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Environmental Health – Air Quality

Radon

Radon is a gas that has no smell and no color.  It is the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and raises the risk for smokers.   

Sources: Earth and rock beneath home; well water; building materials.

Health Effects: No acute symptoms. Estimated to cause about ten percent of lung cancer deaths. Smokers are at higher risk of developing radon induced lung cancer.

Steps to reduce Radon exposure: Test your home for radon; Get professional advice before planning and carrying out radon reduction measures; Seal cracks and other openings in the basement floor; Ventilate crawl space; Treat radon contaminated well water by aerating or filtering through granulated activated charcoal.

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Resources: http://www2.epa.gov/radon

Radon Exposure in Your Home….What’s Your Radon Risk? – Maryland Department of the Environment

Radon – Maryland Department of Health 

 

Carbon Monoxide

Sources: Unvented kerosene and gas heaters; leaking chimneys and furnaces; gas stoves; Automobile exhaust from attached garages; Environmental tobacco smoke.

Health Effects: At low concentrations, fatigue in healthy people and chest pain in people with heart disease. At higher concentrations, impaired vision and coordination, headaches, dizziness, confusion, and nausea. Fatal at very high concentrations.

Steps to reduce Exposure: Keep gas appliances properly adjusted; consider purchasing vented gas space heaters and furnaces; use proper fuel in kerosene space heaters; install and use exhaust fan vented to outdoors over gas stoves; open flues when gas fireplaces are in use; do not idle car inside garage; have a trained professional inspect, clean, and tune-up central heating system.

Sources: Deteriorating or damaged insulation, fire proofing, or acoustical materials.

Health effects: No acute symptoms. Chest and abdominal cancers and lung diseases. Smokers are at higher risk of developing asbestos induced lung cancer.

Steps to reduce exposure: Seek professional advice to identify potential asbestos problems. Use trained and qualified contractors for control measures that may disturb asbestos for cleanup. Follow proper procedures in replacing wood stove door gaskets that may contain asbestos.

Resources: 

 

Asbestos

Sources: Deteriorating or damaged insulation, fire proofing, or acoustical materials.

Health effects: No acute symptoms. Chest and abdominal cancers and lung diseases. Smokers are at higher risk of developing asbestos induced lung cancer.

Steps to reduce exposure: Seek professional advice to identify potential asbestos problems. Use trained and qualified contractors for control measures that may disturb asbestos for cleanup. Follow proper procedures in replacing wood stove door gaskets that may contain asbestos.

 

Lead

Sources: Automobile exhaust. Sanding or open flame burning of lead based paint. Activities involving lead solder.

Health effects: Impaired mental and physical development in both fetuses and young children. Decreased coordination and mental abilities; damage to kidneys and nervous system, and red blood cells. May increase blood pressure.

Steps to reduce exposure: If you suspect that the paint you are removing may contain lead, have it tested. Leave lead-based paint undisturbed; do not sand or burn off. If lead exposure is suspected, consult your health department about appropriate removal and clean-up procedures and have your blood lead levels tested.

 

Mold

Sources: Mold grows in humid environments where there is excessive moisture in buildings or on building materials such as insulation and drywall in basements and bathrooms or where a water leak has occurred.

Health Effects: Headaches, breathing difficulties, skin irritation, allergic reaction and aggravation of asthma symptoms. The vast majority of health problems with mold come from making existing problems worse. Research is ongoing.

Steps to reduce Mold exposure: Prevention is the first step. If there are areas in your home that have excessive moisture, take steps to reduce it. Ventilating the area better, sealing the area where the moisture originates (such as basement walls) or installing dehumidifiers are ways to do this. If mold comes from leaks or flooding, you probably will need to hire a specialist to correct the problem.