Inside All Winter? Look Out For These Indoor Health Hazards

When we finally reach the “dead of winter”, with the snow blowing and the temperatures dropping, we are often left to spend most of our day in the warm confines of home and work. The more time we spend indoors, we are more likely to be exposed to hazardous materials that lurk within our home or workplace. Unfortunately, many hazards are hard to detect unless you know what you are looking for and how to identify them. While some indoor hazards can pose mild health risks, others may be long lasting and life changing. Here are a few indoor health hazards to keep a lookout for:
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While less common than decades ago, heating, insulating, and building materials throughout your home may contain asbestos. The silicate mineral, widely used in the early to mid 1900’s for its heat and fire resistant properties, was added to a variety of housing materials from roofing tar paper, shingles, insulation, ceiling tiles, textured paint, and vinyl flooring. Since asbestos was so commonly used, there’s a good chance that your workplace or home may contain some asbestos if built before 1980.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), asbestos is generally not considered dangerous unless it is inhaled, swallowed, or if materials containing asbestos are damaged. That said, if you suspect that there is asbestos in your home or workplace, never attempt to remove or alter such materials; leave it to asbestos professionals. Improper handling or exposure to asbestos can lead to life threatening lung diseases like mesothelioma. While asbestos may be difficult to identify, it is most likely part of building materials manufactured prior to 1980 or for example, if you have vermiculite insulation (shiny, silvery flakes) in your attic.


When we think of mold, we may think of a bowl of old fruit or something expired in the fridge. However, indoor mold, particularly the home or workplace, can be a significant health hazard. Many people may associate mold with the humidity and excess moisture of summer months rather than winter, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), moisture conditions indoors can lead to the growth of molds and mildews than can lead to minor health issues like mild allergies to chronic lung diseases.

Even with the indoor air becoming drier during the winter months, due to forced furnace heat, some areas throughout the home may experience more humidity because of limited ventilation. Mold can be found in a variety of spaces from air vents to behind wallpaper, cabinets, and any area that has been exposed to water damage or excess moisture. Fortunately, mold is easy to identify, but it should be handled and treated with care to limit the hazardous exposure.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning can occur all year-round, but is particularly problematic during the winter months when doors and windows are closed and sealed up tight and homes (and even workplaces) use appliances, that emit deadly levels of CO, for heat. While anyone can be vulnerable to CO poisoning, the following occupations are more likely to have high exposure to CO (including, but limited to): welders, garage mechanics, firefighters, forklift operators, toll booth attendants, police officers, and taxi drivers.

CO is nearly impossible to detect unless your home or workplace is furnished with a carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and poisonous and without a detector, your exposure to CO could be deadly. Exposure can range from flu-like symptoms, such as nausea, dizziness, and headaches to unconsciousness or death. If you don’t have a detector in your home or workplace, get one. When the alarm sounds, get to fresh, outside air and call 911. Remember, even if you can’t see, smell, or taste it, rely on your detector.


Donna Fitzgerald is a guest blogger who enjoys composing various works around health and family wellness subjects. She is an avid reader and writer. In her spare time, you can find Donna enjoying the calm ocean waters, while she relaxes at the beach. Generally, she is accompanied by a novel. Donna has two daughters, and is an advocate for helping other families remain healthy.

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