Our job as your professional
home inspector is to alert you, to the extent possible, to unknown
problems and potential environmental hazards in your current or potential
house. Just because some of these hazards may be invisible, this does not mean they call
for less vigilance on your part. Ours is a non-invasive visual inspection of
your property. While we may be able to
alert you to possible problems, our basic inspections are no substitutes for
specialized contaminant testing.
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that can be positively
identified only with a special type of microscope. There are several types of asbestos
fibers. In the past, asbestos was added
to many products to strengthen them and provide fire resistance and heat
insulation. If disturbed, asbestos
material may release asbestos fibers which can be inhaled into the lungs. Asbestos material that crumbles easily if
handled or which has been scraped, sawed, or sanded into a powder is more likely to create a
health hazard. Breathing high levels of
asbestos fibers can lead to an increased risk of lung cancer, mesothelioma
(cancer of lining of chest and abdominal cavity), and asbestosis (lungs scarred
with the tissue). Houses built between
1930 and 1950 may have asbestos insulation.
Most of today’s products do not contain asbestos. If asbestos material is more than slightly
damaged or you plan changes that might disturb it, you require a professional
for repair and removal. Before home
remodeling, find out if asbestos is present.
Excerpts from U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency “Asbestos and Vermiculite”.
Lead is a highly toxic metal used for many years in products
in and around homes. Lead’s adverse
health effects range from behavioral problems and learning disabilities to
seizures and death. Because their bodies
are growing quickly, children age 6 and under are at greatest risk. Primary sources of lead exposure for children
are deteriorating lead-based paint, lead-contaminated dust, and
lead-contaminated residential soil. Lead
might be present in any home built up until the 1940s. Rarely found in source water, lead can enter
tap water through corrosion of plumbing materials. Homes built before 1986 are more likely to
have lead pipes, joints, and solder. New
homes are also at risk: even legally
“lead-free” pipes can contain up to 8 percent lead and leave significant
amounts of lead in the water for the first several months after
installation. Since the 1980s, EPA and
its federal partners have banned or limited lead used in consumer products,
including residential paint. Federal
regulations limiting the amount of lead in paint sold for residential use
started in 1978. If your property was
built before 1978 or you are considering remodeling, renovating, or repair, you
may wish to think about lead inspection.
Water quality can be compromised by such other trace elements as iron,
excess acidity, manganese, calcium, magnesium, mineral salts, hydrogen
sulphide, selenium, chromium, arsenic, mercury, and cadmium.
Excerpts from U.S.
Department of Environmental Protection, “Lead in Paint, Dust, and Soil”.
Mold (fungi) is present everywhere, indoors and
outdoors. There are more than 100,000
species of mold, at least 1,000 of which are common in America. Species of Cladosporium, Penicillium, and
Aspergillus are some of the most commonly found species. Mold most likely grows in bathrooms,
basements, and anywhere else where there is dampness or water. Many types of mold routinely encountered
aren’t hazardous to healthy individuals. Too much exposure to mold may cause a
worsening of such conditions as asthma, hay fever, or other allergies. Fevers and breathing problems in a vulnerable
individual are possible but unusual.
When moldy material becomes damaged or disturbed, spores, which are
reproductive bodies similar to seeds, can be released into the air. Exposure can occur if people inhale the
spores, directly handle moldy material, or accidentally ingest the spores. Since all molds need water to grow, mold can
grow almost anywhere where there is high humidity, dampness, or water
damage. Most often molds are confined to
areas near the water source. Removing
the source of moisture through repairs or dehumidification is crucial in
preventing mold growth. Correcting
underlying water damage and cleaning the affected area is the best way to treat
mold. If mold contamination is
extensive, a professional abatement company may be needed. Excerpts
from The New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, Environmental
& Occupational Disease Epidemiology, “Facts About Mold”.
Radon is a radioactive gaseous element produced in the
disintegration of radium, a radioactive metallic element. It cannot be detected by the senses and can
be confirmed only by sophisticated instruments and laboratory tests. The gas enters a house through pores and
cracks in the concrete or through floorboards of poorly ventilated crawlspaces,
especially when wet ground allows the gas to escape easily through the soil and
disperse in the atmosphere. Radon is a
lung carcinogen: the National Academy
of Sciences estimates radon causes some 15,000 to 22,000 lung cancer deaths
annually. The U.S. Surgeon General and
the EPA recommend all houses be tested for radon. Houses with high radon levels can be fixed.
Excerpts from U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, “Indoor Radon”.
play a positive role in recycling wood and plant material, become a problem
when they consume structural lumber.
Every year thousands of U.S.
housing units require termite treatment.
These pests cause serious damage to wooden structures and posts and can
also attack stored food, household furniture, and books. Successful termite management requires
special skills, including a working knowledge of building construction and an
understanding of termite biology and identification. In most cases, it is advisable to hire a
professional pest control company for the inspection and control problem.
Wood-boring beetle larvae
feed on wood and wood products. Adults
of some species bore holes into plaster, plastic, and soft metals. Many species cause problems when emerging
from wood in newly constructed buildings because they leave small circular or
oval exit holes in the wood. To avoid
these problems, infested wood must be kiln-fried before being used for
lumber. The species Deathwatch Beetles
is primarily found in soft woods (girder, beams, foundation timbers, some types
of furniture, with some species attacking books). False Powerpost female beetles bore a tunnel,
or egg gallery, into wood or other materials, then deposit eggs in pores or
cracks within the tunnel. Adults of some
species bore through such soft metal as lead and silver, as well as plaster and
other non-wood materials. Affected structural
wood should be removed and replaced whenever possible.
Wood Wasps and Horntails. Wood wasp damage in buildings is likely to be
more cosmetic than structurally weakening.
Emerging wood wasps can chew through any substance: wallboard or plaster walls, hardwood floors,
carpeting, linoleum, non-ceramic floor tiles, and other interior surfaces.
Carpenter Ants. Several species can damage wood in building
and other structures. Though ants don’t
eat wood, they bore into it to make their nests, sometimes causing serious
structural damage. Also, they nest in
hollow doors, cracks and crevices, furniture, wall voids, and termite
galleries. New building infestation
occurs when land-cleaning in the area disturbs existing native colonies.
Excerpts from University of California
Agriculture & Natural Resources, UCIPMOnline, “Statewide Pest