Environmental contamination is a very real problem for many homeowners.

17 million U.S. homeowners face high environmental hazard risk

A new study conducted by ATTOM Data Solution, curator of the largest property database in the world, has revealed that 17 million U.S. homes, with a combined worth of nearly $5 trillion are situated in environmental hazard zones. 

The researchers analyzed 68.1 million single-family homes and condos spread across 8,642 zip codes. About 25 percent (17.3 million) of these residencies were deemed at high risk of one or more of the following environmental hazards:

  1. Poor air quality: High concentrations of airborne pollutants. 
  2. Superfund sites: A site deemed by the EPA as containing hazardous waster. 
  3. Polluters: Based on the number of facilities included on the EPA's Toxic Release Inventory list. 
  4. Brownfields: Land that may be contaminated by the presence of a former pollutant. 

Areas of greatest risk
The study identified risk ratings by zip code with 455 being the highest and -8 being the lowest, and then ranked those zip codes by risk. The top five areas include:

  1. Denver (80216): 455
  2. San Bernardino, California (92408): 400 
  3. Curtis Bay, Baltimore, Maryland (21226): 380
  4. Santa Fe Springs, California (90670): 356 
  5. Fresno, California (93725): 339

Ever-changing risk landscapes

"Does your plan protect you from these new risks?"

Geographic risk has proven time again to be anything but static. Shifting climate patterns, industry booms and and population influxes are just some of examples of conditions that can influence risk ratings in specific areas. In turn, this raises questions about property casual coverage – specifically, does your plan protect you from these new risks? 

Case in point, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is currently in the process of redrawing flood zones, resulting in many homes and businesses being reclassified as flood-risk properties. This has left many property owners in the position of having to purchase flood insurance, or in some cases, having to explain why they have been erroneously placed in a food zone. What's more, even as FEMA reclassifies flood zones, risk continues to change. 

Similarly, homes and businesses that may be at risk of environmental hazards including unusual weather events (i.e. California's recent super storms), vapor intrusion (when contaminated soil releases chemical in vapor form that mix with indoor air) and microbial contamination (discharge of pollutants into water). All of these, according to Property Casualty 360, can increase the cost of claims.

For homeowners living in areas with high environmental hazard risk, it may be worth meeting with your insurer to make sure you're covered.