Common Child Safety Hazards in Older Homes
Guest post contributed by Sarah Bolt, on behalf of www.steel-line.com.au.
Older homes are often filled with vintage character and charm, but they may pose safety risks for children in some cases. When moving into an older home, be sure to safeguard your family by performing necessary fixes or upgrades. The following considerations will help you assess the safety of your old house.
Older homes are notorious for containing lead-based paint. Lead paints have been shown be hazardous to everyone, but are especially toxic to infants and young children. Lead exposure could result in physical or mental delays and problems with development. While many people assume that lead paint in good condition will not pose a problem, it can be insidious; for example, simply opening and closing a window could generate lead dust which is a serious health hazard. Depending on the nature of your lead situation, you may want to consult a contractor with expertise dealing with lead paint problems.
Asbestos was widely used during the building boom after World War II. Cheap and widely available, asbestos was often used in the construction of residences as well as fences. Unfortunately, asbestos is a highly toxic material that could lead to serious illness and death. If your house contains asbestos, contact a licensed contractor who is certified in the removal of this deadly material.
Since wood can wear and warp over time, it’s important to check the state of the staircases inside and outside of the house. Inside, badly worn treads can lead to falls, especially among children who may not exercise care when using the steps. Outside stairs may be slippery with moss or chipping and worn with time. Be sure to fix any riser height irregularities in the steps around the home and be sure to tighten handrails that may have loosened over the years.
Anyone buying an older home should have the wiring inspected. Electrical codes have changed over time and an older home may not be updated with the proper safety fixes. This could pose a hazard to anyone in the house. Have an electrician check the electric panel; be sure outlets—especially in the bathroom—have a ground fault circuit interrupter in case an appliance gets wet in order to guard against electrocution. Many young children do not understand the dangers associated with electrical devices and water.
Sealing the House
If you live in an area with dangerous critters such as snakes and spiders, you’ll want to be sure there are no holes or cracks where an animal could slither in to harm an unsuspecting child. Older homes are notorious for needing maintenance of this kind, but with careful inspection and perpetual vigilance, you can safeguard the premises. On the other hand, you’ll want to be sure that the people inside can get out if there is ever a fire; be sure old doors and windows do not stick and that children are able to open them in the event of a fire.
Mold and Mildew
Older homes have generally been through a lot of inclement weather during their time. If the home has ever flooded or suffered damage that allowed water to seep inside, the home may have mold or mildew. Black mold, in particular, could pose a health risk, especially to developing children. Many bathrooms in older homes do not have exhaust fans that could vent moisture outdoors. You can combat the occurrence of mold by installing exhaust fans in bathrooms where people bathe.
Sometimes hazards for children are outside of the house. Usually, older homes have well-established landscapes. Many landscapes contain plants that are poisonous, but some are actually quite tempting to little hands and mouths. When buying an old house, be sure to inspect the landscape for plants like castor bean and foxglove, which are as appealing to children as they are deadly. It’s also necessary to inspect trees for dead limbs that could fall and injure a child on the property.
Many old homes have stood the test of time and were made with great care once upon a time. By checking for signs of wear and maintaining the home’s good condition, you can minimize hazards to all members of the family.