Riskier than you think
You probably already know that many everyday things pose security risks. But you may not realise that other favourite products – ones that make our lives easier or allow us to live more healthfully – can also pose a health risk. “A number of common everyday household items that one might think are innocuous can become hazards,” says James H. Dickerson, PhD, chief scientific officer at Consumer Reports. You might be surprised to learn that the following helpful – or even healthful – items can actually be deadly if used incorrectly.
These germ killers have become staples of life during the coronavirus pandemic. “The active ingredient for most proper hand sanitisers is ethanol or isopropanol,” Dickerson explains. But with demand for hand sanitisers at an all-time high, some companies have begun manufacturing knockoffs using a different type of alcohol, called methanol. Dickerson says methanol can be lethal if too much is absorbed through the skin.
What’s more, even some perfectly legitimate hand sanitisers have become potentially hazardous by adding fruity or floral scents, making them appealing to children. “We’ve heard reports across the country of children drinking hand sanitiser,” he says. Frighteningly, the alcohol concentration can be even higher than in hard liquor and can poison a young child. To be safe, buy hand sanitisers from verified sources that will stand behind their product, and keep the product away from children or others who might be tempted to ingest it.
These “cool mist” humidifiers have grown in popularity in recent years, thanks to their nearly silent operation and affordable price points. They’re great at making dry rooms more comfortable by turning water into mist – but they can pose considerable respiratory risks if not used properly. That’s because they aerosolise everything that’s in the water – from minerals in hard tap water (often seen as a white dust that lands on nearby objects) to mould and bacteria that may build up without routine cleaning. Dickerson recommends following any manufacturer instructions carefully, particularly if they advise using distilled or filtered water. He also recommends cleaning humidifiers frequently.