Texas Principles of Real Estate Module 7: Environmental Hazards

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1 Texas Principles of Real Estate Module 7: Environmental Hazards.

2 Texas Principles of Real Estate Module 7: Environmental Hazards Introduction This module covers major environmental hazards. The objective of this module is to familiarize licensees with environmental issues since they have a responsibility to disclose to buyers any information that might affect their decision to buy. Environmental hazards can dramatically affect a property s value, so buyers, sellers, lenders and licensees all can be affected by them. In accordance with TREC rules, sections and D, this module will teach students to identify internal and external environmental issues. They will learn about health hazards, environmental legislation, liability and responsibility for cleanup and protection. They will also learn about actions they should take and how issues affect licensees and lending. Licensees are not expected to be environmental experts, but in this module students will acquire a competency with environmental issues that will help them to elucidate issues for buyers, sellers, and lenders. Knowledge of environmental issues also will help protect them from charges of nondisclosure. The conclusion of this module presents real world dilemmas and applications of the information presented. As the student completes this module, he or she should try to paint a big picture of environmental issues, which the module will address with comprehensive content questions, practices, and case studies. Environmental Hazards 2

3 Upon the completion of this module, the student will be able to: Identify recent laws that have an impact on environmental issues, including lead-based paint disclosure laws. State the procedures used to locate toxic waste sites, the responsibilities for clean-up and steps that may be taken to minimize future liabilities. Describe at least two major provisions of the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act. Identify at least three sources of human exposure to PCBs and at least two health effects seen in humans exposed to PCBs. Sketch the nature of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and the possible need for testing in areas where these are present. Describe the nature of major air pollutants and the remedies that may be applied to minimize their effects. Outline landowners responsibility for the protection of wetlands areas on their property. Identify the issues landowners and developers face regarding endangeredspecies protection. Outline the current status of environmental laws and their effect on property insurance and mortgage lending. Environmental Hazards 3

4 KEY TERMS Asbestos: Naturally occurring mineral fibers which are mined and processed into materials used in building and other kinds of manufacturing. Asbestos is used to strengthen materials, provide thermal and acoustical insulation on exposed surfaces, and to fireproof a product or material. Asbestos fibers have been linked to cancer of the lungs, stomach and intestines, as well as to a disease called asbestosis. Black Mold: A slimy, black fungus that can create health problems for people when it is allowed to flourish indoors. It has been linked to rashes, headaches, nausea, muscle aches, and fatigue. Brownfield: A brownfield is defined as a property, or part of a property, that has (or is perceived as having) environmental contamination or hazards. This term is generally applied to property that has active potential for reuse or redevelopment, both of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. CERCLA: An acronym identifying the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. This Act is also called Superfund, because it provides money to clean up uncontrolled or abandoned environmental hazards, as well as other environmental accidents and emergencies. CERCLA addresses many liability and management issues regarding hazardous waste. Common Enemy Doctrine: This doctrine gives individual property owners an absolute right to dispose of surface water. Its name arises from the common law idea that unregulated surface waters are the common enemy of property owners, each of whom may manage them as he or she thinks best. This includes using retention, diversion, repulsion, and course alteration to control the water. Because property owners have this right, there is not cause for legal action even if the chosen water management method causes injury or damage. It is worth noting, however, that all property owners are legally required to use their property in a reasonable way that does not cause unnecessary damage to other people or other people s property. Electromagnetic Fields (EMF): Also called electromagnetic field radiation. These fields are created by the flow of current in anything powered by electricity, and can be put out in substantial quantities by some devices, such as power lines and high-tension wires. Some people claim that they cause cancer and other health problems, but these claims have not been scientifically proven. Despite the lack of decisive evidence, EMFs can still be an influential factor in some people s decisions about buying or selling property, so real estate professionals need to know about them. Environmental Hazards 4

5 Endangered Species Act (ESA): This is a piece of federal legislation aimed at helping to protect animals and plants that are in danger of extinction because of human activity. The Act also makes various provisions to promote the recovery of species which have already suffered significant damage to their population or habitat. The first version of this Act was passed in 1973; regulations have substantially expanded the original Act. The ESA can have a profound impact on land value by affecting what, if any, development activities may be carried out; landowners and licensees have both been giving increasing attention to the Act. Environmental Impact Statement: A statement that predicts a project s total anticipated environmental effects, and presents research data supporting its claims. All federally-funded projects must submit an environmental impact statement. Environmental Site Assessment: Also called a Due Diligence Audit, this is an investigation carried out to identify the environmental hazards or concerns that could affect the use of a property or impose future financial liability on its owner. Conducting this assessment is part of acting as a responsible landowner. These assessments are classified as Phase I, Phase II or Phase III, depending on the likelihood of environmental damage or the extent of known environmental problems. Formaldehyde: A colorless, pungent-smelling gas that can cause watery eyes, burning sensations in the eyes and throat, nausea and difficulty in breathing in some humans who are exposed to elevated levels of the gas. Formaldehyde occurs naturally in relatively small quantities; it is also widely used in the manufacture of building materials and numerous household products. Friable Asbestos: The soft or crumbling form of asbestos, considered more dangerous than asbestos in hard form because it is easier for the fine fibers of asbestos to get into the air when it is friable. Indoor Air Pollution: The air inside homes and buildings can become polluted, just like the air outside. Three types of indoor air pollution are considered to be the most dangerous and difficult to assess: formaldehyde gas, radon, and asbestos. Tobacco smoke, viruses, fungi and volatile organic compounds may also contribute to indoor air quality problems. Innocent Landowner Defense: This defense can be invoked to relieve defendant landowners of liability for toxic waste clean-up. To invoke the defense successfully, however, the landowners must be able to prove that they have taken the proper steps to ensure the environmental integrity of their site. Joint and Several Liability: This term refers to the fact that defendant parties are both individually and jointly liable for legal damages. Environmental Hazards 5

6 Lead Poisoning: Lead is a metallic element found in rocks and soils. It accumulates in the blood, bones and soft tissue of the body; high concentrations of lead in the body can cause death or permanent damage to the central nervous system, brain, kidneys and red blood cells. With respect to real estate, this is special concern regarding lead paint and lead-contaminated soils. Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs): PCBs are man-made chemicals, mixtures of up to 209 individual chlorinated compounds. They readily enter the air, water, and soil, and are not easily broken down in the environment. They have not been manufactured in the United States since 1977 because they are harmful to human health, causing skin rashes, liver damage, and cancer, among other problems. Prior to their being banned, PCBs were widely used for a variety of purposes. Radon: Radon is an inert, radioactive gas that can come from well water, from the ground below a structure and from building materials. It is odorless and colorless. Radon is highly toxic and is a known carcinogen. Any home may have a radon problem new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements. Reasonableness Rule: This rule is connected to the Common Enemy Doctrine, which grants landowners an absolute right to manage unregulated surface water. The reasonableness rule requires that a landowner s efforts to manage unregulated water meet a standard of reasonableness and necessity. If his or her management methods do not meet this standard, he or she may be held liable for any injury or damage that results from employing those methods. Strict Liability: In cases of strict liability, the person responsible for damage, injury, or legal violation is held liable regardless of fault. Taking: In the context of the Endangered Species Act, taking means the killing of any environmentally protected plant, animal, fish, or insect. Underground Storage Tanks: Any federally regulated underground tank (and all piping connected to the tank) that is buried in such a way that at least 10 percent of the tank is underground and which contains some type of hazardous chemical (usually petroleum). Wetlands: As defined by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, wetlands are "Areas inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas. Environmental Hazards 6

7 Table of Contents LESSON 1: THE INDOOR ENVIRONMENT Lesson Topics: Introduction Formaldehyde Radon Gas Asbestos Mold Lead and Lead-Based Paint Summary LESSON 2: THE EXTERNAL ENVIRONMENT Lesson Topics: Introduction Hazardous Waste Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) Underground Storage Tanks and Electromagnetic Forces Water Damage Summary LESSON 3: LEGISLATION Lesson Topics: Introduction Clean Water Act and Wetlands Protection Endangered Species Protection Summary Environmental Hazards 7

8 LESSON 4: DISCLOSURE AND SITE ASSESSMENT Lesson Topics: Introduction Appraisal and Property Contamination Environmental Site Assessment Effects on Licensees and Lending Summary LESSON 5: REAL ESTATE PRACTICE Lesson Topics: Introduction Field Applications of Environmental Hazards Material Summary Environmental Hazards 8

9 Lesson 1: THE INDOOR ENVIRONMENT This lesson focuses on the following topics: Introduction Formaldehyde Radon Gas Asbestos Mold Lead and Lead-Based Paint Summary Upon completion of this lesson, you will be able to: Identify recent laws that have an impact on environmental issues, including lead-based paint disclosure laws. Introduction Environmental hazards can greatly affect the sale and purchase of real estate, as well as the health of those buying, selling or inhabiting a property. It is our responsibility as real estate agents to be able to identify situations in which environmental hazards may be an issue and to warn clients about potential damage to health and property value. Note that this does not mean that licensees can or should do the work of environmental scientists. Judgments on these issues should always be based on well-researched information, and licensees should not offer advice outside their area of expertise. Nonetheless, it is often true that real estate professionals have specialized knowledge of a property and its history, and are thus in a unique position to guide and inform their clients in ways that environmental scientists and other professional may not be able to do. In this lesson, we will discuss the major environmental hazards associated with real estate and how, when and whether they can be rectified. Environmental Hazards 9

10 Formaldehyde Formaldehyde is a colorless, toxic, water-soluble gas with a pungent smell. It occurs naturally in relatively small quantities, but it can be emitted in larger amounts by a number of building materials, including urea-formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI) and formaldehyde-based adhesives used in pressed wood, particleboard, plywood, shelves, cabinets, and office furniture. Draperies and carpeting may also emit this gas. Learn More: Individuals who want to learn more about formaldehyde, the consumer products that may contain it and ways to determine whether formaldehyde is a problem in a particular property can contact the Environmental Protection Agency s Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) Assistance Line at (202) The EPA can also direct you to local contacts via a map linked to regional resources, which you can find online at: Health Issues Associated With Formaldehyde Exposure to elevated levels of formaldehyde can cause watery eyes, a burning sensation in the eyes and throat, nausea and difficulty breathing. This gas can cause health problems ranging from minor eye, nose and throat irritation to more serious effects such as impaired breathing and asthma attacks in asthmatics. It has been shown to cause several kinds of cancer in animals and may be carcinogenic to humans as well. Hazardous levels of formaldehyde gas are not common in most buildings; this is due at least in part to the fact that formaldehyde s strong smell generally alerts people to the problem. However, dangerous levels of formaldehyde can be found in manufactured or mobile homes, extremely energy efficient houses, tightlyconstructed newer office buildings and even in schools. Manufactured homes are required to carry warning labels if they contain products made with formaldehyde. Individuals who buy manufactured homes must sign statements acknowledging that they have been informed about the presence of any formaldehyde-based materials. The other buildings mentioned have no formal, regulated process for formaldehyde disclosure, so real estate licensees must disclose the known presence of UFFI or potentially harmful concentrations of other formaldehydegas-emitting materials. Environmental Hazards 10

11 Testing Property owners and prospective buyers can test for formaldehyde gas, either by hiring a professional or purchasing a testing device. Professional testing is generally advisable, because amateur testing runs a higher risk of returning inaccurate results. In some cases, professional testing may be required in order to show that the owner has exercised due diligence in assessing the environmental hazards that may be present on a property. Remedies Several methods can help to reduce the problem of formaldehyde gas pollution. Increased ventilation and air circulation can help accelerate the elimination of formaldehyde from surfaces and rooms. However, studies have found that ventilation is sometimes not a sufficient remedy, and other measures may need to be taken. Sealing all of the exposed surfaces on particleboard furnishings with multiple layers of water resistant sealants such as polyurethane, vinyl laminate, lacquers, alkyd paints or other water-resistant coatings can reduce formaldehyde emissions. Radon Gas Radon is an inert, radioactive gas that can enter a property via well water, from the ground below a structure and from building materials. It is odorless and colorless. Radon is highly toxic and is a known carcinogen. Any home may have a radon problem new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements. Most commonly, radon enters a home or building from the ground beneath the structure, through cracks and other openings in its foundation or basement. Learn More: The EPA offers a publication directed at real estate professionals and their clients, called The Home Buyer s and Seller s Guide to Radon. You can find it online at: Health Issues Associated With Radon Gas In 1989, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), William Reilly, pronounced radon "the second leading cause of cancer in this country. The EPA estimates that radon causes more than 20,000 deaths from lung cancer each year. The hazard posed by radon was not discovered until 1984, when an engineer working on the construction of the Limerick Nuclear Plant in Pennsylvania was found to be bringing radiation into the plant from his home. Environmental Hazards 11

12 Radon is located throughout the earth s crust, but some areas contain higher concentrations than others. The danger arises when a source of radon gas is located directly beneath an inhabited building and the gas seeps inside. Radon gas can enter into a building through cracks in the slab, through openings found around pipes and through well water. In building areas like basements that often lack adequate ventilation, the gas can become concentrated and dangerous. While radon sources are widely dispersed, they cannot be found everywhere. Local, state and federal environmental health officials can provide information about radon s presence in a particular geographic area. Learn More: The EPA can help direct you to local resources that can provide information and help you to assess indoor air quality. A map linked to regional resources can be found online at If other structures near a given property have radon problems, this may indicate a problem in that property; it certainly gives an owner or prospective buyer good reason to have the radon levels evaluated. While any building can contain radon gas, well-insulated and energy-efficient homes sometimes have higher levels of contamination because they are not as well-ventilated. Testing Air tests should be undertaken if the presence of radon is suspected. The simplest test involves an activated charcoal filter canister that can be purchased at hardware stores or home centers. The canister is placed in the basement or ground level of a building for four to seven days, and then returned to a laboratory for analysis (radon does not normally pose a problem in the upper floors of a building, so the testing focuses on the structure s lower levels). Full disclosure of any radon test results must be given to prospective buyers when a building is up for sale. Learn More: The EPA offers guidance in finding a qualified radon testing contractor who can conduct thorough professional testing. That information can be found online here: 0service%20provider Remedies Owners should seal basement floor cracks and pipe openings to prevent radon from seeping into a building. Ventilation systems that draw the radon out of a building s lower levels via pipes and fans and then disperse the radon outside may be sufficient to reduce the radon concentration to a minimal level without any additional efforts. Environmental Hazards 12

13 Asbestos The term asbestos refers to a group of naturally occurring mineral fibers found in rocks. Asbestos has been used in a wide variety of products and building materials, such as patching compounds, wood-burning stoves, siding, roofing shingles, and vinyl floors. Asbestos has a number of advantages: it can strengthen a material, provide thermal insulation and acoustical insulation on exposed surfaces and fireproof a product or a material. However, it also poses serious health risks to those who live or work around it. Health Issues Associated With Asbestos The inhalation of airborne asbestos fibers has been linked to a disease called asbestosis, a non-cancerous disease that scars the lung tissues. In addition, asbestos can cause lung cancer and mesothelioma, which is a cancer of the chest and the lining of the abdominal cavity. Asbestos has been known to be dangerous since discovery of its connection to asbestosis (then called fibrosis ) in1924. The dangers of asbestos pollution are difficult to assess accurately. Media attention focused on asbestos as a health hazard in schools and office buildings has increased concern. While more public attention has been directed at commercial properties, it is important to remember that the same problems can exist in private homes. Studies have indicated that the most serious danger is associated with loose asbestos, the soft or crumbling form called friable asbestos, rather than asbestos in a more solid form. Any activity that disturbs asbestos materials has the potential to release asbestos fibers into the air. For example, damaged asbestos insulation around pipes or ceiling tiles may shed microscopic fibers into the air inside a structure. These fibers may cause respiratory diseases even many years after an individual is exposed to them. To date, there have been no conclusive studies showing that food or water containing asbestos represents a health hazard, or that the fibers can penetrate the skin. The dangers associated with asbestos arise when it breaks down (or is accidentally broken or otherwise disturbed) and its fibers are released into the air. Testing Buyers, investors, sellers and licensees need to know whether the homes or buildings with which they are dealing contain asbestos. A certified asbestos inspector can take bulk samples and determine if any suspected problem materials contain asbestos. Once a laboratory analysis determines the material's content, the buyer and seller can together consider their options. Full disclosure to a potential buyer is mandatory. Environmental Hazards 13

14 Note: The EPA offers guidance in identifying and contacting a qualified asbestos inspector. You can find this information online here: The EPA can help direct you to local resources that can provide information and help you to assess indoor air quality issues like asbestos. A map linked to regional resources can be found online at: Economic Consequences The discovery of asbestos on or in a property can lead to serious problems for owners. Federal and state laws govern the handling and disposal of asbestos and materials containing asbestos; they must transported using proper precautions and discarded with care. Asbestos presents two primary economic risks for property owners: the potential of health-related lawsuits and the risk of lowered income due to a lack of tenants. This translates into a lower property value and may make adequate insurance coverage difficult to obtain. When faced with asbestos problems, building owners may consider an asbestos management plan as suggested by the EPA. Asbestos Liability Asbestos-related liability cases have been increasing in the last decade. Companies involved in asbestos litigation include automakers, shipbuilders, textile mills, retailers, insurers, electric utilities and other companies involved in manufacturing or construction in the last 30 years. Asbestos lawsuits have forced more than 60 U.S. corporations into bankruptcy. Nationwide, there are some 200,000 pending asbestos claims. Recent Litigation In a recent case, a court ruled that the claims in the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Asbestos (Asbestos NESHAP) about visible emissions also apply to visible dust which may contain invisible asbestos fibers or particles. The court ruled against the defendant, a company which (among other projects) disassembled brakes shoes and discarded their parts, some which were known to have contained asbestos. The defendant was fined, having to pay a $50,000 civil penalty. (United States v. Midwest Suspension & Brake, 1995) Remedies Building owners and managers have had to decide whether to remove asbestos or to implement in-place management programs. Many owners have removed asbestos rather than face possible liability, even when significant health risks were not evident. Since 1985, the EPA has held that property owners should not always remove asbestos; remember that asbestos is not dangerous unless it is damaged or disturbed in a way that causes asbestos fibers to be released into Environmental Hazards 14

15 the air. Given that removal costs can run as thigh as thirty to fifty dollars per square foot of floor area, in-place management is often a better and a far less costly alternative. The EPA defines an effective management program as a "formulated plan of training, cleaning, work practices, air monitoring and surveillance to maintain asbestos-containing materials in good condition." Under such a program, maintenance, custodial and administrative staff members are educated about the asbestos on the property, and owners inform tenants and other occupants that there is asbestos in the building. Mold Molds are microscopic fungi that grow throughout the natural and manufactured environment. Although some of their appearance and development mimics that of plants, they lack chlorophyll and thus must gather nutrients from other organic matter (living or dead), such as plants and animals (including humans). Molds are a primitive form of life found almost everywhere that moisture is present. Molds also serve many useful purposes. We utilize molds in the production of beer, wine, and pharmaceuticals (like penicillin); molds are a natural part of all biological systems, coexisting in symbiosis. Even though molds are useful to us, they can be a serious problem when large numbers of them multiply indoors. Mold problems can arise in houses and other buildings because molds need only a few simple things to grow and multiply: Moisture Nutrients Suitable growing surface Excess moisture is the primary cause of indoor molds. Molds can cause serious health problems; they can also permanently damage building materials, furniture and personal belongings. According to the EPA, the following structural and design problems contribute to mold growth: Poor indoor air circulation Wind washing Poor insulation Surface area heat loss Environmental Hazards 15

16 Many molds can cause minor respiratory problems and hay-fever-like symptoms. A particular type of slimy black mold (Stachybotrys chartarum, sometimes also called Stachybotrys atra) is commonly found indoors in humid or wet conditions, and has been associated with more serious health problems in some individuals. Not all people respond to this mold in the same way; when it causes serious health problems, these generally occur in people with chronic respiratory conditions or people whose immune systems are suppressed or otherwise compromised. Testing and scientific data regarding the problems caused by black mold are inconclusive in many cases. However, black mold has been linked to headaches, nausea, muscle aches and fatigue. Learn More: The EPA offers an array of mold resources that may be useful to licensees and consumers. You can find links to these items online here: Health Issues Associated With Mold The most common problems caused by indoor mold are allergy symptoms. People who have allergies to airborne particulates (such as dust), as well as those with hay fever or asthma problems, are usually more strongly affected by mold than those without pre-existing allergies or respiratory problems. People exposed to high levels of mold growing indoors commonly report problems such as: Nasal and sinus congestion Coughing Wheezing and breathing difficulties Sore throat Eye irritation More serious problems can occur in people who are exposed to unusually large amounts of mold, people with chronic respiratory conditions or people whose immune systems are suppressed or otherwise compromised. In these cases, fever and shortness of breath are not uncommon, in combination with the problems listed earlier. People with chronic illnesses that affect their respiratory systems can develop mold infections in their lungs. Testing In general, mold problems can be seen or smelled. If there is enough mold to affect negatively the indoor air quality, those effects on the air quality can be detected by the people living or working in the structure without special equipment. The main problem with mold is not usually finding it; it is relatively easy to find, but often more complicated to eliminate. Because climate is Environmental Hazards 16

17 enormously influential on the kinds of mold that grow indoors, states often have their own recommendations for identifying and dealing with the mold problems that are common in that region. In general, look for white, threadlike fibers, clusters of black spots, or a general musty odor in moisture-rich places such as the kitchen or bathroom. Mold often grows underneath building materials where water has damaged surfaces or behind walls. In addition, look for discoloration and leaching from plaster and drywall. Search for Problems Licensees can conduct a search for mold problems. They can go through the house, including the attic, basement, and crawlspaces, and look for obvious mold growth. Outside the house, downspouts should route water away from the house; improper drainage leads to water pooling around the foundation, which can create mold problems indoors. Licensees can also check the exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms, to verify that there is proper ventilation in areas that are often humid. If there are no windows in the bathroom, then this lack of ventilation creates the potential for mold growth. Rotten building materials (like wood or plaster) and stains on ceilings, floors, and carpeting can indicate leaks or moisture problems; these problems should be investigated thoroughly to pinpoint their causes. Professionals should also check the heating and cooling systems, including humidifiers, vents, duct linings, and insulation for mold growth. Prevention There is no practical way to eliminate all mold spores from a structure that is open to the outdoors. Therefore, the key to preventing mold problems is moisture control. Owners and landlords need to maintain their properties carefully, with an eye toward minimizing the moisture in their buildings. Steps that can help achieve this goal include: Fixing leaks and seepages promptly. Using proper insulation to prevent condensation. Installing and using exhaust fans to vent moisture from bathrooms, dryers, and other sources of indoor moisture. Keeping carpets and other floor coverings clean and dry, as well as removing carpet from places that are frequently wet, such as bathrooms and sink areas. Ventilating crawl spaces. Cleaning and drying any water-damaged areas within 48 hours after the leak or spill. Environmental Hazards 17

18 All appliances that come into contact with water, such as furnaces, heat pumps, central air conditioners, dehumidifiers, and humidifiers should be properly maintained and kept clean. Owners should replace moldy shower curtains and clean all moldy surfaces thoroughly, using a weak bleach solution as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Carpet or wallboard that is significantly infested with mold should be discarded and the source of the mold problem must be found and controlled before the materials are replaced. Painting over mold without cleaning does not usually solve mold problems; it can resurface through the new paint. The EPA suggests that homeowners and renters keep the indoor humidity level between 30 percent and 60 percent. In addition, the temperature should generally be kept above the dew point to decrease condensation and associated opportunities for mold growth. As mentioned earlier, each state may have its own suggestions for preventing mold growth, and property owners should familiarize themselves with these recommendations. Remedies There are several solutions to mold problems, many of which we have already discussed under prevention. When we are cleaning up a mold problem, we should focus in the following goals: Reducing the moisture content in the air. Increasing air movement. Increasing the temperature (either the general indoor temperature of the structure or the temperature of the moldy surfaces). Mold should be cleaned off of hard surfaces using a weak bleach solution. We cannot clean absorbent surfaces like plaster or ceiling tiles in this way, since this would only serve to dampen them further; these materials will likely need to be replaced. When cleaning molds, make certain that your work area is wellventilated, and consider using a dust mask or other respiratory protection. It is also best to use rubber gloves or other coverings to prevent both the mold and any cleaning solutions from coming into direct contact with your skin. Minimize the amount of water used in the cleaning process, and make certain that any standing water is cleaned up quickly. Some serious mold problems may require professional clean-up. The EPA offers numerous publications which can help licensees address the concerns of both residential and commercial property owners. As noted earlier, you can find an index to these resources online at the following address: Environmental Hazards 18

19 Lead and Lead-Based Paint Lead is a heavy, relatively soft, bluish-grey metal. Because of the ease with which it can be shaped, lead has long been used in pipes and other building materials. More recently it has been alloyed for use as solder for pipe joints and as a component in paint. Paint containing high levels of lead was found to be more durable and looked fresher for a greater length of time. Lead has many useful properties. However, it is also highly toxic. It does not break down in the environment and accumulates readily in the human body, creating serious health problems for children and adults. Water passing through lead pipes or through copper pipes with lead-soldered joints, older paint, household dust (particularly in homes containing lead-based paint) and the soil around a house may all contain significant amounts of lead. According to the EPA, other sources of lead include older painted toys and furniture, as well as foods and drinks stored in lead crystal or lead-glazed pottery or porcelain. Lead can also be introduced into a home via industrial emissions (such as those from lead smelters), the clothes and shoes of residents or employees who work with lead, and through hobbies such as glazing pottery, working with stained glass, or refinishing older furniture. Lead can be harmful if ingested or inhaled, which is problematic because there is a substantial amount of airborne lead in our environment. Airborne lead comes from some industrial plants, from the exhaust released by internal combustion engines (primarily from vehicles using gasoline that contains lead) and from household dust derived from lead-based paint. Dust that contains lead can also be transmitted from the workplace. Restrictive rules to minimize airborne lead have succeeded to a great extent; in 1995, the EPA reported an 88 percent reduction in airborne lead. Health Issues Associated With Lead Lead poisoning is caused by high levels of lead in the bloodstream. A simple blood test can determine the amount of lead in a person s system. If this test shows high levels of lead, treatment may involve changes in diet, medication or a hospital stay, depending on the severity of the poisoning. Children younger than seven are at the highest risk for lead poisoning. Their growing bodies absorb lead more readily and children s developing brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to its damaging effects. Lead poisoning can cause many serious health problems in children, including permanent brain damage, slowed growth, hearing problems, headaches, and learning and behavior problems such as hyperactivity. Environmental Hazards 19

20 Lead-Based Paint Rules Because the health problems associated with lead are so serious, the federal government has created regulation aimed at decreasing people s exposure to lead-based paint in residential property. On March 6, 1996, HUD and the EPA issued a joint final ruling that requires the sellers and lessors of residential property built before 1978 to inform prospective buyers or tenants of the actual or possible presence of lead-based paint hazards in a property. Leases and sales contracts must include a disclosure form regarding lead-based paint. Homebuyers have a 10-day period to conduct their own lead-based paint inspection or risk assessment, giving both the buyer and seller the flexibility to negotiate key terms of the evaluation. In addition, sellers, lessors, and real estate professionals share responsibility for ensuring compliance. Failure to comply can result in large fines. As of June 1, 1999, renovators who will be disturbing more than two square feet of paint in dwellings built before 1978 must give owners or occupants a copy of the EPA publication Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home (http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/leadpdfe.pdf ). This disclosure must be made prior to any renovation activities that disturb paint. Renovators generally must secure signatures as evidence that they have made the proper disclosures and supplied information from the EPA, but other kinds of proof may be used when signatures cannot be obtained. Learn More: The EPA offers a number of special guides and pamphlets for contractors, property managers and maintenance personnel involved in renovations. These guides detail the legislation and regulation governing these individuals role(s) with respect to tenants, property owners and lead management. You can find them online here: Recent Applications of Lead-Based Paint Rules Richwind Joint Venture 4 et al. v. Brunson et al., 335 Md. 661, 645 A.2d 1147 (1994) This case set the legal standard for landlord liability regarding lead exposure. In Baltimore, MD a jury ruled against a landlord, in favor of a tenant and her two children for injuries that the children allegedly sustained as a result of being exposed to lead-based paint. The courts held that the landlord had acted negligently, because the landlord failed to disclose the risk of lead exposure to the tenant. In addition, the landlord did not remove the hazard, despite having a reasonable opportunity to do so. Environmental Hazards 20

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