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What Common Dangers Are Lurking in Your Home?

How many potentially life-threatening hazards do you have around your house? According to a report featured in the November 2008 issue of ShopSmart, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, homeowners have plenty of hidden danger spots. In addition to basics like installing smoke alarms and locking away chemicals, ShopSmart experts reveal the other potential hazards and their surprisingly simple fixes.

"An estimated 28,200 deaths each year result from accidents that happen at home," said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief, ShopSmart. "The good news is that many of these accidents can be prevented just by purchasing a few items to create your own safety tool kit. Following our guide will keep your family safe and give you peace-of-mind."

The Top Home Hazards

  1. Tripping Traps: Make sure hand rails run along the full length of all staircases. Uneven steps and floors are costly to replace but necessary for safety. A temporary fix for floors is to put yellow caution tape on the floor. Lower hanging chandeliers should be raised to accommodate tall visitors.
  2. Bathroom Perils: Slippery showers and tubs can be fixed by installing grab bars. Turn down the water-heater thermostat to prevent hot water burns and make sure all outlets are GFCI protected.
  3. Crushing Danger: Automatic garage doors should have a safety feature called an electric eye that causes a closing door to reverse if an object gets in its path.
  4. Fire Risks: To prevent fires and burns, make sure all floors have working smoke alarms, house dangling electrical wires in an electrical box, unplug kitchen appliances when not in use and keep the key to deadbolts nearby at all times.
  5. Risks For Kids: Don't buy inflatable pools and, if trampolines are a must, enclose them with safety nets and supervise children at all times. Lay down shock absorbing materials underneath swing sets and make sure tree houses are structurally sound. Secure furniture over 30 inches tall with anti-tip strips and replace hazardous glass coffee tables. Don't overstuff shelves as items could topple onto a child's head and be sure to secure drapery cords so they are out of reach for children.

Do-It-Yourself Home-Safety Tool Kit

Here is everything you need to do your own safety check. You can buy most of these items at a home center.

Ruler: Measure all steps. They should be the same height. Check spaces between crib slats and deck rails to ensure that a child's head can't get stuck. They should be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart on cribs and 4 inches on deck rails.

Digital Thermometer: To test your tub and tap water, put the thermometer under running hot water. If it's over 120 degrees F, turn down the water-heater thermostat.

Toilet-Paper Tube: If you have a child younger than 3 at home or one visits often, use an empty toilet-paper roll to test toys and small, kid-reachable items. Anything that fits through can be a choking hazard.

Electrical Polarity Tester: Use this to test whether an electrical outlet is properly wired. Also use it to test ground-fault circuit interrupters. The testers are available online and at home centers for about $10.

Block of Wood: Place a two-by-four block (get a scrap from a home center) under your garage door to make sure the electric opener will reverse itself in case an object (including a body part or tiny tot) is in harm's way.

Lead Test Kits: If you're worried about lead-tainted toys or lead paint on walls or other surfaces in your home, do-it-yourself testing kits can quickly alert you to surfaces that harbor lead.

Radon Test Kits: The only way to know whether your home harbors this invisible, radioactive gas is to test for it. For the most accurate measure, place the kit on the lowest occupied level of your home.

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