As I mentioned in a previous post, my husband and I have been in the process of moving. We finally moved into our new place a little over a month ago.
Buying a Toxic Free House
Our move wasn’t the easiest process and was far from smooth, but in the end God blessed us with a great place. It’s hard enough trying to find the right place, but when you have Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), it makes it that much more difficult. Sure, my husband and I had our wish lists. I wanted a bigger kitchen and bathroom. My husband wanted to live on a pond. It took a while, but I’m happy to say we got our wish list and then some! However, those wish list items were pushed to the side because the most important thing for me was a safe environment. As someone who is highly sensitive to mold and other toxins, this was my first concern when we were looking for a place.
The Amount of Toxins We Encounter Daily is Overwhelming!
We are bombarded by toxins today! Everything from our food, skin care, personal care products, detergents, and the list can go on. It is said that women put on an average of 168 chemicals every day. There are 80,000+ chemicals used in the United States and only a tiny amount have been properly tested. With those statistics, we all should be cognizant of what we are purchasing and using. Shopping for non-toxic options should be a first priority. I am passionate about this because my own health was severely impacted by my “toxic bucket” overflowing and diseases setting in. Let me tell you, after being on your death bed, you want to do everything that is in your power so that it doesn’t happen again!
Minimizing Toxins in Your Search for a Home
When we were looking for a new place to live, I had a list of things to look for when it came to a toxic environment. Whether you have MCS, or not, considering the following items will help you and your family live in a less toxic environment. Minimizing toxins is a huge benefit for everyone!
- Age of the house/condo:
Why is this important? Because a new house has so many new items in it. Those new items can off-gas and emit many toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde and other VOCs. In addition, there are toxic flame retardants in some products. It can take years for many products to stop emitting VOCs.
- Does it have new carpet?
Whether you buy a new home, or an older home, you should figure out if new carpet has been installed. Carpets can emit harmful VOCs for over 5 years. Personally, if the place we were looking at had new carpet, I didn’t consider buying it. As someone with MCS, there is no way I could live in that environment. In our case, we were fortunate to be able to stop the sellers before they installed new carpet. If the place you are purchasing has new carpet, search for a professional carpet cleaner who has experience cleaning carpets with the purpose of removing a portion of the VOCs.
- Do I have physical reactions from being in the house?
People with MCS are called canaries because our bodies are so sensitive to chemicals. Just as canaries alerted miners that there were poisonous gases in a mine, those of us with MCS develop symptoms when we are exposed to toxins. When we did a walk through, we would stay in the house for about a half hour. That gave me enough time to figure out if I was having reactions. Usually, my heart rate was my barometer. If it started racing, I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle the place. The hard part was trying to decipher what was causing the reaction. Was it caused by the air fresheners, candles, laundry detergent, or something else that was a part of the physical house?
- Is there evidence of mold?
Mold is my downfall. I am so sensitive to it that I can typically smell it or get reactions from it as soon as I walk in. Unfortunately, you can’t always see the evidence of it until an inspector goes into the attic and does a complete inspection of the house. In our case, we also had the inspector run mold tests to see what the spore count was. When trying to figure out if a place has a mold problem, look for any water damage and for proper ventilation. The seller should mention on the disclosure documents if there has been any previous water damage. In our case, there had been previous water damage, but it had been repaired. Our inspector also had a thermal imaging scanner which could tell if there was any moisture behind the walls.
- Smell in the basement – how musty is it?
I don’t typically do well in basements. However, a good dehumidifier usually helps. If there is a strong odor in the basement, that could indicate mold problems. I would also check for any water damage lines or cracks on the walls. In addition, I would look in the yard to see how well the ground sloped away from the house. You don’t want water pooling up next to the house.
- Attic ventilation:
Sometimes it’s hard to tell how well an attic is ventilated until an inspection has been done. However, you can visually look for vents on the roof. Does it look like the exhaust fans and dryer vents are venting to the outside? Does it seem to have quite a few soffit vents under the ridge of the roof? Are there gutters to drain the water off of the roof and away from the house?
- Where do the laundry vents come out of the house?
This was especially important since we were looking at condos. Many people don’t know any better and still use toxic fabric softener and dryer sheets. Since I was going to be in close proximity to my neighbors, I wanted to make sure their dryer vent wasn’t located near a window that I might have open.
- Does it have a Smart Meter?
Many homes today are being installed with a Smart Meter. Smart Meters are wireless, digital meters that transmit electricity and gas use to companies using radio-frequency communication. Smart Meters expose us to constant electromagnetic radiation. If you are sensitive to EMFs, or have an impaired immune system, you want to stay as far away as possible from the meters. Look to see where they are located. Ours is located on our garage. It’s best not to have it located on a wall facing your living area.
If you live in a complex with an association, you might not have much say as to how your lawn is cared for. However, you should be able to figure out their schedule so you can know when they are spraying so you can keep your windows closed. In addition to the outside pesticides, some people might also use indoor pesticides. I had never come across such a thing until we purchased our place. There was a stain along the edges of the carpet – more so than just dirt. Our inspector mentioned that he thought it was caused by pesticides. He was correct. We were able to find out more information from the seller. They had used indoor pesticides. This almost cost us the house. I called the pesticide company to see how long the pesticides emit. They said it can emit for up to 12 months. Although the seller couldn’t remember the last they had sprayed, it had been quite a few months since the seller had lived in their place. I had a carpet cleaning company try to remove the pesticides, but they couldn’t get them all out. We are now in the process of trying to remove the carpet completely and lay down porcelain tile instead.
Does the house have termite damage? Of course, nobody wants their place to be infested with termites. Have there been baits set up around the perimeter of the house? I didn’t have experience with termite baits until we bought our new place. There were round, green plastic things in the yard. I thought they had to do with a sprinkler system, but our inspector said they were termite baits. The association had placed them around the outside perimeter of the place. I wasn’t crazy about it since it would emit chemicals, so I did a little bit of research. We still bought the place, but I won’t be planting a garden in the yard.
- Has it been freshly painted?
New paint and new carpet were major concerns when we were looking for apartments to temporarily rent before we bought our place. Paint can contain many VOCs and can take months for the odors to dissipate. In addition, there are now air fresheners that can be added to the paint to tame the paint smell. Those air fresheners have toxic ingredients in them, so you’re trying to mask one toxic ingredient with another! I planned on painting using a no VOC, low odor paint. New paint can cause me a number of reactions. In our apartment, it had been a few weeks since it had been painted before we moved in. It still bothered me though. Before we moved in, we asked the management to open the windows and place fans in the apartment to begin airing it out. Once we moved in, I placed plates with charcoal all around to try to soak up the fumes.
- Age of furnace/air conditioner:
At our previous house, we had to have both a new furnace and air conditioner installed. Both were difficult for me because of the PVC piping and glue that they used. Anytime the unit ran, I would begin to feel sick and develop a headache. Typically, it takes some time for the piping to off gas. I haven’t found a remedy for this yet, but will be doing some research in case we have to replace anything at our new place.
- Are there electrical wires nearby?
If you have MCS, you probably are also sensitive to EMFs. Like mold illness, EMFs generated from electrical wires and devices can cause numerous symptoms which are hard for doctors to diagnose. When looking for a place to live, we also steered clear of homes near electrical wires.
- Do the neighbors have fire pits?
I remember using a fire pit at our house years ago when we first moved in. I enjoyed sitting around the fire pit making S’Mores and talking to friends, but since I developed MCS I can’t tolerate smoke anymore. The smoke is toxic to my body and creates a wide range of symptoms like swollen ears and chest, headache, and racing heart rate. Even though this is something that can’t be controlled when purchasing a house, some condo associations do not allow them.
There you have it. Some ideas to consider when purchasing your next home. Happy house hunting!
Read Next: 8 Non-Toxic Moving Tips
Living Natural Today Wants to Know:
- Are there any other items you can think of to reduce toxins when shopping for a house?