You can be exposed to physical, chemical, and biological hazards in your home. Learn what to do about mold, lead, asbestos, or other contaminants that pose serious health concerns.
Asbestos is a mineral fiber found in rocks and soil. It used to be commonly used in building materials and is still used in some products today. Potential sources of asbestos are shingles, insulation, siding, and flooring.
Asbestos-containing materials are generally not a health risk when they are intact and undisturbed. If asbestos-containing materials are damaged, disturbed, or deteriorate over time, you can inhale the microscopic fibers and damage your lungs. Not everyone who is exposed to asbestos has health problems, but when health problems do develop, they range from manageable to severe.
Most people don’t show any signs or symptoms of asbestos-related disease for 10 to 20 years or more after exposure. When symptoms do appear, they might seem similar other health problems. Only a doctor can tell if your symptoms are asbestos-related.
For more information about the health risks of asbestos, visit the Washington State Department of Health.
Paint and dust are potential sources of lead poisoning in older homes. Lead might also come from contaminated soil, drinking water, children’s toys and jewelry, workplace and hobby hazards, imported candy, and traditional home remedies and cosmetics.
If swallowed or inhaled, lead can affect almost every organ and system in your body. Children six years old and younger are the most at risk from the effects of lead. Their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults do, and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.
You can take steps to lower the risk of lead exposure in your home:
For more information on lead exposure and abatement, visit the Washington State Department of Health.
Meth is commonly smoked, and it leaves a residue on anything it comes into contact with. If you are living in a home or use another building that has been used to smoke or cook meth, you could be exposed to toxic chemicals that might cause:
In the long run, you might also be at risk for cancer, brain damage, birth defects, reproductive problems, or liver and kidney damage if you are exposed to toxins.
Children are at higher risk of contact with the toxins from meth because their skin touches contaminated surfaces while crawling and because they place contaminated objects in their mouths.
If you are living in a meth-contaminated property, take steps to protect your and your family’s health. If possible, do not stay at the property until it has been cleaned and decontaminated. The property should be decontaminated by a licensed meth decontamination company. Visit the Washington State Department of Health for a list of licensed meth-decontamination companies.
For more information about meth decontamination, visit JLM Environmental.
Most molds do not harm healthy people, but people who have allergies or asthma may be more sensitive to molds. Sensitive people may experience
People with weakened immune systems or lung disease may be at greater risk for infections from molds.
When mold grows inside a house, it’s because there is too much moisture around. The excess moisture is typically caused by either not airing out the home well enough or by a water leak.
To clean mold, start by using a clean rag and soapy water to remove the mold. Be sure to rinse the area with a lot of clean water while cleaning. After the mold has been removed, wipe the area with a bleach solution to remove any lingering mold spores.
For more information about mold, visit the Northwest Clean Air Agency.
Rodents, especially rats, are present almost everywhere, in rural and urban living spaces. Rodents are typically looking for two things: food and shelter. Rodents can carry a host of diseases, including hantavirus.
Try these tips to minimize the chance of a rodent infestation in your home:
Get more information about rodent control from the Washington State Department of Health.