shares the space with loved ones, the ultimate goal is to create and nurture a space that is safer than the outside world.

For some, cleaning is a weekly activity, while the more privileged can afford to have their houses cleaned thoroughly on a daily basis.

Cleaning is usually a precautionary measure, we are aware of the dirt that lurks in our homes and feel the need to keep it clean to ward off any disease-causing germs and keep the home looking neat and tidy. The surfaces one pays the most attention to, however, are those that people can see.

More often than not, households ignore areas with heavy appliances that are harder to move around, leaving them for general cleaning which takes a while, maybe even twice a year at best, to get to.

The good news is that this cleaning achieves the goals set out for it most of the time. The bad news is that despite all precautionary measures, your house could still be killing you. Scientists say that the chemical reactions in our homes are capable of resulting in a number of toxic air pollutants.

Beyond that, surfaces in the home that are in place for either aesthetic or hygienic purposes could be one spill away from leading us to our death. Here are seven ways your house could be killing you slowly:


Burning incense
While many are aware of the dangers posed by cigarette smoking and the toxic fumes it produces, a silent killer lurks in a product created to inspire calm in the home.

Incense is commonly used by people who practice meditation and often for religious ceremonies in the Buddhist and Hindu faiths.


Sasho Gligorovski, a physicist and atmospheric chemist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Guangzhou, China, discovered that burning incense is linked to an increased risk of throat, lung and mouth cancer in frequent users. PHOTO | FILE

Some also use them simply for their refreshing aroma. However, as discovered by Sasho Gligorovski, a physicist and atmospheric chemist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Guangzhou, China, burning incense is linked to an increased risk of throat, lung and mouth cancer in frequent users.

This is because the air indoors has a higher concentration of hydroxyl radicals than the outdoor atmosphere, which then combine, resulting in a cocktail of harmful gases.

When was the last time you checked under your sink? What about your bathrooms? Areas that are often damp should be regularly checked for mould, which eventually causes the house to smell, expelling fumes that could lead to allergic reactions and even asthma.

The mould could also be growing due to pipe damage around the house, which results in the manufacturing of mycotoxins.

Mycotoxins have been linked the prevalence of nausea, immune system suppression, liver damage, central nervous system damage and cancer.

Look out for mould around the house and routinely sort out any water flow issues around the house as soon as possible to avoid its growth.

Dust Mites
How often do you clean the space under your bed, or behind your work desk? My guess is as good as yours. These are heavy pieces of furniture and occupy a lot of space, which creates an environment for dust mites to thrive.

These allergens then cause respiratory problems if not routinely disposed of.

House Plants
Most plants are ornamental when placed indoors, while some species double up as natural insecticides. These ones in particular have a combination of chemicals that could cause harm to children and pets around the home if ingested.

Lily-of-the-valley, daffodil, poison ivy, and even the mistletoe are examples of plants that are poisonous when consumed, so be weary of having them around the home in places within reach of children and animals.

Or, as a replacement, consider investing in a succulent. They require little care to survive and are aesthetically pleasing, coming in various sizes and prices at plant gardens across Nairobi.

Slippery Tiles
Ceramic tiles placed in the kitchen and bathroom are as beautiful and easy to clean as they are deadly.

They pose myriad risks: from slipping and having a fatal fall, to common chipping that could injure bare skin and even fostering the growth of mould.

If not cleaned often, they also encourage the gathering of dust that could pose danger to the respiratory system if inhaled.

The dust could also be as a result of a chip or break, as they are composed of earth-based minerals.

People that suffer from asthma are particularly at risk, hence a thorough inspection of the state of these tiles is essential every so often.

Limit the amount of heavy objects that are placed on ceramic tiles to avoid applying pressure that may cause these cracks to form.

Air fresheners
The popularity of incense as a natural alternative to air freshener was inspired by the exodus out of chemical air fresheners, which were ruled out as harmful to the environment.

However, with the introduction of automatic air freshening devices that expel the pleasant smell, often in a span of 15-minutes, many home owners invested in it to make the house smell fresh even in their absence. The key is to keep them away from open flames, as they contain chemicals that could result in a life-threatening inferno. These same chemicals could cause harm if ingested or inhaled too much.

Your Television

Yes, even your everyday source of entertainment can cause deadly injuries if it is not mounted on a wall or kept far from the reach of little ones and pets.

Children are the most susceptible, as they play around exposed wires and could be in the direct line of a tip-over.

In the United States, a 2012 study in the journal Paediatrics revealed that over 17,000 children were rushed to hospital each year between 1999 and 2011 due to flat-screen related accidents.

For perspective, that is at least one child every thirty minutes. To keep this from happening, mounting your television and keeping your wires tucked away is the best way to ensure your toddler is safe from harm.

To top it all off, the most important thing to consider when maintaining a safe home is to be consistent with its maintenance for the sake of one’s loved ones.

Danger often lurks in the unseen, hence cleaning the home should be treated with vigilance to ensure disease-causing organisms do not have the opportunity to thrive.