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Health Hazards Of PBDE Fire Retardants In Soft Furniture

When homeowners talk about environmental health hazards in the house, the focus is often on formaldehyde exposure from furniture crafted with pressed woods.

This is often limited to hard furniture.

Soft furniture, however don’t get the attention it should.

Soft furniture refers to furnishings like cushion covers, curtains, skirtings, pillows, mattresses, sofas, bean bags, etc. And they can pose as much concern as their “hard” cousins.

The obvious danger with these household items is polyurethane foam. This is a petroleum product made from oil.

This is a health hazard because polyurethane foam is commonly used in manufacturing household products and one of it’s properties is that it breaks down easily. Sending tiny particles into the air we breathe.

One of which should be a primary concern is fire retardants.

PBDE fire retardants

This substance is contained in polyurethane foam because polyurethane foam is very flammable.

So to prevent thing from exploding into flames when you are scratching your back, when polyurethane foam is used in making soft furniture, it has to be doused in fire retardants.

These are heavy duty chemicals that wouldn’t look out of place in a manufacturing plant in an industrial factory specifically kept 300 miles away from any nearby cities.

Up to the year 2005, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) were the most commonly used fire retardants.

That was before the adverse health aspects of it was discovered.

However, this is one of those substances that might not affect a lot of people, but when it find a vulnerable host, it can cause absolute chaos to that person’s health.

This is why even though it has the potential to harm an individual’s health, a lot of people are still oblivious to it’s dangers even though they have been sitting on a chair containing PBDEs for years without any negative effects.

Well… maybe there are… just that people don’t realize that the source of their health problems might have originated from under their buttocks!

Health risks

It has been found that PBDEs have the same compound structure as certain neurotoxins.

This means that it has the potential to cause conditions such as:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Immunity deficiencies
  • Liver damage
  • Thyroid issues
  • Brain development problems
  • Cancer
  • etc

I believe the list above say a lot about the amount of attention that PBDEs deserve.

Managing exposure

If you have soft furniture and furnishings sitting around the house since before 2005, the odds are pretty high that they contain PBDEs.

That old 20 year old couch is no longer something to joke about with your friends. You need to take action to keep your family and yourself safe.

If for example, there are pillows containing polyurethane that is beyond repair, consider disposing it altogether.

If that is not possible, then at least to use a pillow case that totally encases the pillow without allowing anything to escape.

When buying new furniture for the house, give used items a miss especially if they are made before 2005.

Choose those containing natural fillings or something like wool.

When practical, purchase upholstered products so that you don’t bring that risk into the home. You can always buy cushions separately for comfort.

And finally, consider vacuuming the house often to remove any concentration of PBDEs in products and also those that are already airborne at home.

3 Tips To Make Windows Safe For Children

So you’ve done almost everything you feel you need to in the house to create a safer environment for the children or the baby who is arriving soon.

You’ve made safety modifications to the stairs, secured corner guards on all the sharp protruding corners of furniture, and you’ve even laminated a safety checklist beside the front door so that you can have a check before going out.

What else is there? Have you missed out anything? How about the windows?

The windows is one of those home fixtures that often get overlooked for safety.

Partly because parents often think that it is not possible to make modifications to it since it’s affixed to the wall. And that as long as they keep it closed or has a railing, it is fine.

You probably don’t need any reminder that babies are vulnerable.

But many don’t realize that as small as a 5-inch opening on a window is big enough for a baby to fall through.

While common sense tells us that we should keep windows closed when there are children or babies around the house, enforcing this behavior is not as easy as it sounds.

Sometimes you just feel that little stuffy in the living room. And since you are in the house, you feel that the circumstances to open the windows just that little will pose no danger.

This is an example of how accidents happen.

I’ve seen with my own eyes of homeowners who install window screens in place of railings. Even if the parents have full confidence in their competence, baby behavior can be unpredictable.

And they can often get to places that seem impossible to begin with.

1) Window guards

A very basic and effective way to manage this potential safety hazard is to install window guards.

Window guards are grill-like structures securely attached to the sides of windows. This makes it impossible for people to fall out of the window.

Because you are protecting your little ones, be mindful that the bars are no more than 4 inches apart.

It’s not time to relent. Install them on every window.

The thing you have to note about installing window guards is fire safety.

Because the firemen use windows to access houses in the event of a building fire, window guards can actually trap people inside or prevent the firemen from getting in.

This is why if you are living between the first and sixth level of a high-rise apartment, the window guards you install should have a emergency release mechanism that enable adults and teenagers to easily open the windows.

Permanent window guards are usually only used for the seventh floor and above.

Saying that, do check the local fire and building codes before proceeding with the installation.

The last thing you want to to install them thinking that you are keeping your kids safe, but it does not comply with safety standards determined by the authorities.

The costs of setting them up can go between $120 to $300 per window depending on various factors.

If you find that will results in smashing your household budget, then at least take a look at some alternatives.

2) Window stoppers

Stoppers are one of those inventions that make total practical sense and don’t cost an arm and a leg to buy.

As long as they are functional and not defective, they can often be enough to give parents peace of mind.

These are small devices that are fixed to the insides of windows so as to only allow them to open up to 4 inches.

This is so that you can still open the windows for ventilation while keeping the children safe at the same time.

They are easily available in hardware stores and can be installed DIY style if you want.

3) Sliding windows

Sliding windows are getting very popular with new homes these days.

Although they are a tad safer than the conventional push-pull windows, they can be easily opened to it’s maximum width if unlocked.

You don’t need a lot of strength to slide them open!

So if you have these windows, either get the catches installed too high for kids to reach, or better yet, use a typical padlock to lock the catch.

Another hazard is that because sliding windows don’t have frames within the the panels, sometimes people can think that it is open when in fact, it’s closed.

To prevent the kids from knocking themselves silly by walking into them, you might want consider pasting something on the window panes so that they can see it when it’s closed.

A lot of parents put a lot of time into safety with regards to furniture. And with that focus, they lose sight of fixtures like windows and doors.

Avoid doing that.

As a final thought, remember that the most basic practice for safety regarding windows is to keep them closed whenever there are children in the house. Safety hacks and devices should be solely depended upon to keep the baby safe from falling out of the house.

Hot-Water Heating vs Forced-Air Heating

Modern furnaces are forced-air heating systems whereby a fan blows and forces air over the heat exchanger and distributed into the house via the ducts.

Older houses tend to have hot-water heating systems (hydraulic heating) using boilers as an alternative to a furnace. The source of heating comes from piping which leads to a radiator.

While modern times are slowly out-phasing hot-water systems for forced-air systems, it is not a given that the latter is better than the former.

Both of them have their advantages that slightly edges the other. Which one to select for your home is really down to personal preference.

Hot water heating (boiler)

Since this has been around for ages, surely homeowners who prefer to stick to the tried and tested have their reasons?

Less heat loss

Furnaces are much more responsive to temperature settings. Once you turn it off, the air starts to cool down faster compared to a boiler.

The cast iron radiator in a boiler has the effect of better heat retention.

This means that the heat generated by a boiler will be more consistent compared to the dynamic nature of a furnace.

Less space

On the surface, a hot-water heating system will look like it takes up more space than a forced-air system.

That is an illusion.

Because what you don’t see is that the latter requires more space for the ductwork within walls and floors. The former however only requires space for piping which is much less of a hassle compared to ductwork.

Less noise pollution

Baring any defective equipment, water systems tend to be quieter than air systems.

This is because they don’t require ducts that can be noisy from expansion and contraction. And fans that will inevitably make noises while spinning.

No wind

As air systems circulate heat around the house by blowing and pushing warm air about, it can often send warm breezes into rooms and common spaces.

This can be annoying at times.

This is almost a non-issue with water systems.

Easier to upgrade

Because piping is easier to install than ducts, a hot-water system will be easier to extend when the homeowner deems that as necessary.

These circumstances can arise when a decision is made to expand the living space in the house.

Boilers also tend to be able to take on a higher capacity while furnaces might not be able to take on a heavier load.

Longer lifespan

The longevity of heating systems heavily depend on how well maintained they are by homeowners and how they are being used.

But generally speaking, hot-water heating tend to have a longer lifespan than forced-air heating systems.

Air pollution

In the event of malfunction, air systems can potentially pump air pollutants within the equipment and hiding in the ductwork all over the house.

This environmental health hazard is banish with water systems.

Forced-air heating (furnace)

With all the positivity mentioned above about hot-water heating, you might already have your decision made. 😀

But hold your horses!

Do take a look at the advantages of forced-air heating systems too.

More features

One of the main reasons people are switching to air systems is the various functions that come with them.

High end systems can be so versatile that they can not only provide heating, but also cooling, humidifying, dehumidifying, and cleaning as well.

That’s a lot packed under the hood if you ask me.

It makes perfect sense and is a great example of making full use of what is available and set up. It’s like having a television that don’t just receive free-to-air channels and cable, but can also be used as a computer monitor as well.

Lower costs

As you might expect, fabricating and installing ducts is more inexpensive than pipes.

Installation can be less chaotic too. Meaning a lesser possibility of damage during the works.

They also have more affordable maintenance cost compared to hot-water systems.

Installation flexibility

Since we are on the topic of installation, it must be said that in the midst of renovation, changes in setup would be easier to execute.

It will be simpler to relocate ductwork and warm-air registers compared to radiators.

On the other hand relocating and re-configuring piping can mean a lot of extra work. New walls might have to be intruded on while the ones that now have no piping will have to be patched up.

Faster response

Previously, it was presented that temperature can be more erratic with forced-air heating due to it’s high responsiveness.

While this can be a flaw, from another angle, it can be a perk too.

A better responsiveness will translate to faster heating up and cooling down. This can be a priceless feature when you run home one day to escape the cold of winter.

Less space

A hot-water system will require radiators or convectors to be set up on the floor of bedroom and other livable space.

This can be a hindrance when planning an area’s furniture and fittings.

Imagine ordering a dressing table with dimensions that you were careful of keeping within. Then realize that it would not fit into the space you wanted because you forgot to take the radiator into account.

Forced-air systems will definitely take up less space. Especially in the furnace room.

No fear of freezing pipes

One of the biggest blemishes of water systems is it’s potential to have it’s pipes frozen should it break down in winter.

Such an incident can cause homeowners a lot of stress while they are already freezing from the cold.

This is a non-issue with air systems.

With all that being said, the choice of which system to choose is really up to the homeowner to decide after weighing up the pros and cons of both.

It is specifically because not one system can meet the needs of every household, that more innovative systems are introduced into the market. Surely one can work for you.

10 Steps To Take To Ensure The Stairs Are Baby-Safe

Babies are naturally curious and ever-ready to explore the world. Just bring them out of the crib and you will find them crawling about to anything that catches their attention.

While this can be cute and adorable, it can be hazardous too.

Even if you will never leave your baby unattended to at home, there can still be instances where you have eyes glued on the TV for a minute too long or distracted by the oven by a extra minute. Leaving the baby to roam the nursery or the entire house unsupervised.

And one of the places at home that can be dangerous for babies is the stairway.

Adults can often grab on to the railings in the event of a loss of balance. But a baby don’t know any better. Should an accident happen, they can get a ways with a scratch and bruise if lucky.

In worse cases… well let’s not talk about that.

When you are carrying a baby up or down the stairs, you can also get distracted and lose your balance. And with your arms holding the baby, you’d have little time to react.

As a parent, it is only a given that you’d want to minimize the risks of accidents happening to the baby on the stairs. And here are some steps you can take to make that possibility of an accident as small as possible.

1) Light up the stairway

One of the most basic and simplest ways to increase the safety of the stairs is to install lighting.

This is a home improvement that benefits every family member.

Climbing up and down stairways in darkness can be simple enough for most people as they have grown accustomed to the flow of it after using it for years.

But accidents do happen. And it can be a little more complicated when you have a baby in your arms.

Being able to see each step more clearly can make all the difference in safety. And in terms of stairs, a small mistake can sometimes mean a big consequence.

Get light switches installed at both the top and bottom of the stairs too.

2) Backup lighting

As safety is a serious matter, consider installing backup lights too in case of power failure.

Get those battery powered night lights. These are like regular night lights except that they only turn on as emergency lights in the event of power failure.

They are convenient and inexpensive. Set them up at the top and bottom too for good measure. And if you want, get them for different areas of the house too.

I know of people paranoid enough to have backups for backup lighting.

3) Night light safety

If you are getting those night lights as mentioned, then please take into account the safety of these devices as well.

They can be pretty and attract a baby like moth to a flame.

So do set them up in sockets that are out of reach of a baby.

Manufacturers are aware of the demand of baby-safe night lights. Therefore, many have introduced night lights with child-safety features into the market.

These light basically encloses the bulb completely and have safety tabs that impedes a child’s act of removing them from electrical outlets.

4) Remove clutter

Ever found yourself losing balance while trying to negotiate a route around or through clutter at home?

I have.

While we might find it humorous after incidents like these, it is definitely not something to laugh at should it happen on a stairway.

Even the smallest items on the floor can cause trips of devastating impact.

The bigger they are the harder they fall.

A baby probably is not going to trip unless he or she is already walking. But what if you are the one who trips while carrying your child.

It might be excusable to have clutter in the bedroom or garage. But never within the space in and around the stairs.

It’s just too hazardous.

5) Stairway surface finishing

Some homeowners like to make their homes look as grand and posh as possible. And the stairs is no exception when class is concerned.

So they sometimes listen to contractors about smooth, glossy, and beautiful finishes that can be applied to the stairway, including the railings, risers and balusters.

If you have babies around the house or expecting to have, using glossy finishes is very bad practice.

You are not giving the dangers of the stairway enough respect.

Even puppies and adult dogs with 4 legs can fall down the stairs. What makes you think you won’t.

6) Safety gates

As soon as your baby becomes mobile, whether on fours or twos, safety gates should be erected on the top and bottom of staircases.

If you are installing the fixture yourself, take note that pressure gates should never be installed at the top of a staircase. This is because a baby’s weight can cause it to give way when leaned on.

When buying hardware mounted gates, those secured with screws and bolts, they can be installed on both the top and bottom. Do ensure that there are no exposed screws or nails so as to prevent scratches.

And keep this in mind – The top gate should only swing in one direction away from the stairs. Never into the stairs.

To ensure that your baby do not climb over or squeeze through the gates, get one that is high enough and with vertical slats that are no wider than 2 3/8 inches apart.

8) Rugs

For decorative and practical reasons, we like to leave rug on the top and bottom of stairs.

But this not practical when there is a little kid in the house who is getting to grips with how the world and physics work.

Rugs can cause people to slip. So keep them away until your child is old enough to walk and navigate around the house safely one his or her own.

9) Space between slats

Once a child is able to move about on his or her own, make a judgment of whether the safety gates can be removed.

The concern now is focused on accidents that can happen when he or she is using the stairs himself or herself.

One common freak accident is getting caught in between the balusters of a staircase. So you need to make sure that the space between them is no more than 3 1/2 inches apart.

10) Education

Spend some time coaching your child how to move up and down the stairs. After teaching, let the child practice it under your supervision.

The simplest tips can make all the difference.

And I wouldn’t fault you if you give the kids a tongue-lashing when catching them playing on the stairs.