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How to Avoid the Top 5 Deadliest Household Tragedies

November 12, 2003 | 22,868 views

By Dr. Joseph Mercola
     with Rachael Droege

Home accidents are responsible for more unintentional fatal injuries than any other cause except motor vehicle accidents. Accidents in the home are often caused by human error and typically could be prevented, yet they amount to 20,000 deaths and close to 13 million injuries a year.

And all of these injuries add up. According to a study conducted by the University of North Carolina"s Injury Prevention Research Center, home accidents result in 20 million medical visits every year and costs surrounding them reach nearly $380 billion each year.

The leading cause of deaths from home accidents include:

  • Falls
  • Poisonings
  • Fires
  • Suffocation/Choking
  • Drowning

I tend to focus on natural ways to keep healthy like eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep. But, all of the great nutrition and lifestyle habits in the world will not help you if you fall victim to one of these household accidents. That said, here are some tips to avoid five of the most common household tragedies:


  • Get rid of potential tripping hazards in your home. These include stray electrical cords or extension cords run across doorways, throw rugs or runners that can easily slide, and slippery bathtubs.
  • Secure loose rugs by putting a specially designed pad underneath it that will secure it to the floor’s surface.
  • Apply non-skid strips to your bathtub.
  • Keep stairways clear of toys, shoes and other items.
  • Clean up spills immediately.
  • Purchase a sturdy stepstool with a handrail so you can easily reach items on top shelves.
  • Falls can be particularly tragic for the elderly and small children, so be sure to pay attention to potentially problematic areas, such as showers, cribs and stairways.


  • Keep poisons in an out-of-reach, locked cabinet. Along with obvious poisons like bleach or bug sprays, many household items can be harmful if ingested or spilled on skin.

  • Potential poisons include: cleaning supplies, over-the-counter and prescription medicines, vitamins and herbs, mouthwash, toothpaste, alcohol, lead paint, nail polish and nail polish remover, cosmetics, hair sprays, perfume, automotive supplies, and some house plants.

  • Tap water can contain many toxic substances. Testing your tap water for contaminants that can poison you and your family is one of the most crucial health steps you should take now. My team and I have conducted extensive research and have found an extremely reliable and well-priced company that will test your water by mail.

  • AquaMD, as the water testing division of the American Water Council, is considered one of the nation’s "Premier Testing Laboratories" (laboratory certification # PH-0465). AquaMD provides "Certified Testing," an important distinction as many labs provide mere "Informational Tests" or "Screening" that is inferior to certified testing, which adheres to certified protocols.

  • I worked with Brian Cronin, director of AquaMD, and other water safety experts, to create the "Mercola’s Recommended Water Tests"--and to make them affordable compared to other sources. For those with municipal tap water supplies, I highly encourage you to consider the FULL test package, which includes testing for VOCs (48 harmful contaminants) and MTBE. If that package is not possible, the BASIC package is still a very smart move, as it tests for the most common contaminants including harmful bacteria.

    A separate package has been designed for those with well water supplies, catering to the most common and dangerous contaminants for that source. If you have well water and live in or near a region with heavy agricultural activity, you should also consider adding the test for pesticides & herbicides to your package (AquaMD enables you to add additional tests to your package or customize your testing package entirely).

    If you are unable to test your water at this time, I encourage you to take the free water evaluation at AquaMD. AquaMD has compiled data on municipal water supplier’s reported results and this is a good place to get at least a general idea of your water quality.

  • Be aware of other potential problems, such as exposure to carbon monoxide and radon gas. Purchase a carbon monoxide detector (similar to a smoke alarm) and a radon gas testing kit for your home.


  • Make sure you have a working smoke alarm in the hallway, bedrooms and on each level of your home. Test the alarm regularly and be sure to replace the batteries every year, or when it starts "beeping."
  • Keep matches, cigarette lighters and candles away from curtains or other flammable objects. Be sure that cigarettes butts and candles are put out completely and don’t leave lit cigarettes or candles unattended.
  • Don’t leave cooking pots unattended, especially when frying.
  • Turn off electric blankets before going to bed.
  • Make sure curtains, furniture and bedding are kept a safe distance from heaters.
  • Keep at least one fire extinguisher in your home at all times.
  • Don’t overload electric outlets and have any frayed, worn down or suspect wiring examined by an electrician.
  • Discuss a ‘fire plan’ with your family, noting two safe ways to escape every room and developing a safe meeting spot.


  • Never place infants face down on soft bedding or pillows, as babies are not able to raise their heads and may not be able to enough oxygen. Also avoid large stuffed animals.
  • Keep plastic bags out of children’s reach and tie bags in a knot before disposing.
  • Make sure food is cut into small pieces for children, and be sure to chew your own food thoroughly.
  • Keep balloons away from small children.
  • Keep your eye on infants, as many items, such as window blind cords, long telephone cords, drawstrings, necklaces and headbands, could potentially strangle a small child.


  • Keep a watchful eye on infants--infants can drown in even a small amount of water!
  • Don’t leave buckets of water around the house while cleaning.
  • Never leave an infant unattended in the bathtub.
  • Be aware of other potential hazards such as the washing machine and toilet. Toilet safety locks are available to keep toddlers from falling in.
  • Don’t leave children unattended in a pool, wading pool or hot tub, even if they are in a flotation device.
  • Empty out small plastic pools as soon as you’re done using them.
  • Install fencing around an outdoor pool, including a self-closing gate that cannot be reached by children.
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