Unfortunately, many hazardous substances blend in around us. They emit no foul odors and, unlike the movies, don't glow bright green. Here are some of the most common contaminants found in houses:

  • Asbestos was once used in extensively in siding, floor tiles, joint compound, and pipe insulation. It's dangerous only if disturbed, and then it releases tiny particles into the air. These abrasive particles are easily breathed and damage lung tissue. Do not cut, sand, or handle materials that might contain asbestos. If you need to remove asbestos product, hire an abatement contractor.
  • Lead was used in paint, water pipes, and pipe solder. Lead-based paint becomes hazardous when it chips off and turns to dust and gets inhaled or swallowed. Exposed paint predating 1978 should be painted over, and lead pipes should be replaced. Soldered copper joints present little danger, but new plumbing should be installed with a lead-free solder.
  • Formaldehyde is a gas emitted by many building and furnishing components-particle board and foam, for example. Some people are sensitive to the gas and experience coughing, headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Formaldehyde content is now enforced by federal standards. Fortunately, emissions decrease over time. If you suffer from these symptoms, call your local state health department for an air test.
  • Carbon monoxide is an odorless and deadly gas produced by combustion sources, such as furnaces and water heaters, fireplaces, and automobiles. Brief exposure to the gas can cause a sore throat, headache, or drowsiness; long-term exposure can be fatal. The best way to safeguard against CO2 is to install carbon monoxide detectors near combustion appliances, fireplaces, and the door to an attached garage.

Disposing of Hazardous Waste

          Waste management guidelines vary considerably from community to community. Before you dispose of anything that you think might be hazardous, check with a local source.