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Home Matters

Three environmental substances dangerous for your home

Environmental testing for mold, lead, and asbestos is a must when considering how to best maintain your home. It can be dangerous if overlooked, especially in a moist living environment such as the Pacific Northwest. Testing can alert home owners to potential threats to respiratory and other health problems not necessarily apparent to the naked eye. Although many people require some impetus before they drop cash on a professional tester; for example, visual evidence of mold or foul smell, potential risks are most often lurking where and when you don't expect them. As usual, we consulted a professional, Darren Spencer, from Pacific Northwest Inspections Group to help us understand a little better what kinds of signs you can look for to alert you to the presence of mold, lead, or asbestos.

Asbestos
Actually a mineral, asbestos is a derivative of silicon, and became popular in manufacturing late in the 1800's because its crystal structure gives it helpful properties like sound absorption along with resistance to various chemical, electrical, and heat stresses. Since it is flame retardant, asbestos was used in insulating, and even mixed in with cement foundations and other structures. Unfortunately, inhaling asbestos has been found to lead to health problems such as mesothelioma.

The danger associated with asbestos is obviously apparent, so testing for it in older structures is important. Testing generally involves individual collecting samples of particular materials that may be infected then send them in for lab work. The Health Department can help you find a professional near you; these people are important because they know exactly where to look, and what to look for. A good rule of thumb is that if you live in a house that was built before 1980, find records of it being tested, or get it tested!

Lead
Like asbestos, lead is one of those materials that was popular is construction before it was discovered to be dangerous. Lead, was a popular base for paints, and can still be present if your home is of older construction. The same rule of thumb applies, but if you are unsure, or believe that there is lead based paint in your home, call a professional. Disposal of lead based products is just as important as identifying them; especially when children are present. Don't take chances with poisonous materials, call a professional.

Mold
The most abundant of the three problems we discuss, at least in our neck of the woods. Mold can live where moisture has settled, and a lot of times it's difficult to notice. Mold can reside underneath floorboards or inside of walls. Unlike lead and asbestos, mold is not only relegated to older homes. In fact, brand new houses can have mold or mildew problems. Whether it's a leaky window, or just the moisture that gets sealed in when a new house is being framed, mold is dangerous and can cause serious health problems. Find a professional like Darren at Pacific Northwest Inspections who has experience in the field, and can help you quickly and efficiently. Like Darren says, "Our test methods are so sensitive that they will even detect mold growing behind walls, or carpeting, and thus not visible."

When it comes to your safety, don't mess around with these three dangerous substances; get them tested by a professional. To learn more about Darren Spencer and Pacific Northwest Inspections Group visit www.pacificnorthwestinspections.com.

Rob White, Home Matters Host
Rob co-hosts Home Matters on the new 97.3 KIRO FM Weekends.
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