Are there kits to test for mold, lead, radon, asbestos, etc. What other tests should I be considering?
Thank you for a terrific question. The subject of indoor air quality testing for homeowner diagnostics is one that I often hear from my clients suffering from a variety of health conditions made worse by their home environment.
Self testing is less costly but also less reliable. Consider homeowner testing as a screening tool much likea self breast exam would trigger further evaluation for a professional diagnosis.
The primary devices used to complete a short term (2 - 90 days) radon test include:
Of these devices charcoal canisters are the most available for the homeowner. Resultsobtained by a homeowner testing their own home would not be acceptable in documenting a realestate transaction.Radon testing by homeowners is a low cost option to gauge the potential for a radon problem.
Homeowners in some states may have to have their water tested for radon since some wells are a source for radon.
Mold testing should always include an outdoor baseline sample. This would give you something tocompare your indoor results against. Since mold is everywhere you would expect a positive result.
Ifyou smell musty odors you might want to spring for home testing.
Or you can identify the source and eliminate it - hidden mold, while possible is highly unlikely. In 25 years of testing residential properties for indoor air quality issues I have never run into a case of "hidden" mold. I have had the source be hidden but not the telltale signs ferreted out by the nose. If interested in home testing check out Pro-Lab.
Every home should have a carbon monoxide detection device on every level of the home.
If the homehas an attached garage a CO detector should be installed in the room that shares a door with thegarage. In the case of CO, monitoring is better than testing.
Lead paint concerns needs to be addressed with testing prior to any renovation in a home built before 1978.
Lead screening can be done by the homeowner using a swab available from Lead Check (www.leadcheck.com).
Indoor air quality may also involve volatile organic compounds or VOC's.
Home Air Check (www.homeaircheck.com) offers a variety of test kits designed to identify formaldehyde, tobacco smoke and common VOC's. Costs range from $65 to $125.
Even though I earn a living helping my clients solve indoor air quality issues I am not a fan of blind testing. If a client is having a negative reaction to their environment I would rather see them invest in improving the environmental air quality using mechanical ventilation (heat recovery or energy recovery ventilation, HEPA filtration, etc . . . ) over spending hundreds or thousands of dollars performing tests.
If your home has indoor air quality issues you can:
Filtration can be usedto remove (eliminate or reduce) particular and some VOC's. Encapsulation can be used in the caseof lead based paint. Dilution can successfully ensure that the air in the house is regularly replaced byfresh, tempered outdoor air.
Most homes have a variety of sources of indoor air pollutants introducedregularly. As we tighten homes to save energy the pollutants build up and react with other VOC's tocreate a soup of chemicals that we can't even image the possible health risks.
Mechanical ventilationdesigned to remove stale polluted air is the safest bet to improved indoor air quality. Check with yourHVAC contractor to properly size and install a system that meets the requirements of your home and itsoccupants.
A great source for energy or heat recovery ventilation is www.airxchange.com.
If you have a forced air HVAC system you might also consider improving the quality of air supplied by the system through improved filtration.
A HEPA filter can be added to your existing HVAC system to take a percentage (usually no more than 30%) of the air traveling through your duct work and routing it through a HEPA filter.
Media filters (www.theairfilterstore.com) also offer a level of filtration that is higher than a standard furnace filter.
Ultraviolet lamps, ozone generators, electronic and electrostatic air cleaners are other options that youwill undoubtedly be optioned as you begin your journey into remediation to improve indoor air quality.
You'll have to be the judge as to their effectiveness. Personally I am skeptical that they live up to theclaims made by marketers.
Good luck and thank you again for your question.