Avoiding Costly Homebuying Mistakes: Environmental Concerns Part 2 - Air

by Lawrence Kostaneski

In Part 1 http://www.stretcher.com/stories/980921d.htm we took a general look at environmental risks and sources. Part 2 will focus on specifics.

Contamination of the air can be subtle and even dangerous. Our atmosphere is a very efficient cleaning mechanism, filtering or dispersing harmful components that otherwise can cause serious health problems. But relying on the atmosphere to do all the work is misguided and shortsighted. Consequently, the federal government (EPA) has promulgated laws to prohibit industry from emissions that exceed certain limits. Like all laws, however, they are not always followed.

Your soon-to-be-new home may be lovely in all respects, but vulnerable to airborne contamination. That factory out of sight, miles away, may be a source of air pollution. If climatic conditions are just right, that air coming from the smokestack can go directly over (and into) your home.

One way to know if this situation exists is to determine the wind patterns in your area. The National Weather Service is a good source for this information. Most areas will have two seasonal patterns: winter brings winds from one direction, summer from another. These are called prevailing winds. They blow for 2-6 months out of the year from one direction during that particular season.

After determining the prevailing wind(s), drive several miles in that direction looking for factories, industries, quarries, landfills, etc.. If you have a local or state air quality office, contact them for additional information. They can also tell you if any upwind industries have received violation letters or if legal action has been taken to force compliance with air quality laws.

It is nearly impossible for a homeowner to stop the impacts from contaminated air. There are no handy air filters you can attach to your "air faucet." What you smell (or don't) is what you get. If you have a family member sensitive to air pollution, it is worth finding the source before you buy.

Next Time: Environmental Concerns: Part 3 - Water

Mr. Kostaneski is a registered professional engineer, former government regulatory official, owner of an engineering consulting firm and author of "A Home Buyer's Guide To Reality." He regularly contributes articles to The Dollar Stretcher.

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