Jan 18, 2017, 6:53 am

Common Environmental Concerns

In real estate today, several environmental issues are the concerns of potential investors, developers, lenders, and homeowners. A lack of understanding can be intimidating and frightening, and may result in substantial risk to many different parties. Below are explanations of predominating environmental issues, and links to organizations that can provide you with the information you need to make healthy, confident decisions in your real estate transactions.

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral found in rocks and soil throughout the world. It has been used in architectural and construction applications because it is a strong, durable, fire retardant, and an efficient insulator.

There are two types of asbestos, friable and non-friable. Friable materials are materials that can be crumbled, pulverized, or reduced to powder by hand pressure. These particles and fibers, once airborne, must be inhaled to pose a danger.

Studies of industry workers exposed to airborne asbestos indicated many health risks including lung, stomach, esophagus, and colon cancer, which may not appear for many years following exposure.
Electromagnetic Fields

Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are caused near all electrical currents. The intensity of the field can vary with the amount of power used and the proximity to the source.

Studies performed on potential health risks caused by prolonged exposure to EMFs have shown no direct cause of cancer by EMFs, however they have shown a possible association to various forms of cancer in children.
Lead-based Paint

Lead-based paints were used often in homes until 1978 when the federal government banned its use in housing. Dangers are presented by paint chips, seepage into groundwater, and airborne particles from sanding & remodeling. Once ingested or inhaled, presence of lead in the blood can pose serious damage to health and wellness.

Children are more prone to exposure to lead than adults. Lead can damage the brain and nervous system, and even a low level of lead exposure can cause learning disabilities, hearing loss, speech, language and behavior problems, and other serious health effects.
Mold (Black Mold)

Mold reproduces by airborne spores which can cause allergic reactions in some people, especially asthmatics. Warm, dark, moist areas are optimal for mold growth, and can be found in places like bathrooms and basements.

Black mold (stachybotrys chartarum) is a green-black mold that occurs in areas where there is a high concentration of cellulose. These areas can include the paper backing of insulation, drywall and sheet rock, and even wood where moisture or seepage may collect.

The ultimate solution to prevent mold in homes is to control moisture. Repair items such as faulty plumbing, siding or roofing materials that may be allowing entry. After this has been addressed one should begin to address removal.
MTBE (Methyl Tertia-Butyl Ether)

MTBE (Methyl Tertia-Butyl Ether) is an oxygenate that has been added to gasoline since 1978 to increase octane and lower exhaust emissions. It is a flammable, colorless liquid that dissolves easily in water.

Because of its solubility, MTBE can pass quickly through soil contaminating groundwater. CERCLA lists MTBE as a hazardous substance, and the EPA classified it as a potential human carcinogen.
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) are mixtures of chemicals that imitate properties of oils but are non-flammable. They have been used in applications ranging from paints and dyes to hydraulics and plastics.

PCBs can accumulate in groundwater and on soil surfaces, and can bioaccumulate in fish. Health risks from exposure to PCBs include cancer and harmful immune, reproductive, neurological, and endocrine effects.
Radon Gas
Radon is a naturally occurring, odorless, colorless gas which is generated from the natural radioactive decay of radium and uranium. The uranium concentration of underlying geologic materials is a fundamental variable that determines the rate of underground radon production.

Geologic materials that contain greater amounts of uranium, such as granite and shales, produce greater amounts of radon. The most harmful effect of long term exposure to radon gas is lung cancer.
Underground Storage Tanks

Generally, an underground storage tank (UST) is a single tank or system of tanks that has at least 10 percent of its volume below the surface of the ground.

Common threats from UST's include escaped vapors and fumes that can gather in basements, parking garages, vaults, and other confined spaces. Seepage can also occur, contaminating groundwater and drinking supplies. The exact nature of harmful effects can vary with the type and intensity of materials stored.