Tragic news was reported today in California, of two year old twin girls drowning in their families pool. This shocking news is a reminder to home inspectors that the primary duty to our clients is home safety. Drowning is primarily of young children and accounts for 800 in home deaths in the U.S. each year.
When conducting a home inspection, often times my clients opt out of a pool inspection as part of their inspection, to save money. When they make this decision, I always still review with them the importance of effective safety barriers for pools, spas and fountains, for their children and guest children. A proper barrier system of fencing and self-closing gates would defeat any young child’s attempts to access to access a water area. Knowing the professional standards of my home inspection CREIA and ASHI peers, I am certain that they review these water safety issues with their clients as well.
This tragedy, while it will help draw essential attention to the danger of child drowning, does not educate the public as to the primary cause of death in U.S. homes. In fact, drowning ranks a distant sixth in U.S. homes as the cause of preventable deaths. The primary cause of preventable mortality in U.S. homes is from Radon gas. Radon causes 21,000 lung cancer deaths in the U.S. Both the U.S. Surgeon General and the EPA have identified Radon gas as the second leading cause of lung cancer, as well as the primary cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. For over two decades, the EPA has recommended that all homes be tested for Radon. One in fifteen homes have Radon gas levels that are at levels determined as a significant risk to the occupants. While testing and correction of the radon levels is relatively inexpensive, I find that the majority of my clients opt out of testing, again to save money, and or lack of acceptance regarding the real and present danger of Radon. Clients can see the potential danger of a pool to children, but they cannot see, taste or smell Radon gas.
In addition, I run into real estate agents, property owners, bankers, and investors insisting that there is no Radon in California. The California Department of Health, thousands of Radon test results and 2,000 annual lung cancer deaths from radon in California disagree from these misinformed perspectives. California law requires that the Radon gas test be conducted by a Department of Health registered radon technician, during a real estate escrow, to prevent tampering. However, a new homeowner can conduct their own test after they take possession of the property. Low cost Radon test kits (about $10-$30), can be obtained from local hardware stores.
The other primary annual causes of preventable death in U.S. Homes include: falls 6,000; Poisoning 5,000; Fires 3,000; and Air Obstructions (strangulations) 1,000. Home Inspectors can report on safety prevention issues for all of these items as well: Falls (stairs, handrails, flooring, grounds); Poisoning (child safety latches); Fires, (smoke detectors, fire egress, electrical); Air Obstructions (window cover cords).
The home inspectors primary standard of care is to advise and educate their clients on home safety conditions and prevention strategies for these primary in-home safety issues. It is critical that home inspectors continue to inspect, educate and report to their clients on these safety conditions to help prevent tragic, but preventable deaths.