Thursday, March 17, 2011

Towanda! Before you knock down that wall...

My friend, Lorraine, died of mesothelioma a few years ago. She was in her early 50s and it was a difficult time for many of us. Growing up in a town with an asbestos plant meant I had family members and family friends die of asbestosis. So for me, today's guest post is not about something foreign to me. Instead, it strikes a very personal cord inside of me.

 The post was written by Krista Peterson, a recent graduate from the University of Central Florida and an aspiring writer. She has a passion for the health and wellness of our environment and community which is why she discusses such issues in her writings. She enjoys spreading awareness of greener and healthier living through her articles. In her spare time, she likes to read, write, and do yoga. Feel free to email her to continue the discussion.

Is there asbestos or lead hiding in your home?

For those of us who love living green, natural is a good thing. If something is natural, it means that we can trust the products and what it’s intended to do for us. But not everything that’s natural is good for us. If you’re thinking of turning that house of yours green, be on the lookout for environmental toxins like lead and asbestos that may snatch your well-earned health right from under you and your family.

Asbestos is a natural mineral found in deposits in the earth. It has been used for construction purposes for centuries, mainly because of its fire-retardant qualities. Before the 1970’s many builders used asbestos in drywall, insulation, tile adhesive, and heating appliances. Now, asbestos is perfectly harmless if it remains intact and undisturbed, but if the mineral is sanded, cut, broken, dented, or burnt, it releases microscopic fibers into the air. If you, your children, or your pets inhale or ingest asbestos over a prolonged period of time, you’re at high risk for developing mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive lung and stomach cancer. Mesothelioma symptoms are latent for 20-50 years, and thus diagnosis is often delayed until the cancer has spread to other vital organs. If you or your loved ones are experiencing symptoms, it is important that you see a doctor and request a cancer screening. To avoid asbestos contamination, make sure that you have your home tested for asbestos before doing any major renovations. Due to the poor mesothelioma life expectancy rates, this is not an issue to take lightly. Being careful means being healthy.

Image courtesy of Kim Newberg

In addition to asbestos, lead, a mineral found in nature, is often hidden in older homes. Lead can be found in paint, water, soil, pipes, and children’s toys. Because children are much more likely to put toys and paint chips in their mouths, they are at the highest risk for lead poisoning. In adults, lead poising results in upset stomach, memory loss, muscle weakness, mood disorders, miscarriages, and lack of appetite. In children, however, ingesting lead may lead to behavioral and learning difficulties, memory loss, weight loss, vomiting, constipation, and anemia.

If you suspect lead poisoning, see your doctor for testing. If you’ve been exposed to low levels of lead, simply removing the toxicity from your home may restore your blood lead levels. If you or your children have been exposed to higher quantities, you may be recommended to undergo chelation or EDTA therapy and to take iron supplements to counter anemia. To avoid lead poisoning altogether, have a professional test your home. You should also have your children wash their hands before eating and after playing outdoors.

Though natural, asbestos and lead are toxins and are extremely detrimental to your health and the health of your family. Watching out for such toxins can save you a lot of stress later on.

If you’re renovating your home in efforts to make it greener, now is the perfect time to have professionals check for asbestos and lead. As our grandparents often tell us, “be careful and have fun.” Remember, the two go hand in hand!

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