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Healthy Home Health

Seven Steps to Make Your Home Healthier for the Holidays: The Ultimate Checklist

Seven Steps to Make Your Home Healthier for the Holidays: The Ultimate Checklist

At this time of year, our homes become the heart of holiday celebrations. But before decking the halls, make sure your festive spaces are not just merry but also healthy. Here’s our ultimate checklist for holiday home health:

healthy home

Musty Odors:

While you may be accustomed to a subtle lingering musty scent, your guests will undoubtedly notice it as soon as they step through the door. And if they happen to have allergies, that scent might signal a mold issue, so you might want to seat your guests far from the turkey and equip them with a box of tissues as you prepare for a symphony of sneezes. Mold can trigger allergies, asthma, and various respiratory issues. Since mold’s presence can be elusive, it’s advisable to enlist the help of an independent mold inspection expert to thoroughly examine your home and eliminate this hidden hazard as soon as possible.

Evaluate Indoor Air Quality:

You’ve scrubbed the floors, touched up the paint, and banished that old, musty rug for a fresh, new carpet. While these home improvements might seem like the path to a healthier home, they might be doing more harm than good. The truth is many everyday household items release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. These odorless chemicals, found in detergents, furniture, cleaning products, and even candles, can trigger headaches, fatigue, and even more severe health problems.

In fact, studies have shown that indoor air can be up to 100 times more polluted than outdoor air, making it no surprise that we tend to get sicker during the winter months when we’re spending more time indoors, with windows closed. Mold, another major culprit of poor indoor air quality, can thrive in damp, poorly ventilated areas, causing a host of respiratory issues.

An indoor air quality test can help you identify and address these hidden hazards, ensuring that you and your family are breathing clean healthy air.

musty odorProperly Ventilate Bathrooms:

Holiday house guests’ post-bathroom visits may require a well-functioning fan to mitigate any lingering odors. A clean, functional bathroom fan is your best defense, which also works against excess moisture and mold. It’s a simple fix with big benefits for air quality.

Decorate Safely:

Before you embark on your festive decorating frenzy, pause to consider potential hidden hazards lurking beneath the cheerful façade. Homes built before 1978 may harbor lead paint, a deadly menace when the painted surfaces are disturbed. If you suspect your home might be harboring this insidious threat, don’t delay – get it tested promptly.

Aside from lead, even the seemingly innocent twinkling lights, artificial trees, and ornaments can conceal hidden dangers. Read labels carefully to avoid bringing toxic substances into your home and jeopardizing your family’s health.

hanukkah safetyProtect Your Guests from Hidden Bathroom Hazards:

Don’t let a dirty shower curtain or bathmat put a damper on your festivities. Your shower space, curtain and bathmat might seem harmless, but they can harbor mold spores, bacteria, and other unpleasant surprises. Wash them with baking soda and tea tree oil to eradicate mold and bacteria.

Fix Leaking Sinks:

Leaking sinks aren’t just water wasters, they’re also health hazards. The damp conditions beneath a sink can quickly foster mold growth, which in turn can trigger asthma, allergies, and other respiratory issues. Mold spores are always present in the environment, so the key to prevention is eliminating moisture sources.

Keep the Chill Out:

Avoid a holiday catastrophe by keeping your thermostat temperature higher this winter, especially if you’re traveling. Unless they are insulated properly, pipes can freeze and burst during your absence, causing extensive damage. The cost of repairing a burst pipe can far exceed the savings you achieve by keeping your house cooler. Protect your home and your holiday spirit by keeping your pipes warm.

mold testWhen prepping for the holidays, these steps will ensure that the atmosphere in your home is not only joyous but also healthy. Embrace the season with health in mind, and you’ll gift yourself and your loved ones the comfort of a home that’s not only decked with boughs of holly but also maintained according to the highest standards of health and safety.

Don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help to make your home a healthy haven. Happy Holidays!



Asbestos Healthy Home Lead

Renovate Right: Top 3 Tips for DIYers

Renovation Advice: Top 3 Tips for DIYers

Eager to get moving on home improvements? 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 what potential toxins you will disturb before you begin. Test.

pre-renovation testingMold 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 an independent inspector test for lead and asbestos. 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 – the year lead paint was banned. 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.

asbestos hazard

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 women, 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 filters 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.

asbestos demolitionClean 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.

asbestos testing near meWhen 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 cause 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.

Flooding & Water Damage Healthy Home

Clogged Gutters Can Cause Water Leaks and Mold Growth in Your Home

Clogged Gutters Can Cause Water Leaks and Mold Growth in Your Home

Fall foliage may be beautiful, but the last thing you want to see is a pile of colorful leaves spilling over the top of your clogged gutters.

The number one function gutters serve is to direct water away from your home, protecting it against seepage and flooding. Gutters clogged with leaves will back up, overflow, and cause water to pool and collect at the foundation. Eventually that water leaks into your home, potentially setting off a chain of events that may damage your property and, ultimately, even your health.

If gutter maintenance is not on your home fall checklist, it should be. One poorly maintained gutter can lead to a wet, moldy mess. Here’s how.

Clean Clogged Gutters to Prevent Mold

mold leaves

“Moisture is the enemy,” says Robert Weitz, Principal of RTK Environmental. “When not properly cleaned and maintained, leaf debris builds up and water eventually surges over the top of gutters—and that’s the making of a disaster.”

Weitz said many of his customers follow a seasonal maintenance schedule, which keeps most gutters—and homes—in peak condition. But at the homes of those who ignore maintenance, he’s seen the worst. He recalls working at one home with a major mold problem stemming from leaves, twigs, and moss that were not removed from the gutters, and water backed up into the house.

“Heavy rains filled what space was left in the gutters and overflowed, streaming water onto the decking and brick patio below, and leaking through foundation cracks into the home’s basement. The fascia board, which is the protective layer connecting the gutter to the roof, completely rotted. Portions of the roof rafters literally disintegrated into my hand,” said Weitz. “That was what we could see. What we couldn’t see was the hidden damage inside the walls from all that moisture leaking into the house.”

The foundation is only one entry point for the water from overflowing gutters. And once water leaks into the house, basement, or foundation, mold can develop within 24-48 hours, according to Meegan Taddonio, CRIE and Director of Client Services at RTK.

“Damp and wet areas are prime locations for mold growth, which damages the structural integrity of the home,” says Taddonio. “Exposure to mold can also affect a family’s health, from triggering asthma and coughs, to causing runny noses, and other, more severe respiratory conditions.”

If You Suspect Mold Damage

mold gutter leakIndependent, third-party mold testing from companies like RTK can help identify where mold might be hiding inside walls. RTK uses advanced technology like thermal imaging to detect moisture and potential mold growth in hard-to-see areas. They can also identify types of mold, recommend steps for proper cleanup and remediation, and conduct follow-up testing to ensure the mold was removed properly. RTK does not perform remediation, so all testing results are completely unbiased, adds Weitz.

“An independent investigator has no conflict of interest,” he points out. “RTK can advise you on the best way to clean up from mold damage, and ensure that your remediation contractor has done a proper job of mold removal from water leaks.”

When to Clean Clogged Gutters

mold downspoutsSo, how often should homeowners get their gutters cleaned to avoid water leaks and mold?

“Every property is unique,” explains Alex Goliszewski, owner of the The Gutter Guys, in Stamford, Connecticut. “Sometimes homeowners need to get their gutters cleaned several times a year, especially if the property has a lot of trees. We recommend at least once, but perform our service up to six times a year at homes in heavily wooded areas.”

A seasonal appointment to have your gutters cleaned may be the appropriate solution for many homeowners, with an extra service in the fall, given the additional volume of falling leaves. Both Weitz and Goliszewski say service should include cleaning gutters, making sure downspouts are draining properly, cleaning up debris from the ground, and evaluating the gutters’ structure.

When hiring a gutter service company, or an environmental testing company, make sure they are licensed and insured, recommended Weitz.

“When it comes to maintaining your home, you want to ensure anyone you hire has the proper qualifications,” said Weitz. “It will likely save you money on unnecessary repairs in the future.”

Indoor Air Quality & Radon

October is National Indoor Air Quality Month

It’s National Indoor Air Quality Awareness Month: Here’s How to Protect Yourself from Hidden Dangers in Your Home 

What You Need to Know to Stay Healthy; the Experts Weigh In 

air purifier for moldOctober is National Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Awareness Month, and there’s no better time to learn about the importance of clean indoor air and how to protect yourself from pollutants and allergens.   

 According to the EPA, indoor air pollution has been classified as one of the top five environmental health hazards today. And in the United States, where it is estimated that we spend close to 90% of our time indoors, the quality of the air we breathe – indoors – can have a significant impact on our health.   

IAQ tipsThe EPA goes on to say that poor indoor air quality poses a significant threat to well-being. Short-term symptoms may include headaches, dizziness, dry cough, skin irritations, irritated eyes, nose and throat issues, as well as fatigue. However, long-term exposure to poor IAQ can cause heart disease, respiratory diseases, and cancer.  

“There are a number of contributing factors that lead to poor IAQ,” explains Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and principal of RTK Environmental Group.” He says they include building materials, cleaning agents, air fresheners, adhesives, paints, pesticides and biological contaminants stemming from poor ventilation systems. “There may also be dust from construction or renovation work that may contain multiple chemical compounds and particulate from demolition to construction materials including adhesives, wall and ceiling materials, and many others.” He also points out that often people aren’t aware of any of this. 


What else causes poor IAQ?  

  • Mold and mildew 
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) 
  • Dust and dust mites 
  • Pet dander 
  • Pollen 
  • Smoke 
  • Carbon monoxide 

Mold air conditioner iaqWhat can you do about poor IAQ?  

There’s lots you can do to improve IAQ in your home and workplace including: 

  • Test your indoor air quality to help identify common IAQ pollutants.  
  • Reduce mold growth. Mold can grow in any damp or moist area, including bathrooms, kitchens, basements, and any other areas where pipe breaks or water intrusion from outside occur. To reduce mold growth, keep your home dry and well-ventilated. Clean up any water spills immediately and fix any leaks. 
  • Reduce VOCs. VOCs are found in most manmade products, including furnishings, paints, cleaning products, air fresheners and personal care products to name but a few. To reduce your exposure to VOCs, choose low-VOC or VOC-free products whenever possible. 
  • Increase ventilation. Open windows and doors regularly to bring in fresh air. You may also want to consider using a HEPA air purifier with carbon filtration. 
  • Dust and clean regularly with a HEPA filtered vacuum to remove mold spores, dust mites, pet dander, and pollen. Clean dehumidifiers once a month.  Also, bathroom exhaust fans are another source of mold but less than 20% are reportedly cleaned every few months as recommended. 

If you have concerns about your IAQ, talk to qualified, independent professionals like RTK. They can help you identify and address any specific problems. IAQ assessments, which scrutinize in depth mold and VOCs, encompass thousands of mold varieties and over 70 prevalent VOCs. The tests, which typically take a few hours, can also test for radon and asbestos.  

By following these tips, you can help protect yourself and your loved ones from the health risks associated with poor IAQ. 


Lead Health

National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week: A Valuable Guide to Keeping Your Family Safe

National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week: A Valuable Guide to Keeping Your Family Safe 


lead poisoning prevention week 2023Here’s a shocking statistic: 1 in 40 children aged 1-5 years in the United States has unsafe levels of lead in their blood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  That means approximately 3.3 million American households with children under six live in homes containing lead exposure hazards.  And over 500,000 children, under the age of six, are being diagnosed with lead poisoning annually – a statistic that doesn’t even include the number of older children affected. Clearly, lead poisoning is a serious health issue – and it is one that affects families living in suburbia and rural areas as much as it does for those living in cities.  


Lead poisoning can result in a range of serious health problems, including autism-like symptoms, brain damage, lower IQ, ADD, violent tendencies, and behavior and learning problems. It’s imperative that parents take action to protect their children from the permanent and irreversible damage caused by lead poisoning. 


lead paint hazardEven low levels of lead exposure can impair a child’s cognitive development, emphasizing the critical need for prevention. Early action, especially testing the home for the presence of lead paint and lead dust — will help to prevent serious health problems and save lives, since even small levels of lead exposure can irreversibly influence children’s development. 


National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (NLPPW), observed from October 22-28, 2023, serves as a reminder of the importance of protecting our children and communities from the dangers of lead exposure. It’s a good time to heed NLPPW’s theme: “Together, we can prevent lead exposure.”  


Do’s for Lead Poisoning Prevention 

The good news is that lead poisoning is preventable. Here are eight valuable do’s and don’ts from Robert Weitz, a licensed lead consultant and principal of RTK Environmental Group, to help protect you and your family from the devastating effects of lead poisoning. 

lead window sill

1. Understand the facts about lead paint.  

Lead was commonly added to paint used in residences until 1978. And while that was over 40 years ago, it is safe to assume that most older homes contain lead paint. When disturbed, as during renovation work or prep prior to applying new paint, dangerous paint chips and dust containing lead are generated. When they’re inhaled or consumed, they can lead to serious health problems. 

2. Have your home tested for lead paint.

If your home was constructed before 1978, it’s crucial to have it tested for lead paint, especially before renovating. Hire an independent, certified testing company that doesn’t conduct abatement, as this is a major conflict of interest.  

3. Know the sources of lead poisoning.

Lead dust is the primary cause of lead poisoning. It’s released from any interior or exterior component which gets into the air, water, soil, and onto the floor. Lead dust can also be found on playground equipment, pools, and toys. Other sources of lead are older pipes and plumbing fixtures, stained glass, toys, pottery glazes, leaded crystal, jewelry, antiques, folk remedies, food cans, artificial turf, and more. 

4. Take proper precautions when renovating.

Before any renovation, test your home for lead paint, especially if your home was constructed before 1978. Failure to do so can unknowingly release toxic lead dust into the air. And unless you know where the lead is lurking, you or your contractor can unknowingly release toxic lead dust into the air. Once the test is conducted, if lead is found, consult a professional for a cleanup plan.    


Don’ts for Lead Poisoning Prevention: 

lead paint removal

1. Don’t assume lead poisoning cannot happen to you.

In reality, many individuals fail to recognize the potential hazards of lead paint lurking within their residences. Whether you reside in a historic 1800s Victorian house or a more modern apartment, if lead paint is present, you and your loved ones are at risk of lead poisoning.  


2. Never allow an unlicensed contractor to undertake any work on your home.

It is imperative that the company responsible for your project, whether it’s a straightforward painting task or a comprehensive whole-house renovation, holds certification in lead-safe work practices issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Do not be swayed by any tradesperson claiming that certification is unnecessary; it is, without a doubt, a vital requirement. 


In accordance with the EPA’s Renovation, Repair, and Paint rule (RRP), any work performed on painted surfaces within a home built before 1978 must adhere to a rigorous protocol. Certified tradespeople are obligated to meticulously document the work they carry out. Furthermore, after the work has been completed, a crucial next step is to engage an environmental testing firm to conduct a secondary lead test, to ensure that your home is safe from lead contamination.  


3. Don’t assume your pediatrician tests your child for lead.   

pediatrician lead testWhile some states mandate lead screening for children under the age of three, in most states, it is up to the discretion of the pediatrician. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that the decision to test for lead poisoning often depends on your geographic location. The best way for you to know if your child has been tested for lead poisoning is to ask your 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. 


In sum, lead poisoning is a pervasive issue that affects a significant number of children and families. It is crucial to raise awareness and take proactive steps to prevent lead exposure. By understanding the risks, testing your home for lead, and advocating for your child’s health, you can play a vital role in safeguarding your family from lead poisoning’s devastating effects. During National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week and beyond, let’s work together to eliminate this preventable childhood disease. 


Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon

What You Should Know About Spray Foam Insulation

What You Should Know About Spray Foam Insulation

spray foam insulation hazardsSpray foam insulation has gained popularity in recent years because of its ability to reduce energy costs and to help seal the cracks and crevices in your home that let air, bugs, and moisture in.

But the reality is spray foam insulation is comprised of a mix of toxic chemicals, which can release VOCs and create poor indoor air quality into your home, especially if the chemicals are not combined properly, if it’s not applied at the right temperature, or if it’s not properly installed. So before you opt for this type of insulation, know the facts and potential risks.

What is Spray Foam Insulation?

spray foam insulation toxicPolyurethane and isocyanate are two substances that are contained in spray foam insulation. Isocyanates are powerful eye irritants, and can adversely affect gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts if inhaled. If they come into contact with skin, inflammation and rash can occur. As for polyurethane, typically found in household furnishings, it generally gets higher marks, provided that certain stabilizers are added in the manufacturing process.

That said, there is toxicity associated with these materials: installers are required to wear a Hazmat suit and respirator while spraying the foam; homeowners are cautioned to stay out of their homes for 24-48 hours after the insulation is applied to allow the foam to fully cure and the vapors to evaporate. Even after 48 hours, there will likely still be a noticeable odor, which can last a lot longer if the insulation was applied incorrectly. The chemicals can off gas for a year or more, creating an unhealthy, toxic environment.

Can Spray Foam Insulation Affect My Health?

Considering what we’ve just described, it makes sense to avoid spray foam insulation if you can; it isn’t worth the risk to your health.

Exposure to VOCs can cause:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue and listlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Nausea
  • Nervousness
  • Asthma
  • Eye and skin irritation

Long-term exposure to VOCs can cause:

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

What Can I Do if Spray Foam Insulation Already Exists in my Home?

causes of VOCsIf you opted to have spray foam insulation installed, you should have your indoor air quality checked. RTK can test for VOCs and let you know if the levels are considered safe. If these chemicals are not handled properly, they can be harmful.

Can Spray Foam Insulation Cause Mold?

Having an airtight home may seem like a great thing, but it has downsides. A major problem is that if any moisture builds up in an airtight environment, it can become trapped in your home. Moisture can cause mold and serious damage to your home and health.

Is Spray Foam Insulation Permanent or Can It Be Removed?

spray foam applicationHere’s the good news and the bad news. Sure, your investment in this type of insulation can lead to years of energy savings and efficiency. But since it is almost impossible to completely remove it, the downsides can far outweigh the benefits, especially if it is defective, improperly installed, off-gassing toxins, or if it cracks because it did not cure properly.

Is Spray Foam Insulation Right For Me?

Knowing the benefits and risks of spray foam insulation is the first step. Consider your options – and there are other options such as fiberglass and cellulose insulation, which are much safer. If you do opt for spray foam insulation, be sure to have your home tested for indoor air quality, including VOCs and mold after installation. Also, make sure you have adequate ventilation in place to remove some of the toxins from the air. Experts recommend an energy recovery ventilation system (ERV) to mitigate some of the damaging side effects of spray foam, which allows for adequate airflow.

If you have questions or concerns about spray foam insulation and your indoor air quality, call RTK at 800.392.6468. We’re happy to answer your questions.


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.

Healthy Home Mold

Fall into Winter Home Prep: 4 Tips to Keep Your Home Cozy, Healthy and Safe

Fall into Winter Home Prep: 4 Tips to Keep Your Home Cozy, Healthy and Safe 

Winter is coming…so take advantage of these last temperate days to winterize your home.  Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, you can avoid costly repairs during the winter months with the following tasks: 

Check your attic. 

Mold and poor indoor air quality issues often stem from your attic. Ever heard of the “Stack Effect?” It’s when heat and air rise to the highest point in a dwelling. Since houses naturally have to breathe, the air starts at the bottom and works its way up through the exterior walls into the attic. Ideally, this air should exit through gable vents or ridge vents. However, if those vents are blocked or inadequate, moisture and heat can build up in the attic creating the perfect environment for mold to grow. 

Prior to the winter season, it’s essential to inspect your attic to ensure proper ventilation. If you happen to see mold, schedule a test with an independent testing company like RTK. They can determine the extent of the issue, and what, if anything, needs to be remediated.  

Clean your gutters. 

Prioritizing regular gutter maintenance is crucial, particularly before the onset of colder weather. This pre-emptive action serves as a vital defense against the formation of ice dams, a common winter woe. Ice dams occur when melted snow accumulates and subsequently freezes along the edges and eaves of your roof. This ice ridge then acts as a barricade, preventing the efficient drainage of water originating from the melting snow. With nowhere else to go, this water can infiltrate your home, causing significant harm to your walls, ceilings, and insulation. Unfortunately, where there’s water damage, mold is often not far behind.  

Regardless of the season, clogged gutters, burdened with fallen leaves, have the potential to pull away from your home’s structure. This detachment can result in leaks that not only damage your residence but also foster the growth of mold.  

Additionally, it’s essential to ensure that your downspouts are correctly angled away from your home, as this simple measure can effectively ward off basement leaks. 

Check your roof for leaks. 

You certainly don’t want to start your winter off with a leaky roof. Begin by inspecting your ceilings for any signs of trouble, such as water spots, mold, or stains. If you spot them, before you call in a roofer, have a professional mold inspector test your home for potential mold growth. This proactive step will provide you with a clear understanding of exactly what needs to be repaired or replaced so the mold doesn’t come back. You may have small stains or dark spots now, but once the heavy snow sets in, the problem could get much worse, and you could wind up with a full-blown mold infestation.   

Set the thermostat. 

It may seem incongruous to turn on the heat as it is still warm outside, but in a few months when the temperature drops below freezing, a heated house, even at 50 degrees, will prevent your pipes from freezing and keep your home dry through the winter. Most experts recommend keeping the thermostat between 60 and 68 degrees. The heat won’t kick in until the indoor temperature drops below the thermostat’s temperature setting. But, if you are concerned, you can subscribe to an Internet-based system with equipment that monitors the inside air temperature and alerts you to freezing temperatures. 

To prepare for the impending winter, taking action now to safeguard your family’s well-being is of the utmost importance. The steps outlined above offer a comprehensive approach to ensure that your home remains safe and healthy during the colder months. Prioritizing these tasks not only shields your home from costly repairs but also ensures a healthier environment throughout the winter season. Your proactive approach today can make all the difference in the comfort and safety of your home tomorrow. Contact RTK today. 




Flooding & Water Damage Mold Mold Testing

Signs of Mold After a Storm

Signs of Mold After a Storm

Storms can bring on drenching rains, flooding (both indoors and outdoors), and high winds causing leaks and other issues that contribute to mold growth and poor indoor air quality. Problem is, we often don’t realize the extent of the damage until days or weeks after the storm, and a musty order usually signals the problem. That’s when you know that mold growth has really kicked in. The problem with mold is that it can cause structural damage, poor indoor air quality, and health issues.

Look for these signs of mold after a storm.

Visible Mold

water stain moldIf you see mold, then you clearly have a mold issue. If you see water stains, you probably have a mold issue as well. The question then becomes how big is the problem? Because mold is often hidden, growing on the back sides of walls and sheetrock, and under carpets and floorboards, the only way to be sure is to have a mold inspection performed by a certified professional.

Mold Creates a Musty Odor

But what about the mold you cannot see? Musty odors usually point to mold, and mold causes poor indoor air quality. RTK can test to see where the odor is coming from so that you can remediate with confidence, and don’t miss any hidden sources or spots. Summer months are particularly prone to mold growth as high humidity and heat accelerate the proliferation of this fungus.

Health Symptoms from Mold and Poor IAQ

If you are having physical symptoms such as itchy eyes, cough or wheezing that occur in one location of the premises that clear up when you are elsewhere, it’s a sure bet that the location is harboring mold. If you have any of the following unexplained symptoms, they may be caused by MOLD EXPOSURE and poor indoor air quality. In that case, you should have a mold and indoor air quality test.

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

Structural Damage Can Cause Mold

If a storm caused a leak from your foundation walls or your roof into your basement, mold is sure to follow. A mold colony can grow within 24 – 48 hours. So, it’s important to test for mold because when the next storm hits, the structural issue that allowed water intrusion will likely occur again if it is not repaired. Mold can eat away at wood structure, floorboards, and sheetrock, leaving them susceptible to decay.

Avoid Mold Removal Scams

Never hire a company that does both mold testing and mold remediation. Why? It is a clear conflict of interest. Often, unscrupulous companies will embellish a mold problem or offer testing on the cheap in hopes of making money on the remediation to follow. But at RTK, we only test for mold and do not remediate, so there is no conflict of interest. Once we have tested your premises, we provide you with a blueprint for mold removal, and you can hire the remediation company of your choice.

If you had flooding or a water intrusion from a storm and think you may have mold, call and schedule a test today at 800.392.6468.


Asbestos Dust Lead

Are Toxins Hiding In Your Dust? Find Out With a Dust Characterization

Are Toxins Hiding In Your Dust? Find Out With a Dust Characterization

lead dustNearby new construction can certainly be a nuisance, what with all the noise and disruption. But there is a much larger issue that should concern you: the dust.

Dust from construction can be downright toxic. It can easily seep into your apartment, workplace or home, polluting your indoor air and covering your belongings. A simple test can tell you what’s contained in that dust and whether it can cause health damage.

In New York City alone, where the construction sector added 45,300 new jobs between 2010 and 2018, an increase of 40 percent, and construction spending set a record of $61.5 billion in 2018, there’s plenty of dust to go around.

Is dust really an issue?

asbestos dustConstruction dust often contains a host of contaminants, including lead and asbestos. Older buildings are very likely to contain these dangerous materials, which, when they are disturbed, become part of the stream of ordinary dust.

Dust generally falls into three categories: workplace, industrial, and home. With the rise of construction in New York City, it is most certainly an issue to be aware of. According to the Hayward Score, which identifies major issues in your home that can impact your health, your dust often contains a complex combination of particulates, dander, pollen, fibers, heavy metals, chemicals, mold spores, and more.

Dangerous lead and asbestos are often found in dust in cities, especially when there is nearby construction. Gabriel Filippelli, a professor of earth sciences and director of the Center for Urban Health at Indiana University-Purdue University, furthers states in the Washington Post that lead-contaminated soils, and dust generated from them, are tightly linked to the lead poisoning of children.

These substances can also cause:

  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • Cancer
  • Neurological issues
  • Reproductive problems
  • Impairing a child’s development
  • Cognitive damage
  • Other health issues

dust characterization testA dust characterization can help you to identify these and other unknown particles, including cellulose fibers, dander and dust mites, biologicals, minerals, fungal allergens, synthetics, and MMVF (manmade vitreous fibers). RTK’s dust characterizations, performed by licensed environmental inspectors, can usually determine—or rule out— whatever mysterious matter is plaguing your home or workplace.

When should I have a dust characterization?

dust transferIf you live or work in a construction area, or if your neighbor is doing renovation work or remodeling and you notice an increased amount of dust on your premises, you should definitely consider a dust characterization. You may be at risk, as you don’t know what substances are being carried through the air. Other reasons to have a dust test are:

  • If you have small children who crawl on the floor, they are more likely to ingest dust from hand to mouth contact;
  • If you are experiencing unexplained health symptoms;
  • If you work outdoors or live in a city.

If you are concerned about dust in your home or apartment, call us at (800) 392.6468 to discuss your situation. We’ll tailor our test to your specific needs and environment.

Protect your health!