Your home should be your castle; your haven from whatever ails the world may throw at you. But sometimes, your home is harbor to toxins that might be making you sick.Angie’s List compiled a list of five toxins that could be lurking in your home, along with tips on how to get rid of them and return your home to the haven it should be.
“For years, we’ve tried to help homeowners detect and rid themselves of the four most common home toxins: radon, mold, lead-based paint and asbestos; but last year a newcomer came in for some parts of the country: Chinese drywall,” says Angie’s List Founder Angie Hicks. “Awareness is the first step. Finding reliable, qualified help to resolve any issues you have is the second.”
Angie’s List, the nation’s leading provider of consumer reviews on local service companies, has collected information for 14 years on home-related issues, including tracking trends related to these toxins. The company identifies local service providers who have specialized training in dealing with toxin abatement and removal.
Angie’s six steps to hiring reliable help for any toxic removal:
- Determine if your state requires contractors to be licensed for the work you need done.
- Hire only contractors who are licensed and/or certified to handle household toxins, and can prove their qualifications for your specific need.
- Determine what steps your contractor will use to ensure the work won’t further spread the problem.
- If your contractor doesn’t talk to you about the concerns the toxin poses, doesn’t have a containment plan or isn’t aware of the dangers the work can create, hire someone else.
- Get more than one estimate for the work; require follow-up and a guarantee for the work.
- Get and check references, using people who’ve worked with the professional before, and check Angie’s List for even more insight.
Specifics on the 5 most common household toxins:
- Lead-based paint – If your house was built before 1978, it may have lead-based paint; if it was built before 1960 it almost certainly does. More than 300,000 children in the United States have dangerous blood lead levels and more than 38 million U.S. homes are estimated to still contain lead paint, which was banned in 1978. Lead poisoning often leads to long-term developmental and behavioral problems. A lead particle the size of a single grain of salt will elevate a child’s blood-lead level.
- Lead paint is dangerous only when it is disturbed or deteriorates on its own.
- Lead dust and flakes left on the floor or window sills can be ingested by small children.
- Improperly removing the paint (sandblasting, sanding, etc…) can send lead dust throughout your home through your ductwork, exacerbating the problem.
- If your lead paint is sealed in by newer layers of safer paint already, leaving it alone may be your best bet.
- New federal guidelines require contractors working with lead paint to follow safety guidelines. If your contractor doesn’t alert you to the danger and doesn’t have a safety plan, get another one.
- If you are concerned about your child having already been exposed to lead, schedule a test with your local health department or your child’s physician – it’s the only way to know if your child has been poisoned.
- Radon – This radioactive, colorless, odorless gas is second-leading cause of lung cancer, and accounts for 21,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. Radon results from the breakdown of uranium inside the earth. It enters the home through cracks in floors and walls and becomes trapped inside, building up over time.
- 74 percent of Angie’s List members haven’t tested their home for radon even though the tests are easy and affordable.
- Radon detection kits are sold at your local hardware store for about $25.
- Radon control systems normally take one day to install. Cost generally ranges from $700-$1,500.
- Mold – Mold is everywhere, and left unchecked, it can destroy your home. Health effects can range from general congestions and eye irritation to shortness of breath and serious mold infections of the lungs. Mold removal can present other dangers from improper ventilation to the mixing of toxic chemicals.
- 26 percent of Angie’s List members say they have had mold damage their home
- 31 percent of those people said they had up to $500 in mold damage
- 41 percent of members used bleach to kill and clean up the mold, but the U.S. EPA does not recommend using bleach to kill mold.
- Test your home’s air for mold after the remediation is done, sample both inside and outside your home at the same time.
- Not all mold damage is covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy. Check your policy because coverage and limitations vary.
- Tackle clean up yourself if you have less than 10 square feet of mold damage.
- Asbestos – Exposure to asbestos can cause different forms of cancer and scarring of the lungs. It was commonly used in buildings prior to the 1970s because of its fire resistant qualities. Proper removal of deteriorating asbestos is tricky and expensive.
- Asbestos in good condition should be left alone; it’s most dangerous when particles become airborne
- The few products still made that contain asbestos must be labeled. They include:
- Roofing and siding shingles
- Textured paint and in patching compounds
- Artificial ashes and embers sold for use in gas-fired fireplaces
- Stove-top pads and walls and flooring materials used around woodburning stoves
- Vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives; and
- Insulation around hot water and steam pipes, and oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets
- Chinese drywall -- A domestic drywall shortage from 2004-06 led to the importation of more than 500 million pounds of Chinese drywall that is believed to contain potentially toxic sulfur compounds. The material is being blamed for damaging hundreds of homes, creating possible health problems and prompting a string of lawsuits against builders and drywall manufacturers. Experts estimate about 100,000 homes in 27 states are affected.
- Affected homeowners say the drywall has a strong odor of sulfur or rotten eggs.
- The drywall is reported to corrode metal and copper, notably air-conditioning coils and electrical wiring, with a black coating.
- If you believe your home contains this drywall, call your attorney as well as your contractor.
Some insurance companies are not covering claims to remove and replace the drywall, citing it as a builders’ defect. Consequently, those insurers are refusing to insure the homes until the material is removed.
Angie’s List collects consumer reviews on local contractors and doctors in more than 500 service categories. Currently, more than 1 million consumers across the U.S. and Canada rely on Angie’s List to help them make the best hiring decisions. Members get unlimited access to local ratings via Internet or phone, exclusive discounts, the Angie’s List magazine and help from the Angie’s List complaint resolution service. Take a quick tour of Angie’s List and view the latest Angie’s List news.