Hoarding is an Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) that forces an individual to stockpile stuff and become emotionally attached to such objects. This happens irrespective of whether these things have any actual value or not. Therefore, a hoarder not only has the compulsive desire to accumulate more stuff continuously, but also is unwilling to discard anything due to the fear that they might lose something essential, useful, or valuable.
Because of this behavior, the accumulated piles of items continue to grow and might even block off or hinder the accessibility of the hoarder’s home and living space. This leads to hindrance to the day-to-day activities like cooking and cleaning and may cause health hazards and adverse sanitary concerns. However, the affected persons usually do not see any issue or are reluctant to admit it. Consequently, they do not take any measures to correct the situation.
In What Ways is Hoarding Dangerous?
1. Internal Health Dangers
Mold grows in regions that are impossible to see. The mold spores might be hazardous to you if you are allergic, and even though you might not be allergic, they might lead to breathing complications.
A bug infestation is very risky to a person’s health. Most bugs have dangerous bites, which could spread diseases like the West Nile virus transmitted by mosquitoes and the tick-transmitted Lyme disease. Other bugs are carriers and can spread bacteria like Salmonella and E. Coli bacteria. Cockroaches also contribute to allergies and childhood asthma. They also spread bacteria, and their populations are known to increase under conditions fostered by hoarding rapidly.
Hoarding is known to welcome the invasion by rodents like rats, mice, and other creatures that are often drawn by food. Such animals could be transmitters of diseases, viruses, and bacteria. The Hantavirus, for instance, can be deadly.
The Elderly and Immunocompromised Individuals
Unhygienic conditions are particularly hazardous for immunocompromised individuals, especially if they are suffering from diabetes or heart disease and the elderly. Such an individual is at a greater risk of developing adverse health conditions due to diseases common in unhygienic hoarding environments.
2. Physical Injury Dangers
A hoarding situation can be hazardous to people who try venturing inside:
A pile of clutter can collapse, blocking off the pathway around the house or living space. This poses a risk for emergency services workers who might get injured while navigating their way through the hoarder’s living space. Such clutter thus hinders smooth lifesaving emergency response procedures. Cases of firefighters or first responders getting trapped or even dying due to the piles of clutter are also likely to occur. In addition, a cluttered pile can hinder the smooth flow of air, resulting in reduced oxygen levels or preventing cool air from getting to the house on a hot day.
Clutter piles tend to fall and block off vents or other airways, reducing the house’s oxygen supply. This may result in an increased carbon dioxide concentration that might be quite risky since it might be too late when the room occupant realizes they have difficulty breathing.
A heavy object among the hoarder’s clutter risks falling on the hoarder and probably resulting in injury or trapping them underneath the pile.
Hoarding contributes to tripping risks that can lead to various types of physical injuries. For example, tripping and falling over clutter are known to affect the elderly.
3. Cleaning Hazards
The smooth cleaning process might also be hindered and made dangerous by clutter. Therefore, proper planning for the clutter is necessary.
Airborne Mold Spores
These may get released to the surrounding air and consequently breathed in by the cleaner as they clean. Seek the services of an expert mold removal organization specializing in, insured, and licensed to conduct mold removal to prevent the release of spores into your home over the mold elimination procedure.
Animal and Bug Bites
Animals and bugs scatter whenever their living environment is disturbed. And as they scatter, you are at risk of getting bitten if you are on their way. Rodent and bug bites may contain harmful bacteria or venom, and the bite wounds can easily become infected. Responsible experts such as pest control or exterminators should handle the situation to guarantee the animals and bugs can safely flee without harming anyone.
The risk of a building or home being structurally weakened and improperly repaired due to the hoarding clutter is very high. As a result, such a structure might collapse if the contractor does not take urgent measures to inspect and fix the damages. If fire, mold, or water damages are suspected, restoration organizations should be sought to eliminate the mold and water safely. If required, they should also rehabilitate the structure to guarantee the home’s safety to live in and work in again.
Cleaning is risky if you lack sufficient airflow to channel toxic fumes away from the house as you conduct the clean-up. Therefore, it would be best to have experts take charge of the clean-up process for guaranteed adherence to safety protocols and correct usage of cleaning reagents.
You should consult experts like emergency restoration organizations, pest control, exterminators, and cleaning firms to reduce injury risk as you undertake a hoarding clean-up task.
Remember, hoarding clean-up companies’ personnel are trained to clean and ensure that the whole procedure is safe for every involved party. In addition, such organizations can gauge the project and determine whether the services of a professional like an exterminator or pest control are required in the clean-up for a safe and efficient cleaning process.
Hoarding and Its Associated Risks
A hoarder welcomes several challenges to their home, including financial constraints, health hazards, and family issues. Below, we highlight health-related hoarding risks and look at situations involving animals.
Air Quality Concerns
Odors, dust, and ammonia emanating from decaying and decomposing wastes can lead to severe air quality concerns in the house of a hoarder. It might become challenging to breathe, and the occupant may develop respiratory issues. It is risky enough to clean such surroundings without respiratory gear, not to mention the detrimental health effects such environments could have on animals and people living there.
Fungus and Mildew
Usually, hoarders find it difficult to dispose of food even when it goes bad. Such spoiled food stored on pantry shelves and refrigerators, together with the half-eaten plates of food sitting out for extended durations, harbor fungus and mildew growth. This leads to the house stinking and poses severe health hazards.
Poor hygienic conditions are quite common in houses where animal hoarding is practiced. Many animals sheltered together in confined spaces foster the spread of infections and diseases, more so where the owner does not pick up after the pets. Animal waste easily contaminates pet and human food, leading to a hazardous situation. The conditions may deteriorate to the extent that some animals die. With their bodies failing to be disposed of, the sanitation problem is worsened even further.
It will not be a surprise if plumbing fails in houses with prevalent hoarding. Having piles of clutter stack precariously on top of each other makes it likely for objects that should not go down the drain or be anywhere near the toilet to find their way there. Sewer backups and clogs are among the plumbing issues that arise from such a situation and lead to prominent unhygienic conditions in serious hoarding cases.
Rats, cockroaches, and flies are some of the pests attracted by spoilt food and waste. Where the hoarding situation is severe, the place becomes a pest’s haven encouraging the spread of diseases to animals and humans residing in unsanitary conditions.
Building Safety Concerns
When it becomes challenging for you to move within the house because of clutter, it becomes an even greater challenge for technicians to undertake required sprinkler system and HVAC equipment maintenance, leading to safety concerns. In addition, littering trash around the yard creates hiding spaces for burglars, increasing the probability of home break-ins.
With rats living in your walls, there is a high probability of chewing through wiring and causing electric fires or failures. Any fire breakout spreads rapidly with the abundant supply of combustible objects within the hoarder’s house. Additionally, the excess clutter may block doors and windows, discouraging efforts to escape a fire outbreak.
Dependent Adults and Children’s Risk
It is within the powers of The Department of Children and Families to remove a child/children from homes that pose considerable safety and health hazards to them. The Disabled Persons Protection Commission may also take action on behalf of dependent family members with disabilities.
Animal Safety Concern
Neglecting or improper care for animals puts you in danger of committing a low-level crime. Such a crime would result in forfeiture of your pets, imprisonment, and fines.
Hoarding is a dangerous practice to your mental and physical health and significantly affects your loved ones. In addition, it impacts the living conditions within the house, making it risky for all inhabitants. Dangers of hoarding range from a bug infestation, mold growth, structural damage, mental overwhelm, and tripping hazards. Seek the help of professional service providers to clean up the clutter to ensure it is conducted safely and effectively.