Household Dangers and Poisons

Make your household safe by childproofing

We all like to think of our home as a safe place where we can live and relax in comfort. Find out about possible dangers and steps you can take to prevent accidents.

Who's at Risk?

Young children are the most at risk. Toddlers are attracted to bright colors and things they can reach. A number of common household plants are poisonous. And these plants can be very dangerous to young children.

Household Plants

Elephant Ears (Dieffenbachia) are a common household plant. If a child eats or chews the leaves, this plant can cause intense burning and swelling in the mouth. Children have even died from severe swelling at the base of the tongue, blocking their airway.

The Castor Bean plant is an decorative plant often used around the home because of its broad leaves and colorful flowers. The beans of this plant are poisonous to pets and children if they are chewed or swallowed.

Household Products

Children are curious. Many household products are brightly colored so that they look attractive to an average shopper. While adults know to use these products carefully, children usually don't. Certain products that are especially dangerous can be very interesting to children because of the products' bright colors and large containers. Here are some products that need to be kept out of a child's sight and reach:

  • Furniture polish
  • Windshield washer fluid
  • Antifreeze
  • Drain cleaners
  • Toilet bowl cleaners

A child may think these items looks like a soft drink or juice box. Neon antifreeze and drain cleaners come in bright, attractive containers. This can sometimes result in terrible or deadly results. If you have these products in your home put them in a locked cabinet. Also, remember to keep drugs and over-the-counter medicine out of a child's reach. These also can be a leading cause of poisoning if a child takes too much.

How to Reduce Your Risk

You may encounter some of these harmful substances from time to time. But you can reduce your risks by doing a few things to make your home safer:

  • Service your heating and air conditioning system twice a year
  • Stay away from cigarette smoke
  • Wash your food before preparing it
  • Choose your foods with care
  • Watch toddlers and infants closely and see what they put in their mouths

By taking these steps, you can reduce the risk of danger in your home.

Where to Find More Information

A larger list of poisons can be found through the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.This is a division of the Centers for Disease Control.

Common Unknown Dangers

But what about dangers that are harder to find? The list of dangers can be quite long, but common ones include:

Carbon Monoxide

This is a "silent killer" – you may not even know that you've been exposed to the poison. It is a gas that has no color or smell, making it hard to find. It can come from propane, butane and natural gas heating systems that haven't been serviced. Air flow is important in preventing build up of this gas. Carbon monoxide poisoning causes more than 600 deaths a year.

Polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs)

This class of chemicals is used to keep things from catching fire and is found in furniture. PBDEs also are found in many processed meats. Laboratory animals exposed to PBDEs develop thyroid problems and liver tumors, but researchers are still exploring the health effects on people.


This deadly substance has been used in wallpaper for more than a century. It is also found in weed killers, paints, and pesticides. Mild exposure to arsenic can cause an upset stomach. Long-term exposure can lead to heart failure, seizures, and coma.

Lead and Mercury

These metals are used in batteries and industrial materials. It is hard not to avoid contact with these items. Luckily, small amounts of both of these metals are not harmful. With larger exposure, they can cause damage to the brain, kidneys, bone, and heart.

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)

These chemicals are found in smoke, including cigarette smoke, auto exhaust, and over-grilled foods. PAHs have been linked to higher risks of breast cancer.

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