Home Health Hazards

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Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are small insects that live on the blood of humans or animals. Bed bugs are a nuisance, but they do not transmit disease.

People carry bed bugs on them as they travel from place to place. They can hide in:

  • Luggage
  • Clothes
  • Bedding
  • Furniture
  • Small spaces

People can unknowingly transport bed bugs and infest new areas, including their homes.

You can identify a bed bug infestation by bite marks on your body. These bite marks may take as long as 14 days to develop. For information on how to get rid of bed bugs, contact the Wauwatosa Health Department.

Head Lice

Head lice are parasitic insects that can be found on the head, eyebrows, and eyelashes of people. Head lice are a nuisance, but do not spread disease. Domestic pets do not carry lice. Symptoms include:

  • Feeling of something moving in the hair
  • Irritability
  • Sleeplessness
  • Sores on the head caused by scratching

Lice are treatable with commercial brand pesticides that are safe for humans to use.

Head lice outbreaks are common among children. However, research shows that school-wide screenings for head lice is not efficient nor cost-effective. Policies that require a child to be free of nits before they can return to school are not recommended.

West Nile Virus

West Nile Virus is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. Although very few mosquitoes carry West Nile Virus, infected birds serve as an early warning that the virus is present in the area and that people should be more vigilant in protecting themselves against mosquito bites.


Radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas that you can’t see, smell, or taste, but may be in your home. It comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water and gets into the air you breathe. Radon has been found in all Wauwatosa zip codes.

There are simple ways to fix a radon problem. Even very high levels can be reduced to acceptable levels. Testing is the only way to know if there is a radon risk. Testing is inexpensive and easy. Home radon testing kits are available from the Wauwatosa Health Department, hardware stores, and the Southeastern Radon Information Center.



Many houses and apartments built before 1978 have paint that contains lead. Over 98% of the homes in Wauwatosa were built before 1978. Lead from paint can pose serious health hazards if not taken care of.

Adults exposed to lead can:

  • Become irritable
  • Have reduced coordination
  • Experience damage to their organs and nerves

However, lead's effects on children are worse. Children are involved in more hand-to-mouth activities and lead is absorbed by their bodies more easily. A child's developing nervous system is more easily harmed by lead.


All children ages 1-5 years should have a blood test to determine their exposure to lead. Contact your health care provider for this screening. If you do not have insurance to cover this, contact the Wauwatosa Health Department.

Reduce Your Risk

WHD has certified lead risk assessors to answer your questions regarding lead hazards, safe remodeling practices, and children's health issues related to lead. Staff conduct environmental assessments in homes and work with the families to monitor children's health and prevent future lead poisonings.

HEPA Vacuum Rental Program

High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) vacuums are available for rent at WHD. HEPA vacuums have special filtering systems which trap lead dust. To rent a HEPA vacuum, contact the Wauwatosa Health Department.

Weatherization Program

WHD offers a weatherization program that funds the removal of lead components in homes built prior to 1978. To qualify, you must meet certain housing and income criteria. Contact the Wauwatosa Health Department for more information.

Lead Disclosure

Federal and state law requires that individuals receive certain information before renting, buying, or renovating pre-1978 housing. For more information, contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Clean Indoor AirNo Smoking Icon

Smoke-Free Air Law

Wisconsin no longer allows smoking in public places, like restaurants, workplaces, sports arenas, and daycare centers.

Wisconsin Act 12, the "statewide smoke-free workplaces law" became effective on July 5, 2010.

Questions and Complaints

To ask a question or to file a complaint, contact the Wauwatosa Health Department.

We investigate complaints that pose a potential public health threat. In addition to the hazards above, examples include:

  • Dog waste
  • Substandard living conditions
  • Flooded basements
  • Lack of operating plumbing and/or heating
  • Hazardous waste





Clean Indoor Air


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