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Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Home Safety Tips - Home

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Air Quality

Printable version of fact sheet (PDF, 184 KB)

Health Problems

The quality of the air in your home can affect your family’s comfort and health. The temperature and humidity should be controlled. Air should be clean and free of harmful chemicals and smoke. Poor air quality can cause a stuffy nose, sore throat, burning eyes, headache, and sleepiness. People who have asthma, allergies or lung disease are affected more than others.

Carbon monoxide from faulty home heating systems cause about 200 deaths a year in the United States.  Carbon monoxide can also come from using portable generators inappropriately.  If you can not vent the exhaust from your portable generator safely, do not use it!

Tips on Smoke and Carbon Monoxide:

  • Ban tobacco smoke from your home.

  • Install a carbon monoxide detector near bedrooms.

  • Inspect your gas appliances and chimney every year. Replace furnace filters every month or two during periods of use. Make sure your gas dryer, furnace and water heater are vented to the outdoors.

  • Keep fireplaces and wood stoves well vented to the outdoors. 

  • Burn only clean, untreated wood.

  • Never let a car or any gas engine idle in a garage or carport.

  • Never use a charcoal grill indoors or in a closed area like a garage.

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Mold and Mildew

Molds and mildew grow in damp, dark places. Molds and mildew can cause lung problems – especially in people who have allergies or asthma. You can prevent the growth of molds and mildew in your home by controlling humidity.

Tips on Mold and Mildew:

  • Control moisture. Use a dehumidifier during the summer. Use an exhaust fan in the kitchen and bathroom. Vent the clothes dryer to the outdoors and make sure the vent pipe is not clogged.
  • Fix plumbing leaks before mold grows.
  • Don’t store firewood inside. Bark contains millions of mold spores.

More on molds and mildew.

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Chemicals

Chemicals can enter the air in your home when you paint, use cleaning solvents, install pressed wood, install new carpets and use new fabrics. These chemicals can irritate your eyes, throat, and nose. High levels can give you a headache or make you feel dizzy.

Tips on Chemicals:

  • Make sure your home has lots of fresh air.

  • Use safe paints, cleaners and other products. Look for those with the fewest warnings.

  • Read labels. Some chemicals should only be used in well-vented spaces. The label may tell you if the chemicals can cause cancer or other health problems.

  • Fact sheets of common toxic chemicals

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Radon

Radon is a colorless, odorless, soil gas that can seep into your home through cracks in concrete. Radon related lung-cancer causes thousands of deaths in the U.S. each year. Only smoking causes more. All homes should be tested.

Tips on Radon:

  • Test your home. Many hardware stores sell low-cost test kits. Your local health department may also have test kits. Make sure the kit has the words, "Meets EPA Requirements" on the package. Test the air of the lowest floor of your home that is lived in. If the radon level is less than 4 picocuries per liter, no action is needed.

  • If the level is above 4, repeat the test (or do a year-long test) to find the average level in your home.

  • Correct the problem if the second reading is also above 4. Call the Radon Information Center at 1-888-LOW RADON or contact your local public health department for more information.

  • More information on Radon.

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Asbestos

Asbestos is used in heating insulation, pipe wrap, floor tiles, slate siding, slate shingles, and ceiling tiles. Asbestos is harmful when it is damaged and fibers enter the air. Breathing air that contains asbestos fibers over several years can increase your risk of lung cancer.

Tips on Asbestos:

  • If you think you may have asbestos in your home, contact a certified asbestos inspector to find out what actions are needed.
  • Don’t try to remove asbestos by yourself. Only trained professionals should do this work.
  • Call the Wisconsin Occupational Health Asbestos/Lead Training and Certification Unit at 608 261-6876 for more information.
  • If asbestos is present and in good condition, it may be best to manage it without removal.

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Asthma

A comprehensive report on asthma in Wisconsin is available at:

Burden of Asthma in Wisconsin 2010 (PDF, 7.2 MB)

Asthma is an illness that causes wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and coughing. More than 6,000 young people visit the emergency department for asthma treatment every year in Wisconsin. Pets, molds, pollen, and cockroaches can trigger asthma. Smoke, chemicals, ozone, and exhaust fumes can also trigger asthma.  More information on asthma in Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Asthma Program at the Department of Health Services can be found at the asthma website

Tips for People with Asthma:

  • If a person with asthma is allergic to cats or dogs, the family pet may need to be removed from the home. At least keep pets out of the person’s bedroom.
  • Consider adding a high efficiency air filter to your heating system.
  • Control humidity. Keep the humidity below 50% and fix moisture problems. This will reduce dust mites, molds and mildew.

  • Reduce air pollutants like smoke, solvents, and pollen in your home.
  • Get rid of cockroaches by carefully cleaning (especially in the kitchen) and removing trash every day. Use pesticides as a last resort.
  • Damp mop, damp dust, and vacuum often. Use mattress and pillow covers. Remove carpets, drapes, books, stuffed animals, and feather or down pillows and covers from the bedroom. Wash bedding once a week using hot water to kill dust mites.

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 Prepared by the
Wisconsin Department of Health Services
Division of Public Health
Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Health

Last Revised: February 13, 2014