P8220002The Community Hygiene Program is responsible for ensuring that residents live in an environment that is clean and free from disease. Our Program focuses on five main areas listed below, but may become involved in other environmental health issues

not handled by the other Programs in the Bureau.

 If you have concerns about air quality, open burning (burn permits), noise pollution, underground or above ground storage tanks, landfills, pet stores, or anything else related to the environment and your health you may contact us for more information. Please call 410-313-1773 or toll free at 1-866-313-6300 Or you may send an e-mail to askhealth@howardcountymd.gov

To report nuisance conditions or potential health issues you have observed, fill out the Health Related Issues Complaint Form or contact 410-313-1772. For after hours emergencies you may call Howard County Communications at 410-313-2929.


January is Radon Awareness Month

You can’t see, smell or taste radon, but it could be present at a dangerous level in your home. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers in America and claims the lives of about 21,000 Americans each year. In fact, the EPA and the U.S. Surgeon General urge all Americans to protect their health by testing their homes for radon. 

Exposure to radon is a preventable health risk and testing radon levels in your home can help prevent unnecessary exposure. If a high radon level is detected in your home, you can take steps to fix the problem to protect yourself and your family. Radon Action Month - Photo of a house.

Radon forms naturally. Uranium in soil or rock breaks down to form radium, which then turns into radon gas. Once formed, radon enters a home through cracks in walls, basement floors, foundations and other openings. As radon decays, it releases radioactive byproducts that are inhaled and can cause lung cancer. Because radon comes from rock and soil, it can be found anywhere. Exposure to limited concentrations, like those found outdoors, is impossible to avoid. However, when radon gets trapped indoors, it may exist in dangerous concentrations.

There are several ways to protect you and your family from the dangers of radon gas.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that testing on a home should be done:

  1. If you have never tested before
  2. If you are selling your home, or buying a home, and no current test results are available (within 2 years)
  3. If you have had renovations done on the home (best to test before and after renovating)
  4. If use of a certain level of the home will be increasing, and no testing has been done on that level
  5. After radon remediation work has been completed.

If you have an existing home with elevated levels of radon, you can fix the problem by having a radon mitigation system installed. A radon mitigation system consists of a vent pipe, fan and the proper sealing of cracks. This system collects radon gas from underneath the foundation and vents it to the outside of your home. If you need to have a radon mitigation system installed, it is best to contact a certified radon mitigation professional to do the installation.  A list of certified professionals can usually be obtained by contacting your state radon program.

If you are building a new home, ask your contractor to install radon-resistant features. These features include gravel and plastic sheeting below the foundation, along with proper sealing of cracks and the installation of a vent pipe. Once the radon-resistant features have been installed and the home is completely built, make sure to perform a radon test, as the levels could still be elevated. If the radon levels are still elevated, a radon fan should be added to the system to lower the radon level.

Detailed information about radon reduction in your home or building can be found in EPA's Consumer's Guide to Radon Reduction

(Information Courtesy of the American Lung Association)

Radon Resources:

Rodent Control

Rats and mice are not only a nuisance but can also cause property damage and transmit diseases.  The resources below should help to get rid of rodents near and in your home or business.  

Rabies Prevention
two vet techs with a dog on an exam table

Rabies is a disease which is fatal if not prevented. The Community Hygiene Program is responsible for ensuring that people and pets that have been exposed to the rabies virus are treated immediately, and that further exposure does not occur.
Please visit our Rabies Prevention Information page for more information

Complaint Investigation

Many times the only way we are aware of potential health risks is when a citizen contacts our Program to report a concern. When reports of unhealthy or unsafe conditions are received a Environmental Health Specialist investigates to determine if further action should be taken.

The Health Department may require the owner or occupant of a property to take action if a nuisance condition exists. A nuisance is any condition that poses an actual or potential threat to health, or interferes with another’s proper use or enjoyment of their property. To find the law regarding nuisances in Howard County, please view: Howard County Code, Title 12.110 Nuisances

If you would like to report a situation that you feel may be a nuisance condition, you may click here or you may also contact our office by phone at the number listed at the bottom of this page.

Healthy Swimming

Howard County has over 4000 public and private swimming pools. Pollution and disease can result from swimming pools that are not regularly maintained. Standing water can lead to increased mosquito populations, mold, various water-related diseases, and accidental drownings.

Our Program inspects over 200 public and semi-public pools and spas in Howard County to ensure they are well maintained. During routine inspections we work with private and commercial pool management companies to monitor the quality of the water, how the facility is being run, and general safety issues for swimmers.

The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (revised 2014) provides the current guidelines for swimming pool and spa entrapment hazards and protective barriers and requires that all public pool and spas in operation be in compliance with these guidelines. Owners of residential pools are strongly encouraged to comply with these guidelines as well. The Howard County Health Department, State of Maryland, along with pool contractors and professionals, all work to ensure that all licensed county pools remain as safe as possible. We encourage all concerned to become familiar with these requirements and regulations. You may visit the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website at www.cpsc.gov, or contact our office for further information.

Pool Operators

In addition, we license all swimming pool operators in Howard County. If you intend to operate a public or semi-public swimming pool, you must have passed a recognized and approved pool operator course. In addition you must submit a Howard County Pool Operator Application. Complete instructions are included in the application.

Safe Drinking Water

Protecting the water you drink is a shared responsibility between you and all agencies that work with drinking water sources. The Federal, State, and Local government each have agencies that watch over your water by establishing water quality standards for contaminants that may harm you. Regular maintenance and testing of your water supply is up to you!

In Howard County, our Program is responsible for collecting samples from water wells to be tested for contaminants. All water samples collected by the Health Department are sent to a State lab in Baltimore City for analysis. While there is often a fee for the testing, we do not charge any fees for collecting the samples.


In the summer of 2005, the Health Department identified certain areas of Howard County that may be at risk for radium contamination in their well water. At that time, a letter entitled “Radionuclides & Your Well Water: A Homeowner's Guide" was sent to all residents who live within the suspected area. We continue to collect initial samples for existing homes in this area free of charge.  Testing for new homes and other non-residential uses may be subject to charges.

If you live within the radium area and would like to schedule an appointment to have your water tested, please contact us at 410-313-1773 or askhealth@howardcountymd.gov.  

For concerns or questions about installing or repairing a drinking water well please visit the Well and Septic Program webpage.