On average Americans spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors with the largest percentage of time spent within their homes. Your home provides your family with comfort and protection; but your home may also have hidden health hazards, such as lead, mold and moisture, carbon monoxide, pesticides, and hazardous household products. Many homes also have safety hazards that may cause physical injuries, fires, poisonings, and other emergencies. Creating a healthier home, whether in new construction or in existing housing, has obvious benefits to your family's health and well-being.
Keys to a Safer Healthier Home
Radon is a colorless odorless gas resulting from the natural decay of uranium and is naturally occurring in Minnesota soils. Radon gas enters homes from the soil into your basement and home. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.
Ordering Radon Test Kits
Short-term tests are available at your local Southwest Health and Human Services office. You may also order a test kit using the Radon Test Kit Order Form.
Mold is a type of fungus that is present in our natural environment. Mold spores, which are tiny microscopic ‘seeds’, can be found virtually everywhere, including in homes, and are a part of the general dust found in homes. These spores can grow on building materials and furnishings if conditions are correct. Excess moisture is the critical factor in any indoor mold problem.
Mold growth should not be tolerated in our homes. Eventually, the moisture and mold will damage what it is growing on, which may include both the building materials and personal belongings. The key to preventing mold growth is to prevent moisture problems.
For information on mold exposure and advice about finding and removing mold contamination, visit the following Minnesota Department of Health.
Lead is part of our world today. It is found in the air, soil, dust, and the paint of some homes and buildings built before 1978. Being exposed to too much lead can cause serious health problems. Lead is never a normal part of your body.
WHY BE CONCERNED ABOUT LEAD POISONING?
Possible effects of lead poisoning:
- Lowered IQ
- Decreased Hand-Eye Coordination
- Shortened Attention Span
- Aggressive Behavior
- Reading and Other Disabilities
- Woman exposed during pregnancy can have low birth weight babies or deliver early
HOW DOES A CHILD GET LEAD POISONING?
Exposure may come from lead in:
- Drinking water
- Adults work clothing “take-home lead”
WHO IS AT GREATEST RISK?
A blood lead test is advised for children at ages 12 months and 24 months. Children are at higher risk for exposure if they:
- Live, play, or spend time in older housing (built before 1978) with chipping or peeling paint;
- Live, play, or spend time in older housing (built before 1978) with recent or ongoing remodeling;
- Have brothers, sisters, housemates or playmates with moderate or high blood lead levels;
- Live near a roadway with heavy traffic or a business where lead is used;
- Live with an adult who works in a job or has a hobby where lead is used.
WHY DO CHILDREN RUN A GREATER RISK?
Younger children are susceptible because their bodies are still growing, their nervous system is still developing, and they are the most likely to put things in their mouths. There are NO symptoms of lead poisoning until the child is very sick.
WHAT ARE SOME THINGS I CAN DO TO LIMIT MY CHILD’S EXPOSURE TO LEAD?
- Keep paint in good shape in homes built before 1978. Keep paint chips and dust cleaned up. Use a wet paper towel to clean dust and chips—not your vacuum cleaner.
- Don’t let your child play around window sills in an older home.
- Don’t let your child chew on anything you think might contain lead.
- Let your water run for a few minutes if your pipes were installed before 1930 or have copper pipes installed before 1985.
- Don’t store juices or food in open cans.
- Keep your child from eating dirt and sand.
- Wash your child’s hands with soap before eating, napping, or bed time.
- Use washable throw rugs in front of your door and take off your shoes.
- Cover bare soil with grass, mulch or other durable ground cover.
- Change work clothes outside of the house.
- Wash adult work clothes separate and use the rinse cycle after washing.
- Eat a well balanced diet. Meals high in fats and oils help the body absorb lead. Foods rich in calcium and iron allow less lead to be absorbed.
- Avoid using folk medicine like azarcon, greta, and pay-loo-ah.
How do you know if your child has lead poisoning?
A simple blood test is all that is needed to detect the level of lead in your child’s blood.
The blood test is done as part of your child’s regular well child exam or Child and Teen Checkup.
Screening should occur at age 12 months and 24 months if your physician determines your child to be at risk for exposure.
Be sure to talk with your physician if your child makes regular visits to a home, day care or other building built before 1978 that is being remodeled, repaired or has received damage. Also, inform your physician if you have moved or changed daycare recently. Your child should be considered for testing for new lead exposure.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF LEAD POISONING?
Symptoms only show up after severe poisoning has occurred. They are:
- No desire to eat
- Loss of recently acquired skills
- Stomach Cramps
- Lack of energy
- Trouble sleeping
For further information on lead, visit the Minnesota Department of Health.