Before you get your britches in a wad about indoor mold and the detrimental health affects you may face with this latest invasion, let me add to your anxiety – or at least your list of things to do around the house.
Mold, while providing really big payoffs to infected consumers right now (as well as lining some aggressive attorney’s pockets – but that’s another column) is not the only environmental attack you may be facing in your home. Long before mold became the buzz word in real estate circles, there have been environmental concerns for homeowners.
Real estate professionals are attending training sessions in droves to find out what they need to know about in-home mold. In a nutshell, the mold problem is really a moisture problem. Without moisture, there is no mold. You can find plenty of information on the web about mold and ways to take care of it. Below I’ve listed other hazards that have always been with us, but I fear may get less attention because they haven’t created big headlines about really large monetary awards from lawsuits. Nevertheless, many of them can cause as much health risk – even death.
Radon: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency blames this invisible gas for thousands of deaths each year due to lung cancer. The gas radiates from concentrations of uranium in the soil. The average indoor radon level is 1.3 picocuries per liter (pcl) in the U.S. A house has a Radon problem if the measurement reaches above 4 pcl.
Lead: Houses and apartments built before 1978, more than likely, have high levels of lead because of the lead-based paint used then. Chips and paint dust with lead can harm children, the elderly and pregnant women if precautions are not taken. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires that individuals receive certain information before renting, buying, or renovating pre-1978 housing. For the federally mandated brochure warning about lead, visit www.hud.gov.
Asbestos: Again, homes built before 1978 may have asbestos present in various forms. The American Lung Association says the mineral fiber can only be positively identified with a special type of microscope. The fiber was added to a variety of products years ago to strengthen them and to provide heat insulation and fire resistance. Visit the following site for guidelines on what to do if asbestos is present in your home: Click here
Water Quality: The one area that carries a lot of pollutants that most homeowners don’t think much about is our drinking water. The Environmental Protection Agency has a great site about water Click Here. Though the U.S. has the safest water supply in the world, there are still plenty of ways it can become polluted – industrial and agricultural run off, natural occurring pollutants and even byproducts from chemicals used to disinfect water.
Carbon Monoxide: Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, and poisonous gas that results from the incomplete combustion of fuels such as natural or liquefied petroleum (LP) gas, oil, wood, coal, and other fuels. If you use natural gas as a heating source or to operate appliances, it would be wise to have CO detectors in your home. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has plenty of information about this device. See their web site at www.cpsc.gov for more information.
A good home inspector is the first place to start for testing for many of the hazards above. If they don’t conduct some of the tests for these environmental hazards, they may have referrals of environmental testing organizations in your area.