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They’re silent, odorless, invisible and potentially deadly. Discover the four home tests you must conduct at home right now to protect yourself and your family from dangerous hidden toxins.
Radon gas is a cancer-causing radioactive gas that seeps up from the soil and gets into our homes through cracks in the foundation, crawl spaces and basements. It’s created by the natural decay of uranium that’s ubiquitous in soil. In fact, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers and the second leading cause of lung cancer among smokers, responsible for a staggering 21,000 deaths each year.
Nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the U.S. has elevated radon levels, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A U.S. map provided by the EPA details the radon hot spot zones across the country, although radon has been found in every state. It’s imperative that you have your home tested, regardless of your geographic location, according to the EPA.
Radon is measured in pCi/L, or picocuries per liter of air. The EPA advises mitigation or remediation if your home levels test higher than 4pCi/L.
Radon Action Steps
- Find a radon service provider in your area. Use this link to locate your state radon contact. They can guide you on state measurement requirements and mitigation techniques.
- Use the above link to hire a professional. There are also simple, affordable tests you can do yourself for under $20. While these test kits can be found at hardware stores, your state will usually offer these at a discounted price.
- Take action. If your home has elevated levels above 4pCi/L, hire a licensed and accredited professional to handle radon mitigation techniques. If you discover a problem, don’t panic. Most levels can be reduced by up to 99 percent.
2. Lead Paint
While lead is no longer allowed in paint, it was legal up until 1978. Therefore, if you live in a home built prior, lead might be present; the older the home, the higher the risk. The U.S. government advises that you leave old lead paint undisturbed. However, if you are renovating, you must test for the presence of lead. Typically, window sills and doorjambs are the best places to test. Lead is neurotoxic and even inhalation of fine particles can be dangerous, especially to children. Lead exposure is linked to a variety of illnesses, including — but not limited to — cancer, strokes, delayed puberty, stunted growth, lowered IQ and learning/behavior disorders.
Lead Action Steps
- Test your home for lead paint. You can use a 3M LeadCheck Swab (found at most hardware stores) to do this; be sure you swab any children’s products and imported goods.
- Conduct a lead risk assessment by a certified inspector before any home remodel.
- Bring in help if needed. If lead is found, hire an EPA-certified lead abatement contractor to remediate.
Our bodies are made up of 70 percent water and our brains 85 percent. We require it to survive, but most people unknowingly ingest a host of biological and chemical contaminants including bacteria, pesticides and lead each day in their drinking water. To protect your family from bad water supplies or contaminants leaching from your home’s plumbing fixtures, you must test to reveal what’s lurking in your home’s drinking, bathing and cooking water. I recommend the EnviroTestKits from Safe Home to detect even the smallest traces of harmful chemicals and bacteria.
Water Action Steps
- Perform a DIY test for bacteria. Get results within 48 hours.
- Test for lead, other metals and up to 200 contaminants with results from an EPA-certified laboratory.
4. Indoor Air
We breathe in 20,000 breaths each day, according to the American Lung Association, 90 percent of which occur indoors. The air inside of our homes is two to five times more polluted than the outdoor air. With asthma and allergies skyrocketing, everyone is affected by poor indoor air quality today.
Air Action Steps
- Test, don’t guess. If your budget allows, hire a certified environmental inspector to determine the source and size of the problem.
- Take testing into your own hands. DIY test kits test for everything from mold, allergens and dust to formaldehyde and more, with results from an accredited laboratory at a fraction of the cost.