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The 6 Most Dangerous Appliances in Your House

At a time when homeland security ranks high on many Americans' safety lists, it's ironic that a major cause of deaths in the United States occurs right in our own homes: Deaths from unintentional injuries.

According to a series of new Home Safety Council-funded studies conducted at the University of North Carolina Injury Prevention Research Center, the most up-to-date statistics available, 18,048 people died due to unintentional home injuries each year in the United States between 1992 and 1999. And in 1998, 12 million people were injured at home to the extent they required medical attention.

Many of these injuries stem from poisonings, falls and fires, but there is another source of danger in your home that you may not have noticed: appliances. The following home appliances can indeed pose a risk to your health if you don't take caution and use them safely.

1. Space Heaters

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that space heaters are the source of 21,800 home fires every year, and about 300 people die annually as a result of the related fires. Other concerns with space heaters include natural gas leaks, carbon monoxide poisoning, burns and electric shock. To keep safe and still enjoy the added warmth that a space heater can provide:

  • Keep heaters at least three feet from walls, bedding, clothing, pets and people

  • Turn the heater off when you leave the room or when you go to sleep for the night

  • Don't leave a portable heater running unattended

  • Never dry socks or gloves on the heater

  • Don't use extension cords with electrical space heaters

For more information, CPSC offers a free booklet titled "What You Should Know about Space Heaters," available at

2. Gas/Electric Stoves/Ovens

Never leave gas (or electric) burners unattended. Cooking is one of the leading causes of home fires in the United States.

Both gas and electric stoves/ovens can cause burns and fires. Be sure to keep stovetops clear of food crumbs that could catch fire as well as other flammable objects like dish towels-and never leave a stove unattended!

3. Clothes Dryers

How often do you forget to clean the lint filter in your dryer? It's an honest mistake, but one that could cause a fire. According to CPSC, about 15,500 fires, 10 deaths and 10 injuries are associated with clothes dryers each year, so always remember to clean the lint screen as often as possible. Not only is this safer, but it will also keep your dryer running more efficiently. Other safe dryer tips include:

  • Never leave the dryer running when you're not at home

  • Vent the dryer to the outdoors (not to a wall or attic)

  • Don't put synthetic fabrics, plastic, rubber or foam into a dryer (they retain heat, which can cause a fire)

4. Dishwashers

Dishwashers are ripe with hidden dangers that are especially dangerous to kids: scalding water, sharp utensils and moving parts that tiny hands may try to grab. If you have small children, make sure you don't leave them unattended with a running dishwasher. And, as an adult, be careful when opening a dishwasher-the steam that comes out can be extremely hot!

5. Electric Mixers

It goes without saying that you shouldn't put your hands anywhere near a running mixer blade, but this also goes for spoons and other kitchen utensils that you may be tempted to use (they can easily be broken and the shards can hit you in the face). Another danger? Cleaning the blades should be done with extreme caution-they're extremely sharp!

Hot irons can quickly cause second-degree burns-even while they're cooling. Kids are especially at risk.

6. Irons

Young kids can quickly be burned by a hot iron-and one study found that 74 percent of such burns occurred among children who were supervised! According to Michael Carius, M.D., chairman of the emergency department at Norwalk Hospital in Connecticut:

"It's usually the hands that get burned, because kids touch the irons, and kids often don't let go when something is hot, so they end up with second-degree burns, which blister. These warrant medical attention; they are potentially a source of infection, which can lead to scarring and loss of function."

Always take care to turn off the iron immediately when it's not in use, and remember that it will still be hot, and therefore a potential danger, while it's cooling.

For more home safety tips, don't miss another of's safe-living article, The Six Silent Killers in Your Home: How to Detect and Eliminate Them.


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