A standard home inspection is the best way to determine the major issues facing a home you may be looking to buy. It's also a great tool for those looking to sell their own home and get the most out of the deal. However, an inspector can only do so much. To go beyond the surface and find any potentially hazardous problems lurking within a property, an environmental screening is essential. Here are just a few ways environmental screenings can go deeper than a regular inspection.
If you know you have water drainage or leaking problems in and around your home, there's a good chance that mold is growing in these areas. It's not the kind that appears on old bread, either - there are thousands of species of mold that can grow inside a house and create a variety of problems. When mold spores are disturbed and inhaled, prolonged exposure can lead to respiratory infections, flu-like or allergy symptoms, and in severe cases, neurological damage, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Mold can grow in hidden places that receive regular moisture - think basements and attics. An environmental screening can detect mold spores present in the air in large quantities, as well as identify areas where mold may be growing. Walls and ceilings can also be inspected for evidence of water penetration, which can often lead to mold growth. Getting the proper treatment for a mold problem is essential for maintaining a healthy and clean home environment.
Hazardous building materials
Many older homes were built using potentially harmful materials that may still be present in quantities high enough to become detrimental to your health. Lead is perhaps the most common of these materials. Lead is a naturally-occurring mineral that was widely used in paint prior to 1978, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Although it used to be favored for its bright color and quick drying, scientists soon discovered that lead caused severe, debilitating illness when ingested or inhaled. While the U.S. government outlawed the use of lead in paint in 1978, many homes built before then still contained dangerous amounts of the mineral. Lead was also used to make water pipes, which can cause dangerous contamination of drinking water. Both forms of lead can be detected with an environmental screening. If lead is found, however, a professional is required to safely remove it.
Another home material that can cause negative health effects is asbestos. Once widely used as a home building material, much like lead, scientists discovered that the fibrous material's dust was dangerous when inhaled. Those who live in buildings containing asbestos, or who were involved in its production, are at an increased risk of developing lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. A certified professional can identify and remove asbestos from a home.
Some harmful chemicals that are found in homes everywhere simply seep out of the ground and can remain unnoticed for years. It sounds scary, but it can be prevented. Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that naturally leaks from the ground. In homes that have numerous gaps or cracks, this gas can more easily seep up inside and cause health problems. In fact, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, radon is the second most common cause of lung cancer in the country, surpassed only by smoking. Cancer caused by radon exposure requires several years of an untreated leak, but there are simple steps you can take to minimize your risk. An environmental screening can be performed to test levels of radon in your home. The most accurate tests may take several months. If it is determined that dangerous levels of radon exist in your home, there are several ways to reduce concentrations. Sealing gaps or cracks in your foundation is one of the best solutions. A specialized ventilation system that pulls radon from within your home and releases in outside may also be recommended. These repairs are usually not expensive, but can make a world of difference in your health.
Water system testing
Whether your home is connected to a conventional sewage system, a septic tank or a natural well, a professional screener will be able to test for any contaminants or issues within these systems. The majority of U.S. homes are served to a community water system that is among the safest in the world, according to the Centers for Disease Control. However, those who use septic tanks or natural wells for their water may be at increased risk for chemical contamination. A professional screening can determine if any harmful chemicals are present in your water system and offer treatment solutions.