Healthy Homes – Part 1

by Rachel Laurendeau on December 7, 2012

If you are like many people today, you do everything you can to live a healthy lifestyle: you exercise, eat well, and try to stay away from unhealthy habits. There are some health risks, though, that go beyond our lifestyle and are harder to control, such as the health hazards that lurk in our homes.

Radon – is an invisible, odorless gas caused by the breakdown of uranium in soil. Radon can enter your home through the crawl space, basement or slab of your home without you even knowing that it is present. Once in the house it is inhaled and can cause severe lung damage with long-term exposure. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and it is estimated to be responsible for over 20,000 deaths annually, according to The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The only way to know whether or not radon is present in your home is through simple radon testing which you can do yourself or hire a professional to do for you. If you are in the process of building a new home, talk to your general contractor about installing a continuous vapor barrier under the slab/basement/crawl space along with a simple pipe that vents from under the house to the outdoors and allows radon to escape as part of your radon mitigation system.

Lead – was commonly used in paint and water pipes until quite recently. If you live in an older home, lead can still pose health concerns when breathed in or swallowed and can even cause lead poisoning because it remains present in the home. Windowsills or walls with chipping or deteriorating paint are specific example of an unexpected risk as they create dust, which contains lead. Of particular concern is the ease with which children can accidentally get the dust or paint fragments into their mouths while playing on the floor.

If you suspect that there is lead paint in your home, take extra precautions when cleaning, sanding, painting and undertaking home improvements as this work can disturb lead-based paint. According to the EPA, you should “clean around painted areas where friction can generate dust, such as doors, windows, and drawers. Wipe these areas with a wet sponge or rag to remove paint chips or dust.”

If you have found this blog post interesting, stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 of our Healthy Homes series. We’ll be looking at the risks of asbestos, mold, pesticides and other chemicals in your home.

Resources: United States Environmental Protection Agency and www.uwex.edu

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