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Environmental Illness: Evaluating Your Home or Workplace

Topic Overview

If you think you are being exposed to toxins, allergens, or other materials that are affecting your health, consider the following questions about your home and workplace. Write detailed answers to the questions, and discuss them with your doctor.

Do you work or live around any of the following?

  • Metals
  • Dust or fibers
  • Chemicals, possibly from a new or remodeled home, or from clothes that have been dry-cleaned
  • Fumes
  • Radiation
  • Biological materials, such as bacteria, blood products, or human or animal tissues
  • Loud noises or vibration
  • Extreme heat or cold

Have you been exposed to any of the above in the past?

Does anyone in your household come in contact with metals, dust, fibers, chemicals, fumes, radiation, or biological materials?

Do you know what kinds of metals, fibers, chemicals, fumes, or radiation you were exposed to? Did any of the materials get on your skin or clothing?

Are your work clothes washed at home?

Can you smell any of the chemicals or materials you work with at your job? Do you need to use protective equipment, such as gloves or masks?

Do you wash your hands with solvents?

Do you smoke or eat in your workplace?

Are any of your coworkers or family members experiencing unusual symptoms?

Have any pets had a change in health or behavior?

Do your symptoms get better or worse at home, at work, on weekends, or while on vacation?

Is your workplace poorly ventilated?

Questions about your home environment

  • Do you live near an industrial plant, dump, commercial business, or nonresidential property?
  • Which of the following do you have in your home?
    • Air conditioner, purifier, or humidifier
    • Fireplace or woodstove
    • Gas or oil heating
    • Gas or electric stove
  • Have you recently remodeled, installed new carpet, or refinished furniture?
  • Can you see efflorescence on the walls? Efflorescence—a white, powdery or crystalline substance that accumulates on the surface of concrete, plaster, or masonry—can be a good first sign of the presence of moisture that can lead to mold growth.
  • Do you use pesticides or herbicides, such as bug and weed killers, flea and tick sprays, collars, powders or shampoos, in your home or garden or on your pets?
  • Do you work on your car or have a hobby or craft that you do at home?
  • Do you get your drinking water from a private well, city water supply, or grocery store?
  • When was your home built?

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Peter Rabinowitz, MD, MPH - Occupational and Environmental Medicine
Last Revised September 23, 2011

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