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It wasn’t a typical vacation. My father had insisted that before I went off to college, I had to see where we came from. And so we packed our bags, hopped on a plane, and flew back to Dominica.

Naturally, I expected us to seek out the nicest hotel we could find; instead, my dad rented a car and made his way to the tiny village of Colihaut.

Of course, we visited the popular wonders, like Trafalgar falls and the hot springs. But the most memorable part of the trip was bathing in the river where my father took his baths as a child. We climbed the mango trees he used to climb and stood on the beach where he and my grandfather used to fish. We also stayed in the home he grew up in.

Little did I know that staying in the wooden home that my grandfather built was safer than staying in a hotel. Older buildings, like some hotels, may hold deadly poisons. When traveling, even to islands as beautiful as the Nature Isle, it’s important to check for toxins like asbestos and lead before you book your stay.

Before the 1970’s, many homes and buildings were built using a natural mineral called Asbestos. Used because of its fire and heat-resistant qualities, asbestos was considered a miracle. That was, until the truth was revealed.

When the dry wall and insulation that contain asbestos are disturbed, fibers are released into the air. If inhaled, these fibers can cause a deadly lung cancer. Mesothelioma symptoms are subtle and include shortness of breath and heaviness in the chest area. Because of a 20-50 year latency period, symptoms of mesothelioma is often misdiagnosed and caught too late.

But asbestos isn’t the only poison that older buildings may contain. Lead can be found in pipes, soil, paints, and even dust. Through swallowing or inhaling lead particles, those that work or live with these sorts of materials are susceptible to poisoning. Lead poisoning may result in loss of memory, damage to reproductive organs, and digestive problems in adults. It can lead to weight loss, developmental damage and hearing loss in children.

So what can you do to protect yourself? Find out more about the dangers and symptoms of mesothelioma and lead poisoning before you check into a hotel. Search the web; ask a doctor; visit a library. There are resources designed to provide you with what you need to know. With more information, you have a better chance of avoiding asbestos and lead exposure.

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