Flooding & Water Damage Mold

Irene Left A Mess – Now What?

Even before Hurricane Irene hit, the Northeast experienced a record rainfall this August. Irene just added more problems to our already damp or flooded basements and high water tables. Now what? First off,  let’s not forget about mold, which can get a jumpstart anywhere water has seeped into your home. Within 24 hours, toxic mold can become a problem. You might not see it immediately, but within a few weeks, mold’s smell will tell you it has taken hold.  And that’s when the real problems begin, since mold can 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.

There are immediate steps homeowners should take as soon as water enters their houses:

  • Take pictures of the damage, and remove the water immediately. Don’t wait for your insurance company to call you back. Waiting — even for a few hours — could accentuate the problem.
  • Mop, vacuum, or pump water out of the affected area as soon as possible. Remove wet items and materials.
  • Dry out residual moisture that is left in concrete, wood, and other materials. You can use a dehumidifier or ventilation. If basement or attic windows open, mount fans in the openings. Unplug electrical devices and turn off the circuit breakers in the wet area, if possible.
  • Anything that is not wet, bring to higher ground.
  • Some items, once wet, should be thrown away immediately, including cosmetics, medical supplies, stuffed animals, and baby toys.
  • Toss out materials that can’t be dried within 24 hours, such as mattresses, pillows, carpets, upholstered furniture, and items containing paper, including wallboard.
  • Put aluminum foil under the legs of furniture to avoid staining damp floors. Wooden clothespins can keep upholstered furniture skirting off damp floors.
  • Once the area is dry, bring in dehumidifiers and large fans to remove any excess moisture.
  • Have your home tested for mold by an accredited inspection company.

Cleaning Up After Irene: ‘Good Day NY’ Asks RTK for Advice

Gene Burch, a certified microbial investigator with RTK Environmental Group tells the “Good Day New York” crew on Fox 5 how to clean your home after a flood to avoid unhealthy indoor mold. Gene Burch demonstrates how a carpet or piece of wall may appear dry, but is often wet underneath or behind (which can cause indoor mold in 24-48 hours).


Lead Soil and Water

Study Shows Lead Exposure Lowers Test Scores

A recent Duke University study of Connecticut school children found even small levels of lead exposure — less than the levels the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe — significantly reduced their test scores.

Researchers discovered that the greater the exposure to lead, the lower the Connecticut Mastery Scores. What is most alarming is that children with lead levels lower than the EPA’s established 10 microgram minimum were doing worse on tests than children who had never been exposed to lead. In addition, African-American children were more likely to experience lead poisoning from paint residue, dust or other sources by age 7 than other children. The Childen’s Environmental Health Initiative at Duke found similar results in a study it conducted two years ago of school children in North Carolina.

Duke researchers reviewed the cases of 35,000 Connecticut children whose blood tests showed lead exposure before age 7, then linked them to their fourth-grade reading and math scores on the 2008 and 2009 standardized Connecticut Mastery Tests.

Francesca Provenzano, health program supervisor for the Connecticut Department of Health told the Associated Press: “It’s compelling evidence. I think it provides even greater awareness to parents, medical providers and advocates that lead poisoning is a serious issue and prevention is key.”

Although lead poisoning cases have dropped significantly in recent years, the Duke study is a reminder that this toxic metal is still poisoning children. The only way to find out if your child has been poisoned by lead is through a blood test. The most accurate way to find out if your home or business contains lead is to have state licensed lead inspectors test the structure.

Lead was banned in paint in 1978. Unfortunately, structures built pre-1978 probably contain lead paint. Disturbing lead paint – even simply opening or closing a window – can send lead dust flying through the air. Lead dust is the leading cause of lead poisoning in the three most at-risk groups: children, pregnant women and pets. But everyone is at risk and needs to take precautions, especially during renovations.

The Centers for Disease Control says that a speck of lead dust, as small as a grain of sand, is enough to poison a child.



Things you should know about asbestos

Things you should know about asbestos

The 411 on Asbestos

Many people worry about asbestos -especially when purchasing a new home. But what do you really know about asbestos? The mere presence of asbestos is not usually a problem. Over time, however, asbestos may become damaged. When it does, it can release dangerous asbestos fibers into the air you breathe. The removal of asbestos, if not done correctly, can also pose a health threat. Here are some answers to our most frequently asked questions.

Q. What is asbestos?

A. Asbestos is a very strong mineral fiber that was once added to many different products to strengthen them. It was also used to provide heat insulation and fire resistance. There are several types of asbestos fibers.

Q. Where is asbestos found?

A. Asbestos can be found in roofing materials, siding shingles, insulation (homes built between 1930 – 1950), textured paint (pre-1977), patching compounds (pre-1977), walls and floors around wood-burning stoves, vinyl floor tiles and adhesives, insulation for hot water and steam pipes in older homes, and oil and coal furnaces.

Q. How Can Asbestos affect my health?

A. Exposure to asbestos, especially airborne asbestos fibers, increases your risk of developing lung disease. Disease symptoms may take several years to develop following exposure. Continued exposure can increase the amount of fibers that remain in the lung. Fibers embedded in lung tissue over time may cause serious lung diseases including asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma.

Q. I suspect there is asbestos in my home. What should I do?

A. First and foremost, do not disturb the asbestos. It is generally not harmful until it is disturbed and fibers are released into the air. Next, have a professional testing company come in to test for asbestos. It may be that the asbestos in your home is in good shape and does not need removal. If not, they can provide an asbestos remediation plan for you so that you and your family are safe.

Q. I am planning on renovating my home and I know there is asbestos there. Are there any precautions I can take?

A. Once you have tested for asbestos and confirmed that it will be a problem, have any removal and repairs done by certified professionals who are specially trained in handling asbestos.

Q. We are going to be doing demolition on our home and know we only have asbestos in one place that won’t be touched asbestos. Is it safe to go ahead with the demolition without having the house tested for asbestos?

A. A demolition could expose an asbestos problem you weren’t aware of. Also, look for signs of wear and tear in areas you know contain asbestos. But whatever you do, don’t touch it. Consider having the asbestos encapsulated to insure that the fibers will not become airborne.

Asbestos can be very dangerous, but is easily managed. Take the necessary steps to make sure you and your family is not harmed by asbestos.



Mold in foreclosed homes: Great deal or deal-breaker?

As the number of foreclosed homes rises, the deals are plenty – but so are the potential problems. One of the fastest growing issues with foreclosed and bank-owned homes is mold.

When homes are occupied, a cycle of ventilation occurs and moisture gets sucked out, often times driven by heating and air conditioning. When homes are abandoned, however, the electricity is shut off so there is no circulation of air and no sump pump to push standing water out of the basement, which can cause major mold problems. The infestation of mold in bank-owned, vacant houses is growing throughout the country. Water leaks and flood problems go untreated, and can lead to mold issues within days.

If you can see mold or smell a musty odor in a home, you can be sure that there is a lot more mold that you cannot see hiding – especially behind the walls and under the floor boards and carpets. Because of this, any mold damage might require expensive remediation efforts to once again make the home habitable.

Since buyers purchase these homes in an as-is condition, they need to be aware of the potential problems and added-costs a mold infestation brings with it. Many bank-owned properties will not have documented histories about past conditions or treatments. Even if you make an offer on a house right away, banks often take months to process the paperwork and by then it’s too late and a small mold problem is now a full-house infestation that can cost thousands of dollars to fix. Once a residence is severely infested with mold, often times the floors and walls must be completely torn out to correct the problems.

Exposure to mold, especially toxic mold, can cause a variety of health problems. People suffering from asthma or allergies, including small children, infants, the elderly, and people with acute health problems are more susceptible to health problems related to mold infestation.

The safest way to proceed with a foreclosed home is to have a mold inspection done by a certified professional. They can tell you exactly what it will cost you to fix the problem, and then you can weigh your options and figure out if the house is still a good deal.


Gardening Lead Soil and Water

How Safe is Your Home Garden – Pt. 2

If you had your garden tested by a certified lead inspector and found that you do have elevated lead levels, you may be able to wash most of the airborne lead from your fruits and vegetables.

Studies have shown that lead does not accumulate in the fruiting part of the vegetable or fruit, such as corn, squash, beans, tomatoes, berries, peaches, strawberries, and apples. Higher concentrations are more likely to be found in leafy vegetables, such as lettuce and spinach, and on the surface of root crops, like carrots, potatoes and beets.

Cleaning your produce is very important if there is any amount of lead in your garden. Here are some helpful hints:

  • Remove outer leaves from leafy crops.
  • Peel all root crops.
  • Wash all produce in water containing vinegar (1 TBSP vinegar, 1 ½ quarts water) or dish soap (1/2 TBSP dishwashing liquid, 1 ½ quarts water). This will wash away most of the airborne lead.

Lead dust is dangerous to everyone – especially children, pregnant women and pets. They may suffer brain damage, loss of IQ, learning disabilities, hearing loss, slowed growth, headaches, increased tendency to violence, nervous system and kidney damage, attention deficit disorder, poor muscle coordination, decreased muscle and bone growth, speech and language problems, increase delinquent and antisocial behaviors when the children grow older, reduced neonatal weight, reproductive problems, nerve disorders, memory and concentration problems, and muscle and joint pain. Another major problem associated with lead poisoning is high blood pressure and hypertension, which causes strokes and heart attacks, which can lead to death.

Lead doesn’t have to ruin your homegrown produce – take the proper precautions and enjoy.


Gardening Lead Soil and Water

How Safe is Your Home Garden?

Home-garden crop harvesting is soon upon us. But could your fresh fruit and vegetables make you sick? If your garden has elevated levels of lead in the soil, it sure could.

Test for Lead and Other Heavy Metals

Most people don’t think about testing their garden soil for lead before they plant fruits and vegetables. But lead in soil is a very common problem. Even the White House garden was found to have elevated levels of lead when the First Lady was about to plant vegetables there.

The main sources of lead contamination in soil and gardens are 1) lead-based paint chips and lead dust caused by renovation work in pre-1978 buildings, and 2) lead from auto emissions. The bottom line is whether you are in a big city or small town, you are susceptible to lead exposure. Paint chips can be ground into the soil or peel off of structures, and lead dust can be spread through the air from flaking paint on windows, building demolition, and even minor renovations. The closer a garden is to a street, the higher the risk of airborne lead particles from vehicle emissions.

Lead dust is dangerous to everyone – especially children, pregnant women and pets. They may suffer brain damage, loss of IQ, learning disabilities, slowed growth, headaches, increased tendency to violence, nervous system and kidney damage, attention deficit disorder, poor muscle coordination, speech and language problems, reduced neonatal weight, reproductive problems, nerve disorders, memory and concentration problems, and muscle and joint pain. Another major problem associated with lead poisoning is high blood pressure and hypertension, which causes strokes and heart attacks and can lead to death.

There are steps you can take to lessen the dangers. First and foremost, hire a certified lead inspector to test your garden to see if your soil contains lead. You may have nothing to worry about. On the other hand, if there’s lead contamination, you will be able to remedy that.

Other precautions you can take are:

– Select a site for your garden away from heavily trafficked streets and away from structures built pre-1978 (the year lead paint was banned).
– Erect a fence or hedge to help block movement of lead particles in the air.
– Wear protective gloves when working in soil that contains lead, and wash hands thoroughly when done.
– Keep children away from lead-tainted soil, and be sure they do not eat it.  Lead absorption through the intestines is five times greater in children than adults.
– Contain clothing and shoes in one place when you return to the house so that you do not track lead particles and dust throughout your home. Wash clothing as soon as possible, and keep children away from them, as they have a tendency to touch things and put their hands in their mouth.
– Soils high in organic matter and compost with pH levels between 6.5 and 7.0 do a better job of binding lead in the soil, preventing it from being absorbed by plants.

If the test reveals the levels just too high, you may want to consider remediation of the contaminated soil. There are several options, including soil removal, raising pH levels and adding organic matter, or mixing in new soil. A certified lead inspector can tell you which may be the best option for your situation.

Lead doesn’t have to ruin your fresh fare – just be aware of the potential hazards and know what you can do about it.



The Buzz on Lead Dust – Fact vs. Fiction?

We’ve been hearing things about lead dust lately. Alarmingly, a lot of what we are hearing is misinformation. We thought it was time to clear the air.

Statement 1: For lead exposure to be really bad, the actual dust must be truly airborne so that it can really get into your lungs.

FALSE! Of course you can get lead poisoning from breathing in lead dust. But when lead dust travels through the air, it settles in soil and water, and blows inside your home and even onto neighboring properties. If you touch something that has lead dust on it and then put your hand to your mouth, you can ingest it. This is especially dangerous for babies and children who crawl and play on the floor, and have their hands in their mouths and eyes all the time.

Statement 2: Flakes of paint will do a fine job of containing the lead dust.

FALSE! Let’s think about that logic – it makes no sense. Whether you grind your coffee beans or keep them whole, it’s still coffee. Even if lead is in a paint chip, it’s still lead. Every time a paint chip breaks, get stepped on, sanded, or even pressed into garbage bags, dangerous lead dust is released.


Statement 3: A speck of lead dust, as small as a grain of sand, can poison a child.

TRUE! The slightest bit of lead dust could make you sick. The amount of lead dust the EPA considers unsafe for kids is equal to a small packet of sweetener sprinkled over one-third of a football field. Think about what a minuscule amount that is!


Statement 4: If lead dust is flying outside, we are breathing in much less of it than we would indoors, therefore it is not dangerous.

FALSE! Unless you live in an airtight, hermetically sealed home that has no traffic in or out, this just is not feasible. Lead dust comes through windows, doors, chimneys, heating and cooling systems, and is tracked in on shoes, car tires, clothing, and more. If there is a fire in a nearby home, you can smell the burning scent inside your house. Lead dust particles are microscopic, and travel the same way. They are just as dangerous if they are being produced outside as they are inside. The same RRP (Renovation, Repair and Painting) precautions should be taken, inside or outside, when working around lead paint and lead dust.

If you have any questions about renovating lead paint or the dangers of lead dust, don’t assume. Find out for sure. Have a lead test done to ensure the safety of you, your family and your neighbors.


Flooding & Water Damage Mold

There’s Water in My Basement – Now What?

Torrential rains cause many of our basements to flood. This can lead to problems, big time. Damp and wet areas lead to mold, which can blossom within 24 hours, so drying out the affected areas as soon as possible is very important. Here’s what you can do right away:

  • Mop, vacuum, or pump the water from the area. But be careful if the outside soil is saturated – If you pump out the area too fast, the pressure from the exterior water could damage your wall or possibly collapse it.
  • Remove all wet materials from the area.
  • Dry out residual moisture that is left in the concrete, wood, and other materials. If you have windows that open to the outside, mount fans in them.
  • Use a dehumidifier and ventilate the area well.
  • Remove carpeting and dry outside, if possible. If you can’t remove the carpeting, remove as much moisture as possible by using a wet vacuum. Then use fans to circulate air both over and preferably under the carpet. The carpet must be dried within 12 to 24 hours, or it will become infested with mold and need to be discarded.

If you are unable to take these steps within the time frame or are unsure as to whether you already have a mold problem, the safest thing to do is to call in a professional and have a mold test done.


Why Should I Test for Mold?