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Environmental hazards surround us. However, with awareness and knowledge, we can easily prevent these hazards from adversely affecting our health. Below is information on commonly asked about hazards, along with resources to help you reduce your risk.
Dry conditions in Idaho increase the potential for wildfires in or near wilderness areas. Stay alert for wildfire warnings and take action to protect yourself and your family from wildfire smoke. Learn More
Rabies infection is virtually 100% fatal in people and animals, without timely medical intervention. Medical attention should be sought promptly for anyone that suspects they may have been exposed to rabies. Seek veterinary care promptly if you suspect your pet has been exposed to a rabid animal, even if your pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date.
Bats are the natural reservoir for rabies in Idaho. However, bats are not the only animal to worry about; all mammals have the potential to become infected with and transmit the virus under the right circumstances. Bites are considered the primary way rabies is transmitted. Other exposures that could also be considered high risk for infection include contacting nervous tissue (brain or spinal cord) from a potentially rabid animal or waking in a room with a bat, without having a clear idea of the bat’s behavior during the night.
In Idaho, the Idaho Bureau of Laboratories is the only facility that tests animals for rabies.
What should I do if I may have or have come into contact with a bat?
If you are bitten or scratched by an animal that could be carrying the virus, washing the wound thoroughly with soap and water is one of the most effective ways to decrease your chance of infection. Then contact your medical provider.
If contact was made or potentially made with a bat (you awakened and found a bat in your room or in the room of an unattended child, or see a bat near a mentally impaired or intoxicated person), you should try to safely capture the bat and have it tested, as the small teeth of the bat can make a bite difficult to find.
To contact public health in Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley counties during regular business hours (M-F 8 am-5 pm) , please call the CDHD Epidemiology Department at 208-327-8625. If it is after hours, please call Idaho State Communications and a staff member will be paged: 1-800-632-8000
Bed bug infestations usually occur around or near the areas where people sleep. These areas include apartments, shelters, rooming houses, hotels, cruise ships, buses, trains, and dorm rooms. They hide during the day in places such as seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, inside cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, or any other clutter or objects around a bed. Bed bugs are not known to spread disease. Bed bugs can be an annoyance because their presence may cause itching and loss of sleep. Sometimes the itching can lead to excessive scratching that can sometimes increase the chance of a secondary skin infection. Learn More
Lead is a metal found naturally in the environment as well as in manufactured products. It is one of six "criteria pollutants" for which EPA has established protective standards. It is an element that can have serious health implications, especially for children. These resources will provide you with information you need on protecting your children from lead exposure.
Mercury is a naturally occurring metal found in the environment as well as in manufactured products. In its elemental form it appears as a liquid at room temperatures. It becomes an environmental hazard when people come in contact with its vapors after breaking a thermometer or other device containing elemental mercury.
A form of Mercury also accumulates in fish, which can pose a danger to children and pregnant women. The State of Idaho has therefore initiated a Fish Consumption Advisory to inform the public about the problem.
Below are resources to help you understand the dangers of mercury, what to do with mercury-containing products at home, work or at school, and the Fish Consumption Advisory.
There is always some amount mold — in the air and on many surfaces. Molds have been on the Earth for millions of years. Mold grows where there is moisture.
Exposure to damp and moldy environments may cause a variety of health effects, or none at all. Some people are sensitive to molds. For these people, molds can cause nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, eye irritation, or, in some cases, skin irritation.
The links below include information on mold and its health effects, and how you can control mold in your home.
Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the natural breakdown of uranium found in most rocks and soil. In some cases, well water may be a source of radon. You cannot see it, smell it or taste it. When outdoors, radon mixes with fresh air and is usually diluted to low levels. However, once inside an enclosed building, such as a home or school, radon can build up to high levels.
Environmental Health Department