Toxic Substances You May Not Even Know Have Taken Up Residence In Your Home!!
Even though holiday lights are blinking and life is abuzz with activity these days, there may be danger residing on (or within) your walls or in the air. And while you may be a superstar at minimizing your family’s exposure to household chemicals, there may be other substances causing health threats throughout your home.
Redfin’s Emily Huddleston writes that radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes from the decay of uranium in the soil enters structures at their lowest points, moving into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. “About one in 15 homes have high levels of radon, with levels usually being the highest in basements and first-floor rooms that have contact with soil,” she says. Radon is invisible, odorless, and tasteless, which means there are no immediate signs or symptoms to alert you to its presence. “If you haven’t checked for it in the past two years, or if you’ve done some remodeling, be sure to test your home,” she says. “You can hire a professional tester, or you can buy a test online or at a hardware store to do it yourself.”
Many homes now have carbon monoxide detectors, and in most areas of the US, newly constructed homes are required to have them. Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas found in the fumes of fuels that contain carbon, such as wood, coal, and gasoline. Household tools and appliances that can produce the gas include grills, lanterns, generators, home features like your fireplace and furnace, and even your car or truck.
Huddleston points out that this carbon monoxide causes the most non-drug-related poison deaths in the US because — again — it is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. People can die from it in their sleep with no knowledge of what is happening to them. Huddleston recommends:
- never using a gas-fueled generator or gasoline/charcoal-burning device indoors, including garages or basements. Be sure to place them outside, at least 20 feet from windows or doors.
- having all fuel-burning home heating systems inspected and serviced each year.
- never running your car or truck inside of a garage and always leave the door open if you’re doing so in a detached garage. Also, be sure to have your car or truck’s exhaust system checked each year.
While lead paint is no longer used, it doesn’t mean your older home may not have it lurking somewhere. Huddleston defines lead as a naturally occurring element found in small amounts in the earth’s crust. “The primary source of lead poisoning is lead-based paint,” she says. “Poisoning occurs by breathing or swallowing lead dust, or by eating soil or paint chips that contain the hazardous substance. Found most frequently in homes built before 1978, lead paint creates toxic dust when it cracks or peels. This can occur on both the inside and outside of your home.”
If your home was built before 1978, the EPA strongly recommends that either a certified lead inspector or a certified lead risk assessor do lead tests. You can test for lead yourself with an at-home kit. However, these DIY tests don’t provide the details that an inspection or a risk assessment does.
Lastly, look out for dastardly mold. Molds are made up of various types of fungi. In small amounts, mold spores are usually harmless. But once they are inside and have a source of moisture to feed on, mold spores growth can spread like wildfire. They enter your home through windows, vents, and doorways and can also make their way inside by attaching to clothing or pets. Says Huddleston, “Some of the more minor health effects from mold exposure are chronic cough and fatigue, eye irritation, headaches, and skin rashes. If left untreated, mold can cause a variety of more extreme health issues like asthma, vomiting, allergy development, circulatory damage, and compromised immunity, making one even more vulnerable to further risks.”
To prevent mold from growing, act quickly when water leaks or spills occur indoors and remove or replace carpets that have been soaked and aren’t dried promptly. And consider not using carpet in rooms or areas like bathrooms or basements that may have a lot of moisture. Ensure you have proper ventilation in your showers, laundry area, and cooking areas. Wash shower curtains and tile regularly with mold-killing products.
Source: Sources: Redfin, EPA, TBWS