Numerous environmental hazards can existin your home without you even knowing. Some are easily detectable whileothers may require special equipment. Radon, asbestos and lead are justa few of the substances found in homes that can make you sick. They canexist in gaseous or solid forms.
Radon is a colorless, odorlessradioactive gas that is a by-product of the degradation of uranium.Present in soil and rock, it can enter a house through basement floors,cracks in concrete or ground water. It is more likely to be found inrural areas where a home’s water source is a well. Urban watersystems undergo sophisticated filtering systems, making radon levelssubstantially lower. Radon is harmful because its radioactive particlesaccumulate in the air. Breathing these particles over a period of5-25 years, an individual can develop lung cancer.Inexpensive radon test kits are available, and if radon is detected, anumber of methods can be used to decrease levels including installingfiltration systems, fans or pumps.
Asbestos is another danger tothe home. Although not gaseous, its fibers can lodge in your lungs,eventually causing cancer. In the environment, asbestos is a fibroussubstance found in rocks, but builders previously used asbestos becauseit is an excellent fire retardant and efficient insulator. Hazardoussituations arise though, when its fibers are expelled into the air dueto deterioration. Its removal is fairly difficult and requires aprofessional.
Lead can also make you ill and can be found insoil, water or older paint in your home. Your water can be tested todetermine if lead is present, and lead-based paint is now banned. Homesbuilt before 1978 may have lead-based paint and its removal can becostly. Experts recommend covering these painted surfaces so as not tocreate hazardous dust. Lead is far more dangerous when children areexposed to it because it can affect the brain, blood and nervoussystems, causing irreversible damage.
Our homes should notmake us sick. The air we breathe, the water we drink and the ground weplay on should be free of contaminants so that we can grow into healthyadults. It’s important that we are aware of harmful substancesthat plague our environment. Tell your parents that radon, asbestos andlead testing is an excellent safety measure and also to keep theseprecautions in mind when selecting a home.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.