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Home Contaminants

Health and safety in the home are influenced by many factors, such as:

  • building materials used to construct and maintain the house
  • resident behavior
  • income level
  • age of the house
  • the house's immediate surroundings.

Hazards that may be found in housing in all neighborhoods are:

  • environmental tobacco smoke
  • exposure to substances such as:
    • radon gas
    • lead
    • pesticides
    • household cleaning products
  • allergens such as dust mites
  • hazards such as clutter and poor lighting related to unintentional falls
  • carbon monoxide from poorly ventilated combustion.

These hazards can cause a multitude of illnesses and negative health effects including:

  • asthma attacks
  • lung cancer
  • lung disease
  • injuries
  • poisonings.

The Tracking Network maintains data and information for only two of many common hazards: lead and carbon monoxide.

Lead

Lead was commonly added to residential paint in houses built before 1950. At that time the lead content in paint was as high as 50% by weight. This practice caused lead poisoning of millions of children, mainly in low-income families. Although lead-based paint was banned for use in housing in 1978, homes and other buildings constructed before the ban may still contain lead-based paint. Whether these homes are renovated, or the paint simply deteriorates, these older homes pose a threat to children living in them.

Read more about childhood lead poisoning.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide is a colorless, odorless, poisonous waste gas produced when fuel is burned. Unsafe levels of carbon monoxide may be caused by the following actions:

  • using poorly maintained or unvented heating equipment
  • running vehicles in garages or other enclosed spaces
  • using a gas stove or oven to heat the home
  • clogged chimneys or blocked heating exhaust vents
  • running generators or gas-powered tools in enclosed areas or near windows, doors, or vents
  • using a propane camp stove, heater, or light inside a tent
  • being near boat engine exhaust outlets
  • improperly vented natural gas appliances like stoves or water heaters
  • house or building fires
  • cooking with a charcoal or gas grill inside the home or other enclosure

Carbon monoxide poisoning is preventable. Read more about carbon monoxide poisoning.

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Additional Information

Radon Task Force, Environmental Public Health Tracking Program

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