Harmful toxins to be mindful of in your home
Harmful toxins to be mindful of in your home
Whether you’re searching for a new house or just want to update your forever home, the unseen physical problems can, and will, impact your long-term wellbeing. Unfortunately, sometimes the most beautiful exteriors can be hiding a myriad of issues. There are endless things to consider when viewing a new house, or planning a remodel which can often lead to countless oversights. It’s critical to create and run through a checklist of the most common toxic culprits potentially hiding in your future or current home.
Plumbing leaks are often the main cause of mold in a home. Inexpensive building materials, especially those facing the exterior and potentially easy to puncture, can allow moisture to slowly and quietly seep into homes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mold is known to worsen respiratory illnesses, induce asthma attacks and irritate the eyes and nasal passages. Mold isn’t always visually noticeable either. Many harmful molds collect and grow in places beyond where you would expect to see it.
Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral that was heavily used in building materials and commercial products through the 1970s. Its use has decreased dramatically since then and under current federal regulations no more than 1% of asbestos can be included in any newly-manufactured building materials.
Homes built between 1930 and 1980 will probably contain some of this harmful mineral. Prior to federal regulations taking effect, the United States was consuming thousands of tons of asbestos annually. At its peak in 1973, the U.S. used more than 800,000 tons of the toxic mineral. Today, about half of all residential properties built before the regulations were enacted will contain the carcinogen. Unfortunately, asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma cancer, a disease that develops in the lining of the organs. Mesothelioma often presents itself decades after inhaling or ingesting the toxin and carries a poor prognosis.
A well-informed home inspector can identify and test for potential dangers hidden within specific building materials. This includes the presence of asbestos in insulation or formaldehyde in pressed wood products. Although it is not possible to visually identify most hazards, an inspector can provide insights into potential dangers based on the age of the home.
Radon is the most present and deadly home health issue. According to the EPA, about 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year can be linked to radon exposure.
A radon test can be performed using a relatively inexpensive at-home kit or by calling a professional. Regardless, this should be part of your personal home inspection. If elevated levels of radon are detected, the problem is an easy fix. Radon can be removed from the home using a pressurized system that keeps the toxin from seeping in through the foundation.
Paint companies began phasing out lead-based paints in 1951, years before a formal federal ban was issued in 1978. Because it’s no longer used, many people believe it’s a threat buried in the past. Sadly, lead exposure has been linked to loss of IQ and other developmental delays in children. In many states, homebuyers are warned about lead paint when they buy or rent a home. More often than not, they assume the risk is not serious if they don’t have young children. In addition to painted surfaces, lead can also be found in certain vinyl tiles, window coverings and even some plumbing fixtures.
If your prospective home was built prior to 1978, have it tested by a certified inspector.
Too often, homeowners are unaware they have a carbon monoxide problem because the dangerous gas is colorless, odorless and tasteless. Gas fireplaces, furnaces, generators and appliances cause most carbon monoxide (CO) leaks. Exposure can cause a range of flu-like symptoms, including headaches, dizziness and nausea. High levels of carbon monoxide exposure can be fatal. According to the CDC, more than 400 deaths per year are a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Make sure to install CO detectors and don’t ignore the annoying alarm. You should examine the seals around your doors and windows each year (especially if you have a home with an attached garage). Regularly check the lifecycle of your appliances, look for recalls and recommended service or part updates. Also be sure to inspect your heating and cooling systems annually.
Remember, it’s always important to be aware of what may be surrounding you in your home, not only to protect yourself but protect those around you. Educate yourself on what you can do to prevent a poor situation from occuring.