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Why is lead in some homes? Lead is a highly toxic metal that was used for many years in products found in and around our homes. In general, the older a home, the more likely it has lead-based paint.
The most common sources of household lead are:
Can lead cause health problems?
- Paint - The federal government banned lead-based paint from housing in 1978, but homes built before this time may have used lead paint.
- Dust - Household dust can be contaminated with lead from paint, as can the soil around a house whose exterior was painted with lead paint.
- Drinking water - Your home might have plumbing with lead or lead solder.
If not detected early, children with high levels of lead in their bodies can suffer from damage to the brain and nervous system, behavior and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems and headaches. Lead is also harmful to adults. Adults can suffer from difficulties during pregnancy, high blood pressure, digestive problems, nerve disorders, memory and concentration problems, and muscle and joint pain.
What should I do about lead?
You can temporarily reduce lead hazards by taking actions such as repairing damaged painted surfaces and planting grass to cover soil with high lead levels. These actions are not permanent solutions and will need ongoing attention. To permanently remove lead hazards, you must hire a certified lead abatement contractor. Abatement methods include removing, sealing, or enclosing lead-based paint with special materials.
The above information is provided as a public service by the Environmental Protection Agency for educational purposes.
What is asbestos? Asbestos is a mineral fiber. In the past, asbestos was added to a variety of products to strengthen them and to provide heat insulation and fire resistance.
How can asbestos affect my health?
From studies of people who were exposed to asbestos in factories and shipyards, we know that breathing high levels of asbestos fibers can lead to an increased risk of lung cancer. Most people exposed to small amounts of asbestos, as we all are in our daily lives, do not develop health problems. However, if disturbed, asbestos material may release asbestos fibers, which can be inhaled into the lungs. The fibers can remain there for a long time, increasing the risk of disease.
Asbestos material that would crumble easily if handled, or that has been sawed, scraped, or sanded into a powder, is more likely to create a health hazard.
Where can I find asbestos and when can it be a problem?
Most products made today do not contain asbestos. Those few products made which still contain asbestos that could be inhaled are required to be labeled as such. However, until the 1970s, many types of building products and insulation materials used in homes contained asbestos.Common products that may have been made with asbestos include insulation, soundproofing, decorative material sprayed on walls and ceilings, hot water and steam pipes, and furnace ducts.
What should be done about asbestos in the home?
If you think asbestos may be in your home, don't panic! Usually the best thing is to leave asbestos material that is in good condition alone, since material in good condition will not release asbestos fibers. There is no danger unless fibers are released and inhaled into the lungs. If asbestos material is more than slightly damaged, or if you are going to make changes in your home that might disturb it, repair or removal by a professional is needed.
Asbestos professionals are trained in handling asbestos material. The type of professional will depend on the type of product and what needs to be done to correct the problem. You may hire a general asbestos contractor or, in some cases, a professional trained to handle specific products containing asbestos.
Why is mold growing in my home?
Molds are part of the natural environment. Outdoors, molds play a part in nature by breaking down dead organic matter such as fallen leaves and dead trees, but indoors, mold growth should be avoided. Molds reproduce by means of tiny spores; the spores are invisible to the naked eye and float through outdoor and indoor air. Mold may begin growing indoors when mold spores land on surfaces that are wet. There are many types of mold, and none of them will grow without water or moisture.
Can mold cause health problems?
Molds are usually not a problem indoors, unless mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing. Molds have the potential to cause health problems. Molds produce allergens, irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances. Allergic reactions to mold are common and include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash. Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold.
How do I get rid of mold?
It is impossible to get rid of all mold and mold spores indoors, but indoor mold growth can be controlled by controlling moisture indoors. If there is mold growth in your home, you must clean up the mold and also fix the water problem. If you clean up the mold, but don't fix the water problem, the mold problem most likely will return.
Who should do the cleanup?
If the moldy area is less than about 10 square feet, you can probably handle the job yourself. However: If there has been a lot of water damage, and/or mold growth covers more than 10 square feet, if you hire a contractor (or other professional service provider) to do the cleanup, make sure the contractor has experience cleaning up mold. Check references and ask the contractor to follow government recommendations for mold removal.
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