For the past two years, we have all been spending a great deal of time at home. But if your home harbors mold, lead, poor indoor air quality, exposed asbestos or contaminated water, your family’s health may be impacted. Here are some alarming facts about these issues: Mold Here’s something that will get your attention: infants who live in homes that contain mold are three times more likely to develop asthma by age seven, according to a study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. The study determined that early life exposure to mold plays a critical role in childhood asthma development. But mold does not only affect children. Mold can cause headaches, rashes, depression, listlessness, allergies, and flu-like symptoms in household members of any age. Mold can hide just about anywhere – behind walls and ceilings, in an around plumbing fixtures, under carpeting or floorboards, or in HVAC ducts. If you smell a musty odor, you probably have a mold problem. That said, mold can cause serious health issues even when you can’t see or smell it, so in order to pinpoint the source of a mold issue, you need to hire a professional. When hiring a mold inspector, make sure they don’t do remediation as well, as that is a clear conflict of interest. Unscrupulous companies will not hesitate to offer “free” or cheap mold testing, and then enlarge or even fabricate a mold problem to make money on the remediation. Your best bet is to hire an independent testing company like RTK Environmental. Lead If you live in a home built before 1978 – the year lead paint was banned – chances are there are several layers of lead paint on your walls, window sills and other painted surfaces, both indoors and outdoors. Even the smallest levels of lead exposure from paint chips or lead dust are dangerous, and are caused by simple movements, such as opening and shutting windows or touching walls with lead- painted surfaces. This kind of exposure can irreversibly affect a child’s development, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Children can easily ingest household lead particles because they exist in paint chips, tap water, dust, and even in your soil. Lead poisoning has been shown to cause autism-like symptoms, ADHD, brain damage, lower IQs, reproductive issues, violent behavior, and a host of other physical and mental problems. Before you do any remediation or renovation, you need to know whether you are disturbing lead paint. Home test kits will tell you what’s on the surface, but they are not recommended, as lead paint is usually present several layers below the top coat. As soon as you begin demolition, you will release this underlying toxic layer. An XRF lead inspection will let you know if you have a hidden lead problem. If lead is found, make sure you hire a contractor that is certified in the EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Program (RRP). There are very specific and important protocols to follow when disturbing lead paint to protect you and your family, and ensure the lead is contained and not spread throughout your residence contaminating your living space. Poor Indoor Air Quality Poor indoor air quality is not just about radon anymore (even though it is still the second leading cause of lung cancer.) Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, are making a huge name for themselves – and not in a good way. VOCs are toxic vapors that are off-gassed into our living environments from man-made materials including everyday household products. Look around you right now – we are surrounded by plastic in our everyday lives. Each of these products contribute to VOC levels in our homes. Not only plastic products,VOC vapors are emitted by furniture, carpeting, air fresheners, bedding, shower curtains, candles, and a number of other products. They can cause headaches, dizziness, nervousness, and nausea in the short-term; and cancer, kidney damage, liver damage, and central nervous system damage long-term. About 80% of indoor air pollution is caused by either mold or VOCs. An indoor air quality test will help you to identify or rule out these issues. Asbestos Test for asbestos before doing any renovations. Although asbestos was banned in most products in the 1980s, it still exists in old pipe insulation, tiles, popcorn ceilings, boilers, and attic or wall insulation, and dozens of other products. Breathing in asbestos fibers can cause serious health issues, whether it acts as an irritant in one’s lungs, or it causes mesothelioma, a serious cancerous condition. If you do find asbestos present in your home, be sure your contractor takes the proper precautions in handling and removing it. After the work is complete, you will want to test again to ensure it was properly removed and your home is asbestos-free. Contaminated Water You are in constant contact with your water supply every day. Every time you clean a dish, prepare a bottle, draw a warm bath, or even wash your hands before you prepare your baby’s meal, you are exposing yourself and your child to whatever is contained in your water supply. For your peace of mind, it’s important to know the quality of your water. Does it contain lead, bacteria, heavy metals from pipes, arsenic that naturally occurs in groundwater, radon, pesticides? Whether you drink from well water or water piped into your town from reservoirs, consider ordering a water test from an independent source. A comprehensive analysis of your drinking water is important to the health of your family. Why Test for Environmental Toxins? There are dozens of reasons to have your home tested for unhealthy environmental hazards including mold, asbestos, lead, and VOCs. But the one that matters most is your family’s health. Have your home tested by an independent, unbiased environmental testing service, like RTK Environmental, that only performs testing and not remediation. With nearly 30 years of trusted experience, you will receive fast, honest, accurate answers. Call RTK at 800.392.6468 or click here.