Toxins are everywhere. In the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Sadly, we are exposed to viruses, bacteria, fungi and dangerous substances all day. Fortunately, some people can live a healthy life despite this fact.
However, other people don’t. Especially those who are prone to allergies. Some may be allergic to their own homes without knowing it. Although the symptoms are clear, the causes are a mystery.
If you spend most of your time at home, you feel sick. Beware! You could be suffering from Sick Building Syndrome. In this article you’ll learn how to test for toxins in your home to take corrective measures and say goodbye forever to those mysterious headaches and allergies that never go away.
How to identify a Sick Home
Identifying a Sick Home isn’t as easy as bringing a doctor inside the home and getting a diagnosis the same day. It requires time and long hours of research to determine the types of toxins present in your home and the cause of each of them.
On the Internet you can find many cheap tests that promise to show the presence of toxins, such as mold, lead and asbestos in no time. Most of them don’t cost more than $10. But are they really effective? In fact, these tests only offer qualitative, but not quantitative data.
In simple words, they don’t offer clear results like numbers and percentages. In addition, some make you pay more money to send the samples and pay the lab fees. Sometimes $20, $30 or even more.
It’s cheaper and more practical to take a sample without buying a kit and send it to a certified professional from an important university or environmental organization. Taking air and water samples is very easy and you can find tutorials on YouTube and other websites.
Some government agencies have their own test kits, which are more reliable than those generic products you find online and in hardware stores. If you want to get accurate and reliable results, choose only the best laboratories.
Signs that you’re living in a Sick Home
Have you suffered from allergies all your life? Don’t you know the real cause of your disease? Do you visit different doctors and can’t find a solution to your problems? If your answer to these three questions is yes, you may be living in a Sick Home.
If you live in an old house, with humidity problems, iron pipes and the worst water service in the state, you should certainly find a new house. There’s a high probability that your current home is the cause of all adverse reactions in your body.
Usually, the most common symptoms are:
- Sore throat
- Irritated eyes
- Irritated nose
- Lack of concentration
What is the Sick Building Syndrome?
Sick Building Syndrome is a term given by the US Environmental Protection Agency to the set of negative effects suffered by certain people linked to their coexistence within a building. These effects can’t be linked to a disease or identified cause.
For example, when you go on vacation and decide to travel to a place far from home. During those days, all your health problems disappear, including those recurring headaches. Then, when your vacation ends and you come home, you get sick again. Some doctors might think that it’s a psychosomatic disease.
However, the real cause of the problem could be the presence of environmental toxins in your home. To be sure of this factor, you must do several tests and contact an expert.
How to get a home diagnosis?
To find toxins in your home, you must first do a detailed inspection and identify the possible causes of the problem. In some cases, you can do the tests by yourself and in others, you’ll have to call someone else to do it.
Below, you’ll find a detailed explanation to learn how to identify each different toxin:
Volatile Organic Compounds, also known as VOCs, are small concentrations of hazardous chemicals emitted by some common items like painted walls, varnished surfaces, applied adhesives, cosmetics, candles, etc.
A common VOC in many homes is formaldehyde, a toxic gas. Every time you breathe in these gases, toxic substances pass into your body and stay there.
There are many air testing companies that you can call to do a test at home. They’ll determine what types of toxins are dispersed in the air and the exact concentration of each one. If the levels are dangerous, those professionals can help you identify the cause.
In the past, water pipes used to be made of lead. Although they were later replaced by iron, many plumbers used lead to weld them. So, if your house is very old and has iron pipes, there could be lead in the water.
Lead is very dangerous and can affect your physical and mental health. In the market, you can find some qualitative tests that help you quickly detect the presence of lead in water. Like those 3M Swabs that turn red in the presence of lead.
If you want more accurate data, such as the exact concentration in water, you can call an expert.
Mold is a fungus that proliferates in the presence of water. Generally, it appears as a large green, black or white stain on a surface in contact with water. Homes with leaks usually have this problem.
People allergic to mold can suffer various symptoms, including:
- Sore throat
Mold can be easily identifiable, due to its characteristic color and smell. However, sometimes mold can grow inside the walls, without giving evidence of its existence. In these cases you won’t find the cause of your allergies until you begin to break the walls.
You can contact a professional. But even they can make mistakes sometimes and don’t find mold during the inspection.
If your house was built between 1900-1970, there’s a high probability of finding asbestos there. Asbestos is a thermal insulator commonly used in air conditioning ducts, ceilings, walls and garage doors. While it isn’t exposed to air, it’s safe.
Otherwise, asbestos fibers travel through the air and are then aspirated by people. When aspirated, asbestos can cause lung cancer.
An air test can easily demonstrate the presence of asbestos in the air. You can use a kit or a plastic bag to collect the air. Then, send the sample to a reliable laboratory.
Radon has no smell or color. It’s virtually imperceptible but potentially deadly. People exposed to radon can get lung cancer. About 21,000 people die each year in the United States because of radon.
You can buy a test kit for less than $20 dollars to find traces of radon in the air. However, if you want accurate data, better contact a professional. That way you’ll know if radon concentration in the air is really dangerous or not.
How to Take Precautions against Toxic Sources at Home?
It’s true that we can’t escape from exposure to toxic substances. However, you can take some steps to reduce the risk of exposure. Below, you’ll find several tips to reduce toxic substances’ levels to minimum in your home.
- Keep your home ventilated
If there are bad smells in your home, don’t disguise them with air fresheners. Better, open the windows so that the fresh air enters and the bad smell escapes. Use natural flower bouquets in different areas of your home to provide a pleasant air perfume.
- Don’t heat too much Teflon pans
At temperatures above 450º F, Teflon surfaces release toxic substances that can cause cancer and other diseases.
- Take off your shoes before entering home
Shoes tend to accumulate waste from the outside that may be contaminated with toxic substances. You can use a handheld vacuum to remove contaminants from your shoes.
- Stay away from plastic bags
Storing food in plastic bags isn’t a good idea. Plastic contains toxic additives that can cause cancer. Also don’t heat plastic in the microwave.
- Say no to quaternary ammonium compounds
Quaternary ammonium compounds are commonly used in cleaning products. These substances can cause respiratory complications and other diseases. Therefore, before buying a certain product, verify that these substances aren’t present in its formula.
- Opt for fresh food
Canned or packaged food in plastic bags may be contaminated with toxic substances. Many of these substances are associated with hormonal disorders, obesity, diabetes, infertility and cancer.
- Be careful with cosmetic products
Products such as makeup and moisturizers may contain toxic preservatives such as oxybenzone, sodium laureth sulfate and parabens. So, if these substances are present in the formula, stop using them.
- Use fragrance free products
Fragrances used in disinfectants and detergents increase the risk of breast cancer and reproductive disorders. Therefore, opt for fragrance-free cleaning products.
- Prepare homemade cleaning products
You can prepare your own cleaning products at home using harmless ingredients such as vinegar and baking soda. These edible products don’t cause allergic reactions and are as effective as chemicals.