Eric Stevenson is a guest blogger for GreenHomeImprovement.com—and we’re happy to have him! Read on for more on how to be responsible and green in your own home.
Unfortunately, older homes often contain materials we might not even be aware of. Because homes constructed decades ago were not subject to modern regulations, dangerous chemicals might sit dormant in these homes, waiting to get exposed. However, allowing these chemicals to exist in homes is an irresponsible response many homeowners are willing to take. Unfortunately, permitting the presence of toxic materials does not just threaten the home owner, but anyone who might ever become exposed to these concentrated materials in the future as well.
When one purchases a home, they assume responsibility for all the materials in that residence, including toxic ones. It then falls upon these homeowners to ensure the safe removal of household hazardous wastes like thermometers, electronics and paints. Household wastes that qualify as hazardous do so on the basis of their reactivity, ignitability, corrosiveness, toxicity, and persistence to environmental degradation. These materials pose a high threat when discarded inappropriately, without proper consideration for who must handle them, the effects they might have on their location of discard and who could encounter the materials in the future.
Further, personal safety is compromised when home owners fail to investigate the hazards that might be hiding just through a wall or in a basement. While these dangerous materials might remain dormant for almost the entire life of a home, renovation is an opportunity for these chemicals to escape and threaten homeowners. Some of the more common dangerous chemicals are radon, mercury, lead and asbestos. Lead and asbestos, especially, represent a huge risk to homeowners because of their pervasiveness in past construction and difficulty to spot.
Lead was once a major component in numerous household products including furniture, gasoline and plumbing pipeline. Although recognized as a threat in older paints, it remains dangerous because so few homeowners are aware of its use in other common home goods. Furthermore, this chemical is an even greater threat to children because it is so easily absorbed into growing skin. Side effects of lead exposure can be extremely damaging, especially to children, with physical growth delays, stunts in mental development and behavioral problems all resulting from exposure to this chemical.
A naturally occurring mineral, asbestos is another insidious material commonly used in home construction. Valued as an insulator against heat, fire, chemical exposure and electricity, this material can be found in several forms. Although it too recently received attention for its dangerous side effects, its commonness and varied use make it difficult for untrained professionals to spot. While relatively benign if undamaged, this material becomes a threat when its composition becomes compromised through splintering. When it becomes small enough to become dust in the air, it can then be breathed into the lungs of homeowners, leading to asbestosis or cancer.
Mesothelioma symptoms, which are the indicators of the cancer caused by asbestos, typically do not occur until 20 to 50 years after one’s initial exposure to this household danger. Although sufferers of this chemical face prolonged side effects that can take decades to appear, many of these other toxic chemicals pose serious risks to those exposed far quicker. That is why newer homes need to be constructed using safe materials. Indeed, homes should be designed using only materials that can easily be recycled, either biologically or industrially, without the dangerous side effects we continue to see. By making this concept the main concern for all new homes, Americans might begin to find redemption for past foolishness and start leading safer, cleaner lives.
About Eric: Eric is currently a student preparing to practice environmental law. He is very passionate about the green revolution, and has dreams of building a fully sustainable green village.