With many of us spending more time at home than ever due to the coronavirus pandemic it is a good time to make sure your home is free of environmental hazards that can cause health issues. Radon, asbestos and lead are three highly toxic materials that could be present in your home, potentially putting your family’s health at risk.
Radon – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that radon – an odorless, invisible gas – causes thousands of cancer deaths each year in the U.S. It is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. Radon comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and permeates the air we breathe. Radon moves up through the ground to the air above and into homes through cracks and other holes in the foundation. The EPA recommends checking radon levels in your home at least every two years as radon levels fluctuate. DIY radon testing kits are widely available, or you can hire a professional to conduct the test. If you do your own test and it shows high levels of radon – anything above 4 pCi/L – schedule a walk-through with an EPA-licensed radon remediation specialist. The EPA has put together a comprehensive library of radon resources. To view, click here.
Asbestos – If your home was built before the 1980s there could be asbestos hiding in cement, floor tiles, insulation, pipes and walls. Asbestos is a natural mineral composed of thin fibers. When residential construction products made with asbestos are damaged those fibers become airborne, posing a potential danger to anyone who inhales the toxic dust. While exposure to small amounts of asbestos is unlikely to cause health problems prolonged exposure increases risks of lung disease and cancer. The American Cancer Society reports that most asbestos-related diseases are diagnosed at least 15 years after exposure. If you own an older home, you should take every precaution to avoid damaging materials that may contain asbestos. To learn more about asbestos and steps to take if found in your home review the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s resource guide.
Lead – If your home was built before 1978 it’s likely it contains lead-based paint. Lead is a poisonous, highly toxic metal that can cause serious medical issues, and in some instances can be fatal. In 1978, the federal government banned consumer uses of lead-containing paint but lead paint is still present in millions of homes, oftentimes under layers of newer paint. Before buying, selling or renting a home built before 1978 or doing any remodeling have it checked out by a EPA or state-approved Lead-Safe certified firm if you are unsure whether lead-based paint is present. For more information on protecting your family from lead poisoning read the EPA’s Protect Your Family Form Lead in Your Home guide.
By proactively identifying and addressing environmental toxins like radon, asbestos and lead in your home you can help safeguard your family’s health, protecting them from potentially life-threatening illnesses.