FAQs

I can see mold growing in my home. Do I really need an inspector before fixing it?

Mold detection can be tricky—it’s impossible to see every area where it may be present—and requires comprehensive sampling by a certified professional. Additionally, do-it-yourself kits can be unreliable. The best way to determine the full scope of your mold problem is through professional testing by a certified and trained mold inspector at RTK.

When should I test for mold?

You should test for mold when you see it, and when you suspect it’s present—if people or pets are experiencing allergy-like symptoms, if there’s a foul or musty odor in the air or if a basement or other area is damp. You should also test if you’ve had a flood, leak or sewage back-up, if an ice dam has formed on your roof or if you plan to purchase or sell your home. An RTK inspection will ensure reliable results.

Can I use the same service to test for mold and to remediate the problem?

Consumer advocates such as Angie’s List do not recommend it because there’s a blatant conflict of interest. RTK is an independent, certified testing service that doesn’t do remediation; so we offer customers a totally unbiased assessment of the problem. You can trust that we will not inflate your mold problem so we can make money on remediation. Additionally, it is now illegal in New York State to have the same company perform testing and remediation on the same job.

Is all black mold toxic?

No. All black mold is not toxic mold, and while toxic mold can bring on the most serious health problems, all mold can cause health issues in healthy people—especially those who suffer from allergies. The best course of action is to test for mold by using certified inspectors who can scientifically determine your mold hazard.

Then I should not be concerned if mold isn’t black? In other words, does mold color matter?

The color of mold has no bearing on how dangerous it might be. There are over 100,000 kinds of mold, and the only way to be sure what kind is growing in your home is to have a mold test conducted by an environmental inspector. RTK professionals can provide you with an unbiased assessment of the situation and recommend safe, effective ways to resolve the problem.

Can mold make you sick?

At worst, toxic mold can cause serious health issues; at best all mold and mildew can be problematical for those who suffer from allergies. Mold causes breathing difficulties, skin rashes, headaches, cough, wheezing, and asthma.

When should I test my home or office’s indoor air quality?

Always test residential or workplace indoor air quality when unexplained health issues—such as allergies, nausea, headaches and skin irritations— emerge. Since renovations can release asbestos and lead dust into the air, it is wise to perform a professional environmental inspection, which can confirm the presence of asbestos and lead without disturbing the surface. VOCs and formaldehyde can also cause poor indoor air quality, which can result in headaches, fatigue, nausea, and other health issues. Finally, disasters can turn a building toxic. It is important to test the premises after a pest infestation or a flood, fire or other catastrophe. A professional inspection by RTK can determine the root causes of air quality problems and will include a detailed report with recommendations for mitigation.

I’m house hunting and looking at older homes. Should I be concerned about asbestos?

If the properties you’re looking at were built before 1980, yes. Though it was banned in 1970, asbestos, a known carcinogen, was used in the manufacturing of thousands of building materials that took several years to phase out. Asbestos monitoring by RTK’s certified professionals can help homeowners and commercial property owners identify potential risks prior to purchase or renovation.

When should asbestos be removed?

If you are planning to renovate areas that contain asbestos, you need to have the asbestos removed prior to any demolition, sanding, cutting, or any other disturbance to prevent asbestos fibers from being released into the air and your environment. Materials that contain asbestos that are in good condition and are not damaged or disturbed in any way are generally safe to be around.

Are tiles made of asbestos dangerous?

Unlike many asbestos-containing materials, vinyl asbestos flooring is generally safe to be around provided it is not damaged or chipped in any way. But once the decision is made to remove the tile, it becomes a hazard because any time you disturb an asbestos tile, it can release toxic fibers into the air. There are many contractors and laborers suffering from diseases today such as lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma because of a lack of awareness of the dangers of asbestos in the past.

Why should I test the soil around my home?

What you may not realize is that the soil around your house may be brimming with contaminants, including lead, pesticides, bacteria, and heavy metals. And if Superstorm Sandy flooded your yard, your soil may have been coated with a toxic sludge that contained fecal matter, bacteria, petroleum, and salt water, among other possible contaminants—not a good recipe for your family’s health. Call the certified environmental inspectors at RTK to be sure your soil is free of environmental hazards.

What is lead poisoning?

Lead poisoning can occur when you come in contact with a speck of lead dust that enters your system. Children younger than 6 years of age are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning as they may touch contaminated surfaces, then put their fingers in their mouths. Unfortunately, lead poisoning can severely affect both physical and mental development, causing lifelong issues. At very high levels, lead poisoning can be fatal. The good news is that lead poisoning is a preventable disease.

How do you get lead poisoning?

You breathe in or swallow lead dust, drink water contaminated by lead, or accidentally consume lead paint chips. The most common cause of lead poisoning is breathing in lead dust, which is fairly prevalent in soil and homes that were painted prior to 1978 (when paint contained lead). Lead also lurks in pipes and food cans.

When should I test for lead paint?

Having a home tested for lead may be critical especially if you live in an apartment or house built before 1978, if your home contains older pipes or plumbing fixtures, or if you are planning any demolition or renovation work in a dwelling constructed prior to 1978. Disturbing surfaces with layers of old paint can release lead dust into the air.

What is lead dust, and how can I protect my family from it?

Lead dust is a toxic metal produced when lead-based paint is sanded or chipped—usually during a renovation—and can cause serious health problems in children and adults. Chances are that lead-based paint is present in homes or apartments built before 1978, the year its use was banned for residential use. Lead dust can also travel from a neighbor’s home and may lurk in your swimming pool, soil and sandbox, making its way onto floors, furniture, toys and hands. To find out if your home or soil has been contaminated by lead dust, call the professionals at RTK to schedule a test.

Can lead poisoning cause autism?

Although there are many studies and schools of thought on this issue, there is still no clear answer. What we do know is that lead poisoning can cause autism-like symptoms.

What causes poor indoor air quality?

High levels of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, and unhealthy levels of mold spores cause 80% of indoor air quality issues. VOCs and other toxic fumes can be found in paints, solvents, cleansers, carpets, disinfectants, air fresheners, pesticides, glue, home furnishings and building materials.

Does poor indoor air quality cause allergies?

Allergies and asthma are exacerbated by poor indoor air quality, which also can bring on headaches and feelings of malaise and exhaustion. If your allergies act up when you’re at a specific location, chances are there is an indoor air quality issue there. The only way to know what is causing an indoor air quality issue is to have the air tested.

 

What causes sick building syndrome?

Studies have shown a direct correlation between poor indoor air quality and sick building syndrome. Important predictors of sick building syndromes are poor ventilation and accumulation of possible contaminants within the indoor environment.

 

How do I know my well water is safe to drink?

Well water can contain a host of contaminants—from E. coli bacteria to lead, arsenic, radon and pesticides. The bulk of these cannot be identified by taste or odor, making it difficult for homeowners to know about the quality of their well water. You should test your water annually—the minimum standards recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Protection—or if you notice a change in the color, taste or smell of your water. RTK can provide an accurate, unbiased assessment of the potential health hazards in your water.

How often should I test my water?

At a minimum, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) recommends that you have your water tested once each year for total coliform bacteria, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and pH levels. Every few years you should test for additional contaminants. If you get your water from a municipality, take the time to read the quality report on water, which must be published annually. If you use well water, check your well every spring to make sure there are no mechanical problems.

 

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