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Don’t Skip the First Step When Renovating a Home: Comprehensive Environmental Testing

Renovating a home can dramatically improve its comfort and aesthetics, but people often don’t think about what might be lurking behind the walls, ceilings or under the floors. So, it’s crucial to find out if any environmental issues or hazards exist, then address them before renovating begins. Hidden dangers such as the presence of lead, asbestos, and mold can pose significant health risks if disturbed or improperly managed while renovating and after.

The Hidden Dangers of Asbestos in Renovations

Asbestos, a once-common building material known for its durability and fire resistance, can still be found in many homes built before 1980. Commonly used in insulation, walls, floor and ceiling tiles, and fireproofing materials, asbestos is hazardous when disturbed.

Health Effects of Asbestos
If asbestos fibers are released into the air during renovations, they can lead to severe health issues, including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. And while the latency period for these diseases can be extensive, often taking 15–40 years to manifest, it is still crucially important to protect against it.

Conduct an Asbestos Survey
Before any renovation or demolition, conduct an asbestos survey. This survey will determine if materials containing asbestos are present. If so, plan for their safe removal to prevent airborne contamination. Even minor renovations, such as installing a ceiling fan or updating a bathroom, can disturb asbestos and that can have serious implications.

Mold Contamination: A Pervasive Issue

Mold spores are ubiquitous in the environment but become a problem when they find moist conditions conducive for growth. Areas under sinks, behind walls, or beneath floorboards commonly host mold spores. Anywhere there’s moisture the opportunity for mold exists. During renovations, disturbing these areas can spread the spores through HVAC systems, potentially contaminating the entire house.

If you notice musty odors or suspect water damage, it’s critically important to test for mold before proceeding with renovations. Discovering mold early can start the process for professional remediation or DIY removal following strict EPA guidelines, which involve specialized equipment and safety measures to prevent cross-contamination.

The Perils of Lead Found in Older Paint

In homes built before 1978, the presence of lead paint is a common concern. Sanding or cutting into painted surfaces can release lead dust, which is harmful if inhaled or ingested, leading to lead poisoning, causing severe neurological damage, among other health issues.

A speck of lead dust the size of a grain of sand can poison a child. Improper renovations can spread lead dust throughout a home and even outdoors, contaminating the soil near your home as well, which can also leach into your water supply.

Before starting any work, whether it’s a major remodel or a simpler task like hanging a fan, test for lead. If lead is present, follow the EPA Lead Safe work practices as outlined in the Renovation, Repair, and Painting Program (RRP). These practices are crucial to protect your health and prevent the spread of lead dust during renovations.

Expert Insights on Environmental Testing

Robert Weitz, founder of RTK Environmental, emphasizes the importance of environmental inspections before renovations. “We’ve seen so many renovation projects go awry because the homeowner didn’t start with an environmental inspection,” says Weitz. Identifying hazards like mold, lead, and asbestos upfront can prevent costly remediation and help ensure safe indoor air quality throughout the renovation process.

For homeowners planning renovations, taking the time to conduct thorough environmental testing is not just about compliance—it’s about ensuring the health and safety of everyone involved. By identifying and mitigating these risks before they become a problem, you can save on future costs and safeguard your home against potential disasters.

 

There has been a 300% increase in patients diagnosed with asthma over the past 20 years. (USA Weekend)

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