Toxins to Watch Out for in Your New Home
Moving can be stressful with so many boxes and so little time. Getting each room to reflect your personality in just the right way is a perfectionist’s nightmare. There is so much to keep track of when moving that, inevitably, things are going to fall through the cracks. What’s most important though is to not let your health fall by the wayside. Americans spend an average of 90 percent of their time indoors, so it’s imperative to make sure your new home is safe from environmental toxins.
Asbestos is a known carcinogen that was widely used in construction throughout the United States. If the home you’re moving into was built between 1930 and 1980 you should be aware of the potential health risks related to asbestos exposure. Inhaling the microscopic asbestos fibers may eventually lead to the development of a rare and aggressive cancer called mesothelioma, the disease may develop in the lining of the lungs, heart, or abdomen.
The mineral was used in numerous housing materials and can be found in ceiling/floor tiles, piping, insulation, wallpaper, and cement. If your new home was built before 1980 it would be in your best interest to hire a licensed asbestos professional to inspect the space for possible issues with materials. It might cost a couple hundred dollars to perform testing, but taking precautionary measures now may help you avoid a preventable battle with cancer.
Radon is an odorless, tasteless and invisible gas that, according to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office, is the cause of as many as 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year. Radon is a natural byproduct caused by the breakdown of uranium in the soil, and enters the home through cracks in a home or building’s foundation. The radon then gets trapped inside where it accumulates and can lead to radon poisoning. Nearly one out of every 15 homes in the United States is estimated to have elevated radon levels. Contact your state’s radon office to see if elevated levels of radon gas have been found near you. You can also buy a DIY radon test kit or hire a certified radon specialist to test your space to see if the gas is present.
Lead is a very serious concern. Homes built before 1978 are likely to harbor lead-based paint. If in good shape, lead paint is usually not a hazard, but poses an immediate cause for concern if it’s peeling, chipping, cracking, or damaged. It can also be a hazard for children if flaking paint is found on surfaces they come into contact with. Windows, window sills, doors, door frames, stairs, railings, banisters, and porches should all be inspected carefully for issues. If issues are found, try to address the problem without excessive sanding. Sanding the area may create lead paint dust, so wet the area first and clean up thoroughly to prevent exposure. To learn more about the dangers of lead check out the EPA’s website.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas produced from burning fuel in cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, or furnaces. Gases can build up indoors, poison people and animals who breathe it in. Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning not linked to fires, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized. CO symptoms are often described as “flu-like,” the most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. Make sure your home is equipped with carbon monoxide detectors, including one placed in an area where it will wake you up if it alarms, such as outside your bedroom. Consider buying a detector with a digital readout. This detector can tell you the highest level of CO concentration in your home in addition to alarming. Carbon monoxide detectors should be replaced every five years.
Being mindful of the potential toxins in your new home can help ensure a long happy and healthy life in your new digs.