Tuesday, September 5, 2017

How To Test For Toxic Chemicals At Home: Testing Your Paint, Water, Air and Body



Contrary to popular belief, you don’t always have to spend thousands of dollars testing for serious chemicals in your home.  In fact, there are home testing kits that can help you determine if your family is being exposed to some of the most serious and toxic chemicals. 

Home testing kits are never as accurate as the testing a professional can provide but they can be effective as a first step towards helping  you determine if you need to spend serious money on calling a professional into your home.



TESTING FOR LEAD 

Lead in a neurotoxin.   There is no safe level of lead.  Period. 

According to the EPA (even low levels of) “Lead can cause decreases in IQ, nervous system damage and behavioral changes... Academic achievement and the ability to pay attention are all affected “.  The effects of lead exposure cannot be reversed or corrected.

While lead exposure is bad for everyone, it has a defining effect on children under the age of 6, causing permanent learning disabilities and lower IQ. 

 Unfortunately lead is still very common and millions of children around the world are exposed to lead at home and in their schools every single day. Some are exposed to lead in water pipes (more on that later) but according to the EPA lead from paint is one of the most common causes of lead poisoning today.

Many people are under the belief that for a child to be exposed to lead from paint they must eat the paint chips- however this is not true.  The most common way to be exposed to lead is when children breathe in, or touch and then ingest, lead contaminated dust while in their own house or school.  So when paint starts peeling or chipping, if that paint has lead or if the old paint under it has lead, the lead seeps out and contaminates dust around it. 


STEP ONE : DETERMINE IF YOU NEED TO TEST FOR LEAD IN PAINT
deteriorating paint can
 look like this

If you own a home that was built or remodeled before 1978 your home contains lead paint.  In might be visible and in bad shape or it might be under various coats of newer paint.   It might be inside of your home or  outside of your home.

 If the paint is in good shape you have nothing to worry about (unless you plan on renovating in which case speak to your contractor and make sure they use the proper procedures to remove walls or work on areas with lead paint to avoid toxic lead dust).   

If the wall, windowsills or area where you know or suspect lead paint has been used is in bad condition (peeling, chipping, chalking, cracking, damaged, or damp) then it is time to take action.   

STEP TWO: THE IN-HOME LEAD TEST

If you are not sure if there is lead in the exposed paint you can easily purchase an in home lead testing swab.  Easy to use, and quite accurate, you will know for sure if there is exposed lead in under a minute. 

In the past I have used 3M LeadCheck Swabs, 8-Pack



Here is a video showing how easy it can be to do the test at home 




If the test comes out positive read our blog post, I UNKNOWINGLY EXPOSED MY CHILDREN TO LEAD - COULD YOU BE DOING THE SAME THING?, where we cover how to find a certified professional to do further testing and what to expect.  I would also get your child tested for lead.




TESTING YOUR WATER
We all need water to survive.  We drink it, cook with it, shower with it and brush out teeth with it…. but the reality is that most home’s water supplies are not as safe and pure as you would think.

According to the EPA “between 10% and 20% of our exposure to lead comes from contaminated water. It's even worse for the youngest and most vulnerable: Babies can get between 40% and 60% of their exposure to lead by drinking formula mixed with contaminated water.”

And lead is not the only worrisome chemical we are drinking.  

It is increasingly common to hear stories of towns and major cities around the country that find their water supplies contaminated with cancer causing chemicals, pesticides,  heavy metals like lead and arsenic, bacteria and biological and chemical contaminants and even pharmaceutical drugs.  

STEP ONE: DETERMINE IF YOU NEED TO TEST YOUR WATER
If you are curious about your water supply your first step can be to head over to the Environmental Working Group’s new Tap Water Database where they have recorded America’s drinking water quality with data from almost 50,000 municipal water companies nationwide.  Type in your zip code and read more.

However, even if the water coming from the local water company is ‘safe’ your water can still become polluted from the moment it leaves the municipality to the moment it exits through your faucet (ie lead pipes in your service pipe  or home would expose you to lead in your water that would not appear in the municipality report).

Considering all the chemicals (regulated and not regulated) that can be found in our water supply I would recommend testing your water supply.   In fact, if your home was built before lead-free pipes were mandated in 1986 or if you use well water, you should be testing yearly.

Additionally if you are pregnant, are thinking of becoming pregnant and/or have young children in your home you should also test your water supply, since a developing fetus and young children are always more vulnerable to any chemical potentially found in water.

Step 2:  Testing your water
Tests conducted by state certified laboratories will always be more accurate.   In-home water testing kits are helpful as a first step to alert you if you should be concerned about something, however their accuracy depends on how well you follow the detailed directions.   

If you have a reason to suspect your home’s water supply is contaminated, a current list of accredited laboratories can be viewed on the State Water Resources Control Board’s interactive map.

We also recently posted a guide to purchasing a reliable water filter 

THE IN HOME WATER TEST KIT 

This is an easy to use test that will give you immediate results.  The results are not sent to a lab so it really works as a preliminary tester to determine if you should call a specialist.  It tests for bacteria, lead, pesticides, nitrates/nitrites, and chlorine.   If you prefer a more detailed test you can purchase their more expensive

Safe Home PREMIUM Drinking Water Test Kit (50 Contaminants)
 tests for 50 contaminants in drinking water, including 32 metals.   Their lab is also EPA certified in the state of Indiana (where they are located).



The RADON Test

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that basically is sucked into your home from the ground. After smoking, radon exposure is the second cause of lung cancer in the US! According to the EPA, it is responsible for about 21,000 deaths a year.  The tricky thing with radon is that if you don’t test for it there is no way of knowing you are exposed to high levels of it because  it is symptom-less and once you are exposed there is no treatment.  

STEP ONE: DETERMINE IF YOU NEED TO TEST FOR RADON
It might be hard to know if your home has a higher radon risk.  Radon levels can vary significantly even from one house to the next. 

According to the EPA “Any home may have a radon problem. This means new and old homes, well sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements.”

If you want to be sure, test.

If you are buying a house or building a new home - it is also a good idea to test.

STEP TWO: THE IN-HOME RADON TEST

There are short-term (2- to 7-day) radon kits, long-term (90-day) kits and digital testers.  

Long-term radon kits are more accurate since radon level vary a lot day to day. The more days you sample the more accurate your results.

The top rated in-home,  long term, radon test , according to ConsumerReports.com is the long-term
Accustar Alpha Track Test Kit AT 100 / Radon Gas Testing

Digital trackers have also been found to be reliable and, although they can cost more, you skip the lab fees and they can be used daily and moved from room to room.  The 

Safety Siren Pro Series3 Radon Gas Detector - HS71512 by Family Safety Products, Inc.

, takes continuous air samples and updates hourly.


Elevated radon levels are considered to be anything over 4 picocuries per liter in air (pCi/L)

Radon testing kits might be available locally for free. To learn more about the availability of test kits in your area, or to find a qualified testing or mitigation contractor, contact your state radon office (go to and click on your state for a list of contacts)


Testing your Body
You may know your cholesterol level, blood pressure, BMI, but do you know if you have a build up of endocrine disrupting chemicals like triclosan or BPA? We are all exposed to hundreds of chemicals every single day.   Even those of us who actively avoid chemicals in everyday products and at home are still exposed to all kinds of chemicals. Until now getting this kind of test has been prohibitably expensive (if you could find a lab to do it for you), but now you can do an in-home test to find out.
 Silent Spring Institute has launched a Detox Me Action Kit campaign on Indiegog. For $299, supporters can purchase the kit, which includes the supplies for a urine test that detects 10 potentially harmful household chemicals in the body.

After sending in the results to a laboratory, the findings are tabulated, and you will get access to your results as compared to the entire study population, information about the chemicals analyzed and how they affect health, and suggestions for reducing toxicity.

The chemicals that are tested for:
1. Bisphenol A (BPA)
2. Bisphenol S (BPS)
3. Benzophenone-3 (BP-3)
4. Triclosan (TCS)
5. Triclocarban (TCC)
6. 2,4-dichlorophenol (24-DCP)
7. 2,5-dichlorophenol (25-DCP)
8. Butyl paraben (B-PB)
9. Ethyl paraben (E-PB)
10. Methyl paraben (M-PB)

These 10  are common endocrine disruptors—chemicals that mimic and interfere with the body’s naturally occurring hormones. Hormones regulate many important activities in your body, so endocrine disrupting chemicals raise concerns ranging from effects on fertility to child development to cancer.

Although the price might seem steep and the results are not immediate, this is the only way to test for these chemicals, that I am aware off.   I participated and the results were super interesting… (stay tuned for a detailed blog post on that!) 


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