Special report: Deadly toxins that could be in your home

Special report: Deadly toxins that could be in your home

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by Keely Chalmers

Bio | Email | Follow: @KeelyChalmers

kgw.com

Posted on February 11, 2010 at 10:04 AM

Updated Thursday, Feb 11 at 11:00 AM

PORTLAND -- Many consider thier homes to be safe havens. But some homes may harbor hidden and potentially deadly toxins you can't see smell or taste. KGW worked to uncover the top 5 toxins that could be lurking in your home, and inform homeowners on what they need to do to protect themselves.

On a typical day at the Rubin family home, you’ll find 7-year-old A.J. practicing piano as his 5-year-old brother, Avi watches. But typical is far from what the Rubin’s life has been lately. That’s because 5 years ago both boys tested positive for lead poisoning.

Tamara Rubin remembers the day she found out. "They called us at 7 o’clock at night after the kids were already in bed and they said you need to move out of your house immediately," recalled Rubin.

The Rubins did move out of their home, but the damage had already been done. "They're severely aggressive and violent," said Rubin. She said both her sons suffered irreversible brain damage. They now deal with learning disabilities, and in Avi's case, also a rare skin disorder.

"Anytime he gets an injury his body overreacts and grows all this extra skin," she explained. Rubin believes all these problems were the direct result of poisoning from lead-based paint. It happened when a contractor used illegal practices to remove paint from the Rubin's old home.

Don Swisher with Lead Solutions estimated that there are tens of thousands of homes in Portland that potentially have lead-based paint. Which is why, even though it was banned in 1978, lead-based paint is still one of the top hidden dangers in the home.

Number 2 on the list: Radon - a colorless, odorless gas which comes from rock and granite within the earth.

"Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer among anybody and the first leading cause of lung cancer among non smokers," said Marlene MacEwan. MacEwan became an expert on radon 7 years ago when her husband Bob was diagnosed with lung cancer. He'd never smoked a day in his life.

"He never even had a cold, he was just an incredibly happy gregarious guy," said MacEwan.

In search of answers, MacEwan tested her Lake Oswego home for Radon. Acceptable levels are under 4 pico-curies. Her home test at 57.2 pico-curies.

The cancer quickly metastasized through Bob's body and he died less than a year later.

"You have a future you've planned with someone for your entire life then they're taken away from your and your future is just destroyed in an instant," said MacEwan, who now travels the country speaking out about the dangers of radon.

Number 3: Mold - Left unchecked, it can spread through and destroy a home. Experts said it can cause upper respiratory problems, infections of lungs, seizures, and even brain damage.

Number 4: Asbestos - Asbestos was commonly used in structures built before 1970. But as people remodeled older homes they sometimes released the cancer-causing fibers back into the air.

Number 5: Chinese Drywall - Millions of pounds were brought into the U.S. in 2004 due to a domestic dry-wall shortage. The bad dry-wall contains toxic sulfur and often smells like rotten eggs.

The popular consumer review website "Angie's List" not only identifies those top toxins found in homes, it also recommends remedies. Such as proper testing and removal of all the 5 toxins listed above.

For radon, a mitigation system may be your safest option. But family's need to take the first step to insuring they have a healthy home. "The only way to know is to have it tested," said Rubin.

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