Home Buyers Guide

Inspecting a Home for Toxic Substances

Testing fo Radon, Lead and Asbestos is smart.

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You've already asked for the right to have a professional home inspector inspect your house. And you've asked for the right to have your home inspected for pests. Have you thought about having an inspector test for toxic substances? Once a rare addition to contracts, toxic substance inspections including radon, lead, water and asbestos have become a regular part of most real estate contracts.
Unfortunately, most home inspectors are not qualified to do specialized tests for toxic substances. You must therefore find separate inspectors who specialize or find a home inspector who specializes in home inspections and toxic substances.

Toxic substances home buyers should inspect for:

Radon Testing

A study in 1989 by the Environmental Protection Agency stated that twenty two thousand deaths a year are attributed to Radon, a gas that seeps through cracks in the house or foundation from the earth. According to an EPA pamphlet, "Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., after cigarette smoking. As you breathe it in it's decay products become trapped inside your lungs.
As these products continue to decay, they release small bursts of energy that can damage lung tissue and lead to lung cancer. It's like exposing your family to hundreds of chest X-rays each year." Of the home buyers and home owners who actually check for Radon, the EPA estimates around 20 percent will find an unacceptable level.
Although you can purchase an EPA listed radon gas test kit in your local hardware store, it's best for new home buyers to have a professional home inspector perform the test which requires two to four days exposure in the home. Radon emissions can be fixed, either by sealing the cracks or installing an air system that sucks out the gas from beneath the home.

For more information on radon inspection, call the EPA's hot-line at
(800) SOS-RADO

Asbestos Testing

If you're buying new construction or anything built since the mid-1970s, you needn't worry about asbestos. If you are buying an older home, it is likely there is some asbestos in the house. Asbestos is a microscopic airborne fiber that is ingested through the nose or mouth; it lodges in the lung and can cause lung cancer. If not disturbed, the threat from asbestos is minimal, if any.
You can have an asbestos inspector or specialist come out and tell you if there is asbestos in the home and how much it will cost to have it wrapped or removed (the two ways to abate the threat).

For more information on asbestos inspection, contact your local OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) office of the federal government, or your local office of the Federal Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Lead Testing

High levels of lead in paint and water have been connected with mental and physical development problems. Lead is a problem when eaten or inhaled. Lead paint is most often found in older homes (it's use has been banned for more than twenty years) and can simply be covered up.
High levels of lead in water is another problem, particularly in old homes and apartment buildings.
If pipes that were soldered together with lead begin to corrode, lead particles can be released into your water supply. If the water is contaminated at the source (from your local city or municipal water supply), you may want to consider buying a filtering system, or looking for another home in a different area.

For more information on lead inspection, call your local office of the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission.

This article made possible in part by: ILyce R. Glink - Veteran Reporter specializing in the real estate market.


Useful Resources for Home Buyers
  • Home Inspection Checklist
  • an important step in protecting yourself from buying a home with hidden faults that will require costly repairs.
  • Choosing a Home Inspector
  • Many new home buyers have the impression that all home inspectors are the same, in fact, many Canadian provinces and American States have no regulations for home inspectors so the experience level of inspectors vary.
  • Toxic Substance Inspection
  • You've already asked for the right to have a professional home inspector inspect your house. And you've asked for the right to have your home inspected for pests. Have you thought about having an inspector test for toxic substances?
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Keywords: Inspecting a Home for Toxic Substances.

Home Inspection Checklist
Home Inspection Checklist
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