Why are homes a concern?
Even the cleanest home can cause human health problems because of its structure or from the household products we use and keep in our homes. Health threats in homes include toxic materials, such as asbestos and lead; poisonous gases, such as carbon monoxide and radon; and conditions that can cause asthma and allergies, such as mold, dust mites, and other pests.
Older homes may have been painted with lead paint, which can cause childhood lead poisoning. Asbestos is a cancer-causing insulation and fireproofing material that may also be found in older homes. Before asbestos was banned in 1989, it was used in roofing shingles, electrical and plumbing insulation, furnace coverings, and ceiling and floor tiles.
Poor indoor air quality and mold in a home can cause allergies and respiratory illnesses, including asthma. Second-hand tobacco smoke can cause cancer. The burning of oil, natural gas, kerosene, or other fuels can release combustion contaminants, including poisonous carbon monoxide. Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas that forms naturally in rocks and soil and can enter a home through cracks in the home’s foundation. Radon is colorless and odorless, but can contaminate the air.
Home construction, roofing, and insulation materials may contain chemicals that can cause harmful health effects. Some common household and garage products can cause human health problems if used improperly, used in excessive amounts, or inhaled excessively. These products include consumer products such as antifreeze, batteries, bleach, cleaning products, disinfectants, drain cleaner, dry-cleaned clothing, glue, hair coloring, mildew remover, mothballs, nail polish and polish remover, paint, paint thinner, paint and varnish remover, pharmaceuticals, and shoe polish. Potentially harmful household products include diesel fuel, fertilizer, gasoline, insecticides, motor oil, pool chemicals, septic tank cleaner, and wood preservatives.
Other health and safety threats in homes include fire, injuries, and insect or animal bites.
This description is based on the information found in the Web links listed with this topic.
Web Links from MedlinePlus (National Library of Medicine)
Asthma in Children
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Indoor Air Pollution
Are You Ready? An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness (Federal Emergency Management Agency)
Asthma Triggers: Dust Mites (Environmental Protection Agency)
Asthma Triggers: Pests (Environmental Protection Agency)
Check the Kind of Plastics You Use (Mount Sinai Children's Environmental Health Center) (PDF — 1.24 MB)
Cleaning Up a Broken CFL (Environmental Protection Agency)
Creating an Asthma-Safe Home (Nemours Foundation)
Healthy Homes (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Healthy Homes Program (Dept. of Housing and Urban Development) (PDF — 321.52 KB)
Help Yourself to a Healthy Home (Dept. of Housing and Urban Development) (PDF — 1.80 MB)
Household Products Database (National Library of Medicine)
Learn about Chemicals Around Your House (Environmental Protection Agency)
Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products as Pollutants (Environmental Protection Agency)
Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home (Dept. of Housing and Urban Development) (PDF)
Remodeling Your Home? Have You Considered Indoor Air Quality? (Environmental Protection Agency)
Toxic Matters. Protecting Our Families from Toxic Substances (Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment, University of California San Francisco) (PDF — 903.93 KB)
Chemicals at Home
Are these chemicals in MY community?
Bisphenol A (BPA)
Perchloroethylene (PCE, PERC)
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)
Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs)
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Last Updated: June 10, 2014