Exposure to asbestos, radon and other cancer-causing toxins can often go undetected for years. How to make sure there are no hidden toxins in your home?
Keeping your home clean and toxin-free is extremely important to maintaining a healthy life. It can sometimes surprise homeowners as to what kind of dangers may already be in their homes, even at the time of purchase.
As spring progresses, this is the perfect time of year to take stock of your home and make sure there are no hidden toxins that could potentially negatively impact the overall health of you and your family. While cleaning chemicals are often considered the most significant potential hazards, there are a number of toxins that can be in homes without the owner’s knowledge.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, many forms of indoor air pollution and poor air quality develop because of poor ventilation and a lack of outdoor and indoor air circulation. The result is a low air exchange rate that allows indoor pollutants to build up. Though this may commonly apply to fuel-burning heat sources like oil, gas and wood, and cigarette smoke, there are plenty of other chemicals and toxins that occur naturally or lurk within the walls of your home that you should also be wary of.
A known toxin and naturally occurring mineral, asbestos was used primarily in the years before the 1980s in many different household and construction products. For instance, it was used as insulation around pipes and furnaces because of its flame retardant properties. Unfortunately, it was also discovered that if asbestos products were disturbed and the fibers inhaled, a person was at risk of developing an asbestos-related disease like mesothelioma. Asbestos can typically be found in products such as drywall, wall/pipe insulation, and roofing/ceiling tiles.
Houses that were built or renovated before the 1980s may contain the toxic substance, but it should not be removed unless by a certified professional. If materials containing the carcinogen are in good condition and left undisturbed and undamaged, this poses little to no danger. But when the materials are damaged and allowed to break down, the nearly invisible fibers become airborne and pose significant long-term dangers to those who are subject to an accidental exposure to asbestos.
Like asbestos, radon occurs naturally from the breakdown of uranium beneath the earth’s surface. Also like asbestos, it is a known carcinogen and is the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers. There are certain areas that are more susceptible to additional radon exposure, and they can be found here.
Luckily, radon is easily tested for and reduced. Radon test kits can be purchased from most hardware stores. Taking the time to seal cracks in the foundation of your home will help slow the amount of radon entering your home while allowing for other means of mitigation to be more successful. If necessary, radon reduction systems may also be purchased to reduce radon exposure by up to 97 percent.
Mold is another tricky toxin that can easily pop up in any home. Usually found in spaces that are dark and damp, mold can quickly become a larger problem if left unattended. For the most part, when mold is present, people who are sensitive to molds may experience a wide range of problems, ranging from coughing and wheezing to skin and lung irritation in normally healthy people.
Most strains of mold are harmless and can be cleaned with some soap and water or a bleach solution, but it’s never a bad idea to see if it could potentially be harmful and the spores were released into the air. During the summer months, keeping fans and dehumidifiers running in traditionally damp places can help prevent mold from growing. Make sure your home is also properly ventilated and that any damage occurring to your home from flooding or damage to roofing and pipes is taken care of quickly.
The warmer spring and summer weather has many people coming out of the winter months with a long to-do list of pet projects they’d like to complete. But it’s vitally necessary to keep in mind the importance of living in a safe home environment and avoid possible exposure to asbestos and other carcinogens.
Exposure to asbestos, radon, and mold can often go undetected, only causing noticeable symptoms after a long period of time. If you suspect any of these environmental toxins in your home, contact a certified professional with any questions and concerns and to get the situation assessed.
Author Bio: Emily Walsh is a Community Outreach Director with the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, an organization that works to raise awareness for mesothelioma and other diseases caused by the exposure to asbestos.