Hidden Hazards in Old Drapes and Curtains

Unveiling the Hazards Lurking in Your Old Blinds, Drapes, and Window Coverings

28 Jul 2023

Curtains can be an excellent way to give a finishing touch to a room in your home, adding a touch of personality and elevating the overall ambiance without requiring a significant investment in redecorating. While many people overlook cleaning their curtains while tidying up other interior accessories like carpets, it's essential to recognize that curtains can pose a severe health risk if neglected for extended periods.

However, do you have knowledge of the potential threats that your outdated blinds, drapes, and window coverings may pose to you, your family, and your pets?

Young children, such as infants, toddlers, and young children, are at risk of getting entangled in hanging and looped cords. Similarly, cords can also pose a threat to the safety of your pets. The potential hazards concealed within the cords of your outdated mini-blinds may not always be apparent.

But curtains tend to absorb moisture, trap odours, such as cooking smells and cigarette smoke, and accumulate pet hair and dander, germs, and insects. All these factors can cause your curtains to become unclean and unappealing, potentially leading to severe health issues.

Several studies have indicated that hazardous bacteria can survive and flourish on curtain materials, transferring to individuals who come into contact with the curtains.

Although the investigations primarily concentrated on curtains in medical environments, the findings are relevant to households. Frequent opening and closing of curtains in the morning and evening, give opportunities for the transmission of potentially dangerous bacteria.

Danger 1: indoor toxins

Effects from exposure to toxins are difficult to identify, it can be years before problems from exposure manifest themselves as a disease or chronic illness.

Old, as well as some new Blinds and Drapes may contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Phthalates, PVC (polyvinyl chloride), and Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs).

VOCs are a group of chemicals that vaporize easily and bring gas pollutants into the home from a variety of sources. There are over 400 compounds in the VOC family which have been identified in the home. PVCs contain phthalates, a class of widely used industrial compounds. There are many phthalates with many uses, and just as many toxicological properties. These chemicals are used primarily to lengthen the life of fragrances and soften plastics. PBDEs are industrial toxic chemicals that have been used as flame-retardants.

Chronic exposure to these industrial toxic chemicals may cause eye and respiratory tract irritation, visual disorders, liver, kidney and central nervous system damage, endocrine system damage, thyroid hormone disruption, permanent learning and memory impairment, behavioural changes, hearing deficits, delayed puberty onset, decreased sperm count, fatal malformations and, possibly, cancer.

Danger 2: Lead in vinyl Blinds

Over time, as the mini-blinds were exposed to heat and light, the vinyl would deteriorate and lead dust would form on the surface.

Young children were at particular risk of lead poisoning because they would touch the blinds and then put their hands in their mouths. If you have vinyl blinds that might predate, consider throwing them away, especially if there are young children in the home.

It is recommended that you remove vinyl mini blinds from your home, especially if the blinds are located where children can easily touch them. Once the blinds are removed, you should make sure to replace them with new vinyl blinds that are labelled “No Lead Added” or “Non-Leaded Formula.” You may also choose to replace the blinds with new metal blinds, new wood blinds or other window coverings such as honey comb blinds.

Danger 3: Allergens, Dust Mites, and Mold

Contaminated curtain fabric could potentially harbour certain viruses that remain viable outside a human host for an extended period, posing a risk of transmission to individuals who come close to the fabric. For instance, the Norovirus, responsible for stomach flu, has been found to survive on contaminated curtain fabric for up to 12 days.

Mould can reproduce without requiring light or air and tends to flourish in damp, dark environments, making the wet Cape winters particularly conducive to mould growth. When mould reproduces in enclosed spaces, it can lead to severe health issues, including allergic reactions and, in extreme cases, even fatalities.

While synthetic fabrics usually show resistance to mould growth, natural materials like silk, wool, cotton, and linen can serve as hosts for mould. Watch out for the presence of a thin layer of white, black, or bluish-green fuzz or speckles on the fabric, as these may indicate mould infestation.

Studies reveal that more than 40 million people suffer from chronic, year-round allergies due in part to dust mites and mold. The most common symptom of chronic allergies is rhinitis (also called hay fever) – inflammation of the nasal membranes. It is exhibited in an itchy, runny nose, congestion, and sneezing.

Other symptoms of non-seasonal allergies may include:

• Coughing, Post-nasal drip, and Watery eyes

• Dark circles around the eyes (allergic “shiners”)

• Allergic conjunctivitis (swollen red membranes lining the eyes with crusty eyelids)

• Persistent rubbing of nose – especially in children

Chronic allergy triggers can hide in unexpected places and some window coverings are notorious allergens, dust mites, mold and dust collectors. Choose window coverings that are easy to keep dust-free, especially if any household members have dust allergies or asthma. For example, Plantation-style shutters with wide louvered slats are easier to dust than floor-to-ceiling velvet curtains.

Some of the hidden dangers in your old window coverings might be obvious, some are not.

It is important to stress that there is a simple and effective solution to this problem…

…replace your old blinds and drapes or keep cleaning them often.

In addition to the points mentioned earlier, it is crucial for individuals to be aware of their home's current indoor air quality. Dirty drapes and curtains can significantly impact the air we breathe, rendering it unhealthy and unsuitable for respiration. The air circulating within our homes, passing through drapes and other objects, should ideally be clean and pure.

To achieve this, it is necessary to invest in a high-quality air purification system. Such a system will effectively maintain the cleanliness and healthiness of indoor air, ensuring a breathable and safe environment for occupants. 


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