Asbestos was once widely used in construction for its insulating properties. However, this material has since been banned in many parts of the world for its health risks. When disturbed, asbestos can release tiny microscopic fibres into the air. These can be breathed in and can cause serious irritation to the lungs. The body has extreme difficulty getting rid of these fibres and so they often continue to cause irritation leading to potential fatal lung conditions such as CPD and mesothelioma.
Asbestos is generally harmless until it is tampered with – however this could be something as simple as drilling a hole in a wall. Asbestos tends to have a distinct grey fluff-like appearance making it easy to spot. You’re best off hiring a professional company to seal or remove asbestos found in your home.
Many old paints were mixed with lead. Such paints have since been banned all across the globe due to lead’s toxic effects. Lead can get into the bloodstream and cause anaemia, brain damage and kidney damage, whilst extreme cases can lead to death. Infants are most at danger as they’re most likely to find flecks of paint and put it in their mouth.
You can test for lead using a lead test kit. Lead is most dangerous when it is peeling and you may want to hire a professional company to remove it.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are organic chemicals found in many modern paints that can release harmful fumes. Whilst the risks are nowhere near as high as asbestos or lead, VOCs have been linked to leukaemia and lymphoma. Fresh paint gives off the most vapours, however paints can continue to release small amounts of VOCs for years after leading to long-term exposure.
You can similarly buy test kits to test your home’s air quality for VOCs. There are now many low-VOC and no-VOC paints on the market that you can paint onto your walls as an alternative. In fact, many places around the world are now cracking down on paints with high levels of VOCs with some places banning them.
If your home is very old, you should watch out for old wiring that could still be in use. Traditional wiring such as knob and tube wiring wasn’t built to last and much of it is likely to be damaged. Such wiring has been known to cause fires and fatal electric shocks.
Signs that your home may contain old damaged wiring could include constant tripping circuits and flickering lights. Burning smells or loud buzzing from sockets could be a sign of an immediate danger. In all cases, hire a professional electrician to take a look.
Mould is a fungus that can grow on walls. It is attracted to damp conditions and can be triggered by leaks, condensation or rising damp. Prolonged exposure to mould can be dangerous as spores can be breathed in – these can lead to the development of asthmas and in serious cases conditions like legionnaires disease.
You can usually get rid of mould yourself by wiping it with a dry sponge. More serious cases of mould may require professional intervention. Getting rid of the source of the mould is also important, otherwise it will return – this could include fixing leaks, fitting a damp proof course and providing ventilation such as opening windows regularly or using extractor fans.
Radon is a naturally occurring gas that comes from deep in the earth. It can seep into homes through the foundations and cause poisoning over a long period of time, potentially leading to lung cancer. In fact, it’s thought to be one of the leading causes of lung cancer after smoking.
Certain areas are more prone to radon – you can buy a radon test kit to check your home’s air for this gas. Sealing up your foundations and keeping your home ventilated can prevent radon building up in your home. There are radon mitigation companies that can make your home radon-proof.