How to Protect your Kids from What You Can’t See in Your Home
When it comes to the health of our kids, most parents these days are focusing on inoculations and infections.
But when it comes to our homes, we often give little thought to potent environmental hazards that may be lurking in the air, behind the walls, on windowsills, and on the floor where infants and toddlers crawl and play.
So, here’s a brief primer on what to be aware of in your home to protect your family against the invisible substances that may be endangering your children’s health.
We start with mold because mold spores are ubiquitous. Sometimes the presence of mold is apparent – black splotches that dot walls and surfaces, especially where humid or damp conditions prevail.
But it’s the hidden mold – mold behind a bathroom or kitchen wall, in the ceiling, or under the floor that can wreak even more havoc. You may detect a musty odor, but most of the time, you won’t know mold is there, and if it remains, you’ll be exposing your family to a real health hazard.
Persistent exposure to mold can cause allergies, headaches, flu-like symptoms, rashes and even more severe conditions in people of all ages. According to a study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, infants residing in homes that contain mold are three times more likely to develop asthma by age seven than in homes without mold. Mold is also destructive, eating away the surfaces on which it grows.
What can you do?
“It pays to get a mold inspection by a certified mold inspector who will use special instruments to detect what is not detectable to the naked eye,” advises Robert Weitz, founder and Principal of RTK Environmental Group, one of the most trusted environmental testing companies in the northeast. “A proper mold inspection will determine if and where there’s mold, and the extent of the mold infestation.”
The next step will be to have the mold infestation remediated or the problem will get worse. Weitz notes that in New York State remediation and inspection must be performed by separate companies to avoid the inherent conflict of interest. RTK Environmental is one such independent testing company in this region. “You want to get unbiased test results, not a report that will benefit a remediator,” he cautions. Regulations are forthcoming in other states as well.
A common misperception is that lead poisoning is just found in rundown urban dwellings. Nothing could be further from the truth. The surprising fact is that homes built before 1978 usually contain building materials containing lead. And when those materials and surfaces are disturbed – such as sanding during renovation and painting work or persistent opening and closing of windows – dangerous lead particles are released into the air and soil. Those particles often settle on floors where children play and other surfaces that they, and adults, touch.
The source of lead is usually found in lead paint (on indoor and outdoor painted surfaces), indoor plumbing, pipes and faucets, some toys, and in the soil. It is especially toxic. According to the Centers for Disease Control, a child’s exposure to lead can irreversibly affect that child’s development. Lead has been shown to cause autism-like symptoms, ADHD, brain damage, lower IQs, reproductive issues, behavioral issues, and many other physical and mental problems.
“A detailed XRF lead inspection will tell you whether or not there’s a hidden lead problem in your home,” says Weitz. “If lead is detected, be sure to hire a contractor certified in the EPA’s Lead Renovation Repair and Painting Program (RRP) for any work that will disturb the lead painted surfaces. Those who are, must follow important protocols to protect you and your family when disturbance occurs so that further contamination does not occur.”
Volatile Organic Compounds
It’s long been known that the air we breathe can have an impact on our health. But indoor air quality, or IAQ, is something that often gets lost in the mix. Ignore it at your peril.
“It’s not just pollution from cars and factories which can seep in through windows and doors,” says Weitz. “Indoors, the air you breathe can contain volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, not just lead dust and mold spores. VOCs are major pollutants that can be very harmful to your families’ health. VOCs and mold are the main causes of poor indoor air quality in homes and offices.”
VOCs are toxic vapors that are off-gassed by most household cleaning products with aerosol sprays (delete), and most other man-made materials like carpeting, paint and other finishes, window treatments, electronics, furniture and cabinetry and a multitude of other products with their various characteristics and finishes. Concentrated, they can cause headaches, dizziness, and nausea in the short-term and more serious problems long-term, including cancer.
So, when you’re attempting to disinfect your home or have used that vacation money to buy new furniture, bedding, or electronics, remember to open your windows to allow fresh air to circulate. Carbon filtration is also a very effective way to filter VOCs out of the air. You may also want to get an indoor air quality test for mold and VOCs that will help you to identify or rule out any air quality issues.
Long known for its lethal qualities, asbestos was banned in most products by the 1980s. Yet, it still exists in old pipe, attic, and duct insulation; wallboard and plaster, vinyl floor tiles; popcorn ceilings; furnaces, gaskets, vermiculite insulation, shingles, and hundreds of other products. Most building products not made of plastic, glass, metal, or wood are considered suspect materials for asbestos content. If it exists in your home, its fibers present a clear and present danger as they can cause cancer of the lung and abdomen, and other serious health issues, especially when they are damaged or disturbed. If you suspect that asbestos may be present in your home, be sure to contact a New York State Department of Labor licensed asbestos abatement contractor to have it removed.
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) suggests the following:
- Leave undamaged asbestos-containing materials alone.
- Have removal and major repairs done by people trained and qualified in handling asbestos.
- Don’t dust, sweep, or vacuum debris that may contain asbestos
- Don’t saw, sand, scrape, or drill holes in asbestos-containing materials.
There are many more do’s and don’ts and helpful hints on the EPA’s website. Also visit RTK’s website to learn more about having your home tested for environmental hazards. RTK only performs testing and not abatement or remediation. With nearly 30 years of experience, RTK is a trusted leader, dedicated to providing you with honest, accurate reports quickly. Call RTK at 800-392-6468 or click here to schedule an appointment now. Here’s to your family’s good health!
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