Our local health office tests 1- and 2-year olds for lead at WIC clinics if they have not been tested by their health care provider. If the child has an elevated blood lead level, we connect with their health care provider for follow-up. We also provide lead poisoning prevention education to our community.
Lead poisoning is a serious but preventable health problem. Lead is a highly toxic metal that has been commonly used in many household, industrial and automobile products—such as paint, solder, batteries, brass, car radiators, bullets, pottery, etc. Too much lead in the body, or lead poisoning, can cause serious and permanent health problems.
The major source of lead poisoning in Vermont children is lead dust from chipping or peeling lead-based paint, but there are many other lead hazards. Lead poisoning can be prevented when you know what danger signs and hazards to look for in your home.
One in seven Vermont homes has unsafe levels of radon. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that has no color, smell or taste. Breathing air with radon increases a person’s risk of getting lung cancer. Radon decays into radioactive particles that damage lung tissue and can lead to lung cancer over the course of a person’s lifetime. If you smoke and your home has high levels of radon, your risk of getting lung cancer is especially high.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas you cannot see or smell. It is produced when liquid, solid or gas fuel is burned—such as natural gas, propane, oil, charcoal, wood and wood pellets. Dangerous levels can build up quickly in your home, garage, or other enclosed areas. CO poisoning is more often a problem in the colder months since that is when Vermonters burn fuel to keep warm and their homes are closed up.
Mold and mildew are general terms used to describe kinds of fungus. Mold needs moisture to grow. Due to Vermont’s humid climate, mold is commonly found in homes. Some people are affected by everyday exposure to mold, but most people are not. People with asthma, mold allergies, chronic lung illnesses, or those who have compromised immune systems may have more severe reactions.
Pests in and around our homes can be a nuisance. Pests include insects (like cockroaches, bed bugs, wasps and garden bugs), rodents (like mice and rats) and weeds. The pesticides, or chemicals, we use to treat pests can cause serious health problems. Pesticides can contaminate our indoor environment, cause and trigger allergies and asthma, and be especially dangerous to children, pregnant women and pets.
Vermont’s asthma rates are in the top three in the country. Asthma is a chronic lung disease in which the lungs become inflamed and airways narrow and fill with mucus, making it very hard to breathe. People with asthma are more sensitive to irritants, allergens or “triggers”, causing symptoms to flare up. Pets in the bedroom, carpeting, wood stoves and fireplaces, tobacco smoke, mold, dust mites, seasonal allergens, and extreme cold, are common challenges for Vermonters with asthma. Fortunately, asthma can be managed.
Families who live in rental housing can contact their local Town Health Officer for issues with rental housing code violations.
The Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity created a handbook for landlords and tenants to give them a basic understanding of their rights and responsibilities.