Some home hazards are obvious. Others are harder to detect, but they can still be detrimental to both your property and your family’s health. Here’s a look at mold and radon, two hidden hazards that may be lurking in your home.
The Dangers of Mold
Mold can cause significant damage to the structure of your house. It can also harm your health.
If your family always seems sick, mold could be to blame. Stachybotrys chartarum, commonly known as black mold, may be especially hazardous.
The CDC says that mold has been linked to coughing, wheezing, and other respiratory tract symptoms in otherwise healthy people. Individuals who are especially susceptible may experience additional symptoms. For example, people with asthma may experience increased asthma symptoms. Other possible symptoms include a stuffy nose and red or itchy eyes or skin. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns that allergic reactions to mold are common, and they can be immediate or delayed.
The Threat of Radon
The EPA says that radon is a naturally occurring gas that is found in the atmosphere in trace amounts. However, natural does not always mean safe. Radon is radioactive, and when it gets trapped indoors, it can reach dangerous levels, and breathing it over time can contribute to lung cancer. Every year, more than 21,000 people in the U.S. die of radon-related lung cancer, making radon the second-leading cause of lung cancer after smoking.
Preventing Mold Damage
Moisture is the main risk factor for mold. According to the CDC, mold spores can get inside your home through windows, doors, vents, and HVAC systems. Mold spores can also hitchhike on clothes, shoes, and pets. Once inside, if spores attach to places with moisture, the mold can flourish.
Therefore, to prevent mold, you need to reduce the moisture that can help mold grow. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences recommends using an air conditioner or dehumidifier to keep the humidity in your house below 50%. Also, avoid using carpets in areas that are likely to get wet, and dry your floor mats regularly. Use fans in your bathrooms and kitchen to improve ventilation. Problems like wet basements and leaks need to be fixed immediately.
In addition to limiting moisture, you should also check your home for mold. You may be able to see mold stains or smell a musty scent. If you notice signs of mold, you want to act immediately – before the mold growth gets worse.
The EPA says that small areas of mold (about three feet by three feet or smaller) can usually be treated by homeowners themselves. Ceiling tiles, carpet, and other absorbent materials may need to be thrown away, and paint and caulk cannot be applied until the mold is removed and the area has dried. For larger mold problems, mold that is in the HVAC system, and mold caused by contaminated water, specialist help may be needed. You may also want to contact a professional if mold is growing on a valuable item.
Detecting and Controlling Radon
Unlike mold, radon is colorless and odorless. This makes it impossible to detect on your own. Thankfully, there are tests that you can use to check for this deadly gas. You can use a DIY home test kit to check the radon levels in your house, or you can hire a professional to check for you. If you want a home test kit, you can purchase one through Kansas State University’s National Radon Program Services.
The CDC says that ventilation can reduce radon temporarily. Sealing cracks with materials designed to stop radon can provide a more long-term solution. Additionally, not smoking can reduce your chance of developing lung cancer.
The EPA says that mitigation steps should be taken to reduce the amount of radon in your house if the level is at or above 148 Becquerels per cubic meter. If you have detected high levels of radon, or if you would like a professionally performed test, contact your state’s radon program.
Selling a Home with Mold or Radon
If you are selling a home, you need to follow relevant disclosure laws. According to Investopedia, disclosure requirements can vary based on state and local laws, but they generally require a disclosure document that provides information on any conditions that could negatively impact the house’s value, even if you’re selling a house “as is.” If you conceal a problem, you could be sued or convicted of a crime.
Issues that must be disclosed often include potential hazards and water damage that could lead to mold. If you’re selling a home and you know or suspect that there are mold or radon issues, you may be legally required to disclose this information. Upfront disclosure can also help you avoid potential complications down the road, and it can help prevent potentially life-threatening consequences.
Buying a Home with Mold or Radon
Buyers should not rely on disclosures. The problem isn’t just that some unscrupulous sellers might try to hide issues. It’s also that some issues might not be known. Therefore, it’s a smart idea to have a professional home inspection performed before the purchase is finalized. Investopedia says that a home inspection contingency can help you discover potential issues, and many lenders require it.
Home inspections often include checking for both mold and radon, but exactly what’s included in an inspection can vary depending on the provider. Talk to the inspector to make sure these hazards are covered.
Note that the EPA says that you should have a house tested for radon if you are buying or selling it. The EPA also recommends asking about radon-resistant construction features and testing if you are buying a new home.
If a radon test is not part of the standard inspection, you can insist on having one done, even if you have to pay an extra fee, or you can use an inspector that offers radon testing as part of the standard inspection. Remember that radon-related cancer kills thousands of people every year. You don’t want to let this exposure slide.
Insurance Coverage for Mold and Radon
If you have discovered mold or radon in your home, you may be wondering if you can file an insurance claim to cover the costs of remediation.
In the case of radon, the answer is almost certainly “no.” Radon is not typically considered a covered peril, so radon remediation will not be covered.
If your problem is mold, you may be in luck. Mold remediation can be covered by insurance if it’s related to a peril that is covered. For example, if your homeowners insurance policy covers broken pipes and the mold in your house is caused by water damage from a broken pipe, you may have coverage for the mold removal, too. Other the other hand, if mold is covered by flooding and you don’t have flood insurance, you probably can’t file a claim.
Note that flood insurance is excluded from standard home insurance. Review your policy for coverage details and talk to your insurance agent if you have questions about coverage.