Residential Environmental Health and Safety

There are numerous regulations in place to protect us from environmental health and safety related hazards while we are at work, at school, walking down the street and even at the mall. Very few if any of these regulations apply to our personal property or activity. Regardless of where you work, go to school, shop or visit there are regulations which protect you from asbestos exposure, lead based paint exposure, poor indoor air quality and mold as well as exposure to hazardous chemicals. Below we have listed some basic information which will help you make your house environmentally safe.

Asbestos Containing Materials

Asbestos is a naturally formed mineral which has been mined from numerous regions around the world. Asbestos was known as the miracle mineral by the Greeks and Romans and has been used from that time on. The EPA banned the use of asbestos in commercially available building materials prior to 1980. Asbestos was used in residential pipe insulation, boiler insulation, siding and roofing materials as well as plaster and drywall joint compounds, linoleum and vinyl flooring can also contain asbestos. Asbestos is a concern when it's microscopic fibers are released into the air by activities which damage the asbestos containing materials such as sanding, scraping, cutting or drilling. Asbestos is known to cause lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma. Asbestos containing materials which are in undamaged condition and left in place generally provide no hazard. You can have an asbestos inspection completed in your home for about $250.00 by a licensed professional.

Lead Based Paints

Lead is an element which occurs naturally within the earth, lead has been mined and used all around the world since the time of the Greeks and Romans. Lead was mined in such quantity that it often was used to pave roads around early lead mines many, many years ago. The EPA ban on lead took place throughout the 1970's when lead was removed from gasoline, pipe solder and commercially available paints and coatings. Most all homes built prior to 1978 have some amount of lead based paint, the older the home the more likely that lead based paint exists. Damage to lead based paint by friction, impact and moisture releases microscopic particles of lead which can be easily ingested where it affects the central nervous system and can lead to symptoms such as headaches, stomach cramps, tiredness and numerous others. Lead poisoning can lead to permanent damage and even death. Lead poisoning affects young children most dramatically however even healthy adults can develop irreversible problems. The EPA has enacted new regulations requiring all contractors who disturb more than 6 square feet of lead based paint indoors and more than 20 square feet of lead based paint outdoors to be certified and licensed. You can find more information about the EPA RRP regulations at Don't allow an uncertified contractor perform any work in your home where lead based paint is present. You can have your home tested for lead based paint for about $300.00 by a licensed professional.

Indoor Air Quality and Mold Contamination

Indoor air quality can be affected by many factors including animal dander, rodent waste, bat and pigeon wastes, inefficient heating systems, mold and moisture along with numerous others. Depending on the type of pollutant poor indoor air quality can cause numerous ill health affects from respiratory irritation to blood borne diseases. A simple visual inspection of residential properties can usually alert an environmental professional to possible problems. Mold is a high concern. There are literally thousands of types of mold which can be common allergens causing cold like symptoms to toxins which can cause serious chronic health problems. The EPA recommends that if you can visually see more than a few square feet of mold growth you should have a professional evaluation and remediation. Mold contamination affects approximately 10% of real estate transactions. Once mold is detected by a home inspector or appraiser by law it must be disclosed and will most certainly affect the sale. At the first sign of mold or persistent moisture a professional evaluation and remedation should be conducted.

Chemical Products, Paints, Insecticides

The storage and use of chemical products is regulated in every work place within the country. Public sectors employers such as publicly funded schools, hospitals, colleges, universities, municipalities, counties and even state authorities as required by PA Law 1984-159 to properly store chemical products as well as have specific documentation on file. Private sector employers such as car dealers, auto body shops, factories etc as required by the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard to properly store chemical products as well as have specific documentation on file. State and Federal governments have implemented regulations to keep you safe from chemical products at work and school, you should be aware of these regulations and how they translate into your home. You should limit the amount of chemical products including bleach, ammonia, lacquer thinner and even gasoline stored at your property. Excess chemical products can be a health and safety hazard within you home. Be sure to secure chemical products and keep them out of the reach of children. Be sure to read storage labels and provide proper storage. In the event of an emergency involving a chemical product in your home contact 911 or the Pennsylvania Poison Control Center depending on the severity of the emergency.