Homeowners Guide to Environmental Hazards
We go to the gym, eat healthy and organic foods, and do everything we can to lead a healthy lifestyle. Or do we? Are we paying attention to possible environmental hazards in our homes?
If more than 80% of all homes contain at least one environmental hazard, the chances are great that we will be exposed to several toxins such as lead, mold, radon, asbestos, and volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which are toxic fumes off-gassed from manmade materials.
So what can we do to be our healthiest?
1. Check for Mold.
Mold is a homeowners’ nightmare. Not only does it wreak havoc with the home’s physical structure, it also can significantly affect your health. Mold can impact your respiratory system and cause sneezing; runny or stuffy nose; wheezing; acute cough; itchy eyes, nose and throat; postnasal drip; watery eyes; asthma; and even rashes.
Where is mold found?
Mold is often found under sinks in the bathroom, on basement walls, in crawl spaces, and in other areas that are generally hidden, such as under carpets and behind wallboard. If you’ve had a leak or flooding, the chances that you have mold are significant, some of which may be hidden from view. Mold can form in as little as 24-48 hours.
What can you do about mold?
If you have a musty smell in your home, see visible mold, had a water intrusion, or suspect that mold may be causing health issues, have your home tested by an independent environmental inspector. He will give you unbiased results and a blueprint for mold remediation. Once remediation is complete, you should have clearance testing done to ensure the mold was properly removed and is no longer a health hazard.
2. Check for Lead
Contrary to popular belief, lead poisoning doesn’t just occur in rundown urban areas. In fact, it’s predominant in suburban areas (where most homeowners don’t have property managers who know about this stuff!). Lead poisoning can be devastating.
Where is lead found?
Lead is a toxic heavy metal that can be found in old paint, dust, old pipes, water, soil, and plumbing fixtures, among others. Lead is commonly found on windowsills, walls, banisters, and quite often on a home’s exterior. Sanding, improper renovations, and scraping old paint often lead to lead poisoning. Even the act of putting a nail into a wall that contains lead paint can release toxic lead dust. And that can be dangerous. A speck of lead dust the size of a grain of sand is enough to poison a child and cause irreversible neurological damage.
Lead poisoning symptoms include irritability, learning difficulties, weight loss and loss of appetite, abdominal pain, constipation, vomiting, headaches, sluggishness and fatigue, ADHD, violent behavior, and autism-like symptoms. Lead poisoning is irreversible, however it is 100% preventable.
What can you do about lead?
If undisturbed and sealed, lead does not pose a serious health threat. But if you live in a home built before 1978 and are planning to have or already have had renovation work, or your home contains older plumbing, have your home, water, and soil tested for lead. A lead inspection will pinpoint where lead is present, and guide you on the proper next steps to take, if any.
3. Check Indoor Air Quality
Suffering from allergies, headaches, fatigue, or cold/flu like symptoms? They may actually be caused by indoor air pollution. Often, indoor air can be up to 100 times more polluted than outside air. This is bad news for the majority of people, as we spend most of our time indoors.
What causes poor indoor air quality?
High levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and unhealthy levels of mold spores cause most indoor air quality issues. VOCs and other toxic fumes can be found in paints, solvents, cleansers, carpets, disinfectants, air fresheners, glue, home furnishings, and building materials.
What can you do about poor indoor air quality?
Have your indoor air quality tested. RTK Environmental Group’s Indoor Air Quality testing services check for VOCs, mold, carbon monoxide, radon, PCBs, and common allergens. Our investigators usually determine the root causes of your air quality problems, and provide you a detailed report with recommendations on how to resolve any issues. Once mitigation is complete, we can verify the situation was successfully resolved.
4. Check for Asbestos
Asbestos is a carcinogen that can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis and other serious respiratory ailments. The most dangerous asbestos fibers are too small to be seen. Once inhaled, they lodge in the lungs forever. Many countries have banned the use of asbestos outright, but several, including the United States, still employ its use.
Where is asbestos found?
Asbestos is found mostly in older homes and factories, and can be highly dangerous and even deadly if disturbed. The most common places to find asbestos in the home are in 9”x9” tiles, popcorn ceilings, and pipe insulation. However, thousands of building materials were manufactured with asbestos including insulation, floor and ceiling tiles, adhesives, roof shingles, siding, textured ceilings and joint compounds. Over time, these materials degrade or are disturbed and their asbestos fibers are released.
What can you do about asbestos?
Asbestos testing by a certified professional can help homeowners and commercial property owners identify potential risks prior to purchase or renovation.
5. Check for Radon: The second leading cause of lung cancer
Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, is extremely hazardous to your health. It is an odorless, tasteless and invisible gas produced when uranium naturally decays in soil and water. Because 90 percent of the land in the Northeast and a majority of the Mid-Atlantic states is likely to have elevated radon levels, every home should be tested for radon at least every five years, an important part of Indoor Air Quality tests.
What can you do about radon?
Radon is easily managed with a radon mitigation system – if you know it is there. The only way to know if you have a radon issue is to have your home tested for radon.
Having a healthy home should be a priority in your healthy lifestyle. Call RTK to set up an environmental inspection for your home. Live well!