You step outside after a day spent working indoors and take a deep breath of the fresh air. That crisp feeling is not your imagination. Indoor air is two to five times more polluted than the air outside. Keeping track of environmental hazards can become overwhelming, but don’t fear, there are steps you can take to rid your home of toxins before they affect the health of you or your family!
Step one: Know the age of your home
Certain toxic substances were used in home construction materials before the impact on health was known. Lead was widely used in paint for durability, pigment, and moisture resistance until its ban in 1978 and in plumbing solder for water pipes until the Safe Drinking Water Act was passed in 1986.
Similarly, asbestos was standard in a variety of construction materials from roofing and insulation to tile adhesive and plaster until the 1980s because it is quite fire resistant. According to the Census Bureau, 1974 is the median construction year of homes in the US. Dating your home will tell you if next steps like testing and abatement are necessary.
Step two: Get tested
If you suspect toxins in your home, either because of the age of your home or suspicious health concerns, ordering an environmental inspection is recommended. It is also wise to test for environmental toxins before buying or selling a house. These tests can check for lead, asbestos, hidden mold, and odorless radon. Results will show more than what can be seen by the naked eye like mold near an unknown leaky pipe or radon that is seeping into the basement through a small crack in the foundation.
Step three: Is abatement necessary?
Both lead and asbestos are typically only dangerous when broken down. Deteriorating lead paint will chip and flake off while friable asbestos will crumble into microscopic fibers, both sending hazardous dust airborne and likely into the lungs of those nearby.
If the materials are fully intact it might be safer to leave alone and avoid disturbing, but it is important to be aware of potential damage to those areas in the future. If these substances are found with any damage it is essential to call an abatement contractor and avoid the area. Never try to clean up these toxins yourself, as the uncontrolled disturbance could make matters worse.
If tests show a radon level of 4pCi/L or higher you should speak with a professional about reduction options like a ventilation system. Mold can be cleaned naturally with gloves a sponge and vinegar, but you may want to contact a professional if the mold is widespread.
Step four: Detox
You might be unknowingly welcoming everyday products to your home that are harmful to your health. Hairsprays, cleaners, air fresheners, and more are filling your home with unnatural chemicals. Toss them all and opt for all-natural products, ones you can actually read every word on the ingredient list label. You can also introduce air purifiers, indoor purifying plants and dehumidifiers to filter toxins from the air and reduce moisture.
Step five: Know your body
After cleaning and detoxing your home you must keep an eye on any symptoms you’re experiencing. Many toxins, including mold, are associated with respiratory problems like asthma and allergies. Taking it a step further, if you show signs of long-term hoarseness, difficulty breathing or swallowing, coughing, nausea, or fatigue you may need to be tested for mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer caused by asbestos exposure.
Long-term exposure to radon is linked to about 20,000 cases of lung cancer each year and lead can lead to slowed neurological development, digestive problems and pain in the abdomen or joints. Always consult your doctor with any pains or symptoms.
Read about natural ways to clean your home and avoid common toxins.