As you know, I am very interested in health – for both bodies and homes. Unfortunately, some of the biggest burdens to your health are the ones lurking out of sight. A house is meant to be a haven, a safe place where your comfort is a priority. But toxins may exist, unseen and undetected, behind the walls. Home safety inspections, including testing for toxins, should be part of your home investment process, and, if needed, outdated materials should be removed by professionals. Three toxins are threats to good health: asbestos, radon, and lead.
Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral made up of microscopic fibers. It was once considered a miracle mineral for building projects, and was ideal for construction work due to its natural abundance, insulative values, and high resistance to heat and chemicals. But builders at the time were unaware of the popular mineral’s harmful effects.
Asbestos gained popularity and was used in a variety of materials, all the while introducing the carcinogen into households around the globe. Here is a list of building materials that include asbestos. Depending on the age of the structure, many of these materials may still be in use and capable of subjecting others to exposure.
Exposure to asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma cancer. This rare disease, directly linked to asbestos, develops in the lungs, heart, or abdomen decades after exposure and often carries a poor prognosis.
Homes built before 1980 have the highest chance of containing asbestos. Asbestos was used in building materials and consumer goods until the 1970s. Modern use of the mineral has fallen dramatically due to federal regulations prohibiting certain applications.
Asbestos use and exposure were highest in California, Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, and Texas.
2,400 – 2,800 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the United States each year.
Mesothelioma symptoms can take upwards of 50 years to appear. Symptoms of mesothelioma often look like those of other diseases, which can lead to misdiagnosis.
Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas. You cannot see, smell or taste radon in the home, and it is the second-leading cause of lung cancer.
20,000 lung cancer deaths are caused each year by radon.
Radon testing is the only way to know your home’s true radon levels. There are no immediate symptoms that will alert you to its presence.
Elevated radon levels have been discovered in every U.S. state. One in five homes has elevated radon levels.
If your home or prospective home was built before 1978, there is a good chance it harbors lead-based paint (further information on California lead laws here). In 1978, the federal government banned consumer paints containing lead.
Lead-contaminated dust is one of the most common causes of lead poisoning. The older the home, the more likely it is to contain lead-based paints.
Lead paint is still present in millions of homes, often hidden under layers of newer paint. was used in some water service lines and household plumbing materials.
Ways to make your home lead safe.
If you have questions about toxins in your current or new home, give me a call!