Categories
Healthy Home

7 Holiday Hazards and How to Avoid Them

7 Holiday Hazards and How to Avoid Them

The holidays should be filled with joy – not health hazards. These scrooges may show up during the holidays, but they don’t have to ruin your festivities if you use common sense to protect yourself.

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Healthy Home Mold

7 Tips To Ensure Your Home is Healthy and Holiday Ready

7 Tips To Ensure Your Home is Healthy and Holiday Ready

Before the guests arrive, make sure your home is in tip-top shape with these often overlooked household checks. After all, healthy guests make for much happier holidays!

1. Musty Odors

You may think that musty odor is barely noticeable, but that’s likely because you’re used to it. Your guests will notice right away, and if they have allergies, sit them as far away from the turkey as possible, get them a box of tissues, and watch out for the sneezing that will ensue! A musty odor means that your home may have a mold problem, which causes allergies, asthma, and other health issues. You probably can’t see the source of mold, so hire an independent mold inspection expert and check this off your list!

 2. Indoor Air Quality Check

You’ve cleaned, touched up the paint, put in new air fresheners, and even replaced that old rug in the living room with brand new carpeting. You may think all these steps make for a healthier home, but each of these ordinary activities can actually cause poor indoor air quality. Dangerous VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are released into the air from many man-made materials, like detergents, furniture, cleaning products, and candles can cause headaches, fatigue, and other health issues. Studies have shown that indoor air can be up to 100 times more polluted than outdoor air. It’s no wonder we tend to be sicker in the wintertime, when we’re sealed up indoors. Mold is also a major cause of poor indoor air quality. An indoor air quality test can assure that you and your guests are breathing clean air.

3. Clean the Bathroom Fan

This is a given, especially around Thanksgiving. Not only will a properly functioning bathroom fan help dispatch the stench from Grandpa Joe’s reading session, it will also quickly remove humidity from the air, preventing costly mold remediation after too many long showers and inadequate ventilation.

4. Holiday Decoration Hazards

Before you start swinging the hammer and staple gun to get those Christmas decorations up, find out if you are going to disturb possible toxins, such as lead paint or asbestos. If your home was built before 1978, it may contain lead paint, which is extremely dangerous when disturbed. If you are not sure, have your home tested. Also, many Christmas lights, artificial trees, and ornaments contain lead, so read the label carefully, and don’t put your family at risk for permanent neurological damage by purchasing products that contain toxins. Real trees can also be a problem, as they can release mold spores, as well as create mold on wood floors and carpets if you accidentally spill when watering them. Come January, you’ve got a moldy mess.

5. Check the Shower Curtain & Bath Mat

When was the last time you changed your shower curtain or bath mat? If you’re thinking to yourself, “never,” you’re not alone. But these two items are conduits for unhealthy mold spores, bacteria, and other nasty things. And if you have a guest bathroom that hasn’t been used in ages, you may assume it’s clean because it is not used that often. Do your guests a favor and look under the mat before you throw them to the spores!

TIP: An effective way to clean your bath mats and tub liners is to toss them into your washing machine on a gentle cycle with a few light-colored towels, laundry detergent, a cup of baking soda, and 10 or so drops of tea tree oil, which can kill mold. This should have them fresh and clean in no time!

6. Fix that Leaky Sink

In addition to wasting water, leaky sinks can cause big problems in your home. Moisture under a sink can immediately cause mold growth, which causes asthma, allergies, or other serious ailments. Since mold spores occur naturally in the environment, the best way to prevent mold growth is to curtail the moisture source.

7. Turn Up the Thermostat!

A frozen pipe that bursts during your festive dinner can be a disaster! To prevent a burst pipe, turn up the thermostat. This is even more important if you are going away for the holidays, because a quick drop in temperature may cause a pipe to freeze and burst, and you won’t know until you return – a week later – which can be catastrophic! Remember: It can cost more to repair damage from a frozen pipe than it does to keep the thermostat up a few degrees this winter.

Have a happy and healthy holiday season, and call us today to get ready for a healthy home for family and fun!

Categories
Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Lead Mold

How to Prevent Having a “Sick Home” This Winter

 

How to Prevent Having a “Sick Home” This Winter

Sick Building syndromeWith winter just around the corner, we tend to focus on conserving heat in our homes and tightly latch storm windows, secure the doors from drafts, and check the attic insulation. But we should be thinking about keeping our homes healthy as well. Unfortunately, many homes, especially newer ones, are built so airtight that they cannot breathe – literally! So, a warm and cozy house becomes a “sick home”.

Top Causes of Sick Home Syndrome

mold inadequate ventilationInadequate ventilation is a top cause of sick home syndrome. The newer  “air-tight” homes are sealed so well that hardly any fresh air enters. Moisture builds up but can’t escape and that makes a perfect breeding ground for mold. Without fresh air circulating through your rooms, indoor pollutants including chemicals from paint or rugs, mold, radon, and other airborne particles, have nowhere to escape.

This can cause an array of health problems, from breathing issues to allergies to headaches.  Besides airing your home from time to time, you can take other preventative measures to reduce indoor pollutants:

mold humidityMold grows on water-damaged materials and can cause allergies.  To prevent it:

  • Clean humidifier, HVAC and air conditioning drain pans
  • Run your bathroom vent fan when showering and for 30 minutes following
  • Repair cracks in basement walls and floor
  • Keep your (outdoor) gutters clean, so ice does not build up.

Radon is an odorless, invisible gas that can over time increase the risk of lung cancer. It seeps into houses from the earth below.  Get your house tested this fall before winter sets in. Testing for radon is recommended once every 5 years, as your foundation can settle and crack, possibly releasing a new source of radon into your home.

lead paint hazards NYLead paint was used in homes built before 1978, after which it was banned. But many people merely covered the old paint with new. So, when sanding during renovation work or opening or closing windows, the dust may contain lead. Lead dust and paint chips can cause lead poisoning, which is especially dangerous for children. Lead poisoning has been linked to a host of issues, including autism-like symptoms and ADHD.  If you have an older house, get it tested for lead before you close up your house this winter.

volatile organic compound nyVOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are toxic vapors that are off-gassed from man-made materials and everyday household items. When homes are closed and air-tight during the winter, VOCs tend to build up in the air, causing poor indoor air quality. This can cause headaches, dizziness, coughing, and other issues.  Try to limit use of and exposure to cleaning and disinfecting chemicals, candles, new furniture, carpeting or flooring, non-VOC paint, air fresheners, and other items that contain VOCs.

Your health and safety are paramount. If suspect you may have a “sick home”, have an environmental inspector come in to test your indoor air quality. It can make all the difference between a sick home and a healthy family!

Categories
Environment Health

Workplace Safety: 4 Tips to Implement for a Safe and Healthy Workplace Today

Workplace Safety: 4 Tips to Implement for a Safe and Healthy Workplace Today

As a business owner, maintaining your workplace is probably a top priority. In addition to optimizing your operations and keeping business going, you will also need to ensure your workplace is healthy and safe. How can you do so? RTK Environmental Group shares 4 tips to get you started today.

1. Implement Health and Safety Policies

office health proceduresWorkplace health and safety policies are designed to protect employees from injuries and illnesses that could occur while on the job. These policies typically cover ergonomics, hazard communication, and emergency procedures, MagMutual reports. Thus, an effective workplace health and safety policy should be comprehensive and address the workplace’s specific needs tailored to the unique work situation. It should also be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure that it remains effective, and all employees should know the policy and be trained to follow it. Once you have identified the risks in your workplace, the next step is implementing policies and procedures to mitigate these risks. This might include implementing a dress code to reduce the risk of slips and trips or providing training on how to safely use machinery.

2. Provide Personal Protective Equipment

workplace PPEIf certain risks in your workplace can’t be avoided, you should provide employees with the necessary personal protective equipment to keep them safe. This might include things like safety glasses or gloves. You should also ensure your workplace meets local and federal health and safety requirements. In addition, there might be some hazards in the workplace that can detract from your health and safety goals. For example, mold, lead, asbestos, water, and IAQ issues can significantly impact your employees’ well-being. Getting your workplace environmentally tested will be critical in identifying these roadblocks and can act as a pathway to getting your office back on (the healthy) track.

3. Promote a Healthy Lifestyle

healthy lifestyleRegarding workplace wellness, employers are increasingly focused on promoting a healthy lifestyle for their employees. Incentifit reports that there are many benefits to having a healthy workplace, including improved employee morale, increased productivity, and reduced health care costs. There are several ways to promote a healthy lifestyle in the workplace. One way is to offer employees incentives for living a healthy lifestyle. For example, employers can offer health club memberships or fitness classes discounts. Another way to promote a healthy lifestyle at the workplace is to provide employees with educational materials on healthy living. This can include brochures, pamphlets, or even on-site seminars. You could also make sure that the workplace itself is conducive to a healthy lifestyle. This means having plenty of nutritious food options and opportunities for employees to be physically active. For example, employers can ensure that there is a gym on-site or that there are walking and biking trails nearby. Having catered nutritious meals or healthy snacks on hand will also be a great addition to your healthy workplace!

4. Foster a Culture of Safety

workplace safetyWhen it comes to creating a culture of safety in the workplace, there are a few key things to keep in mind. First and foremost, safety should always be a top priority for everyone in the organization, from the CEO to the entry-level employees. Secondly, a safety culture should be built on trust and communication, with employees comfortable speaking up about potential risks and hazards. Finally, safety must be continually reinforced through training and education and regular reminders about the importance of following safety protocols.

Following these tips can create a healthy and safe workplace for your employees. Remember – your employees are the foundation of your business. Keeping your workplace a great place to work will improve employee happiness, retention, and satisfaction, which will feed back into your business!

Looking for environmental testing to create safe and healthy spaces? RTK Environmental Group offers professional and accurate testing for your workplace – click here to schedule today!

 

 

 

Categories
Healthy Home Lead

A Mother’s Lament: I Accidentally Poisoned My Child

Childhood Lead Poisoning: What You Need To Know Now

When my daughter turned one, we received a lovely card from the County Department of Health that said:

“Happy Birthday! Exposure to lead is harmful to your child and can cause learning problems, physical problems, behavioral problems, and organ and brain damage. GET YOUR CHILD TESTED FOR LEAD! Every child should be tested at 1 and 2 years of age.”

Lead paint tesing

I stopped and thought about that for a second. Sure, I was very happy to see that they are educating parents about the dangers of lead poisoning, which causes autism-like symptoms, ADHD, violent tendencies, and other serious issues. But something was still bothering me…

That’s when it hit me – they were telling me to get my child tested, but not my home! I mean, wouldn’t it make more sense for me to have my home tested for lead paint and lead dust? Shouldn’t we be preventing our children from becoming lead poisoned in the first place, rather than testing the level of lead in their blood?

National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is next week, yet we, as a society, remain ignorant about the dangers of lead. Even after the Flint, MI water crisis, and the ongoing issues of lead in water across the US. I have heard from parents, doctors, teachers, and even contractors who just didn’t realize the severity of lead poisoning, and what needs to be done to prevent it — before the damage is done.

I wish someone had educated me. I learned my lesson too late.

A Neighbor’s Renovation Poisoned My Family

When I was pregnant with my son, I was completely naive about the dangers of lead poisoning, and how easily it can happen.

Test for Lead Dust
Lead dust in the bathroom.

We were living in a 100-year-old landmarked building in Greenwich Village. The building across the courtyard was being demolished, and simultaneously, the apartment above us was being renovated. Dust came in through the windows and fell down the chimney, covering our apartment daily. The neighbor sent a cleaning person in a few times a week to clean it up. At the time, I was irritated, and thought that was the least he could do. What I did not realize until a year later was that he should have done a lot more. He was poisoning my family.

asbestos
The 1800’s building next door being demolished with no protection but for a mesh wall.

The construction dust was full of lead, asbestos, and other toxins. When my son and I were tested a year and a half later, we found out our blood lead levels more abnormally high. But by then it was too late. My eldest child is now 12, and he struggles with ADHD and poor concentration every day. Children with elevated levels of lead in their blood are likely to exhibit more developmental issues as they mature. Every day, I beat myself up because I could have prevented this. If only I had known! And who knows what damage it did to me, which may have been passed on to my other two children.

Test for lead paint
Lead dust covering towels in the bathroom.

The more parents know about lead poisoning early on, the less likely their children will be harmed. As a mom, and as an advocate to protect our children from the completely preventable disease of lead poisoning, I’m asking you to educate yourself. Educate a friend. Educate your physician.

And most importantly, have your home tested for lead!

Here’s What Every Parent Needs To Know About Lead Poisoning

lead poisoned pets

Lead dust is the most common cause of lead poisoning – not eating paint chips.

Lead was an additive in residential paint until 1978. When disturbed, it is highly toxic and dangerous to your health. Lead paint and lead dust, which forms when lead paint is chipped away or sanded, both cause lead poisoning. Contrary to what most people think, a child doesn’t have to eat paint chips to get lead poisoning. Lead dust is invisible, travels through the air, and is very harmful when inhaled.

Know the sources of lead poisoning.

Paint – If you live in a home built before 1978, have your home tested for lead paint to see if you and your family are at risk. Hire a professional with an XRF gun to go room to room, as there may be lead in one room, and not another.

lead paint dangers
Toxic dust on the floor of our apartment.

Dust – Everything from opening and closing a window to renovations can send lead dust flying through your home. Lead dust also can be found on floors, playground equipment, pools, and toys.

Soil – Past renovations may have contaminated the soil in which your child plays. Be sure to have your soil tested.

Water – It is important to test the water, because there may be lead in your pipes. This is essential if you are bringing home a newborn or infant, who will be drinking and bathing in that water.

Other sources of lead are plumbing fixtures, clawfoot and porcelain coated bath tubs, stained glass, toys, pottery glazes, leaded crystal, jewelry, antiques, folk remedies, food cans, artificial turf, and more.

blood lead testDon’t assume your pediatrician tests your child for lead.

In some states, lead screening for children under the age of three is mandatory. But in most states, lead testing is done only at the discretion of the pediatrician. If your doctor does not automatically test for lead, ask that it be done. It’s a simple blood test and could save your child’s life.

Take proper precautions when renovating.

Before you start any renovation, whether you hire a contractor or do it yourself, have your home tested to see if and where you have lead paint. If your home was built before 1978, chances are that there is lead somewhere. And unless you know where the lead is located, you or your contractor can unknowingly release toxic lead dust into the air. Make sure whoever does the work follows the EPA’s Renovation, Repair, and Paint rule (RRP) protocol.

Speak up!

If you have a neighbor that is renovating an older property and is not following lead safe work practices, say something! Ask them if they tested for lead, and if they say they did and it’s fine, ask for proof. Don’t trust that someone will give you an honest answer. Lead dust can easily contaminate a chunk of the neighborhood, including your home and soil.

childhood lead poisoningWatch for symptoms of lead poisoning.

Lead poisoning symptoms in children include:

  • Irritability;
  • Learning difficulties;
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite;
  • Abdominal pain;
  • Constipation;
  • Vomiting;
  • Headaches;
  • Sluggishness and fatigue;
  • Seizures.

For more information about lead poisoning prevention, click here. To schedule a test, click here.

Categories
Asbestos Healthy Home Lead Mold

National Kitchen and Bath Month: Unknown Hazards Underneath Your Nose

National Kitchen and Bath Month: Unknown Hazards Underneath Your Nose

While renovating your home may not be top of mind as fall and winter roll around, there are still plenty of updates you may be thinking about. Whether it’s replacing your cabinets, updating the paint in the bathroom, or something smaller like changing the backsplash, there are a lot of factors to consider before starting your next indoor project. After all, you’ll likely be stuck inside while you make some changes to your home; it’s essential to think about those unknown hazards that could be lying underneath that wallpaper.

kitchen moldMold

No matter how clean you may keep your home, mold can still be present. This is one of the leading causes of respiratory issues. Exposure to mold leads to allergies, postnasal drip, and rashes, and the longer you are exposed, the worse these symptoms can get. The most common form that has to be removed is black mold, but mold will present itself in other forms that can hide from your normal cleaning routine.

While you may find this hazard in your bathroom due to condensation on the walls or leaky plumbing, indoor mold can actually be brought in from the outside; your shoes, the air flowing through the windows, and rain through a small crack in the ceiling can all be ways toxic molds show up in your house.

You may consider replacing plumbing fixtures to avoid some molds, but remember to check other damp spaces, like around your HVAC or air conditioning unit, areas near your windows and roofs, along with the attic and basement.

If you find mold anywhere in your home when starting your next DIY project, make sure to get it tested by a mold expert. Knowing exactly what type of mold is in your home will help guide how you choose to remove the material and prevent it in the future. Since any type of mold is caused by moisture, it would be a good idea to insulate windows and doors before the winter and even place dehumidifiers in areas where moisture is common.

Asbestos

Even though asbestos isn’t widely used today, it  can still be found in quite a few places in your home, specifically in areas like your kitchen and bath. Before starting any renovation,, it’s important to check any areas that may still house asbestos.. Older homes built before the 1980s usually have more character, but their age will also come with more hazards, including asbestos.

asbestos popcorn ceiling
Popcorn Ceiling

Used in popcorn ceilings, vinyl tiling in bathrooms and kitchens, and even exteriors like shingles and siding, asbestos is and was used as a fire-resistant material. However, once it deteriorates, it can affect the lungs, causing health issues like mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other long-term respiratory issues. The signs that you have mesothelioma, however, look like that of normal health issues. Coughing, sneezing, and fatigue may be signs of plenty of other diagnoses, and because this form of cancer takes a long time to develop, up to 50 years – it can be hard to receive a diagnosis before it is too late.

A lot of these older homes also don’t have to necessarily disclose asbestos if there’s no sign of deterioration. However, if you plan on renovations or foresee them taking place in the future, it’s best to do some asbestos testing to make sure you and your family stay safe, especially if walls, floors, or other major areas are being taken apart.

Lead

Unlike asbestos, lead does have to be disclosed when selling a home. That being said, often the dangers of lead are similar – they don’t show themselves until deterioration. Home repair activities are where you can start to see health concerns take place. The EPA has an entire page of resources on lead exposure, and in most cases, the best thing to do is to clean regularly to avoid any unnecessary exposure. In more detrimental cases, leaving the home is the best-case scenario.

causes of lead poisoningBelieve it or not, lead-based paint can still be found in about 80% of homes today. Because of this, checking for lead in the home can be a key step in starting any project. While the hazards are much more known compared to asbestos and the array of toxic molds, it’s important to still check for dangers that seem elementary. You never know when items like lead paint on walls will start to deteriorate, and even if you decide to cover this up, the disruption of pain on the wall can cause health issues down the line.

If you found that you have lead paint in your home, it would be a good idea to have your household tested for lead poisoning at a regional treatment center. You can never be too safe when it comes to household toxins, especially lead paint.

There are plenty of hazards you’ll find as you start to take a look at your kitchen and bathroom. That being said, there are also plenty of ways to mediate these potential hazards before they go too far. Working with an inspector to test for items like lead and mold can save you money down the line, without putting too much work in before it’s too late. After all, finding out with floors ripped up that mold has to be removed, or that you have to close a room off for asbestos abatement is an obstacle no one wants to face in the middle of a project.

 

Categories
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, fall is a busy season. Pre-winter system cleanings are plentiful, as nobody wants poor indoor air quality – especially during winter months when windows aren’t opened to get fresh air. 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 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, 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.

Categories
Healthy Home

Environmental Testing Services Should be on Your Home Inspection Checklist

Environmental Testing Services Should be on Your Home Inspection Checklist

The median age of an American home is 40 years old, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, with 40 million of the nation’s 132 million homes built in the 60s and 70s; 21 million homes built in the 40s and 50s; and 20 million homes constructed before 1939. A big chunk of the nation’s housing stock is aging—with potentially hazardous components once a standard in construction, but not acceptable today. Even newer homes have materials that can deteriorate because of water and other natural forces. Because most home inspectors lack the knowledge and certifications necessary to test for potentially toxic substances, homebuyers should schedule an environmental inspection before plunking down a deposit.

mold testing wall“I always recommend environmental testing as part of a home inspection checklist,” says Fiona Dogan, a real estate salesperson at Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty in Rye, New York. “You invest in environmental test services up front to prevent a bigger problem later.” Dogan said she also recommends environmental testing for sellers in order to identify issues before putting a property on the market.

Environmental testing also helps homebuyers uncover issues that could impact their families’ health, says Nelson Salazar, a real estate salesperson with Coldwell Banker. “For example, we’ve seen a seller move out, and the incoming buyer became sick due to the well water,” he said. “It’s best for everyone to know up front what the issues are. Once you buy a home, you’re less likely to do any future testing.”

What Environmental Tests Should I Have?

An array of residential environmental inspection tests is available. Many realtors suggest these as a starting point:

Mold Testing

Mold can be hidden in the walls, under a coat of paint, and beneath carpeting. Home inspectors will look for visible signs of mold, but unless they see it or smell a musty odor, a prospective homebuyer is unlikely to find out if a house has mold. Mold can be present wherever water or moisture has seeped into a home—around leaky pipes, windows, roofs, or basements that may have flooded and not properly dried. Mold exposure can cause or worsen health issues like allergies, asthma, and more serious respiratory illnesses.

Lead Testing

lead paintBecause lead-based paints were not banned until 1978, many older homes are likely to have lead-based paint. Paint chips can flake off from deterioration—or, during renovations, be released into the air as lead-based dust. Lead can also be absorbed into soil. Older pipes, faucets, and plumbing connectors may contain lead, which can leach into drinking water.

Asbestos Testing

Before the 1980s, asbestos was used in roofs, pipes, heat lines, attics, outside siding, flooring materials, ceiling tiles and wallboards. When left untouched, asbestos doesn’t typically pose a health risk, however, particles may break down and can pose health problems. If a homebuyer is planning any renovations, asbestos testing should be more than a mark on the home inspection list.

Radon Testing

Radon is a radioactive gas that has been found in homes all over the U.S., and found at elevated levels in one out of every 15 homes and causes about 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. This is a must for all homebuyers.

home buying tipsIf environmental issues are found prior to going to contract, the seller may take care of them, says Dogan. “For example, if mold is tested for and found, the seller might take out sheetrock, do mold remediation, perform a re-test to ensure it’s been removed properly, put back the sheetrock, and repaint. If the environmental situation isn’t resolved, the house will be stigmatized. It won’t sell,” she said.

Salazar agreed, noting that the he has on more than one occasion negotiated environmental remediation as part of the contract between buyer and seller.

Not all environmental hazards are obvious. They require expertise, licensure, technology, and experience. To find out more about RTK Environmental Group’s professional environmental inspections performed by Certified Microbial Investigators, and licensed lead and asbestos inspectors, call 800.392.6468 or fill out our online contact form.

Categories
Flooding & Water Damage Mold Mold Testing

After the Flood: Warning Signs of Mold & What You Can Do

After the Flood: Warning Signs of Mold & What You Can Do

When storms soak an area with inches of rain in a short time frame, flooding is inevitable. If you had water in your home for at least two days, chances are some mold colonies are growing, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Here’s what you may not realize: mold may not be visible immediately, but its spores are growing.

Here are warning signs that mold may be a growing problem post-flooding, and advice to help you deal with it:

What’s that smell?

Although mold begins growing within 24 hours after water enters your home, it takes a while before you can actually detect the musty odor that means mold. So, over the next few weeks, be sure to keep your senses on alert for a musty smell developing in your home or business.

 

Why can I smell mold and mildew, but can’t see it?

Mold plays hide-and-seek, which is why testing is so important. Typical hiding places include:

• the back side of dry wall, wall paper or paneling;

• the top side of ceiling tiles;

• the underside of carpets and pads;

• around pipes – inside and outside your walls;

• the surface of walls behind furniture;

• inside ductwork;

• in roof materials.

What should I do about that musty smell?

It’s important to test for mold to determine where it lurks, as well as its root cause. Do-it-yourself testing kits can be unreliable. Qualified, trained mold inspection services are much more thorough and, therefore, offer the best protection. If you can see the mold on hard surfaces, clean it off with detergent and water. Be sure to dry the surface completely. If the problem is too large, a commercial cleaning or remediation company is your best solution, depending on the location.

Who should test for mold and when?

Consumers should have a certified professional test for mold, but they should not perform remediation services so as to avoid any conflict of interest. A certified microbial investigator will discover mold’s root causes and provide a detailed report with recommendations on how to remove the mold. You should test for mold before you hire a remediation company, and again after work is complete to make sure the mold has been properly removed and will not grow back and resurface a few months later.

What is the health impact of mold?

Mold can cause a host of health issues. It has been known to trigger allergies that cause headaches and coughing, as well as irritate the nose, skin, and eyes. For people with asthma, mold can make breathing particularly difficult. Read more in depth about the health risks of mold.

For more information on mold, click here.

Categories
Mold Healthy Home Mold Testing

Air Conditioning Mold Issues: Top Blunders that Cause Unhealthy Mold

Air Conditioning Mold Issues: Top Blunders that Cause Unhealthy Mold

 

It’s been hot. Really hot. And to keep comfortable, we’ve been turning to air conditioning to mitigate the misery. But what many people don’t realize is that by turning on the A/C, they may be spreading trouble – trouble in the form of mold spores – and that’s not so cool. Mold can cause serious health problems including respiratory issues, headaches, fatigue, rashes, itchiness, and other allergy symptoms.

Here’s how mold develops in air conditioning systems and what you can do about it:

Mold in Window Air-Conditioning Units

Some window units have reusable filters that can be cleaned with soap and water, while others are disposable and need to be replaced every 3-6 months. A dirty filter can serve as a food source for mold, accelerating its growth. Many units have a “check filter” light that lets you know it’s time to change the filter. Don’t ignore it!

Even the most expensive window air conditioning units can develop mold. Over time, dust collects inside the vents and other parts. Add a little humidity and mold will begin to grow, feeding on the debris and particles of dust. Many of the parts now used to manufacture these units are plastic, and mold loves to grow on this material. Condensation also loves to gather on plastic. You likely wouldn’t notice the air conditioner’s mold problem until you turn the unit on in the warmer months and that musty mildew odor appears.

window ac moldVery importantly, always be sure to tilt a window air conditioner back so condensate produced will drain outside, NOT inside where interior walls and floors will become saturated. There is a drain hole, usually at the bottom of the back of the unit where it hangs outside that allows this drainage to occur. But you need to go one step further. Interestingly enough, this hole usually has a plug in it for shipping purposes. Be certain to remove the plug when the unit is installed. Otherwise, the condensate will be trapped at the bottom and drain inside the wall and into your room.

HVAC Mold Issues

Ever see a water stain on a ceiling but you’re not sure what’s causing it?  It could be your HVAC air handler in the attic. Ductwork, A/C evaporator coils, and drip pans are the perfect environments for mold to grow.

condensate overflow

So, what causes this? When the condensate pan gets full, water needs to move freely through the drain to exit the premise. Unfortunately, drains often get clogged with debris from rodents, like nuts and sticks or just an accumulation of minerals and other gunk from the water over time. Some units have an alarm that sounds when the water gets too high in the pan, but you shouldn’t rely solely on that because they have been known to fail. Once the water overflows, it travels to the lowest point it can reach, usually dripping through a ceiling or wall. Once these areas get wet, mold can grow in as little as 24-48 hours.

hvac mold preventionAnother common problem is condensation around vents that causes mold growth. When you keep the HVAC unit at colder temperatures, condensation can build up around the ceiling and wall vents when cooler, air-conditioned air hits the warmer air inside a room. You’ll see the mold growing around the vents on the ceiling or wall surface. Ductwork can also harbor mold from condensation and dust accumulation. It’s important to have your ducts cleaned about every four years depending on usage, whether you have pets, and the type of climate you are in.

HVAC Filter Faux Pas

Changing your filters regularly is also key in maintaining your HVAC unit. Most filters are made from standard fiberglass. They are relatively inexpensive but are not fine enough to catch mold spores. Consider upgrading to a high-efficiency filter with a MERV rating of 13 or more. The MERV rating indicates the size of particles the filter is capable of trapping. A MERV 13 will trap almost all the typical airborne contaminants, including dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, smoke, smog, and even virus carriers. Be careful though, for some older units a higher MERV rated filter may impede too much air flow, so check with your HVAC professional if your air handler is more than ten years old.

how often should i change my hvac filterIf you see or smell mold coming from a vent or A/C unit, the best course of action is to turn off the system immediately, then call RTK for independent mold testing. It’s best to have the system tested by a professional mold inspector to prevent cross-contamination in the rest of your home.

Since RTK does not remediate and only tests for mold, there is no conflict of interest. Their comprehensive inspection will ensure you have unbiased results that will determine the best way to handle any mold issue. Call RTK at 800.392.6468.