November 3, 2017

The "Things You Should Know" blog series covers home health, safety, and comfort information that homeowners and renters should know, but might not. Email your topic suggestions to qkorzeniecki@bpi.org.

We all know pests in our homes are a bad thing. As we head into fall, the number of insects indoors should decrease, but the colder weather will force more rodents to forage for food and shelter inside your home. This post will discuss the effects of mice and other pests on your home and your health.

Effects pests can have on your home

Researchers from North Carolina State University visited 50 homes in the Raleigh area to research the biodiversity of insects in U.S. homes. They found that we could share our homes with over 500 different kinds of spiders, mites, and centipedes! In addition to insects, rodents and other mammals could find their way into your walls and basement. These critters pose the following threats to the stability of your home:

  • According to the National Pest Management Association, termites and other insects cause over $5 billion in damage to homes in the United States every year. Many homeowner’s insurance policies won’t cover the cost of these damages, so regular inspections are recommended.
  • Rats and mice damage insulation and wiring in walls and attics as they build their nests. Similarly, squirrels have been known to chew holes in soffits and siding to gain access to attics. A common theory is that rats, mice, and squirrels are to blame for many of the nation’s mysterious house fires.
  • There are specific times of year that infestations are likely to affect your home: April is for ants, May is for moths, June is woodworm month, July is for flying ants, August is wasp month, and rodents make their appearance in October and November.

Effects pests can have on your health

While these pests can destroy parts of your home, they can also pose serious health threats. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in conjunction with federal pesticide law, has listed and described the threats that certain domestic pests pose, and what health issues are prevented by controlling these pest populations. These threats include the following for each pest population:

  • All pests leave behind fecal matter and shed skin that can go airborne and contaminate the air you and your family breathe.
  • Common pests such as cockroaches and mosquitoes spread asthma, allergy, and food contamination illnesses. Other insects can easily slip through cracks in the walls and bring in their bacteria.
  • Rodents are particularly harmful, in that they contaminate the areas in which they search for food. Mice dribble urine as they scurry around your home, meaning they are constantly spreading diseases they could be carrying. Examples of diseases found in household mice and other rodents include: salmonella, E. coli, and Lyme Disease.

How to prevent pest infestation and its related health issues

While you’ll likely never be able to completely eliminate the presence of pests, there are steps you can take to try and prevent an infestation:

  • Tighten it up. Store all food in airtight containers to prevent critters from getting in and contaminating your food sources. Be sure that your trash can has a tight lid. In terms of your home in general, tighten up the building envelope by filling in cracks and holes in your walls, foundation, and vents. This could prevent pests from getting inside.
  • Keep it dry and clean. Be sure to fix any leaking pipes or appliances to prevent standing water, which could attract many different types of pests. By cleaning your countertops, floors, and tables regularly, you can both prevent food buildup that attracts mice and other insects, and eliminate any harmful waste from those that have traveled through in the past. Vacuum often to eliminate pests and their eggs.

While you might not have over 500 different types of pests in your home, odds are pretty high that you have some. To keep yourself, your family, and your home happy and healthy, stay vigilant about preventing infestation. To learn more about the health of your home, you can hire a BPI Healthy Home Evaluator to analyze your indoor air quality, the effects pests have on your home, and more.

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Quinn Korzeniecki

Quinn Korzeniecki joined the Building Performance Institute, Inc. team as the Senior Communications Associate in August 2015. As a new first-time homeowner herself, she enjoys sharing information on how other homeowners can not only save money and energy by being efficient, but can also keep themselves and their families safe and healthy in the process.