One or more toxic substances may very well be hiding in your home. Most often these contaminants are found in older structures, but even if your house was built just 20 years ago, it’s still at risk. These materials cause harm to your family if they’re inhaled, ingested or absorbed. If at anytime you believe someone has been exposed to a life-threatening poison, please call 911.

The following are some of the dangers to watch for, what problems they cause and how to eliminate them from your home.

1. Paints and Stains

Remember when you freshened up the look of your kitchen or deck and had some paint or stain left over? Keeping it around for a long period of time can cause those cans to release noxious fumes that can trigger asthma attacks and lead to other health issues in humans.

Solution: Turn your leftovers in when your community has a household waste collection day.

Old Paint Can

2. Lead

The paint originally used on an older home, especially one built before 1978, may contain lead. Your pipes may also contain lead. Exposure to this very toxic metal has been proven to cause health problems, including changes in mental development and nerve disorders.

Solution: If you’re unsure of the paint, have it tested for lead and if positive, get it removed. In some areas, the law requires removal. Have your tap water tested for traces of lead by your local water authority. Depending on the results, take direction on your next steps from your water department.

Lead Paint Removal

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3. Asbestos

This mineral fiber can only be detected with a special type of microscope. Yet in homes, asbestos can be included in roofing shingles, insulation, floor tiles, on furnace gaskets, walls, floors and in popcorn ceilings. Disturbing asbestos releases toxic fibers into the air that when ingested can cause problems within your lungs that last for many years.

Solution: Call an asbestos abatement specialist for safe and proper removal.

Popcorn Ceiling

4. Mold

Mold and mildew flourish wherever there’s moisture. When you inhale these fungi spores you may experience itchy eyes, a runny nose, sneezing and other symptoms. Some types of mold can even bring on pneumonia.

Solution: When your carpet, clothing or some part of your home gets wet, dry it out within 24-48 hours. Don’t leave clothes in the washer or allow mildew to grow in your bathroom. Also, mold on a wall may signal the toxin is also inside the wall, so you need to consult with a professional concerning removal.

Black Mold

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5. Radon

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends testing for radon when you sell or buy a home, if you live in a rambler or even a two-story home. Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock or water. It slinks into your home through cracks in the foundation. Radon has been linked to lung cancer in both smokers and non-smokers.

Solution: If your radon level requires action according to the EPA standards, hire a qualified radon mitigation contractor.

Crack in Foundation

6. PCBs

Although banned in the late 1970s, prior to that, PCBs lined and insulated electrical wiring, appeared in paint, caulk and fluorescent light ballasts. Chemicals in the PCBs off-gas or evaporate causing health problems for the people living in infected homes. This increases the risk of cancer and negatively affects the immune, reproductive and nervous systems.

Solution: Electricians can check your wiring for contamination or call a PCB remediation company to test any part of your home for PCBs and also to eliminate them.

Exposed Electrical Wiring

7. Carbon Monoxide

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 500 people die each year from inhaling this silent, odorless, flavorless gas. It usually happens when an organic fuel is burned without the right ventilation. For example, someone cooks on a charcoal grill in a closed home during a power outage. Carbon monoxide poisoning also comes from gas space heaters, wood stoves, fireplaces and automobile exhaust. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness and nausea and it can be deadly.

Solution: Install a carbon monoxide monitor. If it goes off, open all the doors and windows to get as much ventilation as you can and call 911 right away.


Carbon Monoxide


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About the Author: is a full-service home remodeling and construction general contractor serving the greater Seattle, Denver, Phoenix, San Francisco, and San Jose area. Home improvement is hard, and we make it easier for you every step of the way. That starts by understanding your goals, whether it’s making a space more livable, expanding your home, repairing damage, adding room for relatives, or something completely different. We’ll work with you to ensure you’re happy with the project from start to finish.