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5 Home Safety Threats You Might Overlook

You're a careful parent who steers children away from things that could harm them. But hidden threats lurk in every house—sometimes where you least expect them. For safety's sake, look through your home often. Keep an eye out for not-so-obvious hazards. Here are five of them:

Scalding tap water

It is common for a home's water heater to be set above 120 degrees, and this can cause a scald burn to a child in seconds. Scalding hot tap water causes 3,800 injuries and more than 30 deaths a year. A lot of victims are young kids.

Solution: Set your hot water heater to 120 degrees. Check a child's bath water with a thermometer; aim for 100 degrees.

Unstable furniture

Each year, thousands of young kids are badly injured—and some die—when large TVs and heavy furniture tip over on them. Often, the victims were leaning on the furniture, climbing it, or pulling themselves up on it.

Solution: Double-check the stability of large furniture. Anchor stoves, bookcases, shelves, or bureaus to the wall. Get rid of items that may tempt kids to climb.

Window blinds

Hundreds of children have strangled to death after getting tangled up in cords or chains on window blinds. Window coverings sold before 2001 pose the most danger.

Solution: Secure the cords of older window coverings so children can't reach them (see http://www.windowcoverings.org) or replace them with safer, cordless blinds. Move cribs, beds, and other furniture away from windows. Use only cordless window coverings in children's sleep and play areas. 

Poorly stored chemicals

Each year, more than a million children younger than 6 are poisoned by accident. Many poisons are found in the garage. Parents can unknowingly put their kids at risk by storing gasoline, lighter fluid, or other chemicals in old soda bottles or cans. Kids may drink the liquids, with tragic results.

Solution: Store harmful chemicals in their original, labeled containers—safely out of reach.

Home trampolines

Backyard trampolines send thousands of people younger than 20 to doctors and emergency rooms each year. Injuries range from sprains, broken bones, and cuts to neck and spinal cord injuries, paralysis, and even death.

Solution: Avoid use of home trampolines. In gym classes or competitive sports, use a trampoline only with strict adult guidance and supervision.