Indoor Air Hazards
As COVID-19 continues to impact us locally, we will be closing all Public Health Madison & Dane County offices to the public effective Thursday, March 19, 2020.
Although this decision was not arrived at easily, it is a decision that we needed to make. We are prioritizing preserving the health and safety of our staff and clients while continuing to maintain our ability to provide essential services, including our response to COVID-19.
We will continue providing services through alternate avenues, detailed below, but at this time we are reducing our direct contact with the public.
Walk-in services for water testing or radon services have been discontinued.
Common Sources of Indoor Air Quality Problems
- Carbon Monoxide and Other Combustion Products
- Household Chemicals
- Mold, Dust and Biological Contaminants
- Secondhand Smoke
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that occurs in rock and soil. Because of its strength and heat resistance, it has been used in building materials for insulation and as a fire retardant. Asbestos fibers can be released from damaged asbestos-containing materials such as ceiling tiles, floor tiles, pipe insulation, and many others.
Exposure to asbestos may increase a person's risk for lung disease, including cancer.
How to Stay Safe
Asbestos is only an immediate hazard it if is damaged and friable (crumbly), or is in dust form. Because not all varieties of the materials mentioned above contain asbestos, testing is necessary to be sure you are dealing with asbestos. For more information on testing, contact the Wisconsin State Occupational Health Lab at (608) 224-6210.
Burning natural gas, fuel oil, wood, and other fuels generates carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide and various other air pollutants.
- Carbon monoxide is a colorless odorless gas that causes headache, nausea, and drowsiness. It can cause sudden illness and can be deadly when a person is exposed to high levels.
- Nitrogen dioxide will irritate the lungs and air passages, which may make existing respiratory illnesses (asthma, allergy, etc.) worse. Depending on the fuel burned, other pollutants may be produced that have a wide range of health effects.
How to Stay Safe
- Ensure that all combustion appliances (stove, furnace, water heater, fireplace grills, etc.) are vented to the outside and operating properly. Furnaces should be inspected once a year to make sure they are working properly. Contact your utility provider or a heating contractor for service.
- Install and maintain carbon monoxide detectors in your home. Wisconsin State law requires carbon monoxide detectors in all residences.
- Do not operate your car or any other gas-powered equipment within a garage or other enclosed space.
- Never use unvented combustion appliances indoors.
If your Carbon Monoxide detector sounds, or if you or a family member is experiencing carbon monoxide symptoms, leave the home and call 911 for assistance from your local Fire Department or contact your utility provider.
- Carbon Monoxide, WI Department of Health Services
- Protecting Your Family From Carbon Monoxide, WI Department of Health Services
Household cleaners and solvents can be a subtle, but harmful source of poor indoor air quality.
Depending on the chemical involved, a wide range of health effects may occur from improper use, overuse or storage of these chemicals.
How to Stay Safe
- Follow label directions carefully when using or storing the chemical.
- Use only the amount of chemical that you need to accomplish the job. More is not always better.
- Purchase only what you need. Extra chemicals present potential storage and spill problems.
- Look for the least toxic product that will do the job.
- Use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to help control pests in and around your home.
- Dispose of or recycle chemicals appropriately and responsibly. Get tips and information from Hazardous Materials / Clean Sweep.
Dust, mold, and other biological contaminants are present in most homes and in many cases, are not considered a health hazard. However, depending on the types of dust or mold, the levels of contamination, and health of the individuals in the home, these items can cause significant health concerns.
- Asthma and allergy sufferers may experience allergic symptoms or asthma attacks when exposed to animal dander, specific mold spores, or many other pollutants.
- Persons without pre-existing medical conditions may experience eyes, nose or throat irritation when exposed to high levels of dust, mold, or other contaminants.
Check out the resources below for information on mold and health, clean-up and prevention of mold growth.
Mold Information, WI Department of Health Services
- Includes directory of contractors who can help you address moisture, air quality, mold and energy issues in your home
- Mold Information, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Radon is an odorless, tasteless, invisible, radioactive gas that is naturally occurring in the ground.
Radon causes lung cancer and is found in many homes throughout Wisconsin.
How to Stay Safe
- Testing is the only way to know if radon is a problem in your home. A low cost radon test kit (usually under $25) can be purchased at any local hardware or home product store. We also have kits available for sale for $10 each (see below).
- If testing shows a radon problem, you will need to install a system that will prevent radon from building up in your home. Such systems should be installed by a certified mitigation contractor.
- Radon reduction systems can reduce radon levels in your home by up to 99%. Radon resistant construction features can even be built into a new home.
- Call the South-Central Radon Information Center at (608) 243-0392
- Buy a test kit at one of our offices, Monday - Friday, 7:45 am - 4:30 pm:
- The Atrium - 2300 S. Park St., Suite 2010, Madison
- City County Building - 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Rm. 507
- East Washington Avenue Office - 2705 E. Washington Ave., Madison
- Radon Information, WI Department of Health Services
Radon Information, US Environmental Protection Agency
Secondhand smoke, also known environmental tobacco smoke, is from burning tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars, or pipes.
Secondhand smoke is known to cause cancer and other health conditions like eye and throat irritations.
How to Stay Safe
- To reduce your family's cancer risks from this pollutant, do not allow smoking in your home or your car.
- All Wisconsin workplaces including restaurants, taverns/bars, and bowling centers are covered by a smoke-free workplace law. Report a violation or learn more about the law.