Beyond the Water Systems
Environmental testing beyond property water includes (but is not limited to) testing for soil and building structures for radon and lead.
Radon is a radioactive gas that has been identified in homes in every state within the US. It is the natural byproduct of radium breaking down in soil (including rock) and water. As a result, it can get into the air and the water of homes. In most instances, radon enters homes through pores and cracks in the foundation. It can also enter through well water. All homes can have a radon problem. It does not seem to matter if a home is air sealed, drafty, or with or without a basement. Elevated levels of radon gas have been found in homes in every state. Radon gas is listed as a Class One human lung carcinogen. Prolonged exposure to high levels of radon gas can cause lung cancer. The EPA and the office of the Surgeon General recommend that homes be tested for the presence of radon. Because radon is invisible and odorless, its elevated presence is only identified via special detection devices. In the event radon levels are high, mitigation systems can be purchased and installed to effectively alleviate health risks.
Active Subslab suction (also called sub-slab depressurization) is one of the most common and usually the most reliable radon reduction method. Suction pipes are inserted through the floor slab into the crushed rock or soil underneath. In houses with crawl spaces, active ventilation can be used. In this case, ventilation is achieved by using a fan to blow air through the crawlspace instead of relying on natural air circulation.
Testing for lead
Lead is a natural forming metal found in geologic deposits. Unfortunately, it was commonly used in high levels in the manufacturing of many household construction materials including plumbing pipes, faucets and interior and exterior household paint. Lead contracted from contaminated drinking water or paint dust can cause a variety of adverse health effects. In babies and children, exposure to lead can result in delays in physical and mental development, along with slight deficits in attention span and learning abilities. In adults, it can cause increases in blood pressure. Adults who drink or breathe lead-contaminated water or air over a period of several years may experience kidney problems and high blood pressure.
Perhaps the greatest exposure to lead contamination is the result of swallowing or breathing in lead paint dust. For this reason, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) advises owners of homes built before 1978 to: Wipe down flat surfaces, like window sills, with a damp paper towel and throw away the paper towel. Mop smooth floors (using a damp mop) weekly to control dust.
- Take off shoes when entering the house
- Vacuum carpets and upholstery to remove dust
- If possible, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter or a “higher efficiency” collection bag
- Pick up loose paint chips carefully with a paper towel and discard in the trash, then wipe the surface clean with a wet paper towel
- Take precautions to avoid creating lead dust when remodeling, renovating or maintaining your home
- Test for lead hazards by a lead professional. (Have the soil tested too)
Paint containing more than .06 percent lead was banned for residential use in the United States in 1978 by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The Commission defines “lead-based paint” as any “paint, surface coating that contains lead equal to or exceeding one milligram per square centimeter (1.0 mg/cm2) or 0.5% by weight.” Proper maintenance of lead paint involves painting over it with non-lead based paint before it degrades to the point that it begins cracking, chipping, or peeling. If it can possibly be avoided, lead-based paint should not be dry sanded, dry scraped or burned off of structures unless a proper HEPA filtration system is used. EPA recommends lead dust testing of any home built prior to 1978, especially if the buyers have children or pets. Lead dust testing is best performed by a qualified home inspector or an environmental inspector.