Environmental Hazards Information

Is this a safe, secured home, free from potential hazards?

  • In ever increasing numbers, home buyers today find it necessary to add new kinds of questions to their quest for information.
  • Environmental concerns are becoming an element of the home-buying thought process.

The following provides general information about some of the environmental hazards that have the potential to affect the home environment. While this information is believed to be accurate, it is not meant to be comprehensive or authoritative. This is meant to provide introductory information to help home buyers understand the possible risk of exposure to potentially harmful environmental hazards in and around the home.


  • According the the EPA, Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking.
  • Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that has been found in homes all over the U.S. Radon comes from the natural decay of uranium in soil, rocks, and ground water.
  • Radon from surrounding soil enters a home through small spaces and openings, such as cracks in concrete, floor drains, sump pump openings, wall/floor joints in basements, and the pores in hollow block walls. It also can seep into ground water and remain entrapped there.
  • Radon generally concentrates in the areas of the home closest to the ground. Radon levels typically decrease as one moves higher up in the structure. Testing is the only way to know whether or not a home has a radon problem. Do not rely on radon results taken in other homes in your neighborhood to estimate the levels in your home. Homes located next to each other can have different radon levels.
  • While radon problems may be more common in some areas in your local community or state, any home can have a problem.
  • The health risk associated with prolonged inhalation of radon decay products is an increased risk of developing lung cancer. When radon gas breaks down it releases radioactive particles that circulate in the air.
  • As you breathe these particles, they can become trapped in your lungs. As the particles continue to break down, they release bursts of energy (radiation) which can damage lung tissue. This damage can cause lung cancer. The EPA has determined that short-term exposure to a high concentration of radon is not as severe of a risk as long-term exposure to a lower level of the gas.
  • There are many effective and relatively inexpensive methods of reducing radon levels in a home. The method selected will vary from house to house and from region to region. The techniques used will depend on the source of the gas, the means of entering the home, and the type of construction used in the home. Normally, the cost of installing radon reduction equipment ranges from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. Radon source diagnosis and mitigation normally require skills and equipment not available to the average homeowner. Therefore, the use of trained personnel should be considered.
  • There is a myth that has circulated stating that Radon is not a problem if the house sits on a slab or a crawlspace. High levels have been found in homes sitting on slabs and over crawlspaces.

Lead Based Paint

  • According to the EPA, it is estimated that lead-based paint was applied to approximately two-thirds of the homes built in the U.S. before 1940, and approximately one-third of the homes built from 1940 to 1960; and to an indeterminate (but smaller) portion of US homes built since 1960.
  • Lead can enter the air within a home when surfaces covered with lead-based paint are scraped, sanded, or heated with an open flame in paint stripping procedures. Once released into the home atmosphere, lead particles circulate into the air and can be inhaled or ingested through the mouth and nose. Lead particles freed in fine dust or vapors settle into carpet fibers or fabric and can be re-circulated into the air by normal household cleaning (such as sweeping or dusting) and through normal hand-to-mouth behavior of young children. The result can be the ingestion of potentially harmful lead.
  • It is best to leave lead-based paint undisturbed if it is in good condition and there is little possibility that it will be consumed by children. Other procedures include: covering the paint with wallpaper, another building material, or replacing the entire painted surface.
  • The only way to determine if paint contains lead is to get it tested by a certified lead inspector or risk assessor.


  • Asbestos is a fibrous mineral found in rocks and soil throughout the world. Asbestos has been used in architectural and construction applications because it is strong, durable, fire retardant and an efficient insulator. Alone or in combination with other materials, asbestos can be fashioned into a variety of products that have numerous applications within the building industry such as flooring, walls, ceiling tiles, exterior housing shingles, insulation, or fire retardant for heating and electrical systems.
  • According to the EPA, homes constructed in the United States during the past twenty years probably do not contain asbestos products.
  • Asbestos has been identified as a carcinogen. Once ingested, asbestos fibers lodge in the lungs. Because the material is durable, it persists in tissue and concentrates as repeated exposures occur over time. It can cause cancer of the lungs and stomach among workers and others who have experienced prolonged work-related exposure to it. The health effects of lower exposures in the home are less certain. However, experts are unable to provide assurance that any level of exposure to asbestos fibers is completely safe.
  • The repair or removal of asbestos-containing products from a home is generally a complicated process. It depends on the amount of these products present, the percentage of asbestos they contain, and the manner in which asbestos is incorporated into the product. Total removal of even small amounts of asbestos-containing material is usually the last alternative. To assure safety and elimination of health hazards, asbestos repair or removal should be performed only by properly trained and certified contractors.

Hazardous Waste

  • Hazardous wastes are those waste products that could pose short or long term danger to personal health or the environment if they are not properly disposed of or managed. These wastes can be produced by large business or industries (such as chemical and manufacturing plants), by some small businesses (such as dry cleaners and printing plants), and by individuals who improperly apply, store, or dispose of compounds that contain potentially toxic ingredients (which can be found in chemical fertilizers, pesticides, CFL light-bulbs, and household products).
  • Concentrations of hazardous wastes occur in the environment when these wastes are handled, managed, or disposed of in a careless or unregulated manner. For many decades, hazardous industrial wastes were improperly disposed of on land, and their toxic components remained in the earth or seeped into ground water and drinking water supplies. The widespread use of pesticides and other agricultural chemicals also has resulted in the seepage and runoff of toxic compounds into land and water supplies.
  • Generally, testing for hazardous waste involves skills and technology not available to the average homeowner or home remodeling contractor.
  • The specific health hazards in homes contaminated by hazardous wastes are determined by the kinds and amounts of toxic substances present.
  • Some hazardous wastes can cause death even when ingested in small amounts. Other hazardous wastes have been linked to elevated risks of cancer, permanent damage to internal body organs, respiratory difficulties, skin rashes, birth defects, and diseases that attack the central nervous system.