Hoarding can be very dangerous to your physical and mental health, the physical and mental health of your loved ones, and your home. Hoarding dangers can include: mold growth, bug infestations, structural damage, tripping hazards, mental overwhelm, stress, and anxiety. Continue reading below for more information on the dangers of hoarding!
Hoarding Dangers to be Aware of:
Internal Health Hazards:
- Mold: mold can grow in areas unable to be seen. Mold spores are dangerous to those allergic, and to those who aren’t, and may cause breathing problems.
- Bugs: bug infestations can be very dangerous to your health. Some bugs are dangerous just by their bite which may spread diseases such as the West Nile virus from mosquitos, and Lyme disease from ticks, other bugs can carry and spread bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella. Cockroaches can contribute to childhood asthma and allergies, spread bacteria, and can grow in population rapidly.
- Animal Infestation: hoarding can also bring infestations of rodents such as mice and rats and other animals that are usually drawn in by food, these animals can end up spreading bacteria, diseases, and viruses such as the Hantavirus which can be fatal.
- Immunocompromised Individuals (& the Elderly): unsanitary conditions can be particularly dangerous for immunocompromised individuals (ex: those with heart disease or diabetes and the elderly), who are more at risk for bad health outcomes when exposed to illnesses, which are prevalent in unsanitary hoarding situations.
Physical Injury Hazards:
Hoarding environments can be harmful to anyone who ventures inside:
- Blocked Paths: Clutter piles can fall and block paths to get around the house and emergency workers can be injured trying to help the hoarder during lifesaving emergencies and there have been a few cases of firefighters dying after being trapped by clutter. Clutter piles can block airflow causing either low levels of oxygen and or block cool air on hot days.
- Blocked Airways: Clutter can fall on and block vents or block other airways, causing a lack of oxygen. This can lead to raising carbon dioxide levels which can be very dangerous as the hoarder might not notice difficulty breathing until it is too late.
- Heavy Objects: heavier objects in the clutter can also fall on the hoarder and potentially injure them or trap them under the pile of clutter.
- The Elderly: hoarding leads to tripping hazards which can cause many types of injuries because they can cause people to fall, this is especially prevalent in the elderly.
The cleaning process can also be dangerous and proper planning should be considered.
- Airborne Mold Spores: mold spores may be released into the air and breathed in while cleaning. A professional mold removal company that is licensed and insured should be hired to avoid spores being released into the home during the mold removal process.
- Bites from Bugs & Animals: bugs and animals can scatter if their habitats are disturbed, and may bite someone who if they get in their way. Bites from bugs or animals can contain venom or harmful bacteria and also carries the danger of becoming infected. Trusted professionals like exterminators and or pest control should be used to ensure bugs and or animals are removed before they hurt someone.
- Structural Damage: there is a risk that the home or building may have been weakened structurally and not properly repaired due to the hoarding environment so the structure may collapse if it is not inspected and fixed first by a licensed builder or contractor. If water, fire, or mold damage is suspected a restoration company should be hired to safely remove the water and or mold and if necessary repair the structure to make sure that the home is safe to work in and inhabit again.
- Airflow: Cleaning can be hazardous if there isn’t enough airflow to carry the noxious fumes away during the cleaning process. For this reason, it’s a good idea to have professionals help with the cleaning process to ensure that safety protocols are being followed for use of cleaning chemicals.
Professionals such as emergency restoration companies (if you suspect mold and or structural damage), exterminators, pest control, and cleaning companies should be consulted to decrease the risk of injury during a hoarding cleanup project
Note: Hoarding cleaning companies are trained to not only clean but to make the project safe for all involved. Hoarding cleaning companies can assess the project and will know if a professional such as a contractor, pest control, exterminator, or other professional is necessary in the cleanup process to make sure it is done efficiently and safely.