Hidden Dangers: Protecting Your Home from Harmful Substances

A little over a year ago tennis star Vitas Gerulitas went to bed in a friend's pool house on Long Island and

never woke up. Unbeknownst to him, a faulty pipe was spewing a colorless, odorless, highly poisonous gas into the air and with each breath Gerulitas inhaled he got one step closer to death. This gascarbon monoxideis one of the many hidden dangers that could be lurking around the corner in your home. In addition to carbon monoxide, other dangers to watch for include asbestos, formaldehyde, freon and organic pollutants that reside in many of your household products.

Lead has received a lot of press lately but people forget it is not the only danger out there, says Jerry Picaso, president of Gerard J. Picaso, Inc., a residential property management firm in Manhattan. Although the list may seem formidable, you can greatly reduce your risk by developing an awareness of these hidden dangers and keeping an eye on the possible sources in your home.

Banned But Not Banished

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that was commonly used in a variety of building construction materials for insulation and as a fire-retardent until it was banned in the late '80s by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Today, asbestos is most commonly found in older buildings, in pipe and furnace insulation materials, asbestos shingles, millboard, textured paints and other coating materials and floor tiles.


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  • We bought a house and the ac unit has not been used for several years. Is this safe to try and use? What if any dangers are there?
  • Do newer air conditioners contain freon? We are contious about our health and air we breathe and we don't want to be exposed to bad chemical air... Are the new air conditioner units in a house safe???
  • I want a MDF fiberboard shelf for the new nursery. Can I paint it to seal it and make it safe for the new baby. What paint to you suggest. Or should I look for a different shelf.
  • How up front must the coop board be with curren owner/occupants about the extent, location, and plans to deal with a detected asbestos problem? Must the coop board, selling agents for individual units, or unit owners themselves notify prospective buyers (and notify them when?) that there are uncured asbestos problems in the development and disputes between the board and the unit owners about the safety, curing procedures, and financial responsibility involved in the asbestos problems? How much legal danger do those 3 entities (board, selling agents, unit owners) put themselves in for not disclosing 1. unresolved health dangers 2. issues that affect the monetary value and resale value thank you... worried unit owner
  • My dad was using all 4 burners on his gas range to warm up the house today. I know that should never be done but can you tell me the consequences in writing so othat I may show this to him so he will believe me.
  • An air condioner coil is leaking. My serviceman says that the unit is safe. He will replace the coil. Are we at risk?
  • Recently I was exposed to a freon leak from an old refrigerator in my apartment. Since then I feel nautious all the time I have no appetite and my blood sugar has sky-rocketed management replaced it with a new machine but I can't seem to get the smell out of my nose, clothes or mind! What is going on?
  • What is the symptoms for freon poisoning from a window air condition.
  • I was given a furnace to scrap, it was from the early 1980's, it was in a house. I was wondering if I took it apart to see if it had any copper in it, is it dangerous to do so?