Paint Chips Aren’t the Only Toxic Hazard I Found While Apartment Hunting

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I‘m a single mom, so you might say I’m a little overprotective of my daughterwho isn’t?

My daughter and I are a dynamic duo. When it was time for us to pack up our stuff and journey across the city, my overprotectiveness made sure our new home was safe for the one thing in my life I couldn’t possibly live withoutmy little girl.

I also happen to live in New York City. And like many families here and other metropolitan areas, we’re your average apartment dwellers. Guess what? Especially here on the east coast, apartment buildings are often old, which set off my mom alarms when I was looking for a new place.

What I already knew to do was be vigilant about paint chips. But after a scare that led me to do more research, I found out there was so much more than lead paint to worry about. I want to share what I learned so other families can be safer when they move.

Asbestos

Have you heard of asbestos? I had heard of it before but never understood what it really was until I was told that the material was actually in my new apartment.

Through my ordeal with the removal process, I learned that this toxin is the only known cause of a rare form of cancer called mesothelioma. Wow! Getting cancer from the one place meant to keep you safe?

What happens with asbestos is this: when disturbed, the asbestos particles are released into the air and then unknowingly inhaled. Those particles get caught in the lining of vital organs. Consistent exposure can cause cancerwhich can form in the abdomen, lungs or even heart. Asbestos is tricky because you can’t identify it by sight with the untrained eyeyou actually need to pay someone to inspect your home. (Sometimes this can come with your home inspection, but you might need to ask for the actual test.)

Though when I say you need to, I mean just that. If your home or apartment building was built between 1930 and 1980, it may have asbestos in it. The initial cost may seem like a heavy burden now, but in the long run, will prevent an unnecessary battle with cancer. Get that stuff far, far away from your loved ones!

Radon

Radon detecting units being built underneath a house

So you’ve checked for asbestos. Now onto radon, another sneaky toxin. Radon is an invisible, odorless, and tasteless gas.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as many as 8 million homes throughout the county have elevated radon levels. That is problematic because the gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon leaches from the soil and into the home where it can collect. There is the highest risk of elevated radon levels in the basements or lowest levels of buildings.

The only way to know if you have elevated radon levels is to test your home. There are two different forms of testing: short and long-term detectors. Short-term detectors measure radon levels for two to 90 days. The long-term tests determine the average radon concentration for more than 90 days. Long-term detectors are more accurate, as radon levels change constantly.

Mold

Mold … now that I’ve done the research, just thinking of this word gives me the willies. Mold is quite common, and for those with allergies or asthma, the presence of mold can be really disruptive to their lives. Yep, unfortunately, I am one of those people. (All my fellow allergy suffers please blow your nose in solidarity.) 

Unfortunately, mold does not discriminate against any homes or apartments—you lucky ones with brand spanking new homes may still fall prey to mold growth. Thankfully, it’s pretty simple to remove! 

Mold growth can be removed from hard surfaces with commercial products, soap and water, or a bleach solution of no more than one cup of household laundry bleach in one gallon of water.

To prevent further mold growth, ensure that humidity levels in your space are low. An air conditioner or dehumidifier can help to dry that air out! Cleaning bathrooms with mold killing products will also ensure no little spores have time to flourish. Also, make sure to consider your vents. Keeping household vents open will allow for proper circulation to keep mold at bay.

Lead-Based Paint

Lastly, it’s still important to be on the lookout for lead-based paints. Bad paint was at the forefront of my mind with a little “ankle biter” in tow when I looked at prospective apartments.

Lead is particularly dangerous for kids because, if you weren’t aware, just about everything goes into their mouths, including paint chips. For kids, lead exposure can result in behavior and learning problems, slowed growth and lower IQ. Again, older homes and apartments have a higher incidence of lead paint—those built before 1940 have an 87 percent chance that they contain lead paint. If the lead paint is in good shape, there is little to no risk. but if the paint is chipping, peeling or cracking, it’s time to get it removed.

It’s important to have your homes inspected for lead-based paint. Don’t be shy about bringing it up to a landlord, even if you’re already moved in! A basic risk assessment will inform you about any lead-based paint present in the space and how to mitigate the risks.

As a young professional making my way on my own I was confident that I was smart enough to know what to look for when apartment hunting. It turns out I wasn’t smart enough without additional research. But hopefully, through the tips and tricks I’ve mentioned, you can be sure to save yourself from some headaches (and heartaches) and prevent you and your little bundles of joy from exposure to toxins.


Tonya is a single mother and blogger raising her daughter in NYC. She has a newfound passion for health after journeying into motherhood and hopes to share her knowledge with those around her. In addition to writing, she enjoys going to the park with her daughter and cozying up with a good book.

If You Have Kids, Test Your Home for These Things Right Now

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Category: Home Improvement, Kids & Pets

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I recently moved while pregnant and let me tell you, the struggle is real! Although there were some unexpected perks (it helps to have a literal built-in excuse not to have to do the heavy lifting), there were also a slew of concerns and precautionary steps I took to keep me and Baby Mac safe throughout the process. (In case you’re wondering, he’s due in February!)
I’m definitely not here to scare any future moms. We all know there’s plenty of material available that can do that. But I also didn’t want to go into my move blind to the potential hazards that a new house can pose to you or your baby’s health.
So as an expecting mom and a special education teacher who sees the effects of these household dangers far too often, I’m here to share important research so we can be diligent in taking the necessary steps to keep our babies safe.

You Need to Get Your New Home Tested for Lead

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC), 1 in every 38 kids is impacted by lead poisoning. Exposure to lead at a young age can come from many things, but usually include these lead-based sources:
  • Lead paint
  • Lead in a tainted water supply
  • Lead fumes during construction
When a child is exposed to this dangerous toxin, they are at high risk of developing a learning disability, a lower IQ and/or damaged organs. In some extreme cases, it can even cause death.
We can all agree that we would never want to expose our babies or young children to lead, but the scary part is that sometimes we do so without even realizing it. That’s why with just a little research and the right tools, you can arm yourself with the resources you need to test for lead products. And often times, all you really need is yourself!

How to Test for Lead

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Large companies, such as 3M, sell DIY lead checking products (some for under $10!) that you can purchase and use to test the paint in your home. The directions will coach you on how to swipe the painted surface and almost instantly identify whether or not that paint is contaminated.

If you are an avid DIY-er like us, be sure to use these strips to test any furniture you may be giving a makeover for the new nursery, too. You definitely don’t want to sand down an old dresser that was previously painted with lead paint. That dust can be extremely dangerous when it becomes airborne. You also don’t want to paint over it since your little one could peel away that paint some day and ingest it. There are plenty of old dressers that need a lot of DIY love (so don’t ditch this creative idea entirely!), just be sure to choose one that doesn’t have a history with lead.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 10-20 percent of our exposure to lead comes from water. This is especially dangerous because we may not even realize we are mixing lead-infused water in our baby’s formula and potentially causing serious damage in the process. To test the water in your new home, simply contact your water supplier and ask for it to be tested. If this is not a service they provide, the EPA has contact information for approved testing labs you can reference right here. Just click on your state and search your state government’s resources!

What to Do If Your Child Has Already Been Exposed to Lead

If you have little ones and are concerned that they may have already been exposed to lead (sometimes it can be inhaled through contaminated dust without you even realizing it), don’t freak out – you can often get their lead levels tested at your local pediatrician, just make the appointment today.

Take the precautionary steps to avoid this contamination, and you are your little one will be safe. Just be sure you use the resources available to confirm that your new home is clear of any risk before it’s too late. The bottom line is that lead poisoning is extremely dangerous and fetuses and small children are unfortunately at the highest risk of the side effects.

Get Your Home Tested for Radon

Who knew some old houses could have a dangerous build-up of radon lurking within? I had no idea until right before I moved into my new house and did some investigating. I’m definitely not a pro on the topic, but here’s all the info I found out through my moving experience.

Radon is a dangerous gas that radiates out of the soil over time and is more prominent in some areas of the country versus others. Those areas’ homes catch these gases, trapping them inside and increasing the levels of radon to a point that can be dangerous to live in over long periods of time. According to the American Lung Association, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer … right behind smoking! I don’t want my baby exposed to second-hand smoke and I don’t want him exposed to high radon levels either.

How Do I Get a Radon Test? How Much Does it Cost?

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The great news is that high levels of radon in your home don’t need to be a deal breaker because there are solutions to lower the levels of gases. Each state’s EPA shares resources on which companies you can call to test your home for radon right here. This test costs a couple hundred bucks (depending on location, house size, etc.) and it takes a few days to complete. To test for it, a tracker is placed in your new home, usually in the basement. Note that the longer the tracker can stay in the home, the more accurate the read will be.

For reference, the average level of radon in households across America is 1.3 picocuries per liter and according to the EPA, you need to take action on reducing radon on or above 4.0 pCi/L. Talking to the company who tested your home will be the best resource to start identifying what specific steps you can take to decrease these radon levels now and eliminate them from rising in the future.

Other Harmful Chemicals to Consider

Okay, the two biggest chemicals that may lurk in your home prior to moving in are out-of-the-way, but we don’t want you to forget about the ones that may pop up throughout the moving or nesting process. Here’s a list of other common products that could be useful as you get settled in, but ones you need to take precaution so you are not exposed to:
  • Rodent/Insect pesticides
  • Landscaping pesticides or fertilizers
  • Paints with VOC
  • Polyurethane finishes for floors
  • Paint removing liquids
  • Spray paints (it’s better to roll/brush no-VOC paints if possible!)
  • Arsenic (which is a substance that a lot of outdoor decks or wood is treated with)

Especially if you’re pregnant like me and someone in your home needs to use these listed products, be sure to use proper ventilation, steer clear, or even see if you could stay at a friend’s place until the fumes are gone. It’s always better to be safe rather than sorry, right?

Overall, I went into my move feeling a lot more at ease about these potential dangers because I invested a little time and money into having my house tested for both lead paint and radon levels. Also diving into these topics a little deeper helped me identify how I can take steps later in my pregnancy (or in future pregnancies) to stay safe, which I’m very grateful for. If you’re looking to move while pregnant, I hope you too can find peace of mind by getting your home tested (and cleared!)

These Things Should Always Be Deal Breakers While House Hunting

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We’ve talked before about things you should overlook when house hunting, but being flexible and seeing past a home’s imperfections isn’t always the thing to do.

Don’t get us wrong, there are a lot of things that should be overlooked because they can easily be changed down the road. However, some things should never be overlooked. We like to call them “deal breakers”.

Making a list of your deal breakers is essential to finding the perfect home for now and well into the future. That’s why the things on this list should be non-negotiable. Seriously, don’t get emotionally attached to something that will create resentment down the road. Ultimately, it’s up to you and your family to create your own list of deal breakers before your house hunting adventure begins, but we’ve compiled a list of the most important ones in order for you to jump-start the process!

A Real Potential for Water Damage

House Hunting Deal Breaker - Water Damage

A lot of household problems can be fixed, but being subject to water damage is one that is not even close to an easy fit. Before committing to a house, be sure to research if it’s in a flood zone. (FEMA has a handy website that can search all flood areas by address.) Also, take notice of its elevation on the block compared to other homes. Is this house at the lowest point on the street? Will your basement constantly be at risk of flooding and causing you large problems and even larger repair bills? Make sure you look very closely for any signs of water damage.

Do your research so that you know exactly what you are getting into, and are not surprised by a flooded basement after the first rain in your new home.

(All Different Kinds of) Safety Concerns
House Hunting Deal Breaker - Safety Concerns

Safety concerns are a very broad category, so it’s important that you get as specific as possible when creating your house hunting deal breaker list. Safety concerns with electronics can be caused by amateur workmanship, such as plumbing or electrical problems. But this could also be caused by other household issues, such as:

Check the links for helpful ways to test for common safety concerns. Before you buy any house, let alone a suspect one, make sure to hire an inspector. If they report any problems, know exactly what issues result in you walking away from the deal and which ones you are willing to deal with (and potentially pay for!). Having this information clear before the home buying process will allow you to remain objective during this emotional time.

Below Average School District

If you have kids, be sure to investigate the local school district before you buy a home in that district. Niche.com provides a comprehensive look at most every school system in the country, including elementary, middle and high schools. You can also look at schools individually!

House Hunting Deal Breaker - Poor School District

Even if you don’t have kids, we still encourage you to do the same because that school district will impact the resale value of your home in the long run and should be considered before you purchase.

Structural Damage to the Home’s Base

House Hunting Deal Breaker - Structural Damage

Structural damage in a home can cause some serious problems down the road, not to mention what a nightmare it would be to try to re-sell a home that has these large issues. It’s important to consider this when house hunting in order to avoid large project costs down the road. Look for shifting of the home in cracks, uneven floors or a drooping roof to identify potential structural damage. If you’re not sure, don’t be afraid to Google a contractor or professional so they can assess the situation and reassure you the house is a safe long-term investment.

Unless you are buying a foreclosure for pennies on the dollar, structural damage is certain to massively impact your investment in a negative way.

A Floor Plan That Doesn’t Work for Your Family

House Hunting Deal Breaker - Bad Bones aka Floorplan

All rooms can be rearranged, redecorated, repainted or even switched around, depending on your family’s needs. However, don’t trick yourself: a sweet overlook may be cool, but the layout of the home or the square footage of the home is not so easily changed, especially without a massive budget and an extra-large construction project. Are you looking to double your investment by knocking out walls?

It’s okay to look past the cosmetic upgrades in a home, but don’t look past what the pros call “the bones” of the house: the layout, the number of rooms, the number of bathrooms or again, even simply the square footage. The bones are permanent and will directly impact your lifestyle. Are you willing to change your life just for that sweet view?

House Hunting Outside of Your Price Range 

House Hunting Deal Breaker - Over Budget

Buying a home out of your price range is a slippery slope and a financial decision that can put a lot of stress and pressure on you and your family.

It is also the most common deal breaker people ignore!

If you have a strict budget you need to follow, adding this deal breaker to your house hunting checklist will be a great way to “check yourself” and make sure that you are coming in under budget and not putting an unnecessary strain on you, your marriage, or your family. Besides, it is almost always better to invest in a cheaper property than to live with what you cannot afford.

What’s on Your House Hunting Deal Breaker Checklist?

All of these may fall on your house hunting deal breaker checklist, or maybe some of them… or maybe none at all. Technically, the most important thing is shedding light on the fact that people don’t often consider deal breakers ahead of hunting for a house. That’s why a house hunting checklist is crucial to avoid getting emotionally invested and making an impulsive decision that you’ll regret later on.

Remember the biggest rule: once you agree on which deal breakers gets added to the checklist, you cannot purchase any home that has even one of the things on it, regardless of how adorable it may look! This cute house may look great now, but it probably isn’t the best investment for the long run. Hold strong, the right one will come along… it always does!

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