Fixing home, neighborhood hazards to keep families safe, healthy

Published 12:01 am Friday, May 8, 2015

By David Crocker


This week’s column improves health by keeping you and your family safer. With warmer weather now here, more folks are spending time outside, but did you know that even your own back yard can be a place of danger? That’s right. There could be dangers right under your nose you might never have considered. In fact, more than 200,000 children visit hospital emergency rooms each year in the U.S., so let’s go over a few potential problems, and learn how to fix them.

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Unsafe playgrounds. Play sets can pose a real danger, with jagged edges and hot surfaces. To fix: Make sure all playground equipment is covered with shock-absorbing material, and mulch around it at least 9-12 inches deep. Make sure play equipment has no dangling cords or ropes, as these could cause strangulation. Also, check slides, swings, and steps during hot spring, summer and early fall days, as these could cause severe burns.

An unfenced pool. According to the Home Safety Council, nearly one quarter of all drownings in the United States happen near home. An unfenced pool can attract and give uncomplicated access to neighborhood children and pets. Also, even though you might be an adult, or your kids happen to be older, it’s never a good idea to swim alone. I can tell as a WSI (water safety instructor) for the American Red Cross, I know of several certified lifeguards who actually drowned, not making rescues, but were in water alone and got over confident. To fix: install a four sided fence, whether you have an above ground or in ground pool. Make sure the fence is at least five feet high, with a lock on its gate. Never place patio furniture close enough to the fence that it may be used to scale the structure.

Dangerous grill placement. A leading cause of BBQ related fires is placement of grills and other cooking structures too close to combustibles like wooden deck rails, awnings, or low hanging tree branches. To fix: Make sure your grill or cooking source isn’t within 10 feet of your deck, hanging vegetation, or the side of your house.

Weatherworn decks. Water can seep in and warp most decks that haven’t been waterproofed properly every two to three years. This increases the chance of stumbles and falls. To fix: First, inspect your deck every year, for areas most susceptible to moisture, like the “ledger board,” where the deck attaches to the house. Also, check for cracks and splits. Another potential problem with decks, wood play sets and picnic tables is that some pressure treated wood contains arsenic. This can increase risk of sickness and cancer to kids, even though the use of arsenic was phased out in 2003. Be sure to seal such wood once a year with a penetrating sealer, and replace highly exposed areas like handrails, steps, and deck boards with non-arsenic alternatives.

Pesticide residue. Whether conventional or natural, pesticides can pose a real hazard. These can make children and adults alike ill. To fix: install bird houses and feeders to attract birds that feed on insects. You can even grow plants like parsley and sunflowers that attract predatory insects that don’t hurt other plants, but destroy insects that do.

Diet or exercise question? email me at or visit David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist and personal trainer for 28 years. He served as strength director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., head strength coach for the S.C. state champion girls gymnastic team, USC Spartanburg baseball team, Converse College equestrian team, lead trainer to L.H. Fields modeling agency, and taught four semesters at USC Union. David was also a regular guest of the Pam Stone radio show.