The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

August 10, 2008

Report: Elderly at higher risk from hazards found in homes

According to AARP Services and the EPA Aging Initiative, older people are at a higher risk of suffering major health issues from hazards found around their homes.

Items that may cause illness or even premature death in the elderly include: household cleaners that have harmful chemicals in them, pesticides, paints and solvents, clothing, furniture, draperies, carpet pads, stuffing in furniture and nonstick cooking pans. This information is provided by a recent AARP bulletin.

Household cleaners that may contain dangerous chemicals are ammonia, chlorine bleach, and glycol ethers that are found in substances that remove dirt and grime. Ammonia is a chemical that triggers asthma attacks. Chlorine bleach is a lung irritant and can be deadly if swallowed. And glycol ethers can be easily absorbed into the skin and eventually cause nerve damage.

Pesticides have been tied to Parkinson’s disease. Anyone with a weakened heart or lungs should steer clear of pesticides because they can cause arrhythmia and possibly heart attacks.

Paints and solvents like mineral spirits, metha-nol, xylene and turpentine can be used improperly and the fumes can put stress on lungs and heart, and eventually give the person an irregular heartbeat, says the EPA. Paints that can be harmful to older people especially include ones with Alkyd and oil bases to them because they tend to have higher amounts of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, in them.

Some older fabrics used in clothing contain formaldehyde, which is an upper respiratory irritant. Clothing made from natural fibers like cotton is a safer bet.

Furniture, draperies, carpet pads, stuffing in furniture and nonstick cooking pans all pose higher health risks to the elderly. It was not until 2000 that Scotchgard updated its formula in furniture and draperies to eliminate carcinogens found in its anti-stain treatments. Carpet pads and stuffing in older furniture and mattresses contain polybrominated diphe-nyl ethers, which are used as flame retardants in these products and have been shown to pose a risk to the thyroid gland and the nervous and reproductive systems in people.

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