Hidden home dangers could be making you sick

By Trang Do - Bio | Email

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Your home is the place where you're supposed to feel safest, but what you may not realize is that your home could be making you sick.

All homes are vulnerable to hidden dangers, and several experts gave about what you should do if you suspect trouble within the walls of your home.

Home remediation expert Les Hildebrand takes us through a home that could be any house in America.

He shows us the aftereffects of an issue his company, Stay Dry Drainage and Waterproofing, gets calls about almost daily.

"Down here, they have a real problem," he said as he looked at bottom of the wall.

The problem started off with standing water getting into the house because of an outside drainage issue.

With prime growing conditions in the dark, dank basement, mold has formed.

"Aspergillus is a powdery black and stachybotrys is a sticky black," Hildebrand said. "And stachybotrys has brown streaks in it."

Toxin-producing mold not only has a distinct look, but a distinct, musty smell.

Hildebrand said mold can be deadly if left untreated over a long period of time, but that it's a problem that's easily fixed.

"People should not panic when the see mold," he said. "Once we clean this up, it's gone and we can absolutely and positively guarantee that it's gone."

Mold is something you can see and smell, but this next home danger is colorless and odorless.

"This area (North Alabama) is very, very prevalent to have radon gas," said Crye-Leike realtor Roy Claytor.

Radon is a radioactive gas found in the earth. It enters homes through cracks in the floors and walls, and can become trapped inside the walls.

The Environmental Protection Agency says the North Alabama region has elevated levels of radon, and family doctor Tim Howard says it can pose a serious threat to your health.

"It's (Radon) the number one cause of non-smokers with lung cancer," Dr. Howard said.

You can get an inexpensive do-it-yourself home testing kit online or at any home improvement store, or you can call a certified inspector to test for you to determine if you need a mitigation system that pulls the gas from beneath your home and vents it to the outside.

Another danger that can be found in new construction or recent repairs is Chinese drywall.

"If you have a smell of rotten eggs, or like fireworks going off, that's sulphur, and that's what's released," Dr. Howard said. "And that's the concern over time is just the noxious fumes of that, which you know can set off nausea, dizziness, those kinds of things."

If you suspect your home was built with Chinese drywall, contact your builder to find out.

An air-quality test can show you if the air in your home could be making you sick.

The only way to remedy the situation is to completely remove the drywall and replace it, which can get costly.

As for older homes, lead-based paint can be a potential issue.

"A lot of the older houses in Old Town, you see lead paint and that has to be stripped," Hildebrand said.

Health experts say young children are most vulnerable to lead's effects.

"The age group you're concerned with is those six and under, because that's where they could really see a problem with, as far as development," Dr. Howard said.

Alabama is one of several states that doesn't require people selling their home to give potential buyers a disclosure form, going down the list of any known issues.

That's why Claytor says it's so important to get a home inspection before you decide to buy.

"It's one of those situations where, if you're protecting your family and your health, I think that's worth the money also," he said.

If you feel you may have one or more of these issues, North Alabama has many good home remediation companies.

Before you hire anyone, it's a good idea to check them out through the Better Business Bureau.

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