Environmental Hazards and Nuisances

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ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS

Environmental health is defined by State Statute Chapter 254 as the assessment, management, control and prevention of environmental factors that may adversely affect the health, safety or well being of individuals. The goal is the identification and prevention of environmental hazards which encompass many diverse issues. Some specific activities include:

Environmental Health questions can be directed to HHSPublicHealthEH@outagamie.org 

Mold and Moisture
What is mold?

Molds reproduce from tiny spores. Mold spores waft through the indoor and outdoor air continually. When mold spores land on a damp spot indoors, they may begin growing and digesting whatever they are growing on in order to survive. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, and foods. When excessive moisture or water accumulates indoors, mold growth will often occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or un-addressed. There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.

Testing for mold is generally not necessary.  If you can see and smell it, you have a mold problem.  However, it is recommended that you do a thorough inspection to determine the cause of mold growth.  If you are interested in hiring a specialist to conduct an indoor air quality investigation you can contact Wisconsin Focus on Energy Program and request a Home Performance with Energy Star inspection.  These specialist conduct indoor air quality (IAQ) investigations, and can determine when structural issues exist that may be causing mold problems (such as ice dams, moisture, and heating and cooling complaints)  They can help you understand why mold is growing in your home an what actions you will need to take to prevent growth.  Also you can contact a company that specializes in indoor air quality issues or a mold remediation contractor.  Click here for a list of consultants and contractors.

Occasionally, mold can be found in the bathroom, on a windowsill, shower curtain, or wall.  This mold can be wiped off the surface with a damp cloth and cleaning agent (e.g. window or bathroom cleaner).  Preventing mold growth requires controlling the moisture source.  This  may be as simple as using a dehumidifier or fixing a simple leak.  For larger mold problems (about 10 square feet), follow the three phases that are described in the Mold in your Home: Cleaning Options.

 

Drinking Water

Outagamie County Public Health Division is a certified laboratory for coliform bacteria testing in drinking water.  The cost for the test is $33. To have your well tested, contact (920) 832-5100 to request a drinking water kit. 

 

Radon
Radon is a radioactive gas produced naturally by the decay of uranium present in rocks and soil. Radon is odorless, colorless, tasteless, and undetectable by the human senses. Radon enters homes through any open spaces, including basements, crawl spaces, cracks in basement walls and sump pits. Once in the home, radon has less air to mix with, and levels begin to rise.

Health Effects

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that radon is responsible for up to 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the United States. About 2,900 of these deaths occur among people who have never smoked. Radon is considered to be the second leading cause of lung cancer, only behind tobacco smoke.

Testing for Radon

The only way to determine if a home has radon is to test for it. If you are interested in testing your home, stop in to our office to purchase a short-term radon test kit for $8. Residents outside of Outagamie County can purchase a radon test kit by contacting the Regional Radon Information Center (RIC) located at the Fond du Lac County Health Department (920-929-3085). 

To properly conduct a test, follow the instructions that come with the test kit. If conducting a short-term test, close your windows and outside doors at least 12 hours BEFORE beginning the test and keep closed as much as possible during the test. Place the test kits in the lowest lived-in level of the home (for example, the basement if it is frequently used, otherwise the first floor), but NOT in your kitchen or bathroom. The laboratory will consider the test kit invalid if left out for less than 2 days (48 hours) or more than 4 days (96 hours).

Obtaining the Test Results
For test kits obtained through our office, you can access your radon test results online by going to www.drhomeair.com and clicking on “Check Radon Results”.

What do the Results Mean?

Radon concentration is measured in pico-Curies of Radiation per Liter of air (pCi/L). The EPA has set the radon standard at 4.0 pCi/L.  Below 4.0 pCi/L, no action is required. When the radon level is above 4.0 pCi/L, it is encouraged to contact Outagamie County Public Health for further consult and follow-up actions.

To learn more about Radon in Wisconsin, go to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/radon/index.htm

 Other Resources:

www.epa.gov/radon

www.lowradon.org

 Short video about Radon:

https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/radon/index.htm

 Radon Sampler Radon Movement

Bed Bugs

The best way to beat bed bugs is to be informed about bed bugs.  Bed bugs can infest any home or area regardless of socioeconomic factors or behaviors.  If you think you have bed bugs, do not panic!  With proper identification and control the bed bugs can be eliminated from any residence.  Bed bugs do not transmit disease to humans and while they can be very irritating, these bugs are not a serious health threat. 

If you own your home, rent an apartment, or manage a rental property you may have different problems and questions.  Explore the link below to learn more about how to identify, control, and mitigate bed bugs in all types of residences. 

https://www.bedbugs.umn.edu/sites/bedbugs.umn.edu/files/y2015m03d06_what_not_to_do_when_you_have_bed_bugs.pdf

ENVIRONMENTAL NUISANCES

Some housing-related hazards can directly affect a person's health. Environmental Health Sanitarians consult with homeowners and/or tenants to discuss solutions and methods for improvements. In addition, Environmental Health Sanitarians receive call complaints regarding public health nuisances.

Environmental Health Sanitarians cannot provide consultation regarding tenant and/or landlord disputes. If you are experiencing a dispute or are questioning if your landlord has the ability to conduct certain actions, click here to be directed to Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

 

LEAD

Outagamie County Public Health Division has a public health nurse and environmental health professionals that work with families whose children have had evidence of exposure to lead. Lead exposure is responsible for serious health issues in children. As the Wisconsin Department of Health Services states “Lead exposure in young children can cause reduced IQ and attention span, learning disabilities, developmental delays, and a range of other health and behavioral effects. Most exposures occur in homes or daycares built before 1978 where lead-based paint has deteriorated.

Prevention of lead poisoning can be accomplished by eliminating lead-based paint hazards before children are exposed. Wisconsin's goal is to eliminate this disease by working to make Wisconsin's housing lead-safe, and by improving the detection and treatment of lead poisoning in children” (Lead-Safe Wisconsin).

 Suggested Websites for Homeowners and Renters:

Suggested websites for Parents:

Additional Information: