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From walls to furniture, uncovering hidden dangers in your home

More than 23,000 fires every year start behind a wall where no one can see

ORLANDO, Fla. – Seven people die in house fires every day. Every year, firefighters respond to more than 350,000 house fires, and while most of them start in the kitchen, more than 23,000 of them ignited behind a wall where no one could see.

If your home was built more than 50 years ago, it might have aluminum instead of copper wiring. And the fuses might not be able to handle your growing electrical needs.

If you notice your lights flickering or dimming, if your circuit breaker keeps tripping and fuses keep blowing, or if you sometimes smell smoke when using an outlet, these are all strong warning signs of a potential electrical fire, and you should contact an electrician right away. 

“Fire departments around the country have found most of the deaths involved with structure fires come from homes with smoke alarms that aren’t working,” said Elizabeth Monforti, a public information officer at Palm Harbor Fire Rescue.

Electrical fires aren’t the only danger that could be hiding behind your walls. If you smell a pungent, musty odor, that could be a sign of mold, which can cause lung and respiratory problems. Call a home inspector to check it out.

If the mold is visible, clean it with a solution of one cup bleach in one gallon of water. And fix any leaks in your roof, windows or pipes.

And finally, if you bought your couch and curtains before 2013, there’s a chance they contain flame retardant chemicals that are linked to cancer.

Researchers at Duke University found the higher the level of exposure the patient had to flame retardants, the more aggressive the cancer. If your furniture is older and has a TB117 tag, it likely contains flame retardants and researchers recommend replacing it.

If you happen to smell that fresh, new paint smell after giving your walls a fresh coat, this could mean the paint contains VOCs. This can cause a range of health problems from central nervous system damage to cancer.

Instead, choose a paint with little to no VOCs and always ventilate when painting.