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April 28, 2013

5 ways your house might be making you sick

(Continued)

Building materials

Asbestos and arsenic have been removed from most new building materials, but Morley and other health advocates are wary of the lack of testing and regulation of building materials.

In recent years, VOCs, short for volatile organic compounds - found in paints and formaldehyde and in the glue used to make some furniture, cabinets and wood paneling - have been been a focus of health concerns.

In 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law a measure limiting formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products. But the rules haven't taken effect yet.

Exposure to formaldehyde can cause burning sensations in the eyes and throat, and difficulty in breathing. It can also cause cancer, according to government scientists. Exposure to VOCs can cause headaches, loss of coordination, nausea, and damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system.

Experts recommend choosing low-VOC paints, carpet and flooring and removing paint thinners and other chemicals from homes. A qualified home inspector can point out possible dangers in building materials, including the presence of asbestos in insulation, lead in plumbing fixtures and formaldehyde in paneling or cabinets. While it may not be possible to identify all materials visually, an inspector can tell you what was common, based on the age of your home.

Radon

Except for secondhand smoke, radon is the single most prevalent and deadly home health issue for children, Paulson says.

About 21,000 lung cancer deaths - more than the number of drunken-driving deaths - can be linked to radon exposure, according to the EPA.

A radon test - ranging from about $13 for a do-it-yourself kit to $150 for a professional test - should be part of a home inspection, experts say.

 If radon levels are elevated, the problem is easily corrected with a pressurized system that keeps radon from seeping through the home's foundation.

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