Healthy homes

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Choose one topic:

-Indoor air quality

-Asthma & allergies

-Mold & moisture

-Carbon monoxide

-Lead 

-Drinking water

-Hazardous household products

-Pesticides

-Home safety

Purpose

To distill information into main points. To find and evaluate solutions for real-world problems.

Tasks

You will be assigned to one of the topics regarding healthy homes. You will create a presentation.

Create a presentation of 4 slides. The slides will contain the following information:

Title slide: health homes topic

5 main points about the topic

Primary Prevention: what can you do to prevent this problem in your home?

Consider as a homeowner and as a renter

Include approximate costs

Tertiary prevention: once you have this problem, what can you do to eliminate its effects?

Consider as a homeowner and as a renter

Include approximate costs

Help Yourself to a Healthy Home

Table of Contents

?
You want to take good care of your family. You try to eat healthy foods. You take your

children to the doctor for regular checkups. You try your best to protect your family

from accidents and illness. You want to live in a safe neighborhood and home.

But did you know your home might have hidden dangers to your children’s
health? Ask yourself:

• Is the air in your home clean and healthy?
• Do your children have breathing problems, like asthma?
• Is someone in your home allergic to mold?
• Do you know the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning?
• Is there lead anywhere in your home?
• Is your tap water safe to drink?
• Do you have household products with chemicals in them that can make you sick?
• Do you use bug spray or other products to keep away pests?
• Do you keep poisons where your children can reach them?

The answers to questions like these will help you learn if your home is safe and
healthy. This booklet will make it easier to answer these and other important
questions about your home and how you live in it. It will also give you ideas
about how to protect your children’s health. It is up to you to make sure your
home is a healthy home, but there are lots of places to go for help.

Introduction 2-5

Indoor Air Quality 6-10

Asthma & Allergies 11-16

Mold & Moisture 17-22

Carbon Monoxide 23-28

Lead 29-32

Drinking Water 33-37

Hazardous Household Products 38-41

Pesticides 42-47

Home Safety ……………………………… 48-54

Index ……………………………………………. 55

FACT

Some of the most serious health problems for children may start at home. This

booklet explains some of these health concerns and what you can do about them.

Indoor Air Quality

Asthma & Allergies

-2-

Allergies and asthma are health problems that

have a lot to do with the air you breathe. You

and your children spend a lot of time at home,

so the air inside needs to be clean. Does

someone you live with smoke? Do you have

pets? Is your basement damp? These may cause

or add to breathing problems. To learn more

about asthma and allergies, see page 11.

Mold & Moisture

Other health and safety problems may come

from the air in your home too. Too much

dampness causes mold to grow. Some mold

is very harmful and some can make allergies

or asthma worse. See page 17 to find out more

about mold.

Why Should You Be Concerned?

Is the air in your home healthy? The air

inside can be more harmful to your family’s

health than the air outdoors. Air can be

unhealthy if it has too many pollutants. Indoor

air pollutants can be lots of things—from oven

cleaner to cigarette smoke to mold. It is not

always easy to tell if your home has unhealthy

air. You may notice bad smells or see smoke, but

you cannot see or smell other dangers, like carbon

monoxide or radon. This chapter will help you

learn if your home has healthy air. See page 6.

The number of children with asthma
has doubled in the past 10 years.

1 in 15 children under 18 years of
age has asthma.

FACTMost people spend over 90% of their time indoors.

-3-

If they are not working right, ovens and heaters

may cause a deadly gas called carbon monoxide

to build up inside your home. You cannot see or

smell this danger, but you can help keep your

loved ones safe from carbon monoxide poison-

ing. See page 23 to learn more about how to protect

your family from carbon monoxide.

Carbon Monoxide

Is your drinking water safe? Do you know

where your drinking water comes from? If it

comes from your own well, you need to make

sure it is safe to drink. Have your water tested

every year to make sure it does not have chemi-

cals or other pollutants in it that can make your

family sick. There are things you can do to take

care of your well and keep the water clean. See

page 35 for ideas.

You may get your drinking water from a

water company or utility. They always test the

water before they pipe it to you to make sure it

is safe. You can ask the company or utility for

a report on what the tests found. Even if it is

o.k. at the water utility, water can still become

unsafe after it comes into your home. Look at

page 33 to see if your water is safe to drink.

Drinking Water

FACT95% of people living in rural
areas use private wells for their

drinking water.

Lead

FACT1 in 40 American children has too
much lead in his/her body.

Can your children be poisoned by lead in your

home? Some house paint and water pipes con-

tain lead. This metal can poison your children.

Most problems with lead come from old paint or

lead dust. Lead was also in gasoline and got into

the soil and air from car exhaust. It’s not used in

these ways any more. There’s still plenty of lead

around though.

Lead can poison your children if they get it

into their mouths or breathe it in from the air.

If a pregnant woman gets lead in her body, it

can harm her unborn baby.

Lead poisoning can be a serious problem for

young children. It can cause problems with learn-

ing, growth, and behavior that last a lifetime.

Even small amounts of lead can harm children.

Turn to page 29 to find out about lead poisoning in

your home.

What harmful products do you have in your

home? Some products can harm your family’s

health if you do not use them in the right way.

Common chemicals like bleach, rat poison,

paint strippers, and drain cleaners can be

dangerous. Children can poison themselves

if they get into products like these. Even very

small amounts of some chemicals can cause

health problems if you touch them or breathe

them in. Remember—if you spray or pump

something, it goes right into the air. When

you and your family breathe, those chemicals

go into your bodies. See page 38 to learn more

about how to use, store, and dispose of household

products.

Do you use pesticides in your home? Almost

every household uses pesticides. Bug spray, flea

powder, rat poison, and garden weed killer are

all types of pesticides. They have chemicals in

them that kill pests. This also means they may

harm you and your family. If you do not use

them safely, some pesticides may cause seri-

ous health problems—poisoning, birth defects,

nerve damage, and even cancer.

Your children can come into contact with

pesticides in many ways. You can take simple

steps to protect them from pesticides. See page

42 to see if you are using pesticides safely!

-4-

Did you know that your chances of getting

hurt at home are much higher than they are

at work or school? The leading causes of death

in the home are falls, drowning, fires, poi-

soning, suffocation, choking, and guns. Very

young children and older adults are the people

most likely to get hurt at home. It’s important

to keep people’s age in mind when thinking

about home safety.

Look at page 48 to find out if your home is a

safe place to live and how to make it even safer.

Hazardous Household Products

Pesticides

Home Safety

FACTThousands of children die each year
from chemicals stored and used

improperly in the home.

FACTNearly one-half of households with a
child under age five had pesticides

stored within reach of children.

FACTEach year, accidents in the home
hurt over six and a half

million people.

-5-

Everyone needs a healthy home. But there are

special reasons to think about children:

• Children’s bodies are still growing. Their

young brains, livers, and other organs are

more likely to be harmed by chemicals

and other dangers than those of adults. If

children get sick, it may be harder for them

to get well because their immune systems

are still developing.

• For their size, children eat more food,

drink more water, and breathe more air

than adults do. When they get lead in

their bodies or breathe in harmful gases,

they get a bigger dose than adults would.

• Children play and crawl on the ground.

That means they are closer to many things

that might cause health problems, like

dust and chemicals. Babies and young

children also put most everything in their

mouths—things that might have chemicals

or lead dust on them.
Children depend on adults to make

their homes safe!

Why Focus on Children?

How to use this booklet…

T his booklet asks questions about your home and how you live in it. By answering

them, you can find out if your home is healthy or if you need to make some changes.

There are nine chapters in this booklet. Every chapter gives information about a topic,

asks questions about it, and gives you simple Action Steps to protect your children’s

health. At the end of each chapter, you will find out where to get more help.

It’s up to you—Help Yourself to a Healthy Home!

-6-

Most people spend at least half of their lives

inside their homes. The air inside can

be more harmful to your family’s health

than the air outdoors. Is the air in your home safe to

breathe?

It is not always easy to tell if your home has poor air

quality. You may notice bad smells or see smoke, but

you cannot see or smell other dangers, like carbon

monoxide or radon. This chapter and those on asthma

and allergies, mold, and carbon monoxide will help

you ask the right questions to find out if the air inside

your home is healthy and safe. They will also give you

ideas about how to fix any problems you might find.

Asthma and Allergies
If someone in your home has health problems or is

ill, polluted indoor air can make them feel worse. For

example, asthma is a lung disease that affects a growing

number of children. Indoor air pollution can make

it worse. Insects and other pests can also be a real prob-

lem for people with asthma or allergies. For example,

cockroach and dust mite droppings cause asthma

attacks in some people. Pesticides can help fight these

pests but they can be dangerous. See page 44 for more

information about using bug spray and other pesticides

safely. See page 11 to find out about making your home

healthier for people with asthma or allergies.

Mold
Mold grows in wet or damp places. It often smells

musty. Many people are allergic to mold. Some kinds

of mold are toxic, and coming into contact with large

amounts of mold may cause health problems. Talk to

a doctor if you think mold is causing health problems

for you or your family. See page 17 to learn more about

how to control mold in your home.

Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide is a deadly gas that can come from

appliances that burn gas, oil, coal, or wood, and are not

working as they should. Car exhaust also has carbon

monoxide. You cannot see, taste or smell carbon mon-

oxide. See page 23 for more information on how to protect

your family from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Other Indoor Air Problems
Radon is another gas. It can get into some homes

from the ground below them. You cannot see, taste,

or smell radon. Radon is found all over the United

States. Radon can cause lung cancer. In fact, it is the

second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. If you

smoke and your home has high levels of radon, your

risk of lung cancer is especially high.

Indoor Air Quality
Should You Be Concerned?

FA
C

TS
The air in your home

can be unhealthy if

it has too many

pollutants in it. To

cut down on indoor

air pollution, learn

where it comes from.

Take good care of

your home to keep it

healthy!

Children can spend up

to 90% of their time

indoors. For their size,

children breathe up to

twice as much air as

adults. That means

children are at greater

risk for health prob-

lems that come from

indoor air pollution.

-6-

Indoor Air Quality

-7–6- -7-

Indoor Air Quality

Sometimes indoor air pollution comes
from what people do in their home.

• Tobacco smoking causes cancer and other major

health problems. It’s unsafe for children to be around

smokers. Second-hand or environmental tobacco

smoke can raise children’s risk of ear infections and

breathing problems. It can trigger asthma attacks, too.

• Many families have pets. However, furry pets

cause problems for some people. Pets can make

asthma and allergies act up, especially if you

keep them in sleeping areas.

• Hobbies and home projects sometimes

involve sanding, painting, welding, or

using solvent chemicals, like varnish or

paint strippers. (A solvent is a chemical

that can dissolve something else.

Solvents are usually liquid.) Home

projects can pollute the air with dust

or harmful chemicals.

Sometimes indoor air pollution
comes from what people have
in their homes.

• Some household products, especially

those with solvents, can pollute the

air if you don’t use them in the right

way. See page 38 for more information

about household products

• New furniture, carpets, and building

products may give off chemicals that

were used in their making. Some of these chemicals

can harm people, especially children.

• If your home was built before 1978, the paint may

have lead in it. Lead is very dangerous for young

children. See page 29 to learn about protecting

your children from lead poisoning

There are simple, but important steps you can take

to find out what is causing poor air quality. The

questions on the next page can help you find

problems around your home. Page 9 will give you ideas

of what to do. Look at the chapters on asthma and

allergies, mold, and carbon monoxide to learn more

about indoor air problems. Remember, making your

home a safer, healthier place to live may mean taking

several steps.

Combustion appliances are one possible
source of air pollution.

-8-

Indoor Air Quality

Your Family’s Health

• Does anyone in your family

have asthma or allergies?

• Does a family

member notice

burning eyes,

coughing, or

sneezing that

happens most

often while at home?

• Does anyone in your home have chronic bronchitis

or another lung disease?

Radon

• Have you ever tested your home for radon?

• Do any of your neighbors have problems with

radon gas? If so, you might also have a radon prob-

lem.

Living in a Healthy Home

• Do some areas in your home smell damp or musty?

• Have you seen cockroaches in your home?

• Do you know how to safely run and take

care of your fuel-burning appliances?

• Do you allow smoking in your

home?

• Do you have furry pets in your

home? In the bedrooms?

• Do you read the label on

household products, and follow the

directions for using them safely?

• Do you open win-

dows or turn on fans

when doing hobbies

or projects that make

dust or odors?

• Do you try to do

dusty or smelly

projects outdoors?

• Do you choose

furniture, carpet,

and building prod-

ucts that are made

with non-toxic chem-

icals and materials?

These are sometimes called green building products.

• Does your home ever smell musty, damp, smoky,

or like chemicals?

• Does your home seem stuffy or stale? Can you

smell cooking odors the next day?

• Do your bathroom and kitchen have exhaust

fans—do you use them?

?Questions to Ask

-8-

-9–8- -9-

Indoor Air Quality

Be sure to check the Action Steps in the

chapters on asthma and allergies, mold,

and carbon monoxide. You will find good sug-

gestions for cutting down on pollution in your

home and making the air healthier.

Test Your Home for Radon
You can buy low cost radon test kits

at hardware or home supply stores.

Or call your local or state health depart-

ment for more information.

Living in a Healthy Home
• Do not smoke in your home or car.

Never smoke near your children.

• Pay attention to housekeeping. Taking

care of food and spills right away

keeps bugs and pests away. A clean

home is a healthier home.

• Open windows or use

fans to let in fresh air

whenever someone

uses chemicals

in the home or

garage.

• Ask the sales-

person to unroll

new carpet

and let it air

out for at

least one

day

before

bringing it into your home. Put in

carpet during a season when you can open

windows for several days afterwards. Vacuum

old carpet well before you remove it to

keep down dust.

• Let new furniture and building

materials air out for a few days

before bringing them inside. Before

buying new things for your home,

ask for products made with non-

toxic chemicals and materials.

Sometimes non-toxic or

green building products cost

more money. You need to

decide if the cost is worth

it to protect the

health of your family.

• Keep pets out of bed-

rooms and living

areas.

ACTION STEPS

-10-

When In Doubt, Check It Out!


-10-

• US Environmental Protection Agency Indoor Air

Quality Home Page—www.epa.gov/iaq

• Indoor Air Quality Information Clearinghouse

(IAQ INFO) 800/438-4318 (Monday to Friday,

9:00 a.m – 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time) or email:

[email protected]

• National Radon Information Hotline

800/SOS RADON (800/767-7236)

• The National Consumer Federation’s Radon

Website—www.radonfixit.org

• National Lead Information Center 800/424-LEAD

(800/424-5323)

• National Hispanic Indoor Air Quality Hotline

800/SALUD-12 (800/725-8312), Monday to Friday,

9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time

• American Lung Association. Contact your local

organization, call 800/LUNG-USA (800/586-4872)

or visit the web at www.lungusa.org

• Contact Healthy Indoor Air for America’s Homes

at 406/994-3451 or www.healthyindoorair.org

• Home*A*Syst: An Environmental Risk Assessment

Guide for the Home contains information about

indoor air quality and other healthy home topics.

608/262-0024 or www.uwex.edu/homeasyst

Indoor Air Quality

Notes

This chapter was written by Kathleen Parrott, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. ©2002 University of Wisconsin Extension. All rights reserved.

-11–10-

More than eight million children in the

United States have a disease called asthma.

Asthma is a leading reason that children

miss school or end up in the hospital. Asthma makes it

hard for people to breathe. Sometimes people even die

from asthma. This disease has no cure yet, but it can

be controlled.

Another 40 to 50 million people have allergies. Allergies

can also make it hard for people to breathe by causing

an asthma attack. An allergy is an unusual reaction to

something, like a food or a plant, which is normally

harmless. Common signs of allergies are a stuffy or

runny nose, itching, or a rash. This section will help

you ask the right questions to find out how to make

your home a safer, healthier place for people with

asthma or allergies.

What Happens During an Asthma Attack?
Asthma flare-ups are called asthma attacks. During an

attack, the breathing tubes in your lungs, called bronchi

and bronchioles, get smaller. During an asthma attack:

• The breathing tubes in your lungs swell up

• The muscles around these tubes tighten

• The tubes make large amounts of a thick fluid

called mucus

You cannot catch asthma. It does run in families

though. If someone in your family has it, you or

your children may too. The number of asthma cases

is growing, and more people die from it every year.

These deaths do not need to happen.

Warning Signs of an Asthma Attack:
• Tightness in the chest

• Shortness of breath

• Wheezing

• Coughing

People with asthma who learn to spot the early signs
of an attack can take medicine right away. This may
make the attack less severe.

Asthma & Allergies
Should You Be Concerned?

-11-

Asthma & Allergies

FACT
If someone is having a severe
asthma attack, get him or her to a hos-

pital emergency room right away. Some signs

of a severe attack:

• The person’s asthma rescue or inhaler

medicine doesn’t help within 15 minutes

• The person’s lips or fingernails are blue

• The person has trouble walking or talking

due to shortness of breath

The most important thing to know about

asthma is that you can control it. Asthma

patients (or their parents) who learn what

medicine to take and what triggers attacks

can avoid them most of the time. That means

people with asthma can lead normal lives.

Many types of medicine can treat asthma.

Keep in mind that no one medicine works

best for everyone. You and your doctor have

to work together to find the best medicine.

Remember, it may take a while to find just

the right kinds. Also, you must take the time

to find out what sets off an attack.

Bronchus

Aveoli

Bronchiole Lungs

-12–12-

Asthma & Allergies

Asthma Triggers
No one knows what causes asthma. Lots of things set
off asthma attacks, though. These things are called
triggers. Some people have only one or two triggers.
Other people have many.

Some triggers are things to which people are often

allergic. Common ones are pollen (from trees and

flowers) and dander (skin flakes from cats, dogs, and

other pets). Also, some people are allergic to pests

such as roaches, rodents, or dust mites. Dust

mites are tiny insects that you can’t

see. They live everywhere—in

carpets, upholstered fur-

niture, stuffed animals,

and bedding. Cigarette

smoke is another

common trigger of

asthma attacks.

Other triggers

have noth-

ing to do with

allergies—cold

weather, exercise,

or strong feel-

ings (laughing,

crying).

Other Common Asthma Triggers
• Dust

• Mold

• Carbon Monoxide

• Cleaning products like furniture polish or
dusting sprays

• Personal care products like hair spray or perfume

• Flu, colds

There are two main types of
asthma medicine.
One kind you (or your child) take

regularly to make the lungs less sen-

sitive to the things that cause asthma

attacks. It is important

to take this medicine as pre-

scribed, even if you feel o.k.

It usually takes a couple of

weeks to work. The other type

is called rescue medicine. You take this during an

attack to help open up your breathing tubes so you

can breathe better.

Some “everyday” asthma medicines are steroids.

Some people may worry about them because they

have heard stories about athletes who use steroids

in the wrong way. Asthma steroids are not the same.

Side effects of asthma steroids are also rare. Asthma

patients usually breathe these medicines right into

their lungs, so they only need a small dose.

-13–12- -13-

Asthma & Allergies

Allergies
Common signs of allergies include runny or stuffy

noses, coughing, hives, itching, a rash, or puffy eyes.

Allergies can be deadly for some people. When sensi-

tive people come in contact with something they’re

very allergic to, like peanuts, their blood pressure

drops, their breathing tubes swell up, and they can die

from lack of air. The good news is that allergies can

be treated. If you have allergies, it’s important to find

out what causes them and how to take care of them.

A doctor can test you to find out. People with severe

allergies may need to carry emergency medicine.

Common Allergens
An allergen is something that causes allergy signs, or an

allergic reaction. Many of the asthma triggers listed on

page 12 also cause allergic reactions in people who don’t

have asthma. There are many other allergens too. Some

common ones are listed here. It’s important to talk to

your doctor if you have had a reaction to any of these:

• Foods: milk and dairy products, citrus fruit like

oranges and lemons, artificial colors and flavors,

nuts, and shellfish like shrimp or clams.

• Medicines: penicillin, some heart medicines, and

some anti-seizure medicines.

• Insect stings and bites: most are caused by yellow

jackets, honeybees, paper wasps, hornets and fire

ants. In some people, reactions to stings become

more serious as years go by. Eventually, only one

sting may kill. Talk to your doctor if you have had a

serious reaction to a sting.

• Contact allergens: cause reactions when things like

plants, cosmetics, jewelry, or latex (a type of rubber)

touch the skin. Rashes are common reactions to

these allergens.

Look at the questions on the following pages to help

you find problems around your home that may make

asthma and allergies worse. Pages 14 and 15 will give you

ideas about how to keep your family healthy and safe.

• Does anyone in your family have asthma or allergies?

• Does someone in your family notice burning eyes,

coughing, or sneezing that

happens most often

at home?

• Does your home have

carpet that is not

cleaned well or

not cleaned

often?

• Do you have

carpeting,

stuffed toys, or fleecy materials in bedrooms?

• How often do you wash sheets, blankets, and

other bedding?

• Do you store food in containers or boxes that don’t

have covers?

• Do you keep pets inside?

• Has it been more than a year since you had your

furnace, flues, and chimneys inspected and cleaned?

• Does anyone smoke inside your home?

• Is your home damp or musty?

?Questions to Ask

-14–14-

Asthma & Allergies

Pay Attention to Your
Asthma and Allergies
Know what triggers your or your children’s

asthma or allergies. Talk to a doctor or nurse

about keeping emergency medicine around if

your asthma or allergies are severe. If someone

you love takes asthma or allergy medications

make sure they know when to take it.

Healthy Housekeeping
Clean your home often. Since cleaning puts dust

into the air, have someone without asthma or

allergies do it. Wear a dust mask if you can’t

find somebody else to clean. You can buy one

at a drug store.

Keep clutter down. Clutter collects dust and

makes it harder to keep a clean home. Store

your belongings in plastic or cardboard boxes

instead of keeping them in piles or stacks. You

can move the boxes to make cleaning easier.

When possible, don’t have carpeting or rugs. Hard

floors (vinyl, wood, or tile) are much easier to

keep dust-free. If you do have rugs or carpet,

vacuum often. You may be able to borrow or

buy a vacuum with a special HEPA (High

Efficiency Particle Air) filter to get rid of dust.

Call your local or state health department for

more information.

Keep Down Dust Mites
Use zippered plastic mattress and pil-

low covers beneath sheets and pillow-

cases. You can buy them at your local

department store or through the mail.

If the mattress cover is uncomfortable,

put a mattress pad over it.

Wash bedding, including blankets, pillow cov-

ers, and mattress pads in hot water every week.

Temperatures above 130ºF kill dust mites.

Control Other Pests
Roaches and rodents can trigger asthma and

allergies. They need food, water, warmth, and

shelter to survive. You can control roaches,

mice, and other pests by making these things

hard to get. See the chapter on pesticides on page

42 to learn more about how to handle pests. Here

are some tips to keep pests away:

• Store food in tightly sealed containers.

• Clean up crumbs and spills right away.

• Empty your garbage often.

• Wash your dirty dishes right after eating.

• Don’t leave out pet food or water overnight.

• Fix plumbing leaks and drips.

• Seal cracks where roaches and other bugs

hide or get into your home.

ACTION STEPS

-15–14- -15-

Asthma & Allergies

ACTION STEPS, continued

Pets
Furry pets like dogs, cats, and gerbils can cause

asthma and allergy attacks because of their

saliva and skin flakes. It is best to either not

have pets or keep them outside. If you do have

pets inside, make sure to keep them out of

sleeping areas and off fabric-covered furniture.

Check Your Appliances
Make sure your gas appliances, fireplace, furnace,

or wood-burning stove have yearly checkups

to keep down soot (and protect you from the

dangers of carbon monoxide. See page 26 for

more information.)

Check the filter on your furnace or air

conditioner a couple times each year.

Change when needed. Think about buy-

ing filters that cost a little more than the

most economical ones. They will clean

the air in your home better. They trap

more dust so you will need to change

them more often. You can buy air filters

at a hardware store. Check

labels and packaging to

find out about

these products.

If you rent,

talk to

your land-

lord about

these steps.

Smoking
Cigarette, cigar, or pipe smoke causes

health problems, especially for people

with asthma. It is best to quit smoking

(contact the American Lung Association

at 1-800-LUNG-USA for help).

Otherwise, smoke outside and

away from children. Don’t

light up in your car, because

smoke will linger there and

affect children.

Mold
When people breathe in

mold, it can cause allergies and asthma to

act up. Mold needs water to grow. Keep your

home dry to control mold. That will also help

with roaches and dust mites. See the chapter on

mold on page 17 for more information.

FACT
Air cleaners may help in the bedrooms

of allergy and asthma patients.
Good air cleaners (with HEPA filters) cost

about $100 or so. DO NOT use
an air cleaner that makes ozone because

ozone can cause health problems.

-16-

When In Doubt, Check It Out!

-16-

• Your local county Extension Office

—look in your telephone book

• Your local or state health department

—look in your telephone book

• American Lung Association, 800/LUNG-USA

—www.lungusa.org

• The Soap and Detergent Association,

Cleaning to Control Allergies and Asthma,

202/347-2900—www.cleaning101.com/house

• Healthy Indoor Air for America’s Homes

406/994-3451—www.montana.edu/wwwcxair

• The Allergy & Asthma Network: Mothers of Asthmatics

800/878-4403—www.aanma.org

• The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN)

800/929-4040—www.foodallergy.org

Asthma & Allergies

Notes

This chapter was written by Joseph Ponessa, Rutgers University Extension. ©2002 University of Wisconsin Extension. All Rights Reserved.

-17–16-

Most of us have seen mold or moisture

around the home. But did you know that

mold is alive? It grows on wet or damp sur-

faces. It is often gray or black but can also be white,

orange, or green. It can grow out in the open, on

places like walls, clothes, and appliances. But you may

also find it in more hidden places—under carpets or

in walls and attics. Mold often smells musty. Mildew

is a common name for mold. If you live near the

ocean or in a damp climate, there may be more mold

in your home than in homes in other places.

Mold produces “spores,” tiny specks you can’t see and

that float through the air. When you breathe in mold

spores, they get into your lungs. This can cause health

problems. People with allergies to mold may have

reactions. They include watery eyes, runny or stuffed

up noses, sneezing, itching, wheezing, trouble breath-

ing, headaches, and tiredness. Mold can even trigger

asthma attacks.

We are learning more about the health problems

mold causes. Some molds can cause severe health

problems in some people, but scientists disagree about

what the problems are. Mold is almost everywhere,

but it is not healthy to live where mold is growing.

Because mold needs moisture to grow, try to keep

your home and everything in it dry. Here are some

places you might find mold:

• In bathrooms, especially around the shower or tub,

and on the walls, ceiling, or floor

• In wet or damp basements and crawl spaces

• Around leaky bathroom and kitchen sinks

• In attics under leaking roofs

• On wet clothes that are not dried quickly

• On windows and walls where condensation collects

• In closets

• Under wallpaper or carpet

• In your air conditioner

It’s important to fix any moisture problem in your

home right away. Mold can grow fast, so it’s best not

to wait. To stop mold from growing, quickly dry or

throw away anything that has gotten wet.

Mold & Moisture
Should You Be Concerned?

-17-

Mold & Moisture

-18-

Mold & Moisture

How is Your Family’s Health?
• Does anyone have allergies or asthma?

• Does anyone in your home always seem to have

a cold—a runny nose, wheezing, coughing, and

headaches?

• Do these problems go away when they leave home

for a while?

• Are there infants, children, or elderly people living

in the household?

How Can You Tell if Mold is Growing in
Your Home?
• Can you see mold growing anywhere?

• Is there mildew growing on clothes or towels?

• Does any part of your house or

apartment smell musty or moldy?

• Do you see color changes on

walls or floors that you can’t

wipe off?

Is There Moisture in Your
Home That Could Cause
Mold to Grow?
• Has any part of your home been

flooded?

• Has there been a water leak or

overflow?

• Has the carpet gotten wet and

stayed damp for more than 24

hours?

• Can you see moisture on walls,

ceilings, or windows?

• Do bathroom walls stay damp

for a long time after a bath or

shower?

• Do basement floor drains ever get clogged and

hold water?

• Does your basement or roof leak when it rains?

(Check the attic floor.)

• Does anyone use a humidifier?

• Does water collect in the drain pan under the

refrigerator or air conditioner?

• Do you use unvented space heaters?

• Is there a crawl space under the house?

• Do you live in a humid climate?

• Does rainwater drain toward your home’s foundation?

• If your home is raised, does water pool under it?

• Does the air in your home feel clammy or humid?

-18-

?Questions to Ask

-19–18- -19-

Mold & Moisture

ACTION STEPS
• Use downspouts to direct rainwater away

from the house. Make sure your gutters are

working.

• Slope the dirt away from your house’s

foundation. Make sure the dirt is lower six

feet away from the house than it is next to it.

• Repair leaking roofs, walls, doors, or windows.

• Keep surfaces clean and dry—wipe up spills

and overflows right away.

• Store clothes and towels clean and dry—do

not let them stay wet in the laundry basket

or washing machine.

• Don’t leave water in drip pans, basements,

and air conditioners.

• Check the relative humidity in your home.

You can buy a kit to do this at a home

electronics or hardware store. Stop using

your humidifier if the relative humidity is

more than 50%.

• If the humidity is high, don’t keep

a lot of houseplants.

• Wipe down shower walls with

a squeegee or towel

after bathing or

showering.

• Cut down on

steam in the

bathroom

while

bathing or showering. Run a fan that is

vented to the outside or open a window.

• Run a fan vented to the outside when cooking.

• If you have a dryer, make sure it is vented to

the outside.

• Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to dry

out damp areas.

• If you use a humidifier, rinse it out with

water every day. Every few days, follow the

manufacturer’s directions for cleaning it or

rinse it out with a mix of 1/2 cup chlorine

bleach (Sometimes called sodium hypochlorite.

“Clorox” is one brand.) and one gallon

of water.

• When you use your air conditioner, use the

“auto fan” setting.

• Throw away wet carpeting, cardboard

boxes, insulation, or other things that have

been very wet for more than two days.

• Increase airflow in problem areas—

open closet doors and move furniture

away from outside walls where mold is

growing. Move your furniture around

once in a while.

• Prevent moisture from collecting on win-

dows by using storm windows. If you live in an

apartment, talk to your landlord about putting

on storm windows.

• Keep people with asthma or allergies

away from damp areas of your home.

• Cover window wells if they

leak.

-20–20-

Mold & Moisture

ACTION STEPS, continued

• After cleaning up mold, using a high efficiency

(HEPA) vacuum or air cleaner may help to

get rid of mold spores in the air. You may be

able to borrow a HEPA vacuum. Call your

local or state health department to ask.

• If you find an area of mold greater than 15

square feet, it’s best to hire a professional to

get rid of it. (You can find them listed in

the telephone book under “Fire and Water

Damage Restoration.”)

• Clean up mold with a mix of laundry

detergent or dishwashing soap and water

OR chlorine bleach with soap and water.

Do not mix chlorine bleach with any

product that contains ammonia.

• If you think mold may be causing you or

your family health problems, see a doctor.

How do I Clean Up Mold?
Protect yourself when cleaning up mold.

Wear long sleeves and pants, shoes and

socks, rubber gloves, goggles to protect

your eyes, and a N-95 respirator. Open

a window to let in fresh air while you’re

working.

Throw away things like carpet or

mattresses, wallboard (drywall), ceiling tile,

insulation, or cardboard boxes that have been

wet for more than two days. Wrap anything

you’re going to throw away in plastic to stop

mold from spreading. Cleaning up mold puts

the spores in the air so it’s a good idea to wear

a respirator. Keep small children, elderly and

sick people, and anyone with allergies or

asthma away during cleanup.

Mold & Moisture

ACTION STEPS, continued

-21–20-

Mold & Moisture

ACTION STEPS, continued

-21-

Mold & Moisture

ACTION STEPS, continued

Clean hard surfaces with a mix of laundry

detergent or dishwashing soap and water. You

may have to scrub with a brush. Rinse the

area with clean water and dry quickly by wip-

ing away the water and using a fan. Chlorine

bleach will kill mold growing on surfaces. It

does not kill mold spores in the air and dead

mold can still cause allergic reactions. If you

use bleach, follow these steps:

• Scrub the surface first with water and

detergent.

• Water down the chlorine bleach—use about

one cup bleach to ten cups of water.

• Spray or sponge the bleach on the moldy

area. Leave it on about 15 minutes, then

rinse the area and dry quickly.

• Never mix chlorine bleach with products

that contain ammonia or acids because you

will make a deadly gas.

• Keep chlorine bleach out of the reach of

pets and children.

• Remember, chlorine bleach takes the color

out of most fabrics and rugs. Be careful not

to spill or splash.

The Cooperative Extension Service or your

local or state health department can provide

more information on mold. Renters should

talk to their landlords. Some home insurance

policies will pay to fix mold damage. Fire and

Water Damage Restoration professionals can

help you fix the damage. Cleaning up a big

mold problem may cost several thousand dol-

lars or more.

What About Testing for Mold?
You may have heard about so-called “toxic”

molds that can cause severe health problems.

This may cause worry if you know that mold is

growing in your home. See your doctor if you

think mold is causing health problems for you

or your family. Many experts agree that health

problems come more from the length of time

you’ve been in contact with the mold and the

amount of mold in your home than the type

of mold in your home.

No matter what kind of mold you have, you

need to get rid of it and fix the moisture

problems that made it grow. Most experts

think it’s better to spend your time and money

on cleaning up the problem than testing. So

act quickly to get rid of the mold and moisture

by following the action steps in this chapter.

-22-

When In Doubt, Check It Out!

-22-

• Your local county Cooperative Extension Office

—look in your telephone book

• Your local or state health department

—look in your telephone book

• The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

—www.epa.gov/iaq

• The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)

—www.cdc.gov/nceh/mold

• California Indoor Air Quality Program

—www.cal-iaq.org//iaqsheet.htm

• The Health House—www.healthhouse.org

• Healthy Indoor Air for America’s Homes

406/994-3451—www.montana.edu/wwwcxair

Mold & Moisture

This chapter was written by Marilyn Bode, Extension Specialist, Iowa State University. ©2002 University of Wisconsin Extension. All Rights Reserved.

Notes

-23–22-

You can’t see, taste, feel, or smell carbon monox-

ide (CO). However, this deadly gas can make

you very sick or even kill you. Over 500 people

in the United States die every year after breathing

too much CO. The signs of CO poisoning seem like

the flu. Many people don’t even know they’ve been

breathing in CO. People who survive can suffer brain

damage, lose their sight or hearing, or have heart

problems. It is a major threat to your family’s health.

The good news is that you can prevent CO poisoning.

This section will help you ask the right questions to

find out if the air in your home is safe and healthy.

There can be so much CO in a burning building that

breathing smoke for as little as one minute can kill

you. Lower levels, such as from smoking, do not

kill right away. They can cause many other health

problems though. Children, unborn babies, people

with asthma, older adults, or people with heart

or lung problems are more likely to get hurt

from breathing CO. But remember, CO harms

even healthy people.

Where Does CO Come From?
Fuel-burning appliances use gas, oil, or wood

to produce heat. If they are not working right,

they can make CO. Most gas appliances that

have been put in and taken care of properly

are safe and make very little CO but unvented

appliances may not be. Electric appliances do

not burn fuel and so make no CO. Common

sources of CO include:

• Gas and oil furnaces, boilers, and water

heaters

• Wood-burning fireplaces and stoves

• Gas appliances like ovens, stoves, or dryers

• Gas and kerosene space heaters

• Gas and charcoal grills

• Cars, trucks, campers, tractors, and other vehicles

• Gasoline and liquid propane (LP)-powered small

equipment, including lawn mowers, snow blowers,

chainsaws, pressure washers, and electric generators

• Recreational vehicles, including boat motors, all

terrain vehicles (ATVs), ski-boats, and generators in

campers and houseboats

• Tobacco smoke

• House fires

• Blocked chimneys and flues

Carbon Monoxide
Should You Be Concerned?

Carbon Monoxide

-23-

-24-

Breathing in low levels of CO can

hurt your brain, heart, or other

parts of your body. At high levels,

the brain is so short of oxygen

that you cannot think clearly.

You lose control of your muscles

and may be unable to move to

safety. High-level CO poisoning

can cause loss of consciousness,

coma, and death.

There are simple but important

steps to take to find out if your

family is at risk for CO poisoning.

The questions on the following

page will help you do that. Page

27 will give you ideas of what to

do to keep the air in your home

safe to breathe.

What are the Signs of CO
Poisoning?
People often think CO poisoning

is the flu. That’s because it can

feel like the flu. Signs of low-level

CO poisoning may include:

• Headache

• Nausea

• Vomiting

• Dizziness

• Confusion

• Tiredness

• Weakness

• Sleepiness

• Tightness in the chest

• Trouble breathing

• Changes in senses of sight,

smell, hearing, touch and taste.

-24-

Carbon Monoxide

CO and Smoking
If you smoke, you breathe in carbon

monoxide and many other chemicals. If

you smoke indoors, people around you also

breathe the smoke (called second-hand or

environmental tobacco smoke). Smoking

can make minor health problems worse

and cause major diseases like cancer and

heart disease. If you need help

quitting, contact the American Lung

Association at

1-800-LUNG-USA.FA
C

T

-25–24-

Carbon Monoxide

• Do you sometimes use charcoal grills

or small gasoline engines inside your

home, garage, or closed-in porch?

• Do you have an attached garage?

• Do you sometimes warm up your car

inside the garage?

• Has it been more than one year since

you or your landlord had your furnace,

fireplace, wood stove, chimney or other

appliances inspected or cleaned?

• Do you ever use a gas or kerosene space

heater or a vent-free gas fireplace?

• Does your home have a carbon

monoxide alarm?

• Do you ever use the kitchen stove or

oven to heat your home?

• Do you sometimes forget to turn on

the kitchen exhaust fan when using the

oven?

• Do some of the burners on the kitchen

stove burn yellow or orange?*

• Does smoke from the fireplace some-

times come back into the room?

• Are your appliances and furnace in

good shape?

• Are the vent pipes for your furnace, boiler, or

water heater rusty or falling apart?*

• Do you have a gas water heater that does

not have a vent?*

• Is there rust, soot, or dirt on your

furnace, boiler, or water heater?*

• Is your furnace or boiler over ten years old?*

• Have you weather-stripped doors and windows

or insulated your home?*

• Have you closed off vent or combustion

air openings?*

-25-

* See the Safety Checklist on page 26

?Questions to Ask

-26–26-

Carbon Monoxide

ACTION STEPS
Safety
Checklist
If you answered yes to any of the starred

questions on page 25 pay special attention

to this checklist. Remember, putting in and

taking care of cooking and heating appli-

ances like stoves and furnaces can be dan-

gerous. Only trained and qualified workers

should do this.

• Turn off an appliance or heater that

starts making different noises, smells

funny, starts sooting, has a yellow or

orange-colored flame, or does not seem

to be working right. Call a heating con-

tractor for repairs.

• Read and follow the instructions that

came with your appliance or unvented

gas heater. Never block or disconnect an

exhaust vent.

• Provide good ventilation for all heating

appliances.

• Keep all wood, paper, cloth, and furniture

away from heating appliances.

• Don’t block an appliance’s air openings

or exhaust vents.

• Have furnaces checked every year by a

qualified heating contractor.

• Ask the contractor to check for carbon

monoxide and look at the vent (chimney)

system.

• If you insulate and weather-strip your

home, call a heating contractor to make

sure there is still enough ventilation.

• If you smell gas or if the smoke detector

or the carbon monoxide alarm goes off,

leave the building right away and call 9-1-1.

• Never use charcoal grills or run engines inside
your home, garage, or basement even for a
short time. Charcoal grills and small gasoline
engines make a lot of carbon monoxide.
Even opening all the windows and doors will
not give you enough fresh air to prevent CO
poisoning.

• Never warm up a vehicle inside the garage.
Warming up your car, truck, or motorcycle on
a cold day for just a couple of minutes (even
with the garage door open) can make enough
CO to make you sick. Start lawnmowers, snow
blowers, and other yard equipment outdoors.

• Have a heating contractor check your furnace,
chimneys, and other sources of CO every fall
to make sure everything is okay. (You can find
one in the telephone book.) Make sure they
use a tool that measures CO. To get harmful
gases out of a home, many heating appliances
have chimneys. (Chimneys on gas appliances
are called vents). The chimney carries CO and
other gases from the appliance outdoors. If
your appliances and vents are working right
there should be little CO in your home. If
you rent, ask your landlord to have the heat-
ing system checked.

• Make sure chimneys are in good shape—
clean and working right. Have your chim-
ney, wood-burning fireplace, or wood stove
swept every year. Burning wood nearly always
makes a lot of CO. It is very important that
all the smoke goes out the chimney.

• If you use unvented kerosene or gas heaters
OR a vent-free gas fireplace, follow instructions
carefully and always open a window for fresh
air. Do not use them while sleeping.

-27–26- -27-

Carbon Monoxide

ACTION STEPS, continued

• Put carbon monoxide alarms near each

sleeping area and on each floor of your

home. (Older models are called carbon

monoxide detectors.) You can find them

at your local hardware, discount, outlet, or

building supply store for $20 to $50.

• Never use the kitchen stove or oven to heat

your home.

• Always turn on the kitchen exhaust fan

when using a non-electric oven or range top.

• Have the kitchen range top fixed before

using it if the flames burn orange or yellow.

• Don’t use a smoking fireplace until you fix

the problem.

Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Carbon monoxide (CO) alarms will help

protect you and your family from sickness or

death. A good alarm will make a loud noise

when CO levels become too high. There are

plug-in and battery operated alarms. Look

on the package to make sure the alarm is

okayed by a qualified testing laboratory, such

as Underwriters Laboratory (UL). Check the

batteries on a battery-operated alarm every six

months. Every home should have at least one

alarm. It’s best to put one near each sleeping

area and on each level of the home. Carbon

monoxide alarms do not take the place of

checking and taking good care of your home’s

furnace, fireplace, space heaters, and oven.

If someone in your family shows signs of CO

poisoning or if a CO alarm goes off:

• Get outside right away.

• Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number

from a phone outside your home.

• See a doctor or nurse right away. See a doctor

or nurse even if you feel better after breath-

ing fresh air. They can check your blood and

breath for CO and tell if you need more

medical care.

• Treat all alarm soundings as an emergency.

Never ignore an alarm sounding!

• Have your home checked out by a qualified

heating or appliance contractor. You can

find one in the telephone book.

• Don’t go back home until all problems have

been found and fixed.

-28-

When In Doubt, Check It Out!

-28-

• Your local county Extension Office

—look in your telephone book

• Your local or state health department

—look in your telephone book

• The Consumer Products Safety Commission

800/638-2772—www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/466.html

• The American Lung Association, 800/LUNG-USA

—www.lungusa.org/air/carbon_facstsheet99.html

• Healthy Indoor Air for America’s Homes

406/994-3451—www.montana.edu/wwwcxair/

Carbon Monoxide

Notes

This chapter was written by Thomas Greiner, Iowa State University Cooperative Extension. ©2002 University of Wisconsin Extension. All Rights Reserved.

-29–28-

Lead poisoning is one of the most serious health

threats for children in and around the home.

Your children can be poisoned if they get lead

in their bodies. Lead may cause learning and behavior

problems. It may damage hearing and the nervous

system, including the brain.

Where Does Lead Come From?
Lead was used in paint, water pipes, gasoline, pottery,

and other places. Even though this metal is not used

as much anymore, it still remains in places it was used.

The paint on your walls and windowsills may have

lead in it. Household dust (from old, worn paint)

may have lead in it. Your drinking water may have

lead in it from your water pipes or the solder that

joins pipes together. Even the soil outside your home

may have lead in it.

It is very important to find out if your home has lead

in or around it. There are tests that will let you know

and they don’t cost a lot.

How Can Lead Poison your Child?
There are many ways. Young children put their hands

and everything else in their mouths, so they can eat

the dust or chips of lead-based paint without know-

ing it. Even bits of paint too small to see can come off

windows, doors, and walls, creating lead dust. Children

who crawl on the floor, put toys in their mouths, or

play in soil around their home or daycare can be poi-

soned.

Children with too much lead in their bodies may not

look or feel sick. A simple blood test is the only way

to know if your child is being exposed to lead. Ask your

doctor or health care provider to test your child for lead.

Lead paint that is in good shape is not an immediate

problem. It may be a risk in the future though.

Laws have been passed to ban lead in household

paint, gasoline and water pipes. However, many older

homes still have lead in them. Finding out if lead is

a problem in your home is the first step in protecting

your children’s health. The questions on the next

page can help.

Lead
Should You Be Concerned?

FACT
One out of every 40 American children

has too much lead in their bodies. The rate
of lead poisoning is even higher in cities.

Dust from lead paint is the biggest
threat to young children.

-29-

Lead

-30–30-

• Do you live in an older home? Many older homes

have lead-based paint or lead water pipes. Lead

paint was banned in 1978. Homes built before

1950 are most likely to have lead in paint and

water pipes.

• Is there cracking, chipping, or flaking paint in your

home?

• Are there places where paint is being rubbed, such

as on a door or in a window frame? This can make

dust that has lead in it.

• Do you have water pipes made with lead or joined

with lead solder? Water that flows through them may

contain lead. Lead pipes are dull gray and scratch

easily with a key or penny.

• Has your home been recently remodeled or

renovated? Projects may leave dust or paint chips

with lead.

• Is there lead in the soil outside your home? It may

have gotten there from paint on the outside of the

building or from industry. Or it may have come

from car exhaust from the days when gasoline

contained lead. Children can be poisoned if they

play in soil that has lead in it or if someone tracks

the soil inside the home.

• Does someone you live with work where lead is

used? Some jobs that might create lead dust are:

construction, bridge building, sandblasting, ship

building, plumbing, battery making and recycling,

car repair, furniture refinishing, and foundry casting.

Workers can bring lead dust home on clothing,

skin, or shoes.

• Do you have children under age six who have not

had a blood test for lead? Young children should

be tested for lead. This is especially true if you live

in an older home, if your home has recently been

remodeled, or if a brother, sister or a playmate has

tested high for lead. Ask your doctor to test your

children beginning at six months of age, and then

every year until age six.

• Have neighbor children or playmates ever had a

high blood lead test?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, your

children may be at risk for lead poisoning. Look at

the Action Steps on the next page to find out what

you can do to protect your children’s health!

Lead

FACT

The Blood Test for Lead
• It only takes a small blood sample to tell if

your child has lead poisoning.

• Ask your health care provider about testing.

• Lead levels are measured in micrograms per

deciliter (µ/dL).

• If your child’s level is 10 µ/dL or more, it is

too high.

• You need to find out how she or he is getting

the lead.

• Your health care provider can help you find

out what to do.

?Questions to Ask

-31–30-

Lead

-31-

Have Your Children Tested for Lead
• This test is often free at local health clinics.

Find Out if Your Home Has Lead
• You may need to have your home or water

tested. Your local or state health department

can tell you how to do this for little or no

cost. Many hardware stores also sell low-cost

lead testing kits.

• Don’t try to remove lead on your own. It

should be done by trained and certified

workers. You can find a certified lead paint

removal company by contacting your local

or state health department. Getting rid of

lead in the wrong way can make the

problem worse! Children and pregnant

women need to stay away during a lead

removal project.

Protect Your Children From Lead
• Wash children’s hands and face often with

soap and water, especially before they eat.

Wash toys every week.

• Keep down lead-based paint dust with

housekeeping. Wipe windowsills, floors,

and other surfaces with paper towels, warm

water and soap once a week. Rinse well.

• Never sweep, vacuum, or dry dust in a

room that has lead dust. You will not

remove the harmful dust and can stir it up.

This includes porches, which were often

painted with lead paint.

• Don’t let children chew or put their mouths

on windowsills. Keep cribs away from

windowsills and walls.

• If any remodeling is being done, be sure

you find out if work is happening on

something that contains lead-based paint.

Never dry scrape or dry sand lead paint.

Don’t burn or torch it. Children and

pregnant women should stay away while

work takes place. Test dust for lead around

the remodeling area afterwards.

• If you have lead pipes or pipes joined with

lead solder, you can take steps to cut down

on the lead in your water:

ACTION STEPS

-32-


-32-

Lead

ACTION STEPS, continued

— Never use hot water from the tap for drinking,

cooking, or making formula. Hot water can

take more lead out of the pipes.

— When you haven’t used any water for a few

hours or overnight let the cold water run

for a few minutes before using it again. You

will know it has run long enough when the

water changes temperature. Usually it gets

colder. This clears out any water sitting in

the pipes that may have collected lead

or other metals. (See the chapter on drinking

water on page 33.)

• Have your water tested for lead. Call your

local or state health department to learn how.

• If someone in your home works with lead,

they can bring it home on their clothes.

Make sure they shower and change clothes

and shoes before coming inside. Wash

these clothes by themselves.

• If your yard or the yard at your children’s

daycare may have lead in the soil, don’t let

your children play there. Have the soil tested

for lead to make sure it’s safe. Put in grass

or other plants to help keep children away

from the soil in the meantime.

• Feed your children a healthy diet. Foods

with vitamin C, calcium, and iron can help

reduce lead poisoning. Children with lead

poisoning often don’t get enough iron or

other minerals in their diets. Making sure

your children get enough of these nutrients

can lower how much lead their body

takes in.

When In Doubt, Check It Out!

• For blood tests, call your family doctor or public

health clinic.

• For testing of paint samples and drinking water,

call your local or state health department.

• For a packet of materials or questions about lead,

call the National Lead Information Center, toll-free

at 800/424-LEAD.

• For information on lead in drinking water, call the

EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline: 800/426-4791

or visit the website at www.epa.gov/safewater.

• Contact HUD about tenants’ rights and other hous

ing issues at 800/HUDS-FHA—www/hud.gov.

• For more information on Lead In and Around the

Home, see Home*A*Syst. The Home*A*Syst hand

book gives more details about this and other

healthy home topics. 608/262-0024 or

www.uwex.edu/homeasyst.

This chapter was adapted from “Lead In and Around the Home: Identifying and Managing Its Sources,” by Karen Filchak, University of Connecticut

Cooperative Extension. In Home*A*Syst, An Environmental Risk-Assessment Guide for the Home, ©1997 Regents of the University of Wisconsin System.

All rights reserved.

-33–32-

Every day Americans

drink more than one

billion glasses of

water! We also depend on

water in our homes to clean,

cook, fix baby food and formula, and

bathe. If you are like most people, you trust that

your water is safe. This is mostly true. Public drink-

ing water in the U.S. is safe for most healthy people.

If you have a well or other private water supply, it’s up

to you to keep your drinking water safe. Whether your

water comes from a public or private source, you can

take steps to make sure it’s safe for you and your chil-

dren.

There are times when your home water supply may

not be safe. Using unsafe water to drink or prepare

food can make you sick. Children may have more

problems than adults because:

• For their size, children drink more than adults.

• Their illnesses may be more serious because children’s

immune systems are still developing.

• Their bodies are still growing, so chemicals can

harm them more.

What May be in Drinking Water that is
Not Safe?
Bacteria and viruses can cause diseases. Drinking water

with these germs may cause upset stomachs, diarrhea,

or more serious illnesses. It can be worse for children,

pregnant women, and sick or older people. Just one

drink of water with these germs can make you sick.

Nitrate gets into water from animal and human waste,

and from fertilizer. Too much nitrate in your drinking

water can cause blue baby syndrome in babies under

six months old. Babies with this problem often have

blue or purple-colored faces because they do not get

enough oxygen in their blood. They need to see a doctor

right away. Some experts believe nitrate may also result

in birth defects and miscarriages. Baby food or

formula made with your drinking water needs

to be safe.

Lead and copper are metals that can get

into water from your pipes. Too much

lead can cause children to have learn-

ing and behavior problems, and other

illnesses (See pages 29-32 for more

information on lead). Babies who

get too much copper can have colic

and spit up their formula more than

normal. Older children and

adults may get upset stom-

achs or diarrhea from

copper.

Other harmful chemi-

cals can get into

drinking water.

Pesticides may

get into your

water supply

by washing

off lawns

and fields

or leaking

from storage contain-

ers. Gas or oil can seep into the ground and get into

drinking water. Even very small amounts of some

chemicals can cause problems, such as damage to

kidneys, liver, or other organs. Some cause cancer and

others can cause problems if you are pregnant.

Answer the questions on the next pages to find out if

your water is safe and what you can do to cut down on

risks to your family.

Drinking Water
Should You Be Concerned?

-33-

Drinking Water

-34–34-

Drinking Water

Where Does Your Water Come From?
Does your water come from a public water supply,

such as the water utility in your city or town? Or

do you have a private water supply, such as a well

or spring? The questions to ask yourself depend on

where your water comes from.

Public Water Supplies

Before reaching your home, water from a public

water supply is tested for over 80 different chemicals.

If there are problems, the utility has to treat the water to

make it safe or tell you that the water is unsafe to drink.

Every year, water utilities give the results of these

water tests to customers. They mail reports or print

them in a local newspaper. You can also call your

water utility to ask what chemicals are found in the

water and how they treat it to make it safe.

Public water can become unsafe after it gets to your

home through lead or copper pipes. What kind of

pipes do you have?

Lead Pipes: Your home, especially if it is older, may

have lead water pipes or pipes

joined with lead solder.

Lead pipes are dull gray

and scrathch easily

with a key.

Copper Pipes: You

may have copper

pipes. These are

reddish-brown in

color.

ACTION STEPS

Clear the Pipes—Follow this simple step if

lead or copper are problems in your home.

When you haven’t used your water for a while

(like when you wake up in the morning or when

you get home from work), you need to clear out

the pipes. Let the cold water run for two or three

minutes or until you feel the temperature change,

before you drink it or use it for cooking. This

will flush out water that has sat in the pipes and

picked up lead or copper. Never use hot water

from the tap for cooking, drinking, or making

formula because the heat helps dissolve the met-

als faster. Use cold water and heat it on the stove

or in the microwave.

Help Protect Water Supplies
You may not know it, but the public water supply

is local. Your water may come from the ground-

water that is under your home. It may come from

the river or lake nearby. What you do can help

keep it clean or pollute it.

• If you use poisons to kill bugs or weeds,

follow what the label says. Never use more

than the label says.

• Watch where you store chemicals

(such as bleach, paint, or pesticides)

outside. Make sure that the bottles

are closed tightly and have labels

that say what they are.

• Do not throw chemicals in the

garbage or down the drain. Read

the label for disposal instruc-

tions. Give leftovers to someone

who will use them or call your

local or state health department to

find out how to get rid of them.

?Questions to Ask

-35–34-

Drinking Water

-35-

• Clean up after your dog. Don’t leave pet

waste on the ground where rain can wash

the germs into rivers and lakes. It’s best to

flush it down the toilet.

Private Water Supplies
You may have a private water supply, such as a

well, for your drinking water. Your well is your

responsibility. You need

to make sure it is clean

and safe.

Test Your Well
Water
Has it been more than

two years since your

water was tested? You

cannot see, smell, or

taste most problems so

you need to have your

water tested at a labora-

tory. Well water is usu-

ally tested for bacteria

and nitrate. You may

want to have your water

tested more often or for

other pollutants, like

pesticides, if you have

had problems in the

past. Call your local or

state health department to find out how to

have your water tested.

Protect Your Water Supply
You also need to take care of your well, espe-

cially if it is old.

Do you know where your well is?

Find your well. Is it uphill from animal pens,

manure, pet waste, septic systems, dumps, or

places where chemicals are stored?

What kind of well do you have?

• A dug or bored well usually has a big hole,

two feet across or more, and is less than 50

feet deep. These wells

may be less safe because

chemicals and bacteria

can easily get into the

water through the top

and sides

• A drilled well usually has

a narrow hole (4-10 inches

around) and is deeper,

sometimes hundreds of feet.

• A driven point or sand-

point well is 1-2 inches

around and may not

be deep.

If you do not know what kind

of well you have, contact a

local well driller. You can find

one in the telephone book.

Do you know how old your

well is?

If it is more than 20 years old

it may need a checkup. You may need to test

your water more often.

Is your well in good shape? You want to keep

things from above ground out of your water

supply.

ACTION STEPS, continued

A PRIVATE WELL

-36–36-

Drinking Water

ACTION STEPS, continued

FACT95% of people living in rural areas drink
water from private sources.

• The well casing needs to stick up above the

ground, up to 12 inches but local rules

vary. Your local or state health department

has the information.

• There should be no gaps or spaces between

the well casing and the material or soil

around it.

• Make sure the casing does not have

holes or cracks.

• Does the well cap fit tightly? Are any

openings or vents covered by a screen?

• Be sure there is not a low area near

the well where rainwater can collect.

Rainwater carrying pollutants can get

into well water.

• Don’t keep gas, oil, weed killer, or

other chemicals in your well house.

Do you have unused wells on your property?

Unused wells that have not been properly filled

and capped can let pollution into groundwa-

ter and make your drinking water unsafe. If

you have an unused well, ask your local or

state health department how to seal it.

Use devices on the ends of faucets to keep water

from flowing back into your water supply.

These are called back flow prevention devices.

They help keep pollutants from washing back

into the hose and into your drinking water.

What kind of pipes do you have?

See the section on “Clear the Pipes” on page 34 to

find out how to make sure harmful metals are

not getting into your drinking water from your

pipes.

-37–36- -37-

When In Doubt, Check It Out!


• Your local water company

• Your local Cooperative Extension office

• Your local or state health department

• EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline toll-free at

800/426-4791

• The Home*A*Syst handbook gives more details

about this and other healthy home topics.

608/262-0024—www.uwex.edu/homeasyst

Drinking Water

This chapter was adapted from “Drinking Water Well Management”, by Bill McGowan, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension. In Home*A*Syst, An

Environmental Risk-Assessment Guide for the Home, ©1997 Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. All rights reserved, and “Your Guide to Public

Water”, by Alyson McCann, University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension, February 2000, Rhode Island Home*A*Syst program.

Notes

-38-

Do you have these products in your

home? Bleach,

rat poison, moth-

balls, charcoal lighter fluid,

oven cleaner, batteries,

mercury thermometers,

gas, oil, wood polish, toilet

and drain cleaners, shoe

polish, bug spray?

Household products like

these are dangerous for

your children!

Household products are

called hazardous if they

can harm people when not used in the

right way. Not every product is haz-

ardous and some are more dangerous

than others.

You can use most products safely if you follow the

directions on the label. Doing things that are not on

the label is risky for your health and your family’s. People

run into trouble by using too much of a product, or by

mixing two products together, for example.

Children can be poisoned if products are stored or

thrown away unsafely. Children’s bodies are small, so

even a little bit of some chemicals can cause big problems.

Eating or drinking a hazardous product is dangerous,

of course. Also, just touching or breathing some

products—even a very small amount of them—can

be harmful. They can burn your

skin or eyes just by touch-

ing them. Some

hazardous prod-

ucts can make you

sick if they get

into your body

through your

skin or when

you breathe

in their

dust or

fumes.

Sometimes you know

right away if you or your child

has come into contact with a hazardous product. You

may feel sick to your stomach or dizzy. Your skin may

itch or burn. Your eyes may water or hurt.

Other problems don’t show up until later, like cancer

or harm to your lungs. Also, coming into contact

with chemicals can affect a child’s growing body.

You can protect your children and yourself from illness

and injury. Use hazardous products safely. Store them

carefully. Dispose of them properly. The following pages

will help you learn more.

Hazardous Household Products
Should You Be Concerned?

Hazardous Household Products

-38-

In Case of Emergency

You can reach your local Poison Control
Center by calling 1-800-222-1222 from
anywhere in the country. Put this number
next to all of your telephones and where
you store your hazardous products.FACTIn 2000, nearly 20,000 children

were exposed to or poisoned by
household chlorine bleach.

-39–38-

Use Safely
Do you use hazardous household products safely?

• Read the label.

That is one of

the most

important steps

in using

products.

• Look for

words like

caution,
warning,
flammable,
harmful, danger,
poison. These tell

you that a product

may be hazardous. If you see

these words on a label, take extra care.

• Look for special instructions on the label such as:

“Work in well ventilated area.” This means work

outside or with the windows open. The fumes can

make you sick if you do not have enough fresh air.

• “Wear protective clothing.” This means wear goggles

or safety glasses, gloves, long sleeves, or other

coverings. The right clothing can prevent burns or

keep chemicals from going into your body through

the skin.

• Never mix products unless the label says it is safe

to do it. For example, never mix products containing

chlorine bleach with products containing ammonia.

You will make a deadly gas by mixing these together.

• Keep children and pets away while you use

hazardous products.

• Always put the cap back on and put away the product

right after you finish using it.

• Never leave the product or container where children

can see it or reach it.

• Don’t eat, drink, or smoke when using hazardous

products.

• Be ready in case there’s an accident: Put the Poison

Control Center telephone number, 800/222-1222,

where you can find it quickly in case of an emergency.

Tape it to the wall by your kitchen phone, for example.

• Buy Syrup of Ipecac at your local drugstore and

keep it handy. This medicine makes a person throw

up. But only use it when a doctor or the Poison

Control Center tells you. Sometimes throwing up

makes the poisoning worse.

Use Less
Can you cut down on the hazardous products in

your home?

• Do you buy only what you need, so you don’t

have extras?

• Prevent or reduce pest problems so you don’t

need chemicals to kill them. Wash dishes and

wipe counters often. Keep the

garbage area tidy.

• If you’re pregnant, don’t use

hazardous products if some-

thing else will do the job.

• Think about using tools or

products known to be safe:

Use a plunger to unclog

sinks instead of chemicals.

Clean with baking soda

(for scrubbing) or

vinegar (for cut-

ting grease).

Hazardous Household Products

-39-

?Questions to Ask

-40-

Hazardous Household Products

Store Safely
Do you store hazardous household products safely?

• Keep them away from children. A locked, secure

place is best.

• Store them in the package, can, or bottle they came

in. Never put them in another container (especially

one for food or drink)! This helps prevent poisoning

and keeps the label instructions with the product.

• Keep containers and packages dry. Close them tightly.

• Set containers inside a plastic bucket in case of leaks.

• Store products at least 150 feet away from your

well, cistern, or water pump. This will protect your

water supply and your health.

• Keep products away from heat, sparks, or fire.

• Store batteries and flammable chemicals like gasoline

in the shade, away from direct sunlight.

Safe Disposal
How do you get rid of leftover products?

• Share the extra with someone who will use it up.

• Take leftovers to a community hazardous waste

collection point. Ask your local or state health

department where this is.

• Some products—like pesticides—are very

hazardous. You will even need to be careful

how you dispose of the container. The label

will tell you what to do.

• Never dump or burn hazardous

products on your property. Dumping

or burning them near a water supply

is very dangerous.

• Never burn hazardous wastes in a barrel or stove.

Burning may let off toxic gases and make

hazardous ash and smoke. And, it’s against the law

in many states.

• Recycle used motor oil or antifreeze. Many

communities have places for you to do this.

• Mercury is a threat to health. Products that have

mercury in them are fluorescent bulbs, thermometers,

thermostats, and blood pressure meters. Call your

local trash department or health department to

find out where to recycle products with mercury.

-40-

?Questions to Ask

-41–40- -41-

Hazardous Household Products

ACTION STEPS

When In Doubt,
Check It Out!


• Call your local Poison Control Center 800/222-1222

• Call your local Cooperative Extension office

• Call your local or state health department

• Contact the Consumer Products Safety Commission:

800/638-2772 • www.cpsc.gov

• Contact Healthy Indoor Air for America’s Homes:

406/994-3451 or visit the website at

www.montana.edu/wwwcxair/

• The Home*A*Syst handbook gives more details

about this and other healthy home topics

608/262-0024 or www.uwex.edu/homeasyst

• EPA’s Consumer Labeling Initiative

www.epa.gov/opptintr/labeling/index.htm

Notes

This chapter was adapted from “Managing Hazardous Household Products,” by Elaine Andrews, University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension. In

Home*A*Syst, An Environmental Risk-Assessment Guide for the Home, ©1997 Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. All rights reserved.

Here are some ways to protect your
family’s health.

• Buy only what you need to do the job.

• Use products known to be safe when possible.

• Read and follow directions on product

labels—always!

• Post the Poison Control Center telephone

number next to the phone.

• Never mix two products together unless

you are certain it is safe to do so.

• Never mix bleach and ammonia

• Keep all hazardous products, including

bleach, in a cabinet out of reach of children.

• Buy products in childproof containers.

• Keep hazardous products in their original

containers.

• Give leftover products to someone else

to use.

• Find out about your community’s hazardous

waste collection points.

• Recycle products that you can—oil, antifreeze,

products with mercury.

• Never burn or dump leftover products or

containers.

-42-

Many families are bugged by pests.

Cockroaches, flies, rats, and mice carry

disease and can get into food. Roaches

and house dust mites can make allergies and asthma

worse. Fleas and ticks riding into the home on pets or

clothing can carry disease. The bites of rats and certain

spiders can make children and others very ill.

Pesticides are things like bug spray, pet flea collars, rat

poison, and garden weed killer that can prevent and

kill pests. Pesticides can pose a real danger if you do

not use them in the right way. Some may cause poi-

soning, birth defects, nerve damage, and even cancer.

They can make allergies or asthma worse. Breathing

fumes or dust from pesticide powders and sprays can

be harmful. Touching a floor where pesticide was used

can also be dangerous.

Children are especially at risk. When they crawl and

play on floors and lawns, they can come into contact

with any pesticides used there. Young children put

their hands, toys, and other things in their mouths.

They may have touched pesticides on the floor or

grass.

The biggest danger is poisoning. Children can

accidentally poison themselves if they play with,

eat, or drink pesticides that are not stored safely.

Pesticides
Should You Be Concerned?

-42-

Pesticides

POISONED BY CHEMICALS:
Don’t let this happen

to your child

• A five-year old boy drinks from a bottle

of bleach that he found under the

bathroom sink.

• A three-year old girl tries to spray her hair

the way Mommy does, but sprays an

aerosol disinfectant in her eyes instead.

• A baby who has just begun to crawl eats

green pebbles from behind the sofa. They

look like candy but are really rat poison.

The good news is there are lots of things

you can do to protect your family’s health

and safety. Ask yourself the questions on

the following page to see if pesticides may

be a threat in your home. Safe pesticide use

depends on you!

FACTAlmost one-half of homes with a child
under five have pesticides stored within

reach of children.

-43–42- -43-

Pesticides

Why Do You Have Pests?
• Does your home have loose or torn screens or broken

windows?

• Are there gaps or holes in the building that could

let in pests?

• Are counters and floors sometimes dirty? Do dishes

go unwashed?

• Is there spilled food anywhere in your home?

• Do you keep your garbage where ants, roaches,

rats, mice, or other animals can get into it?

• Does your plumbing or roof leak?

• Do you store food in containers or boxes that don’t

have covers?

Do You Use Pesticides Properly?
Never take it for granted that a pesticide is harmless.

• Do you (or a pest control company) ever use

airborne pesticides like flea bombs or roach sprays

indoors instead of baits? Bombs and sprays spread

pesticides over a larger area, making it more likely

someone will come into contact with them.

• Do you use flea collars, sprays, or powder

on your pets? These contain pesticides

that may harm people.

• Do you use pesticides without read-

ing the label?

• Are children or pets in the room

when you use pesticides?

• Do you eat, drink, or smoke

while using a pesticide?

• Do you use care when you put

bug repellant on your children?

• Do you serve fruits and vegeta-

bles without washing them well?

How Do You Store and Dispose of
Pesticides?
• Do you ever store pesticides in containers other

than the package they came in?

• Do you sometimes have extra, leftover pesticides

around the home?

• Do you store pesticides where children can reach

them?

• Do you keep pesticides near food?

• Do you throw empty pesticide containers away

without rinsing them?

• Do you leave empty pesticide containers where

children can reach them?

?Questions to Ask

-44–44-

Pesticides

ACTION STEPS
Keep a Clean Home
• Wash children’s hands, bottles, pacifiers,

and toys often. Regularly clean floors,

windowsills, and other surfaces.

• Keep a tight lid on trashcans and empty

them often.

• Store food in tightly sealed containers.

• Make sure people in your home eat at the

table. Don’t let them walk around with food.

• Wipe up spills and crumbs right away.

• Clean up dirty dishes right after eating.

• Clean your home well after treating for

roaches to reduce roach allergies.

• Pests need water. Keep them from getting it

by fixing leaks and not leaving dishwater in

the sink overnight.

• Control fleas by washing bedding often,

shampooing pets, vacuuming floors, and

using flea combs and traps.

• Get rid of stacks of newspaper, papers, bags,

and cardboard boxes that make good

homes for pests. Recycle them if you can.

Keep Pests Out of Your Home
• Seal cracks and crevices where pests can get

in your home.

• Check things like bags and boxes for roaches

before bringing them inside.

• Teach your children not to share combs,

hats, or coats at school or daycare.

Use Pesticides Safely
• Read the label and follow the instructions.

Use only the amount directed and for the

purpose listed.

• Place all pesticides, including baits, out of

the reach of children.

• When using a pesticide, keep children away

until it has dried or for the time the label

recommends.

• Protect your skin, your eyes, and your lungs

while using pesticides.

• Always wash your hands after use. Never

smoke, eat, or drink while using a pesticide.

• Look for signal words. All pesticide labels

include words such as Caution, Warning,

or Danger to warn you about a product’s

hazards.

-45–44-

!
-45-

Pesticides

• Wash clothing you wore while using a

pesticide in a separate load from other

laundry.

• If you have questions about using a pesticide,

call the company that made it. An 800

number should be on the label. You can

also call the National Pesticide Information

Center at 1-800-858-7378.

• Mix and use only the amount you need so

you don’t have leftovers.

• Mix pesticides outdoors or in an area with

plenty of fresh air (Never mix them in the

kitchen).

Storing and Disposing of Pesticides
• Store pesticides where children and pets

can’t reach them or in a locked cabinet.

• Store pesticides only in the container they

came in. Never put them in a soft drink

bottle or any other kind of container.

• Follow the directions on the label for the

right way to throw away pesticides.

• Never use an empty pesticide container for

something else.

ACTION STEPS, continued

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY

You can reach your local Poison Control Center by calling

1-800-222-1222 from anywhere in the country.

Put this number next to all of your telephones and

where you store your hazardous products.

The word Caution
shows up on a pesticide

label when a product

is the least harmful to

people.

Warning means a

product is more poi-

sonous than one with a

Caution label.

Danger means a

product is very poison-

ous or irritating. Use a

pesticide that has this

word on its label with

extreme care because it

can burn your skin or

eyes very badly.

When putting bug repellant on children, read

all directions first. Do not use over cuts or

broken skin. Do not apply to eyes, mouth, hands, or

directly on the face. Use just enough to cover skin or

clothing. Don’t use it under clothing.

Bug Repellant

-46–46-

Pesticides

Helpful Tips

Tips For Your Lawn and Garden
• Use lawn seed and plants that grow well in

your area and fight disease.

• Think about putting up with a few weeds

or insects, rather than using pesticides.

• Use your muscles. You can keep down weeds

by hand pulling or hoeing.

• Clean up dead leaves and debris to get rid of

homes for pests.

• Make sure you know what the pest or

problem is before using a pesticide.

• Use pesticides only where the pests are.

• Your local Cooperative Extension office can

help with lawn and garden care.

Tips For Preparing Food
• Wash and scrub all fruits and vegetables

under running tap water.

• After washing, peel fruits and vegetables

when possible.

• Throw away the outer leaves of leafy vegetables

like lettuce and other greens.

• Trim fat from meat and skin from poultry

and fish—some pesticides collect in fat.

• Eat lots of different foods from lots of

different sources.

-47–46- -47-

When In Doubt, Check It Out!


• EPA Office of Pesticide Programs, 703/305-5017

—www.epa.gov/pesticides

You can order these publications:

Help! It’s A Roach: A Roach Prevention Activity Book

Citizen’s Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety

10 Tips to Protect Your Family From Pesticide and Lead

Poisoning

Pesticides and Child Safety

Pesticides and Food: What You and Your Family Need

to Know

• National Pesticide Information Center

800/858-7378—www.npic.orst.edu

• Food and Drug Administration Food Safety

Information Service Hotline, 888/SAFE-FOOD

(888/723-3366), 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday

through Friday

• The Home*A*Syst handbook gives more details

about pesticides and other healthy home topics.

608/262-0024—www.uwex.edu/homeasyst

• For more information on non-toxic pest control

contact the Bio-Integral Resource Center

510/524-2567—www.birc.org

Pesticides

This chapter was written by Kadi Row, University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension. ©2002 University of Wisconsin Extension. All Rights Reserved.

Notes

-48-

Did you know that your chances of getting

hurt at home are much higher than they

are at work or school? The leading causes of

death in the home are falls, drowning, fires, poisoning,

suffocation, choking, and guns. The good news is that

there are simple steps you can take to protect yourself

and your family. This section will help you ask ques-

tions to find out if your home is a safe place to live

and how to make it even safer.

Very young children and older adults are the most

likely to get hurt at home. Keep

people’s age in mind when

thinking about how to keep

your home safe.

Falls kill more people than any

other type of accident beside

car crashes. Most falls happen

at home. Most people trip

and fall at floor level, not

going up or down stairs.

Falls can be worse for

adults than for chil-

dren. They fall fast-

er and harder than

children. Their

bones are weaker,

so they break more

easily too.

Young children are curious and get into everyday

things that can hurt or even kill them. More of them

become sick or die from eating or drinking common

items like medicine, makeup, and plants. Children

like to play with these things because they can

look or smell good.

For over a decade, the number of

people who die in fires has gone

down. Yet fires are still one of the

main causes of death in the home.

Older adults are most at risk because

they may not be able to respond to an

alarm or get out of a building quickly.

Choking and suffocation also cause

many deaths in the home. When a person

chokes, something like a piece of food

has gotten stuck in their throat and stopped

their breathing. Suffocation happens when a

person’s nose, mouth, or throat is blocked and

they can’t breathe. If someone stops breathing long

enough they can suffer brain damage or die. Children

under age four and older adults are the most likely

to die from choking. People can choke on food,

or something not meant to be eaten at all, like

a button or a coin. Sheets, blankets, and plastic

bags can suffocate people who get caught in them.

Home Safety
Should You Be Concerned?

Home Safety

FACTIn the U.S., more than one million
children age five and under

are poisoned each year.

-48-

-49–48- -49-

Drowning kills more than 1,000 children ages 14 and

under each year. For every child who drowns, another

20 children go to the hospital or emergency room

because they almost drowned.

It takes just a few easy, fairly low-cost steps to keep

your children safe from many everyday dangers. The

questions below and on the next page will help you

find safety problems at home. Page 51 will give you

ideas about what to do. Remember, making your

home safer for everybody may mean taking more

than one step.

Home Safety

Slips, Trips, and Falls
• Do you keep your floors—especially hallways and

stairs—free of things that might make people slip

or trip?

• Are your stairs in good shape?

• Are there throw rugs in your home?

• Do you know the safe way to carry big loads?

• Is your home well lighted?

Is Your Home Poison-Proof?
To poison-proof your home, look through each room

through the eyes of a child. Is anything that can hurt

your child within her or his reach?

Any room can have something in it that can hurt a

child: the kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, living room,

basement, garage, or laundry room. Most poisonous

products are where people keep cleaning supplies.

(See the chapters on Hazardous Household Products

page 38 and Pesticides page 42 for more information.)

?Questions to Ask

-50-

Fires and Burns
• Does your house or apartment have at least one

smoke alarm?

• Where do you store matches and lighters?

• Have you talked about fire safety with your children?

• Do you have a fire exit plan in case your home

catches fire?

• Do you use space heaters safely and with a window

open?

Choking
• Do you keep a close eye on young children at

meals and at playtime?

• Do you pick out toys that are right for your child’s age?

Young children like to put things in their mouths.

Balloons, toys, and toy parts that are small enough to

fit into a child’s mouth may cause choking. You also

may not be able to get them out if they get stuck.

Watch Out Around Water
• Do you have a pool or does your child go swimming

a lot?

• Does the pool you use have a fence around it?

• Do you ever leave toys in the pool?

• Does your child run around the pool?

• Do you ever visit lakes, beaches, or rivers?

• Do you watch your young children in the bathtub?

Pools are very dangerous for infants and toddlers. A

toddler who falls in may die or get brain damage.

Toddlers love to play in the water. But they don’t know

that even shallow water can hurt or kill them. Running

children can fall down and hurt themselves badly.

Children need to be watched around water at all times.

Home Safety

-50-

FACTCarbon monoxide is deadly gas
you can’t see or smell. It comes from
combustion appliances like gas heaters,
furnaces, stoves or dryers. Car exhaust
also has carbon monoxide. See the
chapter on carbon monoxide on page 23
to learn how to protect your family from
this hidden danger.

To protect
your
family, put
in a carbon
monoxide
alarm!

?Questions to Ask

-51–50- -51-

Home Safety

ACTION STEPS
Prevent Slips, Trips, & Falls
• Keep your floors clear of anything that may

cause tripping. Pick up hazards such as

toys, shoes and magazines.

• Clean up spills right away so people

won’t slip.

• Repair any stairs that are cracked or worn.

• If there are rugs in your home, use non-skid

mats and throw rugs.

• When carrying large or heavy loads, make

sure you can see where you’re going. Ask

for help if you need it.

• Keep your home well lit so you can see

where you’re walking at night.

Other tips

• Don’t use chairs or tables as makeshift ladders.

• Wear shoes with non-skid soles and put

young children in non-skid socks.

• Teach your children not to run indoors or

jump down stairs.

• Teach your children and other family

members about the dangers of falling and

how to stay safe.

Poison-Proof Your Home
Use this guide to poison-proof your home

room-by-room:

• Kitchen

Your kitchen is one of the most dangerous

places for a child. Drain openers, detergents,

oven cleaners, and other cleaners can hurt

you and your children. Put safety latches on

all cabinets and drawers with harmful

products. Even better, put them in a place

that children can’t reach. Children often get

into dangerous products while someone is

using them. If you can, keep your children

out of the room while you’re cleaning.

• Bathroom

Things in your medicine chest—like medicine,

makeup, mouthwash, first aid supplies,

deodorants and cleaners can hurt children.

Keep these out of their reach. Put a safety

latch on your medicine chest.

• Bedroom

Keep medicine, medications, perfumes,

makeup, and cigarettes out of children’s reach.

• Living Room

Things to look for in the living room are:

liquor, cigarettes, furniture polish, lamp oil,

and some plants. Keep these out of reach.

• Garage, Basement, and Laundry Room

These are some of the most dangerous

places in your home. There are lots of

chemicals and poisons in them that can hurt

or kill a child: bleach, anti-freeze, gasoline,

kerosene, car polishes, car batteries, paints,

paint removers, mothballs, bug spray, road

salt, and more. It’s safest to keep children

out of these places altogether.

-52–52-

Home Safety

ACTION STEPS, continued

Make sure any medicine is
stored in child-safe packaging.

But remember, child safe doesn’t
mean child-proof, so keep

medicine out of reach.

Do you know what to do if someone in your

home gets poisoned? If you think someone has

been poisoned, call your local Poison Control

Center right away at 1-800-222-1222. Keep this

number next to all of your telephones. Make

sure you know:

• Brand-name of product

• Type of product

• Contents as listed on label

• About how much the person ate or drank

• How the person came in contact with the

poison (mouth, skin, etc.)

• How long the person was in contact with

the poison

• The person’s age and weight

• How you tried to help the person, if you did

Prevent Fires and Burns
Put in a smoke alarm on every floor of your

home in or near every sleeping area. This will cut

in half the chances of someone dying in a fire.

Playing with fire—matches, lighters, stoves or

heaters—is the leading cause of fire-related

death for children five and under. Storing

matches, lighters, and other heat sources in a

safe place like a locked drawer will help keep

your children from playing with them. Don’t

let children play near the stove or grill either.

Teach your children how to prevent fires, and

what to do if there is a fire. It can make the

difference between life and death. Talk about

fire safety with your children. Your local fire

department can help.

Plan and practice a fire escape route with your

family. Do this at night and with the lights off

so you’ll be ready if there is a fire. Take special

steps for getting children, the elderly, and people

who may not be able to save themselves out of

the building.

Space heaters such as electric or kerosene heat-

ers cause most burns at home. Keep them out

of doorways, halls, or other busy areas. Also,

keep them at least three feet from curtains,

bedding, or other things that could catch fire.

Teach children that heaters will burn. Even

better, put up a barrier to keep children and

pets away.

-53–52- -53-

Home Safety

ACTION STEPS, continued

Prevent Choking and Suffocation
Everyday foods can cause choking. Hot dogs,

nuts, popcorn, and hard candy can easily get

stuck in a small child’s throat. Don’t let your

young children eat them. Even drinks, like for-

mula, milk, or juice can make babies choke if

they drink them lying down, especially from a

bottle. Make sure children drink sitting up. Keep

a close eye on the young children in your home.

Don’t let your children play with balloons.

Other household items that can cause problems

are coins, marbles, and buttons, so keep your

floor picked up. Finally, don’t let children play

near cars or old appliances. They can suffocate

and die if they become trapped in a car trunk

or old refrigerator.

Young children can get tangled up and

suffocate in curtains, window blind cords, and

extension cords. Plastic bags and covers are also

dangerous. Don’t tie toys or pacifiers to chil-

dren’s clothes. Very small children should not

wear jewelry around their necks.

Toys with small parts or long cords may strangle

or cause a child under the age of four to choke.

Read a toy’s package to make sure it’s right for

your child.

Watch Out Around Water
If you have or use a pool—Watch children

under the age of 12 at all times around pools.

Make sure they walk on the pool deck.

All pools, hot tubs, and spas should have a

fence at least five feet high, with a self-closing,

self-latching gate around them. It’s important

that this fence be one that children cannot

climb. Don’t think of your home as part of the

fence, because children can open doors to get

to a pool.

Take all toys out of the pool area after swimming

so children won’t go back into the water and

play by themselves.

Children should wear life jackets or vests

while on docks or at beaches or rivers. Never

let a child swim alone!

Never leave a young child alone in the bathtub.

Children can drown in only a couple inches

of water.

-54-

Home Safety

When In Doubt, Check It Out!

-54-

• Your local county Extension Office

—look in your telephone book

• Your local or state health department

—look in your telephone book

• For information on product recalls: The Consumer

Products Safety Commission at 800/638-2772

—www.cpsc.gov

• National SAFE KIDS Campaign, 202/662-0600

—www.safekids.org, 1301 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW,

Ste. 1000, Washington DC 20004

• The American Red Cross—www.redcross.org

• National Safety Council, 800/621-7619

—www.nsc.org

Notes

This chapter was written by Ron Jester, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension. ©2002 University of Wisconsin Extension. All Rights Reserved.

ACTION STEPS, continued

Other Safety Concerns
• Older children and adults should learn first

aid and CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation)

so they can help if someone gets hurt. Your

local Red Cross offers classes.

• Never let children ride on equipment such

as lawn tractors. They may get hurt if they

fall off.

• Get safety gear like helmets and kneepads

for children riding bicycles, in-line skates,

ATVs, scooters, and skateboards. Set a good

example by wearing safety gear yourself.

• Store guns safely—unloaded and locked up.

• When traveling by car, make sure that

children under 12 ride in the back seat. Use

car seats for infants and toddlers under 40

pounds. Use booster seats for children until

they are eight years old.

-55–54-

IndexIndex

-55-

Alarms, carbon monoxide, 27

Allergies, 1-2, 6-9, 11-20, 42, 44

Asthma, 1-2, 6-9, 11-20, 22-23, 42

Bronchitis, 8

Bleach, 4, 19-21, 34, 38-39, 41-42, 51

Bug Spray, 1, 4, 6, 38, 42, 51

Carbon monoxide, 1-3, 6-7, 9, 15, 23-28

Carpet, 8-9, 13-14, 17-18, 20

Chemicals, 1, 3-5, 7-9, 24, 33-36, 38-40, 42, 51

Choking, 4, 48, 50, 53

Cockroaches, 8, 12, 14, 42, 43, 44

Combustion Appliances, 7, 23, 50

Drinking water, 1, 3, 29, 32-37

Dust, 5-9, 12, 14-15, 29-31, 38, 42

Dust mites, 12, 14-15, 42

Falls, 4, 48-51

Fire Safety, 50, 52

Food, 5, 33, 9, 11, 13-14, 16, 33, 40, 42-44,

46-47, 48

Home safety, 1, 4, 48-54

Household products, 1, 4, 7-8, 38-41, 49

Indoor air quality, 1-2, 6-10, 22

Labels, 15, 34, 41, 44

Lead-based paint, 29-31

Lead poisoning, 3, 7, 29-30, 32, 47

Mercury, 38, 40-41

Moisture, 1-2, 17-22

Mold, 1-2, 6-7, 9, 12, 15, 17-22

Pesticides, 1, 4, 6, 14, 33-35, 40, 42-47, 49

Pests, 1, 4, 6, 9, 12, 14, 42-44, 46

Pets, 2, 7-9, 12-13, 15, 21, 39, 42-45, 52

Paint, 3-4, 7, 29-32, 34, 51

Poisons, 1, 34, 51

Radon, 2, 6, 8-10

Signal words, 44

Smoke alarm, 50, 52

Smoke detector, 26

Solvents, 7

Space heaters, 18, 23, 27, 50, 52

Smoking, 7-8, 15, 23-24, 27

Ventilation, 26

Water, 1, 3, 5, 14-15, 18-21, 23, 25, 29-38, 40,

44, 46

Water Pipes, 3, 29-30, 34

Weeds, 34, 46

Wells, 3, 19, 35-36

Yard, 26, 32

-56–56-

If you have more questions about the health
and safety of your home contact:

US Department of Housing and
Urban Development:

www.hud.gov/healthyhomes

US Environmental Protection Agency:
www.epa.gov/children/

Children’s Environmental Health Network:
www.cehn.org

National Safety Council: www.nsc.org/ehc/
chldhlth.htm

US Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention:

www.cdc.gov/od/oc/childhealth/

Home*A*Syst:
www.uwex.edu/homeasyst

The Lead Listing
www.leadlisting.org

IndexCongratulations!Congratulations!

You have taken the first step toward a safe and healthy home!

Healthy Homes

PH 4370

Choose:

A house that you can afford

A house that is healthy for you and your family to live in

Healthy Homes

A healthy home doesn’t mean a new, expensive home

Unhealthy housing linked to asthma, lead poisoning, unintentional injuries

Healthy housing can save billions in health care costs

Unhealthy homes and children

An unhealthy home may impact children more:

Children are growing, toxins can disrupt developmental processes

Children are smaller, what they ingest has a greater impact proportionally

Children play on the floor

Small children put fingers and other objects into their mouths

Children lack the knowledge to identify and repair or clean unsafe situations

Topics

Indoor air quality

Asthma & allergies

Mold & moisture

Carbon monoxide

Lead

Drinking water

Hazardous household products

Pesticides

Home safety

Group presentation

What are the top 5 things a person needs to know about this topic?

How can someone prevent this problem from occurring?

What can someone do if they need to stop (abate) the problem?

What can a renter do vs. what can a homeowner do?

Include costs. Are there low-cost solutions or assistance programs?

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