Typically uncovered in the basements and attics of homes built before the 1970s, asbestos is linked to serious health problems, including lung cancer and mesothelioma. If you uncover asbestos that you can’t avoid or encapsulate—or you are unsure if your house even contains asbestos—find a certified asbestos consultant in your area and request a home evaluation.
If your house was built before 1980, it may contain lead paint. Lead test kits can confirm your suspicions, but you’ll have to hire a certified professional to remove and dispose of the paint if your test turns up positive for lead. Long-term exposure to lead paint is particularly dangerous to young children.
Related: How To: Remove Lead Paint
This radioactive gas comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water, and can move up through the ground into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. It has been linked to lung cancer, so mitigating radon in your home is critical. You can find many kinds of good, low-cost DIY radon kits in the marketplace. But you may prefer hiring a qualified tester, especially when buying or selling a home.
Caused by excessive moisture build-up, flooding, leaky roofs, and indoor plumbing problems, the elusive—and often, undetectable—mold can cause serious allergic reactions and long-term health problems. To prevent it, keep indoor humidity low, prevent moisture build-up, and thoroughly dry any standing wet surfaces in the home. With visible mold in moisture-rich places like your bathroom, a little elbow grease, soap and water or a 1:9 bleach-to-water solution may just do the trick.
Many favorable conditions attract termites, including moisture accumulation near foundation or wood, or dead plant material left on the ground for extended periods. Prevention is key, but if you’re facing a termite infestation, you'll likely need to call in a seasoned pro.
Most electrical fires result from problems with faulty outlets, old wiring, extension and appliance cords, plugs, switches, light fixtures and the like. To reduce the chances of electrical fire, repair or replace faulty wiring and outlets, and make sure your home has working AFCI and GFCI outlets.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that is toxic to humans and animals in higher concentrations. Luckily, CO detectors can help prevent tragedy, but only if used—and used properly. In general, detectors should be placed on the ceiling or high on the wall on each level of your home (including the basement). Also place them within ten feet of each bedroom door. The alarm's "test button" does not check the CO gas sensor, so you must annually test it. These detectors typically last for two to five years.
Related: What You Can’t See CAN Hurt You
Electrical shock is an injury whose likelihood is best reduced with precaution. Make sure your home has AFCI and GFCI outlets. Always check electrical cords for fraying, signs of wear, a damaged jacket or insulation. And shut off the circuit breakers and remove fuses when working on any DIY wiring endeavor. Also, never climb on an aluminum ladder when working on electrical projects.
Want a cleaner, tidier, more organized home? Sign up for the Clean Sweep newsletter to receive weekly tips, tools, and bright ideas that will help you maximize your next cleaning session.