This week we have a guest blog from our friends over at the MAA Center (Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center) that has some great information on things to look out for when moving to a new home. Enjoy!
Moving into a new home is an exciting time in someone’s life. The anticipation of new furniture, a fresh kitchen, and updated appliances, may take priority over less aesthetically pleasing things that will need to be considered. While the price of a home and its functionality are crucial factors, there are things that must not be overlooked.
Doing research before even viewing a potential home is a good place to start. Some crucial factors that weigh in on a purchase are the area the home is located in, when it was built, and the materials used, all of which can make or break a sale.
What to Look Out For
When researching, be sure to do a background check on the area the home is located in. This is important because the soil, water, and other outdoor elements could be compromised by chemicals and toxins, both natural and not. There are a number of factors that can impact soil quality, according to the University of Arizona College of Public Health, including:
- Industrial Activity
- Incorrect disposal of household waste
- Chemical use in agriculture
- Leaks and spills (sewer, oil, gas)
These toxins can be consumed through drinking water, inhalation, and even skin contact. It’s difficult to spot these dangers because they’re oftentimes tasteless and colorless in water and can’t be seen in the air. It’s also usually not possible to tell if soil is contaminated just by looking at it. Further testing of the land must be done to know if it is in fact a health hazard to then determine what can be done.
Chemicals can be hiding in the materials used to build a house too. Depending on when the house was built, toxin-containing materials may be present. This can range from the paint used on the walls, to the materials that were used inside of them.
Lead paint may be of concern if a home was built before 1978, at which time it was federally banned. Sometimes this can be difficult to find because it’s hiding under layers of new paint, and was never properly removed. Fortunately, just because there is a lead paint in a home doesn’t mean the resident is in immediate danger. If the paint is untouched and in good shape, it shouldn’t be much of a problem. Lead paint becomes dangerous when it has been chipped, cracked, is deteriorating, or even damp. It’s also important to note the location of the lead paint. If it’s located somewhere such as a window sill or bannister, it may be an easy target for teething toddlers.
Lead poisoning is very dangerous and can happen over a long period of time without the victim being aware. The most common form of lead exposure is through dust in a home. Lead poisoning can also be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are not unique, and can include loss of appetite, irritability, vomiting, headaches, high blood pressure, but may also vary depending on the age of the person affected. To ensure a home is free of lead, hire a professional to remove it. It’s important to dispose of it properly, and with the right alternatives so it does not linger in the home.
Asbestos is another material that could be found in a home if it was built before the 1970s. This natural mineral was a popular building tool due to its ability to withstand heat, chemical resistance, and its durability. Unfortunately, it was later found that asbestos is a carcinogen, and can make those exposed to it extremely ill with diseases such as asbestosis, which is a disease that consists of scarring of the lungs and leads to long term breathing complications. It may also lead to mesothelioma, which is an aggressive form of cancer that may affect the lining of the lungs, heart, or abdomen. It’s important to know if a home has been checked for both safety and then proper disposal. Although it isn’t dangerous unless disturbed, it may be unknowingly disrupted during a DIY project or renovation, and can then put those residing there in danger.
In the Air…
Indoor air quality is an important factor to consider when looking at a home. There are a number of chemicals that may be found floating around in the air including:
- Carbon monoxide
- Nitrogen dioxide
Each of these substances can be infiltrating a house, which calls for a closer look in the home buying process, and later while living in the home. Carbon monoxide is most commonly known, as it’s one of the most likely toxins to show up in a home due to gas appliances, gas fireplaces, generators, heating systems, and even water heaters. A carbon monoxide detector should be purchased and kept on each floor of the house. Placing it five feet off the ground will help to provide the best reading. Luckily, keeping an eye out for a toxin like this is relatively simple and can be done on your own, and if the detector goes off there are even steps that can be taken on your own as well. For example, turning off all appliances, and opening windows will provide proper ventilation. If the detectors continue to go off it’s important to call a professional to come and inspect the home and do any necessary repairs.
A lesser known substance found in homes is organophosphate insecticides. This type of pesticide is used in the removal of pests and insects. These may be used in homes, and on nearby agricultural farm lands. If humans are exposed to this, it can be extremely dangerous. Being aware of unexpected risk factors like this may save someone’s life. It proves that extra research done while on the hunt for a new house can be vitally important, and will make a big impact down the line for those living in the home as well as for those who are visiting.
A first-time home purchase is the most exciting time in someone’s life. Being aware of the risks and safety precautions both before and after the purchasing process will make it that much sweeter and rewarding in the end. It’s good to like a school district, have nice neighbors, and a big backyard, but knowing the home is safe inside and out is the most important thing of all.