Celebrate National Public Health Week! April 6-12, 2009

Keep a Healthy Home: Check for Radon, Lead, Asbestos, Safe Drinking Water

For Immediate Release:
April 9, 2009

Media Contact:
Vermont Department of Health

BURLINGTON – Radioactive gas in basements, lead paint dust and chips inside and outside a home, asbestos, and private wells contaminated with inorganic chemicals are all possible health risks in a Vermont home that should not be allowed to go undetected.

The Vermont Department of Health is reminding homeowners during National Public Health Week (April 6-12) to test for radon, maintain painted surfaces, check for asbestos, and make certain well water is safe. These are four important ways to keep a healthy home.

“Every year we see Vermonters becoming more aware and making a concerted effort to address environmental health concerns,” said State Toxicologist Bill Bress. “Checking your home and – if necessary – taking steps to fix an existing problem are vital to protecting your family's health.”

Test Your Home for Radon
After smoking, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Radon gas has no color, odor or taste and, unless you test for it, there is no way of knowing if it is present in your home. The Health Department recommends a long-term radon test kit as the best way to find out if your home is safe. Free radon test kits are available while supplies last. To receive a kit, e-mail your request to radon@vdh.state.vt.us. Write “Radon Test Kit” in the subject line of your e-mail and include your name and Vermont mailing address, or call 1-800-439-8550.

Check for Lead
There is no safe level of lead in the body. Because Vermont has one of the oldest housing stocks in the nation, exposure to lead from paint chips, water, dust, soil, or building materials is a common concern. Vermont law assumes any home built before 1978 contains lead paint. Routine maintenance of painted surfaces can minimize the likelihood of a child becoming lead poisoned. Any damaged, chipping or flaking paint should be corrected immediately and not allowed to develop into a hazard. During maintenance and renovation, always follow lead safe work practices when working with lead paint. Talk to your child’s doctor about testing your child for lead poisoning at ages 1 and 2 (and at other times depending on exposure to lead).

Inspect for Asbestos
Asbestos-containing building materials were also commonly used in homes and buildings built before 1978. It is a good idea is to have an asbestos inspection when planning renovation and construction. Most asbestos exposure in a home is from damaged or deteriorated asbestos-containing insulation, ceiling, or floor tiles. If you suspect your house may contain asbestos, contact the Health Department for a consultation.

Test your Drinking Water
About one-third of Vermonters get their drinking water from private wells or springs, which homeowners should maintain and have periodically tested. The Health Department’s water testing recommendations, established in 2000, include annual routine testing for bacteria and testing every five years for inorganic chemicals and radionuclides (such as uranium).

For more information about radon, lead poisoning, asbestos, safe home renovation, and testing recommendations for private wells visit the Vermont Department of Health’s website, healthvermont.gov, and select A Healthy Environment, or call 1-800-439-8550.

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For National Public Health Week, the American Public Health Association has launched a viral video - This is What Public Health Does. What Are You Doing? about the important role public health plays in every aspect of our daily lives.

The video is featured on a new web site as the start to a longer campaign — The Healthiest Nation in 1 Generation: http://www.nphw.org/nphw09/default.htm.

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