What Environmental Testing Should You Do in Your Home?
A Proper Home Inspection Is Essential
When we buy a new home, we expect the previous owner to have thoroughly checked over the environmental aspects of the property prior to putting the house on the market. Even so, it’s advisable to ask the question of whether the house has been properly inspected, and you should see for yourselves the documents of inspection.
After all, throughout the years, building practices and materials have changed and what was once acceptable would now be frowned upon, if not be considered downright illegal. However, even if you do ask the question, it’s probably prudent to do the checks again yourself. You never know how diligent the realtor’s or previous owners’ inspector has been.
The last thing you want to do is to put your family’s health at risk by moving into a new house that is plagued by toxins. It will hardly set the tone for the happy family home you were trying to create. So the best thing to do is double check the property before completing the purchase.
Unless you’re in the construction trade yourself, then it’s hard to know what exactly you’re looking for and how to find it. To help you along, we’ve compiled this checklist accompanied by the relevant testing kits available so you at least have a headstart. We’ve also pointed out when it’s necessary to call in the experts.
The main things you’re going to look for and can easily test yourself are the air, water and soil. What you’re looking for with those tests are lead, mold, asbestos, radon and water contaminants.
Obviously water is hugely important as you’ll be washing in it and drinking it, provided it’s safe to do so. Even if you do find that the water is safe, it’s generally a good idea to buy something like a Brita filter jug to filter you drinking water through for added peace of mind.
You can buy a general testing kit such as the First Alert Drinking Water Test Kit which will give you results for bacteria, lead, pesticides, nitrites/nitrates, chlorine, hardness, and pH. You can buy this at on their website or on Amazon.
Be sure to note that home test kits for water will identify if there are higher levels of a toxin within the water, but they may not give the most accurate reading. If you’re really worried, then the best thing to do is get it checked by the professionals. Call your local water authority and they will be able to suggest an independent lab that you can send your samples to.
If there are toxins emanating from the construction of your house then this is a real problem as it can cause respiratory issues for life and might even cause deaths in some cases.
The main contaminates we’re looking for in the air are mold spores, lead fumes from old paint, asbestos and radon. Before we tell you about the kits available to test for these toxins we’re just going to give you a rundown of what you’re up against.
This is a naturally occurring gas that forms as a result of the breakdown of uranium in the soil. While traces are in all the air we breathe, it becomes a problem if it starts seeping into your home through cracks in the walls or floor as it can linger and become intensified.
A simple test for this can be done using First Alert Home Radon Test Kit which can be found on their website, at Lowes or on Amazon.
Lead based paints were only banned in 1978, therefore many older homes are likely to have lead based paint somewhere in them. The paint flakes due to deterioration or renovations and this releases lead based dust which is toxic if you inhale it.
Mold can occur wherever moisture has seeped into an area. You can find it in the walls or under floorboards. Unless you can see or smell it then it can be hard to detect. Mold spores in the air will cause or irritate allergies or ailments such as asthma. It can cause serious respiratory issues if not treated.
Before the 1980's, this material was used in all elements of construction — in old floor tiles, ceiling tiles, siding, insulation (around boilers, ducts, pipes, sheeting, fireplaces), pipe cement, and joint compound used on seams between pieces of sheetrock.
So it was basically everywhere. It doesn’t become a problem unless it breaks down, which by now is a strong likelihood. This can be very toxic if inhaled and should absolutely be tested for.
To test for lead, mold and asbestos, you can buy an all-in-one kit online from Certified Kit. If you find any of these in large quantities, it is advisable to get the professionals in to deal with it for peace of mind.
If you have a yard then you’ll want to make sure it’s safe, especially if you have a family. The main concern with soil is the lead content. It really only becomes a problem if the soil is ingested. Young kids may be playing and will more than likely, for whatever reasons, eat some soil. If it’s high in lead, that can be a problem, especially if it’s a regular occurrence.
The other thing to think about is whether you are intending to grow vegetables or fruit in your garden. Most fruit won’t absorb the lead, but green leafy vegetables will certainly be affected. All vegetables and fruit should be washed thoroughly before eating in case it still contains any soil.
There are many labs at universities around the country that you can send a sample to and for a small fee (usually $10-$20) they will analyze your soil for you. Make sure you ask them for heavy metal screening and not just the standard panel.