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Healthy Home Mold

Tips to Fight Household Mold this Summer

Tips to Fight Household Mold this Summer

It’s mold weather. Hmm? Yes, mold weather. The combination of heat, high humidity, and thunderstorms will invite mold to rear its ugly head. It may seem innocent, but it can cause major damage to your health and home. Here’s why you need to pay attention to mold:

Mold causes health problems.

All mold—whether it is toxic or not — causes health issues, including allergic reactions, sneezing, runny, itchy eyes, red nose, and skin rashes. Mold can also cause asthma attacks and can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs.

Mold damages homes.mold-damages-homes

Mold can destroy the things it grows on – including your home’s walls, floors, carpeting, and furnishings. Often times, mold grows behind drywall, under carpets, and under floorboards. This is dangerous because by the time you find out it’s there; you usually have a major problem. In extreme cases, mold can grow to the extent that the home cannot be remediated, and needs to be knocked down. The key is to control moisture in your home and eliminate mold growth before it takes over.

TIP: Keep your humidifier set at 50% or below during humid summer months.

Don’t wait – take immediate steps to prevent mold, especially after heavy rain.

The most important thing you can do is to control moisture levels in your home. If water mold-testing-marylandenters your home, take immediate steps to get rid of it. Remove anything that gets wet. Use vacuums and fans to rid surfaces of any residual moisture.

TIP: Take action within 24 hours, as mold can invade your home in less than a day.

Another preventative measure is managing the water runoff from your house. If the water pouring off your roof has nowhere to drain, it can and will find its way into your home. Keep your gutters and downspouts debris-free. Also, make sure that your downspouts are adequately angled away from the house. Otherwise, water will collect at the edge of the house and leak into the foundation and basement.

Test for mold if water enters your house.

indoor moldOnce an area is dry, test for mold, especially if you smell a musty odor. Since do-it-yourself mold tests are often inaccurate, your best bet is to call in an independent, certified microbial mold inspector.

Don’t get scammed!

Make sure the company you hire to test does not also do remediation. An independent, free-mold-testing-scamcertified testing-only service has no incentive to magnify the problem and increase profits through remediation services. They won’t bait you with “free testing”, and have nothing to gain financially by inventing problems in your home or business, therefore can potentially save you thousands on unnecessary repairs. Click here for more information.

The Environmental Protection Agency offers a free download, Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture and Your Home. Check it out HERE.

Categories
Lead Soil and Water

Common Pool Contaminants and How To Protect Yourself

 

Common Pool Contaminants and How To Protect Yourself

Summer is here, and the pool is open! Before you dive in, know what you’re jumping into. Pool’s can be contaminated with lead dust, bacteria, and other toxins.

Lead Dust

While the pool in your yard may seem like a very controlled and safe place for your family to play, it’s not always the case. More and more, we are seeing cases of lead dust contamination in pools. What causes this?

Improper Renovations of Homes Built Before 1978

The primary cause is improperly renovating any home built pre-1978, the year lead paint was banned. If a contractor doesn’t take proper precautions, lead dust from layers of old paint will escape when sanded. Even if your home was constructed more recently, lead dust can travel when a neighbor’s home is renovated.

Fireworks

Toxic Lead In FireworksWe all love a good explosion around the July 4th holiday. But some fireworks still contain lead, which then explodes in the air and can land in your pool. A good rule of thumb is to cover your pool when you know there will be fireworks to prevent lead dust from contaminating it.

Lead dust is dangerous. Even small levels of lead exposure can irreversibly influence children’s development, from ADHD and autism-like symptoms to brain damage and lower IQ.

Parasites and Bacteria

Chlorine-Resistant Parasites

Pool Related IllnessEven though we maintain out pools, there is a chlorine-resistant parasite called Cryptosporidium, which can survive for 10 days or more even in water that’s chlorinated to kill germs.

Under-Chlorination or Poor Maintenance

If a pool is not properly chlorinated, all sorts of organisms can start to grow, from bacteria to algae. Germs and inhalation of chemicals can cause a rash, diarrhea, and can develop into potentially serious illnesses.

To protect yourself and your family in pool water, CDC recommends:

-Don’t swim if you have diarrhea.

-Don’t swallow the water.

-Shower before and after you are in the water.

A pool should be a fun place to play and cool off during the summer, so make sure your water is clean and lead-free. If you think there is a chance that your pool may be contaminated, call a professional to test the water. You can never be too careful when it comes to your and your family’s safety.

Categories
Flooding & Water Damage Mold

Help! Black Mold is Creeping Up My Walls!

What Can You Do If You Have Black Mold Creeping Up Your Walls?

Q. I have black mold growing up the walls in my basement. Can I remove mold myself? – Nancy K., White Plains, NY

A. First, it’s important to keep in mind that mold — in any form — can be harmful to your health.

So all of your mold must be removed. There lies the problem: The mold growing on your walls is easy to see, but most of the mold growing in homes is hidden. The only way to pinpoint where it is lurking is with mold testing. (In our next blog post, we will discuss do-it-yourself mold testing kits vs. professional mold testing.) So yes, may be able to remove visible mold, but without professional testing, you won’t know how serious the problem really is.

You failed to mention whether your basement walls are cement or Sheetrock. If the mold is on Sheetrock, it is impossible to remove it. The moldy areas must be cut out, removed, and the walls must be replaced. And, if the moldy area is more than about 10 square feet (less than roughly a 3 ft. by 3 ft. patch), the EPA recommends professional mold remediation.

What you will need to assess and clean mold:

  • First, schedule a professional mold test to assess the situation. This will give you a blueprint of where the mold is, and whether you will be able to clean it yourself;
  • A mask or respirator to filter out the mold spores you’ll be disturbing;
  • Eye protection;
  • Rubber gloves;
  • Rags and a scrub brush;
  • Non-ammonia soap or detergent;
  • Large pail;
  • Bleach;
  • Fan and/or dehumidifier;
  • Work clothes, either old or white, since you will be using bleach;
  • Plastic garbage bag;
  • White vinegar.

Before removing black mold from a cement wall, dampen the moldy area well with a rag and plain water. This will keep the mold spores from disbursing through the air. Then scrub the area thoroughly with a scrub brush and non-ammonia soap or detergent to remove as much of the mold as possible.

Next comes the all-important bleach wash, which will remove any leftover mold, in addition to stopping future mold growth. In a pail, add 1½ cups bleach to 1 gallon of water. Wet the surface well with this mixture, letting it soak in for about 15 minutes. Scrub the area with the scrub brush. Then rinse well with clean, clear water. Repeat these two steps until all visible mold is gone. Next, use a fan and/or dehumidifier to dry the area well. If you leave any moisture behind, you are leaving your wall open to mold growth.

And finally, remove your work clothes in the basement, place them in a plastic bag, and head to your washing machine. The clothes will be coated with mold spores, and the last thing you want to do is track those spores throughout your house. Add ¾ cup white vinegar to your wash water to kill the mold on your clothes.

If you suspect you have mold in your home, call RTK Environmental Group at 800.392.6468 for information about mold testing or to schedule a test of your home.

Categories
Indoor Air Quality & Radon Mold

Post-COVID, How to Prepare Your Office for A Healthy Return to Work

Post-COVID, How to Prepare Your Office for A Healthy Return to Work

 

office reopeningMany employers are preparing to reopen their offices after employees have been working remotely for the past 15 +/- months. In addition to preparing for new cleaning, health, and safety protocols and updating policies and work-from-home procedures, you should stop for a moment and consider the environmental state of the office you will be returning to.

 

With offices largely unused for long periods of time, there may have been little or no good air circulation. If so, the office may be harboring mold and poor indoor air quality.

 

HVAC mold“We’re seeing offices, schools, and other facilities with significant mold issues says Robert Weitz, principal of RTK Environmental. “In cases where companies turned off air conditioning or increased the indoor temperature, stagnant air and humidity may have begun to create major mold problems.” Weitz said in those cases, the cleanup might come with a hefty price tag.  “Most offices will not have such significant damage, but you should still take precautions for your own health and safety as well as that of your employees,” he says.

 

Mold in Offices

 

mold under sinkMold is a serious health hazard that should not be taken lightly. Mold causes breathing difficulties, allergies, fatigue, rashes, lower productivity, and more. With offices being shut for many months, moist conditions might have contributed to the growth of mold colonies in refrigerators, carpeting, HVAC systems, and may be widespread behind walls. Before you return to the office, it pays to have a mold test.

 

Indoor Air Quality in Offices

poor office air qualityPoor indoor air quality is caused by mold, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), dust, and other contaminants. It can cause headaches, fatigue and listlessness, dizziness, nausea, nervousness, and difficulty concentrating, among other issues. And, if you have new office equipment, carpeting, flooring, or furniture, you may have elevated VOCs, as these materials tend to off-gas toxins.

 

Here are some important areas to check:

HVAC Systems

HVAC IAQWhether you turned off your HVAC system or not, you should at the get go change the filters, as dust and debris are likely to have taken up residence there. Worse, the HVAC system may be harboring mold. During summer months, condensation, which can cause mold growth, often occurs in HVAC units and associated ducting. Once the heat is turned on, microscopic mold spores can easily spread through ductwork. The spores can contaminate clean spaces anywhere in the building. The safest bet is to test your indoor air.

Refrigerators

Many people are returning to work to find mold growing in their refrigerators. This can usually be cleaned with bleach or an anti-fungal product. You may also spot water stains on the carpeting, meaning that the refrigerator leaked during the closure. If that is the case, you may have a mold problem that goes deeper than the fridge.

Carpets and Ceilings

If you notice water staining on ceilings or carpets, there was likely significant water intrusion. Burst pipes and leaks may have gone unnoticed. Mold may be growing in places you cannot see. But you won’t know that unless you test.

Computers and Office Equipment

VOC office equipmentDust and debris are likely everywhere on your computers, keyboards, copiers, and other office machines. Be sure to dust and vacuum your equipment thoroughly so that you don’t release any extra irritants into the air once the machines are back in use.

Under Sinks

Check for water staining under sinks, as there may have been a leak in the pipes, which would cause mold growth.

 

Before you reopen the office, have a mold and indoor air quality test. Not only does it show your employees that you care and are taking safety guidelines seriously, but it will protect the health of your employees, leading to a more productive workforce. Call us at 800.392.6468 to schedule a test.

Categories
Healthy Home Mold

What Should I Do If My Summer House Has Mold?

What Should I Do If My Summer House Has Mold?

So, you’re heading to the beach as summer season begins. The thought is delicious! But don’t be surprised if you’re greeted by a musty odor after you walk into what you had hoped would be your home away from home. Mildew! Mold! Whether you are at the Jersey Shore or the Hamptons, there’s an excellent chance that the home you’re renting or own has been flooded during a hurricane, been exposed to excess moisture and humidity, or has had a leak. Now, your nose is getting a strong whiff of the result. So what can you do?

“The first thing to do is open the windows and get air to circulate,” advises Robert Weitz, Certified Microbial Investigator and principal of RTK Environmental Group. Weitz says this is a common problem, as many vacation homes sit empty and closed up over the winter months, collecting moisture, especially since air conditioning or heat has been turned off for the season. “Mold is not picky – it only needs moisture and a food source, such as wood, ceiling tiles, carpet or sheet rock, to begin growing. The house next door may be fine, and yours may be a serious health hazard.” The important thing is to have your home tested right away so the problem can be fixed,  your health is not compromised, and your summer is not ruined.

Whether you hire a mold inspector or put up with it will probably depend on whether you are the owner or renter, how long you will be there, and whether you or your vacationers have allergy or breathing issues.

Short-Term Solutions to Summer House Mold:

–      Keep the windows open as much as possible if the weather is dry;

–      Use a dehumidifier to reduce moisture;

–      Change the filter in the air conditioner before you turn it on;

–      Wipe off any visible mold on walls, floors and tiles with a bleach/water mixture;

–      Use allergy medication to help lessen symptoms;

–      Let the landlord know there’s a mold problem.

The Best Solution:

–      Get an independent mold inspection to identify the source;

–      Ask that the inspector pinpoint if the mold is toxic or not;

–      Have the mold properly remediated.

Remember, if you own the house or plan to be there for an extended stay, mold could affect your health, causing wheezing, asthma, and allergy symptoms. The home should be tested by a certified microbial investigator, who can then advise you as to the next steps depending on the outcome of the mold testing. In New York, it is illegal for the same company to test and remediate on the same job. Whatever the case, mold can become a big issue quickly, so don’t ignore it!

 

Categories
Indoor Air Quality & Radon Mold

Poor Indoor Air Quality May Be Rampant in Gyms & Fitness Centers

Air Quality in Gyms: Poor Indoor Air May Be Rampant in Fitness Centers

Most people patronize gyms and fitness centers to improve their health and wellness, or so they think. But not all these facilities are as “healthy” as they could be. In fact, some actually have poor indoor air quality (IAQ) – a concern, especially since gyms and fitness centers are now reopening as the pandemic wanes.

gyms vocs

First, all that huffing and puffing actually impacts IAQ. According to a study released in 2021 by the University of Colorado Boulder [1], one sweaty, huffing, exercising person emits as many chemicals from their body as up to five sedentary people. Those human emissions, including acetone from breath and amino acids from sweat, chemically combine with disinfectants and bleach cleaners to form new airborne chemicals that negatively impact indoor air quality. You’re more likely to inhale the toxins while exercising because you are breathing more heavily and at a faster pace.

gym air qualityThen, there’s the building itself. At a recently constructed or renovated facility, testing often finds much higher levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) due to the off-gassing from new building materials and gym equipment. Included in that list would be new furniture, carpeting, adhesives, composite wood products like cabinets and lockers, work-out machines, and vinyl, such as mats, shower curtains or tile. The quality of ventilation also comes into play. Often, high levels of VOCs, formaldehyde, CO2, and particulate matter accumulate because of inadequate ventilation.

Exposure Issues

voc air qualityWhere you live also impacts IAQ. The CDC, EPA, and several medical journals point out that exposure to air pollutants in urban areas is linked to higher rates of asthma and abnormal heart rhythms, and increases the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases, and all other natural causes. [[3],[4],[5]] That said, poor indoor air quality can be present in any indoor environment, with VOCs and mold being the primary causes.

Exposure to VOCs in high levels can cause skin irritation, neurotoxic, and hepatotoxic (toxicity of the liver) effects, and certain of them are carcinogenic.[6] They also make you tired, cranky, and unfocused. The studies found that the concentrations of these substances generally exceeded most accepted standards for indoor air quality. However, no government agency in the United States formally monitors air quality in gyms.

Mold in Gyms

sauna moldYou probably know that feeling when you walk into a gym – it’s humid, damp, and smells sweaty. It’s no surprise, then, that many gyms contain elevated levels of mold, with the steamy sauna, swimming pool area, and shower areas that are in use all day long.

Mold is a health hazard. Breathing in mold is far worse than ingesting it. Mold can cause respiratory issues, sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, itchy or watery eyes, nose and throat, cough and postnasal drip, wheezing, rashes, and more.

What Can You Do?

indoor air quality testing gym

It never hurts to ask a question. Talk to your gym or fitness center management and find out if they’ve had an indoor air quality test. If they haven’t, request one. If you’re deciding which facility to patronize, choose one that has large open areas and windows that open. Oh, and while you’re at it, be sure your indoor air quality at home is acceptable as well, since you spend a majority of your time there.

RTK provides fast and unbiased mold and indoor air quality testing. To schedule a test or learn more, call 800.392.6468 or click here.

References

[1] https://cires.colorado.edu/news/sweat-bleach-gym-air-quality

[2] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0360132314002856

[3] http://www.epa.gov/airnow/2014conference/Plenary/Monday/Boehmer_NAQC_2014_final2.pdf

[4] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25712593

[5] http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM200012143432401#t=abstract

[6] http://ibe.sagepub.com/content/12/6/427.full.pdf+html

 

Categories
Flooding & Water Damage Healthy Home Mold Mold Testing Testing vs. Remediation Weitz Advice

Why It’s Important to Check For Mold in May

Why It’s Important to Check For Mold in May

Here’s How Mold Spores Can Affect Allergies, Health, and Home

April showers may very well bring May flowers, but spring’s warmer temperatures and wet weather can certainly dampen one’s health.

Categories
Health Mold

Seasonal Allergies? A Cold? COVID-19? Something Else?

Seasonal Allergies? A Cold? COVID-19? Something Else?

This is going to be another nerve-wracking allergy season, as every sneeze, sniffle and cough will spark concern. Our best advice is to try not to panic. There can be several explanations for a cough that might have nothing to do with the coronavirus at all.

During this time of the year, flu, the common cold, and seasonal allergies cause respiratory distress. And now, with us spending so much time indoors, there can be allergens – like mold – that can be causing runny noses and coughs.

Here are a few things to consider about your symptoms.

Check for a Fever

Check for feverIf you are running a fever, this pretty much rules out allergies. But the fever might be caused by the flu, a virus, a cold or something else.

Seasonal Allergies or Cold

itchy eyesDoctors note that cold is not usually associated with itchy eyes, so if your eyes are red and irritated, you may be allergic to pollen or an allergen like mold. If you have a cough with no fever, it likely doesn’t mean that you’ve contracted the coronavirus. Check with your physician if in doubt.

Is it a Mold Allergy?

If you are having respiratory issues and other symptoms when you are in one location that clear up when you move elsewhere, it’s a good sign that you have a mold allergy. Signs of a mold allergy and symptoms of mold exposure include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Itchy eyes, nose and throat
  • Cough and postnasal drip
  • Watery eyes
  • Wheezing

If your allergy symptoms do occur in one place more than another, you may want to have the location tested for mold. RTK safely performs mold testing, as it is regarded as an essential service. Call us at 800.392.6468 to schedule a test or if you have any questions.

About Coronavirus

coronavirusThe World Health Organization (WHO) issued a report on coronavirus symptoms. It found that almost 90% of COVID-19 patients had a fever, and nearly 70% had a dry cough. Additional symptoms of coronavirus have included:

  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
  • Loss of taste and smell
  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Sore throat
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue

The bottom line is, when in doubt, check with your physician. If you believe you have a mold problem, call RTK at 800.392.6468.

Categories
Mold Mold Testing

A “Free” Mold Inspection? Here’s the Catch…

A “Free” Mold Inspection? Here’s the Catch…

One-stop shops that both test for and remediate mold woo customers with “free” tests or low prices, but consumers often end up paying thousands more in unnecessary repairs.

You may think you are getting a deal by hiring a company that offers “free” or inexpensive mold mold testing new yorktesting. Think about it, though – nothing is free.  Here’s where they’ll get you: A company that offers both testing and remediation has a financial incentive to find problems that may not exist in your home.

Mold Test BaitMany of these companies that offer free and discount mold testing will claim to find mold in your home, and then conveniently offer their own remediation services to fix the problem.  What they don’t tell you is that there is mold present in the air in every home and environment, so technically they are not outright lying! It’s the level and type of mold that counts, but they don’t specify what your “problem” is. An independent testing firm, like RTK Environmental Group, that only tests for mold and does not perform remediation work, does not have a conflict of interest. RTK’s only concern is to find the real trouble spots in your home.unnecessary repairs

Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and principal at RTK Environmental Group, says the result is the consumer may be paying thousands of dollars for bloated repair estimates or an improper and ineffective remediation. “You may think you are saving money, when in reality you end up paying way too much for a problem that may not even exist.”

crooked contractorsInvestigative reporter Jeff Rossen shed light on this scam when he conducted an undercover investigation on NBC-TV’s Today Show into mold remediation, and the results were shocking. He found that some companies were willing to claim that eye shadow smeared on a wall was mold, and then would charge upwards of $10,000 to remove the ‘mold problem.’

Your best bet is to use an independent and certified testing service, like RTK Environmental Group, so there’s no possible conflict of interest. You’ll sleep better knowing you didn’t have to pay for a problem you never had.

Categories
Health Mold

What’s causing your allergies? The answer may surprise you.

What’s causing your allergies? The answer may surprise you.

As trees bloom, that’s when allergies start. Most of us assume our runny noses, itchy eyes, and scratchy throats are caused by pollen. But what’s really causing the mayhem is not just pollen; it can be mold. Why? Because warmer weather and increased humidity create the perfect environment in which mold grows. Mold is a serious allergen, that we don’t often think about as a contributor to allergy and asthma attacks.

allergy causesUnlike pollen, which you can see coating cars, windows, and other items, indoor mold can hide easily in your home (or workplace) – behind walls, in air ducts, under sinks, and in other hard-to-see places.

How do you know if you have a mold allergy? One telltale sign is if your allergies tend to act up when you are in one specific location over others. Indoors, that could mean your home of office. You may have an indoor air quality issue or mold in that location. The symptoms of mold exposure are similar to those of allergic reactions. However, if you suffer from asthma, mold spores can actually complicate your symptoms and even trigger an attack.

Common symptoms of indoor mold exposure can include:

– Sneezing

– Stuffy nose

– Itchy, watery eyes

– Scratchy throat

– Coughing, wheezing

– Runny nose, nasal drip

– Skin rash

So how do you know when your symptoms are no longer allergies and actually a reaction to indoor mold? The best way to find out is to have your home or office tested for mold and indoor air quality by an independent environmental inspector.

RTK Environmental Group is a non-biased company who specializes in environmental testing. RTK can test for mold, indoor air quality, radon, asbestos, lead, and other dangerous toxins that can negatively affect your health. Unlike many companies, RTK only does inspections, so there is no conflict of interest in terms of remediation.

Although there is currently no cure for mold allergies, you can take steps to minimize the symptoms:

– Remove main sources of indoor mold

– Use a dehumidifier

– Regularly clean AC, HVAC, and fan ducts to prevent spores from being distributed (and redistributed)

– Regularly check under your sink for leaks and dampness

– Keep your gutters free from organic debris (year round)

– Regularly clean your bathroom and use the fan after showering, to keep the bathroom dry

Don’t just assume that because you’re sneezing you’re allergic to all pollen and allergens. Indoor mold can cause complications and even pose threatening health risks. By having your home’s indoor air quality regularly tested, not only will you be safer and healthier, but you’ll also breathe easier.