Can I Get Sick From Cleaning My Attic?

If you’re like many people, your attic is not the most regularly tended to part of your residence. Indeed, like most people, you may have a few items stored in your attic. Beyond that, you may have spent a bit of time in your attic if you were having insulation installed. Even though you spend little time dealing with or considering your attic as a general rule, the day may come when you feel the need to clean that space. For example, you may have experienced some type of pest infestation that was dealt with and you now face the need to undertake an attic cleanup. As you contemplate cleaning your attic, you may have some questions about this process. Among these questions, you may wonder whether it’s possible to get sick from cleaning your attic.

There are in fact a number of potential health hazards associated with cleaning your attic on your own and without professional assistance. These include being exposed to diseases carried by pests that can infest an attic, including rodents and insects. In addition, depending on the age of your home and the timing in which insulation was placed in your attic, you might encounter substances that are now known to be capable of causing disease in people. Asbestos insulation is an example of such a substance that can be present in some attics. Finally, although not something that makes you sick per se, cleaning an attic can present the prospect for physical injuries.

Common Types of Pests That Invade Attics

The types of pests that can invade an attic depend at least to some degree as to where a person lives. With that said, the types of pests that most commonly infest attics in California and in many other locations in the United States include:

  • Roaches
  • Ants
  • Spiders
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Racoons
  • Bats
  • Squirrels

Rodents and Disease

As mentioned previously in this article, rodents are capable of spreading different types of diseases. Rats and mice and even squirrels are known to nest in attics. Thus, you face a two-prong problem when mice or rats, or another rodent, decides to call your attic home. First, you need to eradicate the rodents themselves. Second, you need to cleanup the aftermath of the rodent infestation.

Rodent droppings are capable of carrying disease, including salmonella and hantavirus. Although historically salmonella caused unpleasant illness, it was treatable and nearly always survivable. Only individuals who were very young or rather old or had compromised immune systems would face the prospect of serious illness and the remote prospect of death if infected by salmonella. In the past six months, a drug-resistant strain of salmonella has been discovered infecting people in the United States. This type of salmonella is very difficult to treat and raises the fatality rate among those infected.

Hantavirus is not a commonplace pathogen at this juncture in time. However, if a person contracts hantavirus, serious and even fatal health problems are apt to be on the horizon. Hantavirus can result in what is known as hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, an illness with a fatality rate of about 35 percent.

Hantavirus presents heightened risk to a person intent on cleaning an attic. If the virus exists in rodent droppings, it is capable for surviving for a considerable period of time after droppings dry out. When rodent feces dry out, the crumble very easily. This can cause hantavirus to become airborne. A person cleaning rodent droppings infected with hantavirus can cause the virus to become airborne. In the absence of personal protective equipment designed to protect against biohazards, an individual cleaning an attic might inhale dust containing live hantavirus. In addition, the virus might spread throughout the residence via the HVAC system and ductwork in a home.

Asbestos and Disease

If your attic contains asbestos in the insulation, the cleaning process might cause the disturbance of the asbestos. This can cause asbestos threads or particles to become airborne. If inhaled, asbestos has the potential for causing permanent damage to the lungs. This can include the development of a type of cancer known as malignant mesothelioma.

Professional Attic Cleaning

There are a number of reasons why you can be well served seeking the assistance of a professional when it comes to attic cleaning. An experienced attic cleaning company is experienced with safe and thorough rodent dropping cleanup. A rodent dropping cleanup company has the resources necessary to thoroughly eliminate this type of waste in an attic, as well as to address other types of situations.

Unrelated to the rodent dropping cleanup and other types of attic cleaning objectives, if you’ve asbestos in your attic that you want eliminated, specially licensed professionals exist for this type of undertaking. You should not attempt the removal of attic on your own because of the health risks you present to yourself and others.