As a Home Inspector, I see plenty of safety concerns in many of the homes and properties I inspect that have a potential to be life threatening. However, the safety concern I was recently made aware of is sometimes so subtle that it can go undetected for years before it is revealed, often after it has already left a trail of damages to the physical and mental health of the homeowners.So exactly what is this safety concern? Toxic waste is the culprit, and it can take years to rear its ugly head, and sometimes many years to solve the issues.
Being a Home Inspector in HiltonHead, SC, I have not encountered any serious issues with toxic waste in our locale. However I recently had a conversation with a homeowner who has lived in a home for 6 years (bought new) and has battled with strong chemical odors that were emitted from the foundation concrete slab. The homeowners have tried replacing flooring, sealing the concrete slab and all to no effect. Well I have certainly joked about the interiors of some foreclosed homes I have inspected as being toxic waste dumps, however this homeowner’s story was a wakeup call for me. I was not involved in an inspection on their home, but felt compelled to offer some help. I recommended they start with a call to a local environmental testing lab. I am hoping they called and are pursuing the problem further. I had asked about any health concerns in the family and it was revealed that the family members had frequent headaches. The homeowner had mentioned someone familiar with some of the history of the land in their development seemed to recall some illegal dumping that had occurred in the area where their home was built.
Understanding that each locale is different, I wondered what Hilton Head, SC had for environmental protection. I was encouraged to find out that in 2013, the Beaufort County Sheriff’s office, Police Department, DHEC and the DNR joined efforts to help control environmental issues. Note that for locals in Beaufort County, SC, you may call Crime Stoppers at 888-274-6372 to report suspected problems (illegal dumping). For additional information, the EPA has a website that will help determine if there are environmental concerns (such as toxic landfills, chemical spills etc,) in your area. The website is: http://www.epa.gov/epahome/commsearch.htm
Another information resource may be found at Toxics Action Center. The website is: http://www.toxicsaction.org/problems-and-solutions/hazardous-waste-sites
With land becoming scarcer, builders and developers may often build homes on “Brownfields”, which is another name for a toxic waste site that someone wants to develop.
The most common threat to public health from toxic waste is the contamination of water supplies. Toxins in the soil can also seep into structures above, resulting in indoor air quality concerns. Living in a polluted home can result in short term and long term mental and physical problems. The problems can also extend into generations (genetic birth defects).I would urge any homeowner or home buyer who suspects a home or property may be near (or built over) a toxic landfill, (or other environmental concerns), to research local information resources as well as those mentioned above. It is all too easy to be swayed by a beautiful home and not pay attention to the unseen things that may leave you wanting to flee your home. Determining such concerns is generally beyond the scope of a normal Home Inspection, although some red flags may lead to discoveries.