Compulsive hoarding is a disorder in which a person finds difficulty parting with items, animals, or other possessions regardless of their monetary value. Hoarding affects approximately 4.5 to 5 million Americans and in the state of Louisiana, an estimated 650,000 adults suffer from mental illnesses related to hoarding such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Hoarding often creates difficulties with mobility and sanitation within the home. For those that experience severe hoarding, the extreme clutter can spread to the yard, garage, and even personal vehicles. Hoarding presents many complications for those living in the home and members of their community that include risk of falls, illness, injury. Legal actions such as evictions, citations, and arrests can compound an already difficult situation. Because of the shame associated with this disorder, hoarders often try to conceal the problem for as long as possible, posing compound risk factors.
Risk Factors and Symptoms
According to the American Psychiatric Association, the cause of compulsive hoarding is unknown, however, symptoms become present between the ages of 11 and 15 years. Other risk factors include a family history of hoarding, stressful life events such as an unexpected or accidental death in the household, and the onset of dementia.
It is important to note the difference between hoarding and collecting. A person who collects will maintain the quality of the items and will likely keep them cataloged. However, a person that hoards, feels the need to insulate themselves with items in a cluttered and disorderly fashion that is visibly problematic. Other symptoms of compulsive hoarding include
- Obsessive thoughts and actions regarding items
- Checking the trash for accidentally discarded items
- Severe anxiety when attempting to throw away items
- Defensiveness when offered assistance to clean and organize
- Distress or shame regarding living conditions
- Diminished quality of life and personal hygiene
Biohazards Associated with Hoarding
Biohazards are substances that pose a threat to the health and well-being of humans. The following are common biohazards found inside the homes of hoarders that can pose negative health and legal consequences.
Animal Feces, Urine and Vomit
For those that hoard animals there are both legal and health complications to consider. The State of Louisiana defines animal hoarding as “criminal negligence” and cites that any home that does not provide any living animal with proper food, proper drink, proper shelter, or proper veterinary care is punishable under the law.
The health risks of exposure to animal feces, urine and vomit are numerous. Feces contain pathogens and parasites that can contaminate the home and water supply. Animal urine contains high amounts of urea (ammonia) that can cause upper respiratory issues in humans, induce vomiting, and cause diarrhea. Prolonged exposure to animal waste can cause long-term impairment of brain function. Mayo clinic identifies 39 animal-borne diseases that are a result of improper disposal and cross-contamination.
Human Medical Waste, Body Fluid, and Blood
Medical waste is any kind of waste that contains infectious material or material that’s potentially infectious. United States Code defines medical waste as medical items as waste generated during medical procedures or treatment of either human beings or animals. Some examples are bandages, gloves, discarded sharps like needles, swabs, receptacles, test strips.
The State of Louisiana requires households to package their medical wastes in tightly closed, wrapped containers before discarding them in household garbage. Used needles that have not been properly disposed of can cause bodily harm and contribute to the spread of bloodborne pathogens like Hepatitis and HIV. Improper disposal of human medical waste that once contained feces and urine can pose health risks such as E. Coli, C.Diff, and MRSA.
Garbage and Trash
Garbage and its decaying process pose many biological and environmental threats that can quickly become biohazards. Mold and their spores can develop a variety of pathogenic and allergic reactions. These reactions could cause severe illness should garbage be left unattended for long periods. In cases of compulsive hoarding, trash is often uncontained which attracts vermin, rodents, insects, and wild animals. In addition to being destructive to property, animals and insects carry pathogens such as bacteria and viruses.
Trash items such as newspapers, food packages, and old furniture provide nesting materials for rodents and other vermin to thrive and breed. Because rodents often chew through electrical wire, this poses an additional fire safety risk.
Support and Expertise
XTREME Cleaners specializes in biohazard cleanup including contaminants removed during hoarding. It is important to understand that you cannot deal with hazardous material yourself without a serious risk of illness or injury. The XTREME team offers compassionate, discreet support for you 24 hours per day, seven days a week. Our cleaners have the expertise to handle any job. If you need remediation solutions for your home, office, or vehicle, peace of mind is just a phone call away. Contact us: (800) 524-9591.