Identifying these toxins can be hard so if you have any suspicions of them in your home you should call someone to test right away. When hiring, be sure to use an independent lab to test the results so there is no conflict of interest.
Specifics on the 3 common household toxins:
1. 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.
· Mold comes in a variety of colors including white, brown, orange, green and black. Mold often has a furry look or resembles a stringy slime, but certain molds can also have a powdery-look. Black mold is considered to be the most dangerous type of mold found in homes.
· Mold can grow at an extremely fast pace. A mold colony can form in as little as 48 hours from the initial contact a mold spore makes with a surface.
· Test your home's air for mold after the remediation is done, sample both inside and outside your home at the same time.
· Mold is a moisture problem and in order to rid your house of mold you need to find out what is causing it and fix that problem to prevent any future mold problems.
· 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.
2. 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.
· Common entry points for radon include:
o Foundation cracks
o Construction joints
o Gaps found in suspended flooring
o Unsealed spaces around service pipes
o Wall cracks
o Cavity holes inside of walls
o Water supply sources
· The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 1 in 15 homes in the United States are affected by high levels of radon.
· Radon is measured in "picocuries" per liter of air (pCi/L). A picocurie is one-trillionth of a "curie," which is the radioactivity of one gram of radon. According to the EPA, the typical home has a radon reading of 1.3 pCi/L, while levels above 4 pCi/L are considered dangerous.
· 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.
3. 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.
· Homeowners should note that older appliances opened up for repair may release asbestos fibers. Even recently made barbecue mitts, protective aprons and gloves may contain asbestos. These items should be discarded when damaged.
· The Environmental Protection Agency advises homeowners to avoid hiring a tester and correction contractor from the same company to avoid conflict of interest.
· When work is being done in an area containing asbestos, the affected area is sealed off from the rest of the home with duct tape and plastic sheeting, and the air conditioning and heating systems are turned off. Home residents and pets are kept from the area until the project is complete.
· The few products still made that contain asbestos must be labeled. They include:
o Roofing and siding shingles
o Textured paint and in patching compounds
o Artificial ashes and embers sold for use in gas-fired fireplaces
o Stove-top pads and walls and flooring materials used around woodburning stoves
o Vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives; and
o Insulation around hot water and steam pipes, and oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets
Angie's six steps to hiring reliable help for any toxic removal:
1. Determine if your state requires contractors to be licensed for the work you need done.
2. Hire only contractors who are licensed and/or certified to handle household toxins, and can prove their qualifications for your specific need.
3. Determine what steps your contractor will use to ensure the work won't further spread the problem.
4. 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.
5. Get more than one estimate for the work; require follow-up and a guarantee for the work.
6. Get and check references, using people who've worked with the professional before, and check Angie's List for even more insight.