Because I’m a real estate geek with a strange sense of humor, I realized one day that if I were a property, I would have to wear a lead-based paint disclosure around my neck because I was built in 1972.
This might seem like a random thought, but it came from an important topic for home ownership: environmental issues. “Issues” may not be the best word, but there are certain past practices and natural elements that prospective, and current, homeowners should be aware of. There are ways your home can affect your health.
What are the environmental concerns of home ownership?
Lead was a common ingredient until congress passed a law banning it in 1971 and gave manufacturers until 1978 to phase out its use. Today, any property built prior to 1978 being sold or leased must include a disclosure stating whether or not the owner is aware of lead paint and, if so, any steps taken to remedy it.
Lead is nasty stuff and causes many health issues in children, but it is also easily addressed. Any old paint covered in fresh paint has been encapsulated. This is the easiest, least expensive way to address the possibility of lead exposure in a home. The other lead solution is abatement, which entails physically removing any paint that contains lead and re-covering the surfaces, which must be done by a company licensed in proper abatement.
If lead is a concern for your family, simple swipe tests are available, or you can call an environmental inspection company for in-depth testing.
We’ve all seen law firm commercials talking about mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer. Asbestos is what causes it. And it was used back in the day in many different building applications, such as siding, floor tile, and pipe insulation. It was very effective for its use and harmless as installed, but as it ages it starts fraying and that’s where the trouble starts.
Fraying asbestos is easily inhaled and is an extreme cancer risk. Do you run and hide? Nope, you encapsulate it, just like the paint. Do not disturb what’s there. Cover it with modern siding, flooring, or plumbing tape. Abatement is also an option. West Virginia University did this with several buildings a few years ago, including the Coliseum, but again this is typically overkill for residential purposes.
The third most common environmental hazard comes from Mother Nature herself. Radon is a naturally occurring gas emitted from the earth. It can penetrate the foundation of a home. And, it is found everywhere in the United States, although it’s more prominent in some areas than others.
There is no rhyme or reason to radon; it’s emitted from uranium deposits deep below the earth’s surface, and it can be found in your home but not your neighbor’s. The EPA standard says anything below 4.0 pCi/L is safe, so if you have a radon test done and find it higher than recommended levels, a mitigation system is easily installed in your basement.
The mitigation system is a quiet fan that runs constantly and pipes air out of your basement and over your roofline into the atmosphere. Depending on the home, a typical system will run between $1,000 and $2,000.
Most home inspectors can perform a radon test, which is paid before or at the time of inspection. For more information, visit https://www.epa.gov/radon.