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Health Effects of 5 Most Common Household Toxins



By Diane Hanson


Do you find yourself getting the sniffles when it’s not even the allergy season or do you often feel under the weather while you’re in your own house? Believe me, the chemicals in your furniture, the mold growing beneath your kitchen sink, water filter pitchers, couch cushions or something even worse is making you sick.


Do you know that over time, these household toxins can build up in your body and overload your system? Read on to find out some of the most common toxins in the home which can be deadly, and how you can get rid of household toxins.




1. Radon

This colorless, odorless gas is second-leading cause of lung cancer. Radon seeps from the soil and can enter your house through cracks in floors and walls and becomes trapped inside, building up over time. Getting high levels of radon in your home is a extremely rare but a very serious possibility.


To protect your health, buy a radon test kit from a hardware store (they cost between $10 to $20) and place it in your home for 2 days. If levels are high, it’s a good idea to hire a radon removal expert to come in and install a randon control system which normally takes a day to install. Cost generally ranges from $700-$1,500.




2. Arsenic

Arsenic is a poison that has been associated with cancer and has a wide range of harmful side effects. Up until 2005, arsenic was used as a preservative for wood. Any home with a wooden deck, porch or fence built before 2005 may be at risk.


The chemical can seep into the soil and kill nearby plants. It can also come off on your hands when touched, making it especially dangerous for young kids who are fond of putting hands in their mouths.


If you’re concerned about the possibility of arsenic poisoning, the simple solution is to treat the wood with an oil-based stain each year so that when it’s touched, only the stain is touched and not the arsenic.




3. Lead

Houses built before 1978 were painted with lead-based paint. If this paint is ingested or inhaled (such as when it gets ground down to a fine powder on your windowsills), it can lead to long-term developmental and behavioral problems. A lead particle the size of a single grain of salt will elevate a child’s blood-lead level.


Call your state housing department for a recommendation for private labs that do a test for lead. If the test is positive, make sure that you cover all your walls with a coat of encapsulant to prevent further contamination.


You might also want to consider replacing those windows and baseboards if they’ve been around since the 70s.




4. Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde has been known to cause allergy-like symptoms, nausea as well as dizziness. Liver and central nervous system damage is possible through increased exposure.


If you’ve recently added new floors, carpets or furniture to your home, you might be at risk to formaldehyde. The adhesive used to lay carpet and to hold together wood furniture and floors usually contains formaldehyde which then gets released into the air.


The good thing is, formaldehyde dissipates into the air, so if you’ve had your new carpet for a few months, it should have all circulated away by now. If not, leave your windows open for a little while after you get that new furniture to allow formaldehyde to properly dissipate.


You can also ask the carpet company to let the carpeting air out in the factory for a few weeks before delivering it. If you can afford to spend a bit more money, then look for improvements and furniture made using VOC (volatile organic compounds) free building materials.




5. Mold

Though not quite a serious health risk like the above household toxins, mold can lead to a myriad of health problems including general congestion, eye and skin irritation, shortness of breath and serious mold infections of the lungs.


Mold is everywhere – where there’s water (and especially water damage), there’s a high possibility of mold growth. If you have less than 10 square feet of mold damage, you can clean it with water and detergent, but anything more than that, it’s better to hire a professional to prevent the mold spores from spreading around the house.


However, getting the professionals in can be expensive. And, not all mold damage is covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy. Check your policy because coverage and limitations may vary.



common household toxins

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