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Healthy Home Asbestos Health Lead Mold Soil and Water

First Time Homebuyers: What You Need to Know About Environmental Toxins

First Time Homebuyers: What You Need to Know About Environmental Toxins

 

The coronavirus pandemic has urbanites fleeing the city in droves and moving into their first house. Many are snatching them up at a quick glance, not realizing that the house comes with more than just additional space and fresh air. Environmental hazards like mold, asbestos, lead and radon may be lurking in your new home, and without a proper environmental inspection, you may not know until health symptoms develop.

Homes, anywhere and at any time, can harbor mold, asbestos, lead, or radon, and contain poor indoor air quality, polluted water, or volatile organic compounds (VOCs), any one of which can threaten one’s health. That is why investing in environmental testing services prior to purchase or once you’ve made the investment is a good idea.

5 Environmental Hazards to Watch Out For:

Mold

mold behind cabinetsMold can be visible or hidden behind walls, ceilings, or floors, under carpets, and even in HVAC systems. Mold can cause serious health issues including trouble breathing, allergies, headaches and dizziness. Mold can also be present and affecting your health even if no symptoms present themselves – everyone if affected differently. Testing for mold can pinpoint the source of the problem so that proper steps can be taken to remediate the issue.

Lead

lead soilLead is found in most homes built prior to 1978, the year lead paint was banned for residential use. Lead dust is the most common cause of lead poisoning, as lead dust can spread throughout a home and even into the soil surrounding your home. Unfortunately, most of the time you cannot see lead in dust or soil, so unless you test for it, you may not even know that this hazard is present. Lead poisoning can cause serious host of issues including neurological and cognitive deficits, autism-like symptoms, mood swings, and violent behavior.

Asbestos

Asbestos is commonly found in older homes in pipe insulation, tile, and attic or wall insulation, among dozens of other places. Breathing in asbestos fibers can cause serious health implications. At the least, asbestos is a breathing irritant. At worst, asbestos can cause mesothelioma, a serious cancerous condition that can lead to debilitating health problems and usually death.

Radon

radon testingRadon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, is extremely hazardous to your health. It’s the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US. It is an odorless, tasteless and invisible gas produced when uranium naturally decays in soil and water. Since 90 percent of the land in the Northeast is likely to have elevated radon levels, every home should be tested for radon.

Poor Indoor Air Quality

indoor air quality testingVolatile organic compounds, or VOCs, and mold make up almost 90% of indoor air quality issues. VOCs are toxic fumes that are off gassed from many building and everyday materials including new flooring or carpeting, paint, cleaners and detergents. Poor indoor air quality can cause headaches, nausea, allergies, difficulty breathing, and rashes, just to name a few.

A Traditional Home Inspection Isn’t Enough

Home inspections are obviously necessary for the sale or purchase of a home. But what many buyers are realizing is that these inspections usually do not take into consideration mold infestation, lead, asbestos, and water quality. Most home inspectors lack the knowledge and certifications necessary to test for potentially toxic substances.

What Is an Environmental Home Inspection?

renovation adviceMold testing, lead inspection, asbestos testing, water testing, and indoor air quality testing may all be performed during an environmental inspection. Environmental home inspections can vary depending on the age and condition of the home. Such inspections should be scheduled with a certified, independent testing company – even before your sign a contract. It’s important that the company you hire doesn’t perform both testing and remediation, as that is a conflict of interest.

Not all environmental hazards are obvious, and they can cause serious health issues. To detect them requires expertise, licensure, technology, and experience. If you would like more information on what types of environmental inspections may be right for you, please feel free to call us at 800.392.6468. Live well!

 

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Asbestos Healthy Home Lead

Renovate Right: Top 3 Tips for DIYers

Renovate Right: Top 3 Tips for DIYers

This is the time of year many of us DIYers are eager to get moving on home improvements. But before you start sanding and swinging that hammer, there are a few important things to think about:

What type of surfaces and materials will you be disturbing? Is there chipping paint? Crumbling pipe insulation? Smell of mildew?

If any or all of the above, you’ll need to take some precautions. Why? You may be subjecting yourself and your family to possible health risks, caused by the very particles you’ve disturbed. So, renovate the right way. Here’s how:

Tip #1: Know the composition of the materials you disturb before you even begin – have your home tested!

environmental testing nyc

Mold that you cannot see may be lurking behind your walls. Pipe insulation may contain asbestos fibers. Layers of old paint beneath more recent paint may contain lead. When you disturb these materials, dust and spores from these toxic materials may be released in the air. Then, they may travel through your home’s HVAC system. Once that happens, you’ve contaminated your indoor environment. So, BEFORE you start the project, have a certified microbial inspector do some tests. If you wait until after you’ve disturbed these materials and discover that you have released toxins in the process, the clean up can be very expensive. Worst of all, you may have subjected yourself and your family to real health hazards.

So, Step One: call in an environmental testing company to have your home tested, especially if you live in a pre-1978 built home. If the test reveals toxic lead remnants, be sure you follow lead safe work practices, or hire a contractor certified in lead-safe work practices under the Renovation, Repair, and Paint rule (RRP).

Tip #2: Take proper precautions.

If a test confirms environmental hazards, take appropriate steps to keep yourself and your family safe. Follow these precautions:

– Evacuate vulnerable family members. While you are working, be sure children, pregnant Protect Childrenwomen, and pets leave the premises for the day. They can return to the house after the work has stopped and the area is thoroughly cleaned. Even a speck of lead dust can cause irreversible damage to one’s health.

– Contain the offending area. Close doors leading to the work area. Then use 4-6 mil plastic sheeting and painter’s tape to seal off the work area. Seal all duct work, doors leading out, and windows with the sheeting. Your goal is to prevent toxins from contaminating the rest of the house.

– Dress for the occasion. Look for a mask or respirator with an N95 rating or higher, which mold inspection nycfilters out very fine particles. And be sure you wear it for the entire time you are working and cleaning. Also, buy a Tyvek suit to protect your clothes. If the work takes more than a day, leave the Tyvek suit in the contained area. Be sure to cover your feet with booties, which also should never leave the contained area. Once you remove the Tyvek suit and the booties, head to your washing machine, strip, and wash your clothes.

– Avoid sanding. Lead dust accounts for most of the 500,000 pediatric lead-poisoning cases a year. Sanding releases fine lead dust particles, which fly through your air, infiltrating the entire house. Unfortunately, these particles remain in the home for a long time. Therefore, sand as little as possible.home renovation tips ny

– Clean up well. First, sweep up as much of the dust and debris as you can and put it into a plastic bag, which you then should seal with painter’s tape. Use a HEPA vacuum to remove any remaining lead dust particles. Then use warm water and clean rags to wash all surfaces. Every exposed surface must be cleaned well.

Tip #3: Protect your family from unnecessary health risks.

When the work is done, be sure to have a second environmental inspection performed by a certified testing company to be sure your home has been properly cleaned from lead, asbestos, mold, and other toxins. Otherwise, the health affects can be devastating.

Lead poisoning is shown to causHealthy Familye autism-like symptoms, ADHD, brain damage, lower IQ, and a host of other physical and mental issues. Mold causes asthma, allergies, and other serious respiratory ailments. Asbestos is a carcinogen that can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis and other serious respiratory ailments. Most asbestos-related diseases don’t arise until years after exposure.

Make sure your home is safe for you and your family. Test today.

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Asbestos Gardening Health Healthy Home Lead Soil and Water

Is Your Garden Soil Safe?

Is Your Garden Soil Safe?

A home garden is a unique and hands-on way to connect with your food. But it’s not just which vegetables and herbs you’re planting, it’s what you’re planting it in that counts, too. The fact is that contaminants lurk in your soil, and can greatly affect what you eat, and ultimately your health. Soil can be polluted by harmful contaminants such as lead, asbestos, pesticides, herbicides, and heavy metals; so it’s important to test your soil before you even start your garden.

Lead is the most common pollutant, especially if your home (or surroundings) were constructed prior to 1978. Before that date, paint contained lead. So, every time the old paint is disturbed (whether renovating or sanding to repaint), lead dust is released. And that dust winds up in the soil and the air you breathe. Lead is highly toxic and can cause severe health problems, including damage to the brain and nervous system. Pregnant women and children are especially susceptible to lead poisoning.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fiber that was commonly used in construction before the 1980s. Again, if those fibers are disturbed and released into the air, you can be affected. Exposure to asbestos has been linked to severely increasing your chances of developing mesothelioma and other cancers.

There are other poisons that can be found in soil – the very solvents, pesticides, and herbicides that are available to the general public and can cause damage to plants, can also affect the soil surrounding your home, and can contaminate water runoff. Pesticides and herbicides can cause neurological poisoning and affect memory, coordination, and response times—especially in children.

Polluted water runoff poses a risk to soil conditions, local water sources, and residential wells. Polluted runoff can result in a variety of health problems and waterborne infectious diseases, especially when water remains stagnant.

So, plant those gardens, but be aware of the noxious elements that can spoil your soil! And remember to have your soil tested by a non-biased environmental company, like RTK Environmental Group, prior to starting any landscaping or gardening projects.

 

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Healthy Home

Beware of Basement Air!

Beware of Basement Air

Basements can be a paradise of space. We can put home gyms, TV or game rooms, and laundry facilities there, and use it for storage. All great ideas. Except…you’ve got to be sure it’s safe. What you might not realize is that poor indoor air quality can turn your basement into a health hazard. Air quality is affected by the presence of mold, radon, and other toxins. Symptoms can include:

  • Headache
  • Dry cough
  • Nasal allergies
  • Eye, throat, or nose irritation
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Itchy, dry skin
  • General feelings of malaise
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty concentrating

If you get any of these symptoms, especially while in or after spending some time in your basement, you may have a serious indoor air quality problem.

tape lift sample mold“Basements are often damp, and moisture and mold go hand-in-hand,” says Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and founder of RTK Environmental. “Mold and poor indoor air quality have been known to trigger allergies that cause coughs and headaches, as well as irritations to the nose, skin, and eyes. If you are working out in an environment that is full of dust and mold allergens, it can be particularly difficult to breathe.”

If you have not had an indoor air quality test, you should. It can tell you if the air you are breathing is negatively affecting your health. “More and more, our daily lives revolve around being healthy – eating well, physical activity, regular wellness checkups, organic food, non-toxic products, and more,” points out Weitz. “What we don’t realize is that it’s all for nothing if the air we are breathing in is filling our bodies with toxins.”

Here are the most common things to watch out for:

1. Mold

Mold is the leading cause of poor indoor air quality in basements and can have dire effects on your health. In fact, in about 80% of “sick building syndrome” cases, where poor air quality spreads, mold infestations (black mold and other types) are the main cause of illness.

Mold thrives in damp environments and spreads easily.

2. Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs

basement VOCWe may cringe when we have to breathe recycled air on an airplane, yet the indoor air quality in our basements may not be too much better or even worse! According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air may be up to 100 times more polluted than outdoor air. Because the air in your basement tends to be stagnant, it can breed unhealthy conditions. Poor air circulation and inadequate ventilation may force us to breathe in toxins and chemicals, including lead dust, exhaust, radon, formaldehyde, asbestos, and VOCs from adhesives, upholstery, appliances, carpeting, manufactured wood products, machines, pesticides, cleaning agents and even personal care products.

3. Gym Equipment

Dust AllergyWhen was the last time you washed your basement elliptical (with soap) or really dusted your treadmill? If you say, ‘I can’t remember,” then listen up. Basements are generally dirtier than the rest of our house because they are dusted and vacuumed less frequently. Therefore, dust mites and vermin droppings can build up in neglected areas, like crawl spaces and behind the clothes dryer, and on fans used to keep you cool on exercise equipment. Chances are you’re breathing in lint, mites, dust, and other particles, and it’s not good for your health.

 4. Carpeting

Yoga HealthWith rugs serving as a haven for dirt, bacteria, and mold spores, you’ll probably never look at carpeting the same way again. Every time you walk across that carpet, you may be releasing mold spores and unhealthy microorganisms into the air. Doing so may cause asthma, allergies, and a host of other ailments. So, you may want to move your yoga mat upstairs before your downward dog brings you within inches of a health problem.

 5. The Washing Machine

basement moldEver open the washing machine and get a whiff of an awful stale scent? That’s mold and mildew. Washing machines are prone to harboring mold, especially front loaders. Failure to clean your washer rigorously can result in the growth of fungi and bacteria that can cause lung inflammation. Cleaning the washing machine frequently will help prevent odors as well. Be sure to leave the door open in between washes to allow air to circulate and dry out the machine.

6. Your Family

basement pestsWatch out for crumbs! Whether Dad’s eating a sandwich while watching the game or the kids are snacking on chips and soda while playing video games, if they’re not keeping the area clean, they may be attracting pests, like rodents and insects. Cockroaches have been linked to respiratory problems, and according to the EPA, certain proteins in cockroach droppings and saliva can cause allergic reactions and trigger asthma symptoms.

7. Storage

IAQYour self-built shelves that hold your treasures, like Grandma’s china and your kid’s artwork from nursery school, keep clutter out of your main living area. But if those shelves have been relegated to the basement, they could be creating a problem. Moisture tends to collect in boxes, making it easy for mold to grow. Dust also can accumulate on stored items. Things like pesticides, old paint cans, and cleaning products, when stored inside, can cause harmful indoor air by emitting toxic VOCs. Shelve it elsewhere!

8. Radon

It is not uncommon for radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, to be found in basements. It is an odorless, tasteless and invisible gas produced when uranium naturally decays in soil and water, and it is hazardous to your health. Because 90 percent of the land in the Northeast is likely to have elevated radon levels, every home should be tested for radon, an important part of indoor air quality tests.

How Do I Know if My Basement is Safe?

If you are experiencing any of the health symptoms we’ve listed after you’ve been in the basement for a while, or if you just want to be sure you are not harboring toxic material, have your indoor air quality tested. A thorough environmental health inspection will let you know if you have mold or VOCs, which are responsible for up to 90% of all IAQ issues, and how to alleviate the source of the problem. An independent testing company, like RTK Environmental, will conduct indoor air quality testing to determine if harmful toxins are present in your environment. You may also want to see your physician to rule out any other possible medical conditions. Be sure to tell them if the symptoms occur when you are in your basement.

If you would like to schedule an indoor air quality inspection or have questions, call us today at (800) 392-6468.

 

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Health Healthy Home Soil and Water Video

Video: Is Your Well Water Contaminated?

In recent years, testing revealed that 70% of wells in Stamford, CT were contaminated with uranium and arsenic. Wells from Boston to Washington, DC have tested positive for a variety of harmful contaminants. You may mistakenly believe that because your drinking water comes from a well, it’s pure and safer than water from reservoirs. But well water can contain a host of contaminants, including coliform bacteria, uranium, lead, arsenic, E. coli, nitrates, VOCs (volatile organic compounds) radon, pesticides, and MtBE (a gasoline compound), which can cause a wide variety of health problems, including skin problems; damage to the brain, kidneys, and neurological system; gastro-intestinal illness; hair loss; and immune deficiencies.

The only way to know if your water is harming your family is to have it tested by an independent testing service like RTK Environmental. If you are interested in learning more or setting up a test, call us at (800) 392-6468 or learn more about water testing here.

 

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Indoor Air Quality & Radon Health Healthy Home Mold

9 Tips for Better Indoor Air Quality

9 Tips for Better Indoor Air Quality

 

 

good indoor air qualityWe’re all looking for simple ways to be healthier, especially in light of the COVID pandemic. Good health starts with a clean home environment. If we breath air that is unhealthy, our bodies eventually let us know. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to potential issues like mold, mildew, and other causes of poor indoor air quality.

 

Robert Weitz, founder of RTK Environmental Group, warns that if you see mildew on any surfaces, mold is often not far away. “Mildew is a form of mold, so if you detect a musty odor or see mildew, there is likely a bigger problem that needs to be addressed.” Mold and mildew are common causes of poor indoor air quality. Testing for mold is the first step in restoring the health of your home.

 

Mr. Weitz offers many tips to improve your indoor air quality. Poor indoor air quality can cause health issues, including headaches, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue.

 

Here are some of his top suggestions:

  1. Be aware of common indoor pollutants. Around 80% of indoor air quality issues are caused by mold or volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.
  2. Keep a tidy house. Be sure to remove household dust, as it contains all types of particulate matter – from dead insects to skin cells. Gross!
  3. hepa vacuumAdd a certified HEPA vacuum to your cleaning arsenal to prevent smaller particles from being reintroduced into your environment.
  4. Install a whole home air purification system. They can be put directly into your HVAC equipment and can filter out harmful particles.
  5. Buy cleaning products that contain both disinfectant and surfactant to disinfect while removing contaminating particles from surfaces. Low-VOC cleaning products are recommended.
  6. Be proactive against water damage events. If you have a leak or flood, act fast as mold can start to grow within 24 hours. Also, keep an eye on humidity levels in your home; they should remain below 50%.
  7. dirty filterChange the filters on your HVAC system at least every six months and clean all ductwork.
  8. If you have water damage, test for mold, and then have remediation performed based on the results. When remediation is completed, you should conduct clearance testing to ensure the mold was properly removed.
  9. Allow new furniture and carpeting to off-gas and release VOCs and other toxins before moving it into your home. This can be done outdoors or in a dry garage.

 

Be aware of your home’s indoor air quality, and always get an independent company to test when any suspicious odors, spots, or stains are present. Remember, when in doubt, check it out!

 

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Asbestos

Top Questions on Asbestos Answered

Top Questions on Asbestos Answered

Many homeowners are concerned by the idea that their home could contain asbestos. Asbestos is a hazardous substance that can reside in building materials and has been linked to many health complications. Most often, people want to know where asbestos is found, and the potential risks of having asbestos in the home, in order to avoid the possibility of them or a loved one becoming ill. Here’s what you need to know about asbestos if you are a home buyer, seller, or remodeler.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a mineral that is mined from the earth. It has natural properties that make it an outstanding and low-cost fire retardant. It was added to many building products between the 1940s through the 1980s. The EPA outlawed asbestos in 1989, but the 5th circuit court of appeals overturned that ruling in 1991. While less common than it once was, the use of asbestos is still technically legal in the United States.

What Makes Asbestos So Bad?

what does asbestos look likeWhen the tiny coarse fibers of asbestos are inhaled into the lungs they can cause damage to the lung tissue. Over time, asbestos inhalation can lead to asbestosis (a lung disease), cancer, and mesothelioma – an aggressive form of cancer that affects the lungs, heart, and abdomen. Construction workers and manufacturers are among those most affected, as they have historically worked in close proximity to asbestos-containing materials. According to the Department of Labor, there is no safe level of asbestos.

It’s important to understand a few basic concepts about asbestos-containing materials in your home. If the building material in question is not damaged or “friable,” then the asbestos fibers will not likely be able to become air-borne particulate. The asbestos will be encapsulated in the building material and will not likely create a health hazard. For this reason, most old homes may not pose an asbestos-related health hazard to the occupants living there. If the asbestos fibers are not likely to become airborne, then the area is likely considered safe.

Where is Asbestos Found?

Some common building materials that contain asbestos include, but are not limited to:

  • asbestos removalInsulation
  • Shingles
  • Cement siding
  • 9”x9” floor tiles
  • Acoustic ceiling tiles
  • White tape on heating ducts
  • Insulation on boiler pipes and boilers
  • Popcorn ceiling
  • Glues used under flooring

Vermiculite insulation has been deemed one of the more dangerous types of materials. This loose insulation, which is often found in your attic, looks like small rocks or bits of mica. Much of this insulation came from a mine in Libby Montana and the vermiculite was contaminated with asbestos. Vermiculite can aerosolize easily, exposing occupants or workers to its unsafe effects. In addition, tests to verify the presence of asbestos in vermiculite have proven unreliable. It is best to assume this product contains asbestos and consider having it remediated by a professional to reduce risks of exposure.

How Do I Know if I Have Asbestos in My Home?

asbestos sampleIf you are buying a house older than 1980 (and in some cases even newer), you can assume it probably contains at least some asbestos. If you are planning on remodeling or making renovations to your home it would be a good idea to test for asbestos. You may want to perform an inspection to look for damaged materials which may contain asbestos and have these remediated or encapsulated – especially if you have some reasons for concern like visibly damaged pipe insulation or old building materials.

If you are remodeling an old house, the risk of exposure is much greater. Prior to construction, you should have a full evaluation done by a professional. You can hire an industrial hygienist or an environmental testing company to perform an evaluation of the house. These contractors follow a comprehensive testing protocol and will often take more than a dozen samples from the building. Once you have the results you should know what materials in your home contain asbestos as well as how to safely remove them from your home.

Is Asbestos Identification Included in a Home Inspection?

asbestos inspectionHome inspectors are not able to identify the presence of asbestos in your home due to the fact that the inspection is often visual and non-invasive. Many home inspectors will report the presence of building materials that are likely to contain asbestos. If your inspector reports the possibility of asbestos in your home building materials it may be wise to have a comprehensive asbestos identification inspection done.

A complete asbestos evaluation often involves destructive testing where samples are drilled, scraped or pried from the building. If you were to get this evaluation done before purchasing the home, you would need to get permission from the homeowners, which is not always approved. Home inspectors are prohibited from damaging the buildings they are inspecting, making it particularly difficult to inspect for asbestos-containing materials in a comprehensive way as a part of a pre-purchase home inspection. This is another reason why asbestos evaluation is generally not completed as part of the pre-purchase due diligence.

Does a Home Seller have to Disclose Asbestos?

asbestos abatementMost states don’t require that single-family homeowners test for asbestos prior to selling their home. However, if you knowingly sell a home with asbestos without revealing that information to the buyer, you could be held liable for health-related damages in the future. It is best to check your local regulations as these laws vary by state.

Is it Legal to Remodel a Home with Asbestos?

The biggest risk posed by asbestos is during a remodel or renovation to an old house. When the building materials that contain asbestos get damaged and are made airborne, the people working on the home, and living in it, become susceptible to exposure.

Laws regarding asbestos will vary by state but many states will require:

  • Homeowners to test for asbestos prior to any construction or renovation project
  • Asbestos remediation to be done by licensed abatement contractors prior to starting demolition work
  • Contractors to obtain a written asbestos report from a building owner prior to work
  • Asbestos-containing materials be disposed of in special containers for hazardous waste

asbestos warningIf you are planning to renovate your home, consider testing for lead and asbestos. If you have time to do this evaluation before buying the house, that is great. In hot markets, home buyers often have very limited time to complete their inspections so many buyers proceed with the logical assumption that the building contains asbestos and they will need to tackle it prior to renovation.

Many homes built in the 20th century contain some level of asbestos. If you discover asbestos in your home don’t panic, it is normally safe to live in if you are not planning renovations. If you are planning on making changes to your home, you will need to check your local laws and hire the right professionals to assess the home and dispose of the waste correctly. Knowing the facts about asbestos is very important and can help keep you and your loved ones out of harm’s way.

 

Author bio: Jennifer Karami is a writer at Redfin, a technology-enabled real estate brokerage whose mission is to redefine real estate in the customer’s favor.

Categories
Flooding & Water Damage Mold

Top 7 Questions on Ice Dams Answered

Top 7 Questions on Ice Dams Answered

The icicles are beautiful to behold, but there’s a dark side. If you see them hanging from your gutters, you may be in for some trouble. Here’s why:

When you see icicles, it means you have ice dams, and ice dams wreak havoc with roofs. They prevent melting snow from draining, and that means the water has no place to go – except into the tiny little crevices and cracks beneath the roof. And that means the water can seep into your interior walls, attic, and underneath the roof shingles. Dampness can cause mold growth within 24-48 hours, and mold can wreak havoc with your health, causing asthma, headaches, fatigue and more.

1. Water is leaking into my house – What should I do?

icicle roof leak

Act quickly and don’t panic. Report the problem to your insurance company, but don’t wait for their response. You’ll need to take these steps right away:

  • Take pictures or video of the damage, and start to remove the water immediately. Don’t wait for your insurance company to get back to you, because waiting — even for a few hours — could mean more water and mold growth;
  • Wet/dry vacuum, mop, or pump water out of the affected area as quickly as possible. Remove wet items;
  • If you are using towels to catch the water, be sure to change them every few hours so that mold doesn’t start to grow;
  • Outside, pull off snow from above the ice dam with a long-handled aluminum roof rake, while you stand safely on the ground. According to This Old House, this action will help prevent the melting snow from forming new ice dams;
  • Dry out residual moisture that is left in the wood, concrete, and other affected materials inside your home. To do this, you can use a dehumidifiers or plain ventilation;
  • Unplug electrical devices and turn off the circuit breakers in the wet area, if possible;
  • If a material cannot be dried within 24 hours, it should be thrown away. Unfortunately, this includes carpeting, mattresses, pillows, upholstered furniture, and items containing paper, including wallboard;
  • Have your home tested for mold.

2. I don’t see any water, so my roof isn’t leaking, right?

Not necessarily. Ice dams can cause seepage in areas the naked eye can’t see, including Ice Dam preventionbehind walls and under floor boards or carpets – wherever the water finds a path to travel. Mold can grow from even a very small leak, which can have detrimental consequences to your home, and ultimately, to your health. If you think the ice dams on the eaves of your house or gutters are causing indoor leaks, the safest thing to do is hire a certified microbial investigator, who can use a moisture meter to check for wet and damp areas behind walls, as well as take air samples to see if there is a mold problem. If you decide to wait, be diligent about checking attics, basements, and other less trafficked areas in your home for musty odors or visible mold, which are telltale signs of hidden mold. If there’s mold, you should have your home tested for other infestation (often unseen) by an independent mold inspector – one that does only testing, and not remediation, as this would be a conflict of interest.

3. What should I do about the icicles and chunks of ice in my gutters? ice removal

This is a tough one, because a lot can go wrong. The first instinct is to just get the ice out, but that is easier said than done. Getting up on a ladder that is set on snow and ice is dangerous in itself, but add to that a swinging axe, ice pick, or chainsaw, and you could be in trouble. Not only will you mess up your roof and shingles, you can cause yourself bodily harm. If you go online, you may discover some “creative” ideas to remove ice dams, but you should stay away from blowtorches, steam cleaners, heating pads, salt, boiling water, and hot bacon grease. To be safe and not cause further damage to you or your roof, remove the snow from the bottom portion of your roof, closest to you, with a roof rake or long-handled broom. Tip: Don’t stand on your roof to do this! You could slip and fall off, or worse, the roof could collapse right under you from the strain of your weight coupled with the weight of the snow and ice. Stand on the ground to remove roof snow. Just be sure to watch for falling icicles.

4. Can damage from ice dams go further than my attic?

Depending on how and where your ice dams form, the water can go anywhere. We’ve even seen water pouring into the basement. How? The ice dam grew so large that water traveled to a deck attached to the house, pooled, and then headed into the basement. If ice dams travel down your downspouts or the icicles get so large that they are nearing the ground, water may be pooling near your foundation with nowhere to escape.

5. What is the most common mistake made in dealing with ice dams? ice dams roof

It happens all too often: people do cosmetic repairs without making sure the area is completely dry and checking for mold growth. Then, when the weather warms up, they discover they have a full-blown mold infestation. That’s why when there’s water damage, it’s important to test for mold. Hire an independent mold inspector, one who does not do remediation, to get honest and accurate results. An independent testing company can conduct air monitoring and surface sampling tests; identify affected areas and measure the amount of mold – even if it cannot be seen by the naked eye.

6. Will homeowners insurance cover damage from ice dams?

According to the National Association of Realtors®, most homeowners insurance policies cover conditions such as damage caused by ice dams, when water can’t drain into the gutters and instead seeps into the house. But, if the water from an ice dam enters the home from the ground, homeowners insurance generally won’t cover mold remediation. You would need flood insurance for that.

7. How can I prevent ice dams in the future?

There are a number of ways to prevent future ice dams, depending on your situation and how your home or place of business is constructed. Here are a few tips:

  1. Properly insulate.
    Proper insulation of the attic is one solution, as is a tight vapor barrier to prevent ice dam roof moisture from passing from the living areas into and through the insulation. If air from your home finds its way to the underside of the roof sheathing, the heated air raises the temperature of the roof, causing snow to melt, then refreeze when the temperature drops again. Important: make sure you have enough insulation. An insufficiently insulated home is more likely to suffer damage caused by ice dams. To find out how much insulation your home should have (based on location and age), refer to this chart on the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association webpage.
  2. Protect your gutters.
    Whether it’s a snow and ice shield or electrified gutters, there are several ice dam removalproducts that will prevent water from working its way into the home. (A snow and ice shield consists of a membrane that seals the roof under the shingles, forming a continuous barrier to water.)
  3. Ensure adequate ventilation.
    In order to make sure that your attic and roof are properly ventilated, there should be venting at both the eaves and soffits and/or at the gable ends of the attic. You need to have a space for cold air to flow above the insulation to keep the roof cold and prevent the snow from melting. If you have a finished attic, it is a little more complicated, but it can be done. House Logic shares some additional tips here.

If you are experiencing damage from ice dams and melting snow, call RTK Environmental today at (800) 392-6468 to discuss your options and figure out a plan to keep your home and family safe.

Categories
Flooding & Water Damage Mold

Expert Advice: What Can I Do About A Frozen Pipe That Bursts?

Expert Advice: What Can I Do About A Frozen Pipe That Bursts?

Tips to protect your health, prevent mold, and save money on unnecessary remediation because all that water in your home can cause problems.

thaw pipesThe more temperatures slip into the teens and even lower, the greater the chances that pipes will freeze. And when they freeze, they can burst. And that can lead to a whole rash of problems: flooding, structural damage, and mold. And mold can lead to health problems.

“Pipes freeze for three main reasons – quick drops in temperature, poor insulation, and thermostats set at too low a temperature,” says Robert Weitz, founder of RTK Environmental Group, a leading independent environmental testing company serving the northeast for over 20 years. “Pipes often burst when they thaw, so you may be in for an unpleasant surprise,” Weitz continues.

WHAT TO DO IF A PIPE BURSTS:

  •      burst frozen pipe preventionTurn off the water at the main shut-off valve and leave the faucet open.
  •      Try to dry out the area. Damp and wet areas are prime locations for mold growth, which can blossom within 24-48 hours.
  •     Call the plumber.
  •     Take photos and videos of the damage.
  •     Call your insurance company to see if water damage caused by frozen pipes is covered by your policy.
  •     Call an environmental inspection company to test the affected area for mold. RTKDepending on the age of your home, (anything built pre-1980) you may also want to test for asbestos and lead. This will ensure that when the remediation is done, toxic fibers, dust, and mold spores are not released into the air, contaminating the rest of your house or business.
  •     Once the repairs are complete, have an independent certified microbial inspector come in to test the area again to make sure there are no lingering toxins.

Why is a post-remediation test necessary?

It’s not unheard of for a remediation company to fix the main water issue quickly, but not allow ample time for floors, ceilings, and wallboard to dry before finishing the job. When that happens, moisture is sealed into these areas, creating a perfect environment for mold to grow behind the walls and under floors. That’s why testing is so important.

First, it will ensure that you are living in a safe, healthy environment.

tape lift sample moldSecond, an independent environmental testing company will provide you with a detailed report that documents that your home is mold-free. This documentation will be important for possible future insurance claims. If your home floods again and mold returns, your insurance company may question whether the mold was caused by the new event or the previous one. Without proof that your home was deemed mold-free after repairs were made, the insurance company might take the position that a new claim is not justified or that you have met your policy limit.

“The most important thing you can do if a pipe bursts is to have your home or office properly tested for mold and professionally remediated,” Weitz states. “To make sure you are not taken advantage of, hire an independent mold inspection firm that does not perform remediation, as they don’t stand to make additional money on a repair,” he says. To that point, a law was passed in New York in 2016 making it illegal for the same company to perform mold testing and remediation on the same job.

If you have questions or would like to book a test, call RTK at (800) 392-6468.

Categories
Health Healthy Home

Essential Oils: Nature’s Surprising Air Cleanser

Essential Oils: Nature’s Surprising Air Cleanser

Essential Oil

You may have heard about essential oils, but do you really know what they are, or how they can cleanse your home and your body? Lisa Zawrotny, a Wellness Advocate, known as the Ultimate Oil Mom, gave us some excellent insight on the therapeutic benefits of using essential oils for fighting off seasonal discomfort and indoor air quality issues.

What is an Essential Oil?

“It’s the essence of a plant. It is found in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants, like the zest from a citrus fruit – it’s a fragrant oil, not greasy,” says Zawrotny. She explains the aroma gives plants their distinctive fragrance and also protects plants from natural enemies, like mold and insects. Essential oils have long been used for beauty treatments, health care practices, and food preparation.

How Do You Extract An Essential Oil?

AromatherapyEssential oils are extracted through one of two processes: cold pressing or steam distilling, Zawrotny explains. There are four levels of oil purity, which determines what you can use the oil for: smell, flavor, aromatherapy, or natural health. The highest level of purity is certified therapeutic grade, a quality protocol to which essential oils are carefully and thoroughly tested against.

How Do You Use An Essential Oil?

The benefits of essential oils are obtained in three ways: aromatically through diffusion, topically applied to the skin after being diluted with a carrier oil (like coconut oil), or internally through ingestion. All three approaches work well to support the body, but new research is showing an even greater impact with diffusing oils than previously thought. We weren’t surprised to learn that only therapeutic grade oils can be used for health purposes, but we were surprised that it seems the body can benefit from the aroma even when it is not delivered through the nose. Scientists are finding odor receptors throughout the body, where they play a pivotal role in a host of physiological functions. You can read The New York Times article here.

Essential Oils Can Help Protect Against Seasonal & Environmental Elements

Lemon Oil“There are several oils that can help you to combat seasonal discomfort naturally,” Zawrotny says. A few of her favorites include Peppermint, Lavender, and Lemon. “These are cleansing oils, and can be diffused in your home to help cleanse the air, and promote clear breathing and healthy respiratory functions,” she explains. Eucalyptus supports the respiratory system, and helps to maintain clear airways. Whether used alone or in combination, these oils have been known for thousands of years to promote healthy inflammatory response, as well as help bolster the immune system, creating calming and balancing effects, internally and externally.Eucalyptus Tub

TIP: Add a few drops of Eucalyptus or Peppermint oil to a hot bath or on a washcloth under your feet in the shower – the aromatic properties will blend with the steam to open airways and help quickly relieve seasonal symptoms.

Essential Oils Can Improve Air Quality

Aromatherapy DiffuserNot only do essential oils smell good, but also some have strong air purification properties. Remember, these oils were inside the plant to help protect it from mold, so it has powerful properties to cleanse your air. Cinnamon, Melaleuca (tea tree), Oregano, Clove, Thyme, Grapefruit extract, and Rosemary oils can be diffused into the air, providing additional support to soothe potential symptoms. However, it can’t be used to rid your home of mold. If you think you have a mold problem, have your home tested by an independent inspector to make sure you and your family is not in danger. If the problem is serious, the inspector may recommend professional remediation.

Bonus: When oils are diffused into the air, they are also absorbed into your body through your nose and skin and can help build immunity and have a healing impact, including cell renewal.

467249269Clean Green

Essential oils make great cleaning agents. You can use the oils directly on surfaces to clean naturally. Certain oils work very well for cleaning, including Clove, Lemon, Wild Orange, Cinnamon, Rosemary, and Eucalyptus. Fill a small spray bottle with vinegar and add 10-20 drops of your favorite oil – it makes a great natural cleaner! You can diffuse it in the home, or add a few drops to a pot of boiling water to purify and freshen the air.

Essential Oil ApplicationEssential oils have many potential benefits, but Zawrotny suggests doing your own research. A great place to start is www.aromaticscience.com. If your home has an environmental issue, like mold, lead, or poor indoor air quality, oils alone will not solve the problem, and your health could be in danger. The only way to know if you and your family are in a safe environment is to have your home tested. Once you know what you may be dealing with, you can then determine the best way to proceed.