The housing market is hot and more and more potential home buyers are out and about looking for homes to call their own. Many home buyers are drawn to looking at older homes (1900-1960) for a variety of reasons from their character to old school building practices. Unfortunately many home buyers are unaware of the environmental hazards that still exist in thousands of older homes. Even many current homeowners have no idea about some of the things in their home that are potentially hazardous to their health and well being.
The following are 4 major environmental hazards that we as home inspectors encounter in literally thousands of older homes on a regular basis.
Radon – Odorless, colorless radioactive gas. According to the EPA, Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and kills approximately 21,000 people a year. High Radon levels are commonly found in all years of homes, but tend to be particularly high in older homes with basements or cellars.
Lead Based Paint – According to leadfreekids.org and cancer.org, more than one million children in the United States alone are affected by lead poisoning from lead based paint. Just a few particles of dust from lead based paint are enough to poison a child. Health effects range from headaches, stomach problems, anemia and brain damage. Lead based paint was widely used in homes until 1978 and is still very much present in thousands of older homes across the country.
Asbestos – Classified as a carcinogen. Asbestos causes a wide range of health effects including lung cancer, Mesothelioma and Asbestosis. According to cancer.org there are 3,000 new cases of Mesothelioma confirmed every year in the United States. Asbestos was widely used in older homes from the 1800’s to the 1960’s. During home inspections, we stumble upon Asbestos regularly. Asbestos was commonly used as insulation on duct work and plumbing supply lines in basements and crawlspaces. Other areas we commonly find Asbestos at are exterior siding, 9×9 floor tiles (VAT) and even attic insulation (Vermiculite).
Mold – Although there are no federal guidelines or standards concerning mold, it is widely known for causing a wide range of health effects. According to the CDC, exposure to excessive mold spores can lead to respiratory illnesses, eye and skin irritation, rashes, fungal pneumonia, lung damage, aspergillosis and liver and kidney damage.
Although most state laws do not require home inspectors to mention the presence of these hazards, good home inspectors with strong work ethics and morals will alert their clients to their presence and should recommend further review and suggest that these items be tested for by a qualified professional in that particular field.