The Big Three – Asbestos, Lead, Mold
When we think of home we may think of safety, security, and sanctity. We definitely don’t think of mesothelioma, intellectual disability, and infection. Knowing that asbestos, lead, and mold can be found in many homes and knowing that they can cause many adverse health effects we should identify them and remove them from our home immediately… Right?
The traditional norm has always been geared towards the identification and removal of hazardous materials for our own personal safety, so why is there any grey area when it comes to the identification and removal of asbestos, lead, and mold. Let’s start the conversation with asbestos, and for those of us that don’t know what asbestos is, don’t worry because you’re about to be filled in.
Asbestos is a mineral that is naturally occurring in the earth and has been mined for 4,000 years. In the early 19th century asbestos was found to be an inexpensive material that could be used in applications ranging from fire resistance and electrical insulation all the way to sound proofing and home construction. However, in the late 20th century the use of asbestos fell out of favor and by 1980 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the use of asbestos in residential construction materials.
The EPA found that asbestos was directly related to a form of cancer called Malignant Mesothelioma, another form of cancer called Asbestos Lung Cancer, and two types of scarring of the lung and chest tissue referred to as either Asbestosis or Asbestos Pleural Disease depending on the symptoms.
Asbestos has been found in Insulation, Fireproofing, Acoustical Textiles, Cloth, Spackling, Patching, Tape, Gaskets, Pipe, Tiles, Wallboard, Siding, Roofing and many other applications. In order to keep our families safe and away from Asbestos we would first need to identify what in our house contains asbestos, but asbestos is released into the air when the product containing asbestos is damaged, and the only way to test the product is to break off a piece of the product and send it into a lab to be tested. The act of sampling and identifying asbestos immediately heightens the risk of exposure. As it has been stated “let sleeping dogs lie”.
It is very safe to say that a house built prior to 1980 has asbestos products in it. With that information we have two courses of action; remove the asbestos or leave the asbestos undisturbed. Removing asbestos can easily cost $30,000 and up depending on the complexity of the removal. So, if you are not planning to do a remodel of your house, what would happen if we just ignored the asbestos?
On the topic of not removing asbestos from your house the EPA says, “Asbestos that is in good condition and left undisturbed is unlikely to present a health risk. The risks from asbestos occur when it is damaged or disturbed where asbestos fibers become airborne and can be inhaled. Managing asbestos in place and maintaining it in good repair is often the best approach.”
At Two Moose Home Inspections we do not test for Asbestos and the reason for that is because testing for asbestos disturbs the asbestos and can cause health risks for your family. Secondarily, a house built prior to 1980 will more than likely contain asbestos, so testing is futile. If you are planning to do a remodel, then you would need to hire a contractor who is licensed to do asbestos removal. The contractor would then perform a comprehensive assessment of the asbestos in your house prior to the start of construction.
So, what about lead and mold? Lead based paint was banned from use in the United States in 1978, which means that any house built prior to 1978 has a high probability of containing lead paint. Mold is naturally occurring and is in the air that we breath every day. Moisture intrusion into the home creates a breeding ground that can concentrate mold spores and cause health risks. In short, every home has mold spores, every home built prior to 1980 has asbestos, and every home built prior to 1978 has lead-based paint.
At Two Moose Home Inspections we do not test for lead based paints because disturbing the paint can expose the home to increased levels of lead dust. If your home was built prior to 1978 and you are pregnant or have children under the age of 6 a licensed contractor should evaluate the home and either remove the lead paint or use an encapsulant to seal the lead-based paint in place, thus protecting your family.
Mold is everywhere and mold has been used to make amazing things like antibiotics and aged cheese, but mold in your house is never a good thing. For mold to reproduce in abundance it requires moisture, so if the moisture from a leaking roof or leaking pipe is removed the mold will not be able to readily reproduce. To find mold you often have to disturb mold, and when mold is disturbed spores are released into the air which can cause adverse health effects.
Mold test kits unfortunately give false positives, false negatives and provide meaningless information. If you keep some grapes on the counter, they will develop mold, but that does not mean that you have a mold problem in your house. As stated earlier; mold is everywhere. If a mold test came back positive it would not tell you that the mold is behind the wall behind the vanity in the bathroom to the left of the leaking pipe. Instead the mold kits will tell you that mold exists not only in the world but also in your home. The best way to find mold in a home is to locate areas of water intrusion, gain entry to those areas, and stop the leak.
At Two Moose Home Inspections we do not test for mold because mold is everywhere. Instead, during every home inspection we visually look for indications of water intrusion, probe surfaces with moisture meters, and use thermal imaging to identify temperature differentials that may indicate moisture. If the water intrusion is active then there is probably mold growth in that area, but if the water intrusion is inactive then there was at one time probably mold growth in that area.
The goal is to identify water intrusion and stop it, which will prevent damage to the home and cut off the food supply for mold. If you are suffering from allergies in your home, replace your air filters and then try to stop areas of water intrusion. If your symptoms don’t improve, contact a professional mold removal contractor because they know where to look and they have the experience to ensure that your home has no active mold growths.
In summary, Two Moose Home Inspections does not inspect for asbestos, lead, or mold because inspecting for those contaminates will cause a disturbance which will increase their potential to cause harm. Instead we know that houses built before 1980 have asbestos which should be left undisturbed, houses built before 1978 have lead which should be removed or encapsulated by a contractor, and all houses have mold which should not be a problem if water intrusions are managed. At Two Moose Home Inspections we use thermal imaging, moisture meters, and visual identification to locate potential sources of water intrusion allowing you to stop the water which effectively stops mold growth.
Thank you for reading our article. If you have any questions about residential home inspections, please send us a message. If you would like Two Moose Home Inspections to inspect your property, feel free to schedule an inspection.