Mold Indoor Air Quality & Radon

What To Do If You Find Mold in an HVAC System

What To Do If You Find Mold in an HVAC System

For HVAC specialists, spring is a busy season. Pre-summer system cleanings are plentiful, as nobody wants poor indoor air quality – especially during summer months when the air conditioning is running and likely recirculating your air around the clock. Many times, you’ll discover mold in drip or condensation pans, in ductwork, or around vents.

HVAC moldAs you know, dust and debris collect in HVAC and heating units over time. When those materials absorb moisture, mold can form quickly.

If you find mold on a job, stop work immediately so that you don’t spread the mold and cross-contaminate other areas of the residence. Then call RTK for a mold assessment. Since RTK only tests and never remediates, you can be assured our results are unbiased and accurate.

How does mold impact the homeowner? During summer months, condensation often occurs in HVAC units and ducts, and this can lead to mold growth. Then, once the heat or A/C is turned on, microscopic mold spores can easily spread and contaminate clean spaces anywhere else in the building.

Signs of HVAC Mold:

  1. There is a musty smell in the dwelling.

  2. The homeowner is experiencing allergic symptoms, which may include a runny nose, trouble breathing, rash, or watering eyes.

  3. When the homeowner turns on the heat or A/C, they complain that their nose, throat, and eyes feel irritated.

  4. The homeowner suffers from unexplained headaches that go away when they leave the premises.

  5. They feel nausea, fatigue, and dizziness only when they are home or at the office.

  6. You see mold growing in the intake vents and around the air ducts and drip pans.

  7. There is staining around the vents.

mold iaqIf you find mold in an HVAC system, the best course of action is to have the system tested. An independent company, like RTK, can assess whether your client will be spreading mold spores when the heat is turned on.

Mold and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are the most common causes of indoor air pollution and can easily be tested for and treated. Call us at 800.392.6468 to schedule a test or learn more.

Gardening Health Soil and Water

How to Get the Healthiest Crop From Your Garden


Toxic Soil: Are Your Garden Crops  Safe?

Organic gardening is a wonderful way to bring fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables straight from your garden to your table. To ensure that your produce is perfect, start with a soil test to make sure you are not planting in a toxic terrain.

After taking the necessary painstaking measures to ensure that your garden contains non-GMO seeds, no chemicals and pesticides, and organic compost to enrich and fertilize the soil, your hard work may be fruitless. If you plant your produce in soil that contains lead, arsenic, petroleum, pesticides, these and other toxins will make their way into your harvest – and into your mouth.

Sources of Soil Contamination:

Lead in soil is a very common problem, especially if you live in a pre-1978 built home or in a neighborhood of older homes. How does lead get into your soil? Sanding, prior to painting the exterior of an older home, can spew lead dust through the air. Flaking paint chips can also infiltrate into the soil. Lead dust can also be released through open windows when sanding a home’s interior walls. Even more disturbing, simply opening and closing windowsills that contain lead paint can release lead dust into your home and yard on a daily basis.

Another possible source of contamination is tainted compost. If you use public compost, you may be exposed to dangerous levels of lead and other toxins. Here’s why: When municipalities pick up lawn clippings and organic debris for composting, they don’t test first to see if the clippings and debris are free from contamination.

Flooding may also contaminate soil. Storm surges and flooding from storms and hurricanes, like Sandy and Irene, can spread industrial toxic contaminants to residential areas miles away. The floodwaters from Sandy carried an unthinkable mixture of wastewater, sludge, and toxins into people’s pristine yards, where many of the pollutants remain today.

Effects of Toxic Soil:

The damaging effects of ingesting these toxins – chromium, lead, petroleum, solvents, and many pesticide and herbicide formulations, among others – are extensive. According to Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF), these contaminants can be carcinogenic, and cause disease or other chronic health conditions.

What Can You Do?

The first line of protection for you and your family is to have your soil tested. A certified environmental testing company, like RTK, can tell you if your soil is safe. If the test reveals the levels of lead or other toxins in your soil are too high, several options exist to fix the problem – including soil removal, raising pH levels and adding organic matter, or mixing in new soil. A certified inspector can tell you which may be the best option for your situation.

Click here for more information or to schedule a soil test today.

Inspector's Notebook Lead Mold

Are you familiar with the current HPD laws and regulations?

Are you familiar with the current HPD laws and regulations?


new york city mold violation

The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) works to maintain the safety and health of residents by establishing standards for the physical condition of buildings. They do this by developing regulations that property owners must follow.

When a building fails to meet these standards, HPD may issue a violation, which can result in fines and other penalties. In recent years, HPD has updated its policies and regulations to protect tenants from hazards like lead and mold.

Whether you’re a property owner or a tenant, understanding HPD regulations is essential for maintaining safe and healthy living conditions in New York City. It can be tough to keep track of, so we’ve compiled all the latest information here so you can stay up to date.


nyc lead violationLead is a serious concern for tenants, particularly young children, who can suffer from cognitive and developmental problems from exposure. HPD Lead Regulations are important measures to protect the well-being of tenants. Here are some of the key provisions of New York City’s lead laws:

  1. Landlords must conduct lead-based paint inspections for all apartments in buildings constructed before 1960. For buildings constructed between 1960 and 1978, landlords must conduct inspections if a child under the age of six lives in the apartment.
  2. If lead-based paint is found in an apartment, landlords must take steps to address the hazard. This can include removing the paint or covering it with an encapsulating coating.
  3. Landlords must provide tenants with notice about the presence of lead-based paint in the apartment, as well as information about the health risks associated with lead poisoning.
  4. Lead-safe work practices: If a landlord needs to do work that may disturb lead-based paint, they must follow lead-safe work practices to prevent the spread of lead dust.
  5. Landlords who fail to comply with the lead laws can be fined and may face legal action.

There are a few recent updates to these HPD lead laws which are designed to further protect residents from lead hazards and ensure that building owners take appropriate steps to address lead in their properties.

These updates include:

  • As of February 2021, Local Law 1 of 2004, which previously applied to only residential buildings with three or more units, now includes tenant-occupied one and two-unit buildings. This means that in a building older than 1960, the property owner must either maintain records of lead testing or presume that there is lead-based paint and follow the requirements.
  • Under Local Law 66 of 2019, certain standards for lead were lowered.
  • Lead-Based Paint is now defined as paint with a lead content of 0.5 mg/cm².
  • When testing for lead-based paint, an XRF instrument with an approved Performance Characteristic Sheet must be used. The instrument is used to measure the amount of lead present on a surface, and the testing must be done when the level of lead on the surface reaches 0.5 mg/cm² or higher
  • Lead dust standards for floors, windowsills, and window wells were lowered to 5, 40, and 100 mcg/ft² respectively
  • By August 2025, Local Law 31 requires lead-based paint testing to be conducted in all residential units and documented by property owners.
  • The penalties for non-compliance will increase from $500 per day to $2,000 per violation per day.
  • The new laws will also establish a Lead Task Force, which will be responsible for developing recommended practices to address lead hazards in NYC.


As 2025 gets closer, it will become harder and more expensive to find a certified lead inspector with the approved equipment. Building owners and managers who want to avoid high fees and long wait times should consider hiring a certified lead inspector as soon as possible. Here at RTK, we offer comprehensive lead testing services that comply with the HPD laws.


new york mold violationThe latest mold violation updates were issued in 2021. Mold violations are a serious matter as exposure to mold can lead to respiratory problems, allergies, eye, nose and throat irritation, fatigue, and neurological issues. Here are some of the main provisions of HPD’s mold laws:

  1. Landlords must inspect their buildings for mold at least once every five years.
  2. If mold is found, landlords must remediate the mold within 30 days of receiving a violation.
  3. Landlords must ensure that their buildings are free from conditions that promote mold growth, such as excess moisture or leaks.
  4. Landlords must provide tenants with a notice explaining their rights and responsibilities regarding mold.
  5. Landlords must post information about mold in common areas of the building.
  6. Landlords must hire a licensed mold assessor to conduct a visual inspection and air sampling if mold is identified or suspected in a building.
  7. The mold assessor must be licensed by the New York State Department of Labor and must follow industry standards for mold assessment and remediation.
  8. It is illegal to hire the same company to do testing and remediation on the same job in New York, as it is a clear conflict of interest.


RTK NYCHow do you ensure that your property is following these HPD guidelines? Make sure to book a licensed inspector to assess your premises to guarantee that appropriate mold and lead precautions are being taken for your property.

RTK is very experienced in helping building owners and landlords resolve HPD violations. With fast scheduling, comprehensive reports, licensed and highly-trained inspectors, and expedited laboratory results – we can turn a problem into a problem solved. Contact RTK at 800.392.6468.

Flooding & Water Damage Mold

Quick Guide to Clean Up a Flooded Basement

Quick Guide to Clean Up a

Flooded Basement

More heavy rain is causing problems for home and business owners throughout the Tri-State area. Flooded basements are everywhere.

With the torrential rains, flooding is rampant because the ground cannot handle the volume of water due to a high water table. The pools of water in your yard and close to your home’s foundation could indicate that water may be seeping into your basement. Once your basement gets wet, it becomes a prime area for mold growth, which can emerge within 24 – 48 hours, and even spread throughout your home.

Mold causes serious health issues, including asthma, allergies, headaches, fatigue, and coughing. Exposure to toxic black mold causes more severe health consequences, including chronic bronchitis, heart problems, learning disabilities, mental deficiencies, and multiple sclerosis. Here are steps you can take to prevent mold growth.

Top 4 tips to prevent mold growth in your flooded basement:

1. Make sure the drain in your basement floor is free from debris and the sump pump is working.

This will help the water drain properly. Also, make sure your sump pump is working, if you have one. Sometimes after the power goes out, your sump pump may need to be reset before it kicks on.

2. Remove anything from the floor that is wet.

Boxes, toys, carpeting, and any other cellulose materials are very susceptible to mold growth. Get them out of the water and to an area that they can dry out in. If they can’t be dried within 24 hours, they may become infested with mold and need to be discarded.

3. Pump or vacuum the water from the area quickly.

You can also mop it out. Remember, the soil outside is already saturated, so be careful not to pump out the area too fast. The water still has nowhere to go, and the pressure of the water on the outside of your home could damage your basement wall, or even collapse it.

4. Use fans, a dehumidifier, and ventilate the area well.


After the flooding has stopped and the bulk of the water has been removed, you need to dry the rest of the area with fans, including concrete floors, drywall, wood, and more. Then, use a dehumidifier, set to no higher than 50%, to combat residual moisture, which causes higher humidity, and provides an idea environment for mold to grow. Mold in your home can cause health issues and make asthma symptoms worse.

If you are unable to take these steps quickly or are unsure as to whether you already have a mold problem, the best thing to do for the health of your family and your home is to call in a professional, like RTK, to conduct a mold test.

Health Mold

Does Mold Color Matter?

Does Mold Color Matter?


Spring rains are a welcome refresher for our parched plants and lawns, but they also bring heat and humidity, the perfect environment for mold. If you had a leak or flood and your remediation company did not fully remove the mold, chances are the mold is still present and probably growing with a vengeance.

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

Why It’s Important to Check For Mold in the Spring

Why It’s Important to Check For Mold in the Spring

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

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

VOCs Indoor Air Quality & Radon

Breathe Easier by Reducing Volatile Organic Compounds in Your Home 

Breathe Easier by Reducing Volatile Organic Compounds in Your Home 


Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, are a group of volatile chemicals easily emitted into the air because of their high vapor pressure at room temperature. These compounds are found in most manmade items, such as carpeting, appliances, paint, cleaning products, and personal care products, to name just a few. Regrettably, the VOCs that make our homes look nice can pose serious dangers to our health and well-being. So, let’s look at the dangers and sources of VOCs in the home. We also will give you important tips on how to reduce your VOC exposure. 

Causes of VOCs

Dangers of VOCs  

Over the short term, exposure to VOCs can lead to health problems, such as headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and nausea. VOCs also can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat. Long-term exposure to VOCs can lead to more serious health problems, such as liver and kidney damage, respiratory problems, and even cancer.  

Common Sources of VOCs in the Home 

VOCYour home harbors a vast array of VOCs sources, including: 

  1. Paints and coatings used on walls, furniture, and floors, which release VOC fumes into the air that can be harmful if inhaled. 
  2. Household cleaning products, including floor cleaners, glass cleaners, and bathroom cleaners. An additional danger: these products are frequently used in poorly ventilated areas such as shower stalls, which can increase exposure. 
  3. Air fresheners are loaded with VOCs, including phthalates, which are known to disrupt hormones in the body. Air fresheners can also contain other harmful chemicals, such as benzene and formaldehyde. 
  4. Building materials, including carpets, adhesives, and insulation, can release fumes into the air for years after they have been installed. 
  5. Personal care products, such as perfumes, hair sprays, and deodorants, often contain VOCs. These products can be harmful if inhaled or absorbed through the skin. 

Identifying VOCs in the Home 

If you are feeling unwell and are not sure why, you may have high levels of VOCs in your home. Headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and nausea can all be symptoms of VOC exposure. The best way to discover the source of the exposure is to have your home tested by a professional. A professional can help pinpoint or rule out the responsible sources. 

VOC symptomsRTK has tested hundreds of homes for VOCs and was surprised to find out that in many cases, popular brands of furniture, including baby items, were off the charts for these dangerous chemicals.  

“We recently tested the new nursery of a newborn child, and just about everything was emitting toxic fumes,” said Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and founder of RTK.  “These products were from a brand name, very popular company—we were shocked,” Weitz said. “People buy products they think are ‘healthy’ but they don’t read the labels, and that’s where you’ll find the truth.” He recommends testing for many reasons. 

Weitz emphasized that testing can help preserve the property value of your house, which is likely to be a household’s largest financial asset. He recommends that homebuyers test before they purchase a house. In turn, homeowners should test for VOCs prior to putting a home on the market. 

Property owners also could have VOC compliance concerns, said Weitz. VOC testing may be required to comply with local, state, or federal regulations. For example, some states require VOC testing for certain types of building materials or household products. 

VOC carpeting

Reducing Exposure to VOCs 

There are several steps you can take to reduce your exposure to VOCs in the home: 

  1. Choose low-VOC products: When purchasing paints, cleaning products, air fresheners, and personal care products, choose products that are labeled “low-VOC” or “VOC-free.” 
  2. Increase ventilation: Proper ventilation can help reduce exposure to VOCs. Open windows and doors, use exhaust fans and change the filters regularly, and use air purifiers with carbon filters to improve indoor air quality. 
  3. Avoid harsh cleaning products: Instead of using harsh cleaning products, try using natural alternatives, such as vinegar and baking soda. 
  4. Be careful when renovating: If you are renovating your home, be aware of the VOCs in building materials and choose low-VOC options whenever possible. 
  5. Let new furniture air out: Before you bring new furniture or carpeting into your home, unwrap it and let it air out for a few days in the garage or a well-ventilated area. This will reduce the level of VOC buildup in your home. 
  6. Store products safely: Store products containing VOCs in a well-ventilated area and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use and disposal. 

VOC labelsVOCs are a serious concern in the home and can pose a significant danger to our health and well-being. VOC testing is important for identifying potential sources of exposure to harmful chemicals, improving indoor air quality, and ensuring compliance with regulations. Homeowners can take steps to reduce their exposure to VOCs by choosing low-VOC products, increasing ventilation, and storing products safely.

If you are concerned about VOCs in your home, consider scheduling a VOC testing appointment with a qualified professional like RTK Environmental. By being aware of the sources of VOCs and taking steps to reduce exposure, we can help ensure that our homes are safe and healthy places to live. Call us at 800.392.6468 to learn more.

VOCs and Clothing

VOCs and Your Health



Healthy Home Health

Ways Our Homes Make Us Sick – and What to Do About It

Ways Our Homes Make Us Sick – and What to Do About It

If you worry your home is making you sick, you might be onto something. Our homes can secretly contain chemicals, toxins, pathogens, and microbes that can’t be seen with the human eye. However, when these toxic dangers are present in your home in large enough quantities, they can wreak havoc on your family’s health. So here are some tips to keep your family safe, courtesy of RTK Environmental Group.

Ways Your Home Might Be Making You Sick

health symptoms moldFirst, we need to cover the basics. Illness due to exposure to household triggers is so common that there are even specific terms for it, such as “sick building syndrome.” Sick building syndrome describes an illness which seems to be linked to time spent in a particular building, especially when no other underlying cause of the illness can be determined.

Although we typically associate sick building syndrome with the workplace, it can apply to our homes as well. Recent studies have named it a health hazard because it is occurring with increased frequency.

Similar to sick building syndrome, “building related illnesses” include diagnosable symptoms that can be directly traced back to a specific culprit within the building. This might include airborne contaminants such as mold, formaldehyde, asbestos, pollutants, allergens, or potentially cancer-causing chemicals and toxins. If you suspect that you will be exposed to any of these irritants, ensure that you wear a protective mask. This is doubly important if you plan to be cleaning up any of these harmful products, as interacting with them can cause them to become airborne.

Toxic mold is one of the most common airborne contaminants linked to building related illnesses. Mold spores produce mycotoxins which, if inhaled, may cause physical symptoms ranging from allergies and asthma to pulmonary hemorrhage or memory loss. People with compromised immune systems are also susceptible to systemic mold infections.

Here’s What You Can Do About It

Some easy home repairs reduce illnesses by removing black mold, toxins, chemicals, allergens, or pollutants from your home. You could also hire a trained professional to check your indoor ventilation for adequate air flow, or to test the air in your home for factors such as black mold or cancer-causing chemicals. Afterwards, make any home repairs as needed.

If you’re worried about paying for home repairs, refinancing your home could give you an injection of cash that you can use for home improvement projects. Before refinancing, research the cost to refinance, lenders, and loan types.

Additionally, keep your home clean and dry to reduce dust, mold, and other natural allergens. Frequently wash your sheets and pillowcases to remove contaminants. Don’t allow friends or relatives to smoke inside your home. Purchase a high-quality vacuum with a HEPA filter. Another tip is to leave your shoes at the door, which reduces the toxins, allergens, and pollutants you’ll track into your home. 

A Green Home is a Healthy Home

Even if you aren’t experiencing symptoms, there are several other ways to take your health into your own hands. For instance, you might purchase an air purifier to remove contaminants from the air you breathe in your home. You could also invest in an at-home water filtration system to ensure your water is clean and purified.

Read labels before purchasing products, and try to opt for chemical-free, toxin-free household items, including cleaning products. During trips to the grocery store, opt for organic, GMO-free, “green” and all natural products whenever possible.

Products or Building Materials to Avoid

Whether you’re searching for a new home or making some renovations, you should avoid potentially harmful products or building materials. These include (but are not limited to) chemical sealants, harmful plastics, and insulation fibers that have been linked to cancer.

The illnesses caused by sick building syndrome often make us sicker over time. Unfortunately, many people are living with chronic illnesses that aren’t properly treated because they don’t realize their home could be the underlying cause for their illness.

Sometimes, all it takes is a few simple household adjustments to completely eliminate symptoms. By taking proactive action before you start experiencing symptoms, and by following the tips listed above whether you are sick or not, you can make your home cleaner and greener. A few simple product switches and lifestyle adjustments can go a long way in keeping your family home safe, healthy, and happy for years to come.

For your commercial or residential environmental testing needs, contact RTK Environmental Group today!

Indoor Air Quality & Radon Healthy Home

VOCs and Clothing: What You Need to Know 

VOCs and Clothing: What You Need to Know

As we discussed in our last blog, volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are toxic gasses emitted from chemicals in everyday items which can cause a number of health symptoms and issues.

So, what are some of the biggest sources of VOCs?

Clothing & VOCs

Believe it or not, there are usually VOCs in new clothes, especially those wrapped in plastic like men’s shirts and socks. Textiles are not regulated for VOCs, so anything that is wrinkle free, permanent press, or crease resistant generally contains formaldehyde. Many clothing dyes even contain VOCs. Luckily, it is usually as easy as running it through the wash a few times to rinse out those chemicals.

VOCs and Dry-Cleaning

Dry cleaning can cause a more serious threat to your health and the environment. Most dry-cleaning processes use the dangerous chemical tetrachloroethylene, which is widely used as a scouring solvent that removes oils from fabrics, as a carrier solvent, as a fabric finish or water repellent. Exposure to tetrachloroethylene can cause a host of health issues, including irritation to the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and respiratory system. It has also been shown to cause liver damage and is a potential occupational carcinogen.

Another dangerous VOC-emitting chemical used in dry cleaning is perchloroethylene. According to the Occidental College’s Pollution Prevention Center, 85% of the nearly 40,000 dry cleaners in the United States use perchloroethylene (or “perc”) as a solvent in their dry-cleaning process.

Perc is a synthetic VOC that poses a health risk to humans, as well as a threat to the environment. Minimal contact with perc can cause headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, and skin and respiratory irritation. Prolonged perc exposure has been linked to liver and kidney damage, and cancer. Perc has also been identified as a “probable” human carcinogen by California’s Proposition 65.

Perc can enter the body through drinking water contamination, dermal exposure, or most frequently, inhalation. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that clothes dry cleaned with perc can elevate levels of the chemical throughout a home, especially in the room where the garments are stored. It is also transmitted through a nursing mother’s milk.

Green Dry Cleaning

green dry cleaning

A healthier option is using an eco-friendly dry cleaner that does not use these harsh chemicals, but rather liquid carbon dioxide cleaning or professional wet cleaning. But do your research because all “environmentally safe” dry cleaners are not equal. Ask them if their dry-cleaning process is completely VOC free, and what their process is.

If you are concerned about VOCs in your home or workplace, contact RTK for testing and more information at 800.392.6468 or click here. Find part 3 here, or read part 1 here.







Indoor Air Quality & Radon Healthy Home

The World Is Full of Dangerous Chemicals and VOCs: Here’s How to Protect Your Health

The World Is Full of Dangerous Chemicals and VOCs: Here’s How to Protect Your Health  

Let’s face it – we live in a world full of chemicals. From cleaning products to paints to furniture and carpeting, volatile organic compounds (or VOCs) permeate the air we breathe, and many endanger our health. RTK presents a multi-part series on VOCs effect on indoor air quality so you can take steps to lessen the effect of VOCs in your everyday life.

PART 1: 

volatile organic compound

What Are VOCs?

VOCs are toxic vapors that are off gassed from synthetic materials and everyday items. VOCs cause poor indoor air quality, commonly referred to as “indoor air pollution.” VOCs can be extremely dangerous to health, especially those compounds that have toxic elements.

Cancer & VOCs

Cancer is on the rise, and one of the causes is right before our eyes. Most new, manufactured products contain VOCs, many of which contain known toxic carcinogens. They have been proven to cause cancer, yet manufacturers still use VOCs because of their cost-effectiveness in the manufacturing process.

indoor air quality

Where are VOCs found?

  • Paint
  • Adhesives
  • Clothing
  • Carpeting
  • Composite wood products, like furniture and cabinets
  • Bedding and pillows
  • Copiers, printers, and toners
  • Cosmetics and toiletries
  • Vinyl, such as shower curtains or tile
  • Sealing caulk
  • Certain scented candles
  • Fabrics
  • Cleaning and disinfecting chemicals
  • Air fresheners
  • Moth balls
  • Dry cleaning and laundry detergents
  • Wood burning stoves
  • Yes, even that new car smell!

VOCs and Your Health

Whether we are exposed to VOCs for an extended or brief period they can still affect our health. The key is recognizing symptoms of exposure and finding the culprit(s).

voc headacheCommon Symptoms of VOC Exposure Include:

  • Headaches
  • Brain Fog
  • Fatigue and listlessness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Nervousness
  • Difficulty concentrating

Long-Term Effects of VOC Exposure Include:

  • Cancer
  • Kidney damage
  • Liver damage
  • Central Nervous System damage

There are steps you can take to minimize VOCs in your home. RTK will tell you how throughout this multi-part series. If you are concerned about VOCs in your home or workplace, contact RTK for testing and more information at 800.392.6468 or click here.

Part 2: VOCs and Clothing

Part 3: Identifying and Reducing VOCs in the Home