There is a lot in the media about environmental concerns these days, and it is hard to know what must be considered and what not when buying a home. Even though there isn't anything to be concerned about with most homes, it is still best to be aware of the potential home environmental issues, so that you are comfortable in your new home.
Water quality is not a common concern in the Northern Virginia area, although it can easily be tested. Typically, a basic water quality test will check pH, water hardness, the presence of fluoride, sodium, iron and manganese, plus bacteria such as E-coli. Additionally, water may be tested for the presence of lead or arsenic.
In homes built before 1978, as are most of the existing homes in Alexandria, Arlington, and Falls Church, lead based paint may be present. Under Virginia statues, buyers and sellers execute a disclosure/disclaimer statement regarding lead based paint for such houses, and we always provide our buyers with a pamphlet explaining the lead based paint issue. Generally, if the lead based paint is in good condition, not cracking or peeling, it is not a hazard. If the condition is hazardous, the paint will either need to be removed or sealed in such a manner as to eliminate the hazard. The decision as to what is an acceptable situation is the buyers' and is subject to negotiation during the contract negotiation period.
Another environmental concern that has been raised in this area involves radon. Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the natural decay of uranium in the soil. Many homes have some radon present, and tests can determine if the level present is higher than what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers safe. Generally, radon build-up will only occur when the basement is enclosed with little ventilation. If the level is too high, a radon reduction system can easily be installed. Again, this is a negotiable item.
In older homes built more than 30 years ago, asbestos may have been used in many types of insulation and other building materials. If there is asbestos present and it is releasing fibers into the air, it should be removed or repaired by a professional contractor specializing in asbestos cleanup. But, if the asbestos material is in good repair, and not releasing fibers, it poses no hazard and can be left alone.