Protecting your family and keeping them safe is one of your biggest priorities and responsibilities. Most of that duty involves providing for day-to-day physical and emotional well-being, whether that’s with food, basic safety at home and on the road, or being there for your family to support each other when emotionally exhausting and painful things happen. Watching out for your family becomes more difficult and complicated, however, when it comes to environmental hazards around the home.
There are different chemicals and substances that can pose serious health risks to your family if they go undetected. And the worst part is that you might never know these dangers are present unless you take the time to investigate. Take the time to study the risk factors and consider having your home or system inspected by appropriate professionals before anyone in your home suffers any ill effects.
Radon gas can be severely toxic, but it’s completely odorless, tasteless and colorless. The only way to do a test for it is with a device specially built to detect radon. You can buy one to test for yourself, or you can hire a professional. Radon gas comes from natural radioactive materials breaking down in rocks and soil. It can then enter your home through any part of the house that comes in contact with the ground.
The EPA has stated that radon exposure is the second biggest cause of lung cancer in the U.S. after smoking, and many homes in the U.S. are at risk for unhealthy levels of exposure to this naturally-occurring radioactive gas.
Another question many homeowners should be asking themselves is, “What is in my tap water?” You may face different risks depending on if you get your water from a citywide reservoir, a neighborhood well or any other source. But wherever you get your water from, there is a risk of contamination from a wide variety of materials. Any time you observe a change in the color or taste of your water, it’s likely that some change in the chemicals and minerals present is responsible, which can be dangerous or entirely benign. Even subtle changes in the appearance of the water like more bubbles can be indicative of a change.
Chlorine and fluoride are often intentionally added to water supplies for antimicrobial purposes, but high concentrations or overconsumption can be detrimental. Lead and chemicals like herbicides or pesticides are also some elements that find their way into water supplies sometimes. The only way to be sure is to have your water tested yourself and hold your local authorities responsible for the quality of your water.
Mold is a household health risk that you’re more likely to see immediate effects from, but you might not realize that mold is responsible. Concentrations of mold in your home, whether it’s in the walls, carpet, air vents or anywhere else, can cause colds and other minor illnesses. You might also get rashes or just generally be suffering from irritated eyes and nose as a result of mold. Some mold will only have negligible effects on your health, while other molds can be very toxic. To know for sure and to thoroughly check your house for mold you’ll have to get a professional to investigate.
Lead in the environment is a serious hazard that can have a directly harmful effect on your brain and your central nervous system. It’s especially bad for children. Research has shown that lead exposure in children is linked to lower IQ, less impulse control, and problems with cognition, attention, and memory. Homes built before 1980 often involved lead-based paint. That paint can get into the air and is then ingested by children and others living there.
Even in more modern houses, however, lead can still be a present hazard. Lead dust exposure is most likely in urban areas that suffer from environmental pollution where it can be found in the area. It’s also possible for people to bring lead dust into a home after collecting it from the soil on their shoes.
Pesticides and herbicides used for industrial agriculture can contaminate the air and water and create danger for people living around farms. But even casual household use of pesticides can create risks, far from any farm. When you spray a pesticide to kill a bug in your home, that toxic substance persists in the air and becomes a part of the dust in your home. It’s unclear what level of consistent exposure to pesticides would lead to permanent harm, but it has been shown that people with high levels of exposure to pesticides over time show measurably lower brain functioning.