Portland is an amazing place to live! There’s so much to see, do, and experience in our awesome city. But you should also be aware of the possible dangers found in Portland homes.
In today’s post, we’ll look closely at 7 potential health hazards and what you can do to keep your home and family safe. Let’s get started!
1. Asbestos (But Read Carefully)
I’d like to start by talking about asbestos (and not just because I’m a graduate of asbestos university). Asbestos is a very misunderstood construction material. Thousands of Portland homes have some form of potentially asbestos containing materials, including:
- Popcorn ceilings
- Acoustic tiles
- Vinyl flooring
The asbestos in your home is generally harmless. However, if asbestos is damaged or disturbed, it can become airborne and get inhaled into the lungs.This can cause a variety of serious health problems.
When it comes to asbestos-containing materials, the best thing to do is simply leave them alone.
However, if you’re planning on remodeling your home, you’ll need to have potentially asbestos containing materials tested. Untested materials can’t be disposed of in the garbage or at Portland Metra transfer stations. If asbestos is found, it will need to be safely removed, a process known as abatement, before any work can be done.
Radon is a natural gas produced from the decay of uranium. Uranium is a radioactive element that’s found all over the world in very small quantities and it’s always breaking down (or decaying). Usually this isn’t a problem, but in some areas (like Portland and the Pacific Northwest in general) radon levels can exceed what is considered safe.
Radon enters homes through underground soil and tiny cracks and gaps in a home’s foundation, usually through the basement. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that as many as 20,000 people die from radon-related lung cancer each year (about 15% of all lung cancer deaths).
Radon detectors and in-home tests can be used to evaluate your home’s radon level. In homes with high radon levels, a sub-slab depressurization system is the most commonly used method of reducing radon accumulation.
Sub-slab depressurization systems (SSDs) can produce great results, even when very high levels of radon are present. An SSD system is designed to create a vacuum under the slab. This allows radon containing gas to be vented outside before it can ever enter the home.
3. Lead Paint
Any Portland home constructed before 1978 may contain lead-based varnish, paint, or stain. Lead is a serious health risk, especially for children. Lead poisoning causes many acute and chronic physical, developmental, and cognitive problems. The variety of symptoms often makes lead poisoning difficult to diagnose.
There is good news! Lead testing is extremely fast, easy, and inexpensive. If you suspect there’s lead paint in your home or you see paint or other finishes flaking, it’s a good idea to test.
If you’re remodeling an area that contains lead paint, it’ll need to be contained and safely removed to prevent lead-containing dust from being inhaled. If needed, lead paint can be covered up with new drywall. It can also be removed (by an experienced professional).
However, similar to asbestos, lead paint can generally be safely left alone if:
- Children under the age of 6 don’t live in or visit your home often
- The paint is stable and there are no chips or flakes present
4. Insects & Other Pests
Rodents like rats and mice carry and spread disease. Insects like ants and spiders can cause painful bites that might become dangerously infected. Infestations of rodents and insects are especially common in older drafty Portland homes.
Did You Know: Rats can enter a home through a gap as small as a quarter!
The best way to avoid the health hazards associated with insect and pest infestations is to keep pests out! Experienced contractors and pest control companies can evaluate your home and help you understand the most likely sources of infestation.
5. Mold and Moisture
If you live in Portland, I don’t need to tell you how damp it can get during our long rainy winters. Excess moisture inside your home can lead to mold, a serious health hazard causing breathing problems and allergic reactions.
Mold is often the result of:
- Leaky pipes, roofs, and plumbing
- Clogged or leaking gutters that allow water to enter the house
- Water, steam, humidity, and moisture inside the home that isn’t vented outdoors
If you see areas of mold or condensation in your home, these can be cleaned with warm water and soap. To minimize mold growth in your home:
- Use a dehumidifier to keep indoor humidity below 60%
- Install exhaust fans to vent moist air outdoors
- Replace carpeting with other flooring materials in areas with lots of moisture. Mold often hides deep in carpet fibers.
- Keep furniture a few inches away from walls to prevent hidden condensation and mold growth.
6. Lack of Sunshine
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is real and can cause or exacerbate mental health issues. It can also cause feelings of lethargy and malaise that lead to physical discomfort.
In Portland homes, lack of sunshine and natural light is a serious problem, especially during the dark winter months. The best way to fight SAD (besides a yearly trip to Hawaii) is with a full-spectrum light mimicking the sun’s rays. Vitamin D supplements can help, too, but ask your doctor first! You should also do your best to stay active outdoors. Take advantage of every drop of sunshine available! Your body will thank you!
7. Natural Disasters
Finally, let’s talk about something that isn’t in your home but that can certainly affect your home
Serious natural disasters like earthquakes are an ever-present threat to the Portland area. Additionally, if you live on a steep slope, mudslides and landslides are possible dangers, too. Low lying homes are often at risk of flood and water damage during spring runoff and as a result of strong storms.
You can’t live your life in fear of what might happen, but you can plan and prepare for the worst:
- Have your home inspected for structural problems that might become dangerously apparent during a natural disaster
- Make a plan with your family to evacuate if needed
- Store potable water and non-perishable food in your home in case of a natural disaster
Don’t Be Afraid. Be Prepared. Be Safe.
There’s no need to live your life in fear of the health hazards that might be found in your Portland home. By working with experienced professionals to minimize and even eliminate your risk, you’ll sleep easier and enjoy your home more.
If you have any questions about asbestos or lead-based paint testing or anything you read in my post today, get in touch with me! I’m happy to answer your questions.