New home construction benefits from modern techniques and state-of-the-art materials. But most homes sold are not new, and if your home was built before 1978, there's a likelihood that it may contain lead paint and asbestos. According to the EPA, it's estimated that lead-based paint was applied to roughly two-thirds of the houses built in the U.S. before 1940 and one-third of the houses built from 1940 to 1960.
Both lead paint and asbestos present considerable health risks. In many instances, if the lead paint is in good condition with little chance of being eaten by children, most experts recommend leaving it alone. Removing lead paint is a costly and time-consuming procedure and can be dangerous as well, since lead paint dust can become airborne and easily ingested. Leave this job to the professionals.
Likewise, asbestos is often found in older homes because it was a once considered something of a miracle product. Asbestos fibers are strong, heat resistant and chemical resistant, which made them a seemingly ideal building material, especially for insulation. However, they've also been linked to numerous respiratory problems and lung diseases -- such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer -- and are now banned from construction.
In older homes, the most common areas to find asbestos are floor and ceiling tiles, plasters, insulations, adhesives, wallboard, joint compound, roofing materials, fireproofing materials and cement products [source: Alliance for Healthy Homes]. Keep in mind that while most manufacturers have curtailed their use of asbestos, it hasn't been banned altogether.
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