Breathing Healthy: How to Inspect Your Home for Toxic Substances

When you think of air pollution, you usually associate it with outdoor air pollution caused by cramped city streets and smoke coming out of factories. However, the outdoors are not your only source of polluted air. Even at home, you may not be safe. Indoor air pollution is a silent killer.

The World Health Organization estimates that 4.3 million people worldwide die every year because of household air pollutants. These deaths are mostly attributed to fuels and other materials used for cooking. Over 27% of them are due to pneumonia, which is caused primarily by inhaling soot from the air. Other sources of indoor air pollution may be damaging your lungs and other organs, and you probably won’t notice until you look for them. Below are three common sources of indoor air pollution.

Dangerous Lead

Lead can cause adverse effects on the body even in small amounts, according to the Mayo Clinic. It’s especially dangerous for kids younger than six years old, as lead poisoning can stunt physical and mental development, according to the medical information outlet. Lead is a neurotoxin that may cause the brain’s prefrontal cortex to shrink, causing problems with motor and impulse control, the Brain Injury Association of America says. Affected patients have been seeking the help of brain injury lawyers from Los Angeles to North Carolina to pursue manufacturers of products with lead on their behalf.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that structures built on or before 1978 are likely contaminated with lead. Lead was a regular substance in various building components like paint and piping. You could inhale it from your home’s old and chipping paint, or the soil on your landscape.  You could be drinking lead-laced water because of your lead-soldered pipes. Some toys even contain lead.

Check your surfaces and paint for lead using 3M’s LeadCheck kit. All you have to do is use it to swab a surface you want to test, like a wall or a table and wait for about 30 seconds. The lead kit will turn red if it detects lead. Apart from being manufactured by an established company, LeadCheck is also recommended by the EPA, so you can trust that it’s accurate.

Toxic Mold 

Mold, which you usually see on your basement floor or the corners of your kitchen, may harm your health, on top of ruining the look of your home interiors. According to WebMD, mold exposure can intensify allergies and asthma. It can even irritate your skin, eyes, and respiratory system. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says you can’t avoid being exposed to mold, as it can develop anywhere. It’s also essential to the ecosystem. However, you can always avoid massive buildup in your home. 

The CDC says that mold spores may drop and spread in places where excessive moisture or leakage occurs. As such, you should start by checking your attic’s insulation and rafters for buildup. If your basement leaks all the time, it will be smart to give the basement floors and ceilings a check, too. 

If you find mold on your insulation material, have your insulation replaced immediately. For surfaces, you can easily clean up the mold by spraying diluted bleach on it and scrubbing it off with a towel. Make sure to seal off these areas to prevent any future leakage and mold buildup.

Radioactive Radon

Radon is an element that’s created when radioactive metals from beneath the ground break down in the soil and groundwater. The fumes they create eventually reach the surface and get potentially inhaled, causing health problems. The EPA said the gas causes about 20,000 lung cancer deaths every year. What’s worse is that you can’t detect it easily, since it’s tasteless and odorless. 

You can check your home’s radon levels by using a test kit that you can easily buy from any home improvement center, Amazon, and sosradon.org. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion suggests using this in the lowest level of your home, like your basement. Follow the instructions on the package and you’ll get your results within one to four days after you send the kit back to the lab.

Being indoors is not enough to shield yourself from toxic substances. As such, you should take every precaution to make sure you’re breathing clean air at home. Give these testing methods a try. If you do find dangerous levels of lead or radon, call a professional immediately to deal with the issues. Time is always of the essence when it comes to your health. 

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