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  DESCRIPTION RISK POTENTIAL DANGER ELIMINATION

Asbestos

Fibrous mineral formerly used in insulation, fire and sound proofing, as well as in paint and joint compounds.

Inhalation of asbestos fibres or dust can cause asbestosis, a fatal lung disease, or cancer of the lungs, stomach and chest.

Your home may contain asbestos if it was built or renovated between the 1920s and the 1970s. Asbestos material in good condition is not necessarily harmful and may be left in place if sealed. If it is damaged or releasing dust, it must be removed. Your local authority environmental health department will advise you Sealing or removal of some types of asbestos material must, by law, be undertaken by a professional contractor licensed by the Health and Safety Executive. Consult your local Environmental Health Officer for advice.

Combustion gases

Gaseous by-products of fuel-burning appliances, such as carbon monoxide or dioxide.

Build-up can cause nausea, headaches, dizziness and fatigue.

Gas appliances, such as boilers, wood-burning stoves and gas cookers can all discharge excessive gas if malfunctioning. Check the pilot light and burner flames on your cooker : they should be blue, not yellow. Have boilers and appliances inspected regularly. Clean chimneys annually. Purchase a ventilation hood for your gas cooker that expels gas outside; hood fans are ineffective, since they re-circulate gaseous air. Alternatively, ventilate the kitchen when cooking. Never use a gas oven for household heating.

Formaldehyde

Common gas present in resins of most chipboard, plywood and wood panelling; insulation; adhesives of carpeting and wallpaper; permanent-press clothing; toothpaste.

Can cause chronic respiratory problems, dizziness, rashes, nausea and lethargy, and asthma attacks. Has been linked to nasal cancer in animals. Generally, levels in homes are harmless, except to a small number of people sensitive to the gas.

Highest levels of gas are emitted when products are new, so newer homes are more likely to be contaminated. Contact your local authority environmental health department or a public analyst if you are concerned about levels in your home.

Keep your home well ventilated. If tests show high levels, apply epoxy sealer to chipboard, fibreboard and plywood. Houseplants may absorb formaldehyde. Ask for low-formaldehyde or formaldehyde-free wood and adhesives.

Radon

Radioactive gas produced by the decay of uranium in soil and rocks; radon passes through spots directly accessible to soil, such as waste pipes or cracks in the foundation and basement floor. It may also be present in tap water.

Inhaled radon is a major cause of lung cancer; it has been estimated that radon may be a factor in between 2 to 6 percent of lung cancer deaths annually. The danger of radon is greatly compounded by smoking.

According to estimates, 20,000 to 90,000 homes in the UK have radon levels that exceed the government's Action Level. Most of these are in Devon, Cornwall, and parts of Somerset, Derbyshire and Northamptonshire. If you are concerned that you might live in a high-radon area, write to the Radon Survey, national Radiological Protection Board ( NRPB ), Chilton, Didcot, Oxon OX11 0RQ, and they will send you a questionnaire, then a testing kit if appropriate

If the radon in your home exceeds the government's Action Level, consult your local authority environmental health department, or the Building Research Station, Bucknalls Lane, Garston, Watford WD1 1LA for advice on how to reduce it.

Water contamination

Millions of Britons drink water containing small amounts of lead from local or household pipes. Pesticide residues, carcinogenic by-products of chlorine and other carcinogens are also present in much of the water supply. Well water may be tainted with bacteria.

It is unclear whether or not small amounts of lead have adverse health effects, particularly in young children; but in light of the uncertainty, it is prudent to reduce exposure to a minimum. Other contaminants may cause cancer. Bacteria can cause intestinal problems and other illnesses.

Your water supply company or local authority -- or a public analyst or health laboratory services -- can all test your tap water, although a charge may be levied.

Running cold water from taps for three minutes each morning will help to flush out lead. Since lead is more soluble in hot water, use cold tap water for cooking. A water purifier can eliminate much of the lead and some other contaminants. Consider installing new, non-lead pipes. Have your well-inspected for a cracked lining if you have harmful water bacteria.

     
     

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