Lead and Radon Gas

Warning! This house could be hazardous to your health!

It would be difficult to sell a home with this warning attached to it, and yet many older homes in the United States have it. Primers, paints and other products containing lead were widely used in homes and offices until 1978. Chipping and pealing paint can expose occupants to this hazardous material. Additionally many older plumbing systems contain lead based solder, from which the lead can leach into the water, especially running hot water. High lead concentrations can even be found in the ground soil in some areas.

While unknown until the recent past, it is now clear that lead causes a number of health related problems. These include growth and learning disabilities, headaches and even brain damage in children and adolescents, and adults are not immune either. High levels of lead have been linked to problem pregnancies, high blood pressure and digestive problems.

Before you buy or sell an older home you need to know what hazards it may contain. If you are selling a home, federal law stipulates that you must disclose any lead based paint in the home. If you are buying a home, you want to know what hazards may be hidden in the walls and pipes before you close the escrow. If you suspect a home contains high levels of lead, immediately contact a qualified professional to do an inspection. Contractors and inspectors use several tools and equipment to detect lead levels and recommend appropriate solutions, from their well-trained eye to complex specialized diagnostic equipment. The National Lead Information Center (http://www.epa.gov/lead/nlic.htm) can help you find the resource you need.

There are many solutions to clean up lead contamination. Removing lead based paint may be as much trouble as it is worth. Stripping the paint from the walls is likely to create dust and debris which is dangerous if ingested. In light of these serious hazards it is best to always consult a licensed contractor to do this and other hazardous work. Short of removing the old paint, you may be able to get by with covering the lead-based paint with a coat of sealant specifically designed for this purpose. Contact a licensed contractor for a solution that is best got you, and check for financial assistance which may be available under certain circumstances.

Although your house may not carry a warning label from the EPA, common sense and a sharp eye will keep your family safe.

Radon Gas

Through the small cracks in the foundation that are not structural and no threat to the stability of the home, through small nooks, crannies and pinholes may seep an invisible health threat. Colorless, odorless and undetectable by an average person, Radon gas is nevertheless the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Its ominous sounding name evokes grim images of radiation and nuclear devastation from uranium decaying in the soil. Radon seeps through any hole in the home, with foundation cracks, poorly sealed pipes, drains or any other loose point being the most common entry points. Once inside your home, Radon will concentrate in basements and other low lying, closed areas and build up over time to dangerous levels. The EPA set 4 picocuries per liter as the safe threshold level for humans. Radon exposure over a period of many years can have a significant detrimental effect on your health.

Radon has been found in homes in all 50 states, and while certain areas are more susceptible than others, no location is immune to it. To learn more visit: http://www.epa.gov/radon/zonemap.html. Concentrations of Radon causing materials in the soil can be either natural or man made. Homes built near historic mining sites may be at higher risk, and the only way to be sure is to have your home tested for Radon gas, either by active and passive method. Active devices constantly measure Radon levels in a specific location of the home and display the results. Passive devices collect samples over a period of time, which are then analyzed in the laboratory. Both methods will help you determine your risk level. Most Do-it-yourself kits are passive devices which are available from a number of retail outlets. The device is left in the lowest level of your home that is normally occupied for a period of several days, including both finished and unfinished basements, and the measurements are analyzed by a professional. The other option is to hire a qualified professional to conduct the appropriate tests. EPA web site (http://www.epa.gov/radon/manufact.htm) provides information on finding appropriate resources and testing devices in your area.

If high Radon concentrations are found in your home, you have several options. Since Radon is only a problem when it is concentrated in high volume, improving problem area ventilation is usually a sufficient solution. In other cases it may be necessary to reduce the amount of Radon entering your home by sealing or eliminating the entry points. Qualified and experienced professional should be hired to ensure that the Radon entry points are totally eliminated. According to the EPA Radon mitigation costs range between $500 and $5,000.

If you are buying or selling a home Radon can present a major issue. Buyers should be aware of the Radon risk and determine whether Radon test is needed, and the cost of the Radon test can be included in purchase price. If recent Radon test results are available, always verify that the home has not been significantly renovated since the date of that test, and if in doubt order a new test. It is a good idea to have a recent Radon test if you are selling your home. Being proactive shows potential buyers that there is no risk and avoids any issues from the start. Regardless of whether you have an old or new home Radon is always inside, and proper testing and mitigation can eliminate Radon as a health threat. For more information, visit the EPA web site on Radon at http://www.epa.gov/radon.


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