Protecting your family is always top priority – whether the danger is a classroom bully, a nasty stomach bug, or the laundry detergent in the house. National Poison Prevention Week is March 18-24th, so we wanted to share some preventive measures you can take to avoid exposure to hazardous materials.
Inspect and Test: Lead, Asbestos, and Radon
There are many poisonous materials that may be lingering in your home. Hiring a professional to inspect for lead and asbestos can protect your family from adverse health effects.
Is Your Family Exposed to Lead?
If your home was built before 1960 it most likely contains lead based paint. If built between 1960 and 1980, the exterior of the home may contain lead-based paint, homes built after 1990 should be lead free. The paint becomes problematic when ingested or inhaled, young children are especially susceptible to lead poisoning because of their propensity to put items in their mouths.
Symptoms of lead poisoning include headaches, irritability, abdominal pain, vomiting,general weakness, paleness, weight loss, poor attention span, noticeable learning difficulty, slowed speech development and hyperactivity.
To determine if your home contains lead products, a certified inspector can measure the lead levels, or a paint chip can be sent to a lab for testing.
If you find that you do have lead paint on your walls you can either choose to cover it up or remove it. Covering the lead is the easiest and most cost effective option if the paint is in good condition and not within the reach of young children. If the paint is cracking, chipped, or flaking it should be removed with a chemical paint stripper – not a sander. Proper precautions should be taken when using the paint striper as it is another noxious material.
Does Your Home Contain Asbestos?
Another material which is often found in older homes is asbestos. Asbestos is a known carcinogen that was widely used in building materials throughout the 1970s due to its ability to resist heat, fire, and electricity.
When disturbed asbestos particles are released into the air, inhaled, and embed in the lining of the organs. The cancer may develop in the lining of the lungs, heart, or abdominal cavity. Symptoms of the cancer are dependant on the location. The most common form, pleural mesothelioma, develops in the lining of the lungs and involves shortness of breath and fluid buildup. There is currently no cure for mesothelioma cancer so the best way to beat the disease is through preventative measures.
If your home was built prior to 1980 you may have asbestos materials and should have your home inspected before beginning any do-it-yourself home repairs when you may unwittingly expose yourself.
Could Your Family Be In Danger From Radon?
Once you’ve checked for long standing exposure points it’s time to properly monitor for toxic gases.
Radon is a radioactive gas that occur naturally in the environment. The gas is dangerous because it is invisible, odorless, and tasteless – a true silent killer if not monitored properly.
Radon gas builds up in the home where it can accumulate to unsafe levels. Levels are typically highest in basements because of poor ventilation and the fact that basements are closest to the ground.
On average 16 percent of lung cancer deaths in Canada are the result of radon exposure. After smoking, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. If you are a smoker or are exposed to secondhand smoke you are at a greater risk of radon exposure. Life long smokers who are also exposed to high levels of radon have a one in three chance of developing lung cancer.
The only way to test for high levels of radon in the home is through radon kits. Homeowners should take action if radon concentration exceeds 200 becquerels per cubic metre (200 Bq/m³) in the normal occupancy area. The most common and effective radon reduction method is Active Soil Depressurisation (ASD). This method requires a contractor drilling a hole in your basement floor and installing a pipe with a fan that moves the gas from under your house to outside. Once the gas is outside it is diluted enough to no longer be a danger.
Protect: Medicines and Cleaning Supplies
In addition to toxins that exist in your home, it’s important to be aware of the dangers lurking in the products that you bring in your house and use daily.
Medicines and cleaning products are some of the most common offenders. Such products should be kept in child resistant containers or in locked cabinets at all times. Never transfer such materials into secondary containers. Throwing out original containers can hinder fast and accurate emergency medical care if an accident arises.
To help protect your child from their curiosities never refer to medicine as candy. Installing child proof latches on all cabinets that contain cleaning supplies and medication in the kitchen, laundry room, and bathrooms can provide another barrier and help ensure peace of mind.
Prevent: Take Action Now for Less Future Danger
Unfortunately mothers don’t truly have eyes in the back of their heads, but through proactive measures those skills might not be necessary to keeping loved ones out of harm’s way.
Let poison prevention week, March 18 to 24, be just the motivation you need to make changes in your home.
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Please Note: This post was written in collaboration with the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.
Disclaimer: This post can not be considered medical advice.
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