What You Need to Know about Renovation Work and Asbestos

What You Need to Know about Renovation Work and Asbestos

Do-it-yourself renovations have become commonplace. Unfortunately, many DIYers are unaware of the danger that lurks if asbestos is present and disturbed. Asbestos has been used in the construction of walls, ceilings and floors (mostly for fireproofing), and often serves as insulation for pipes.

test-before -you-renovate-asbestos

If asbestos is left undisturbed, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that it is generally safe. But when it is disturbed during renovation or if it is crumbling from age, dangerous particles are released into the air, breathed in, and can settle into your respiratory system. Exposure to this dangerous material can cause serious respiratory diseases and cancer, including mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.

Because of these health risks, federal and state agencies have developed very strict rules for asbestos removal. Construction workers must receive specialized training to learn safe asbestos removal techniques. If they find deteriorating asbestos that needs to be removed, then you’ll need to hire a reputable contractor who has the appropriate qualifications and licensing for asbestos removal.  So your first step, when considering renovation work, should be to hire an independent testing company to test for asbestos.

Asbestos Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Inspector's Notebook Lead Mold

Safe Home Renovations

Safe Home Renovations

With everyone stuck at home under coronavirus quarantine, many of us are using this opportunity to complete home improvement projects. Whether you are renovating or simply painting, there are precautions you should take to preserve your health. Make sure you don’t disturb any toxic materials, like lead or asbestos, especially if you live in a house built before 1978.

Ask yourself these questions before you begin:

  • What type of surfaces and materials will you disturb?
  • Do you have crumbling pipe insulation or tiles? They may contain asbestos.
  • Will you disrupt any pipes? They might leach lead into your water.
  • Are there painted surfaces that are chipped? The paint may contain lead.

If any or all of the above apply, you’ll want to take some precautions. Otherwise, you may be subjecting yourself and your family to unnecessary health risks, caused by the very particles you’ve disturbed. Now, more than ever, it’s important to take the proper precautions. Here’s how:

Tip #1: Test for Lead Paint.

If your home was built prior to 1978, you probably have lead paint somewhere. (Paint containing lead was banned in 1978.) When paint containing lead is kept in good condition, it does not pose a significant health risk. But, if it is disturbed, it releases dangerous lead dust into the air, and when that dust settles onto flat surfaces is the leading cause of lead poisoning. Lead poisoning is known to cause autism-like symptoms, ADHD, brain damage, lower IQ, and a host of other physical and mental issues.

So, before you start your painting project, have a certified lead risk assessor test your home for lead paint. They can use an XRF spectrometer to look deep into layers of paint on walls to determine if there is lead paint not only on the surface, but also underneath in underlying layers.

If you are not comfortable with having a lead inspector come to your home while you are in quarantine, you may want to wait on that project, or treat it as if there were lead paint on your walls or trim. Follow the EPA’s recommended Renovation, Repair, and Painting rule for DIYers, which can be found here.

If, instead, you move ahead and disturb surfaces that contain lead paint, chances are you will 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 a serious health hazard.

If you think you may have lead paint, call in an environmental testing company to have your home tested. If the test reveals toxic lead dust, a lead inspector can tell you the exact locations of the lead. Be sure you follow lead-safe work practices, or hire a contractor certified in lead-safe work practices.

Tip #2: Check for Asbestos.

asbestos testBefore any renovation or demolition, you need to know if you are about to disturb any materials containing asbestos. Asbestos is banned in many forms because of its toxicity. Inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause serious, even fatal illnesses, including malignant lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.

Asbestos is common in older homes, and you can be exposed to asbestos fibers through demolition of many items, most commonly:

  • Flooring materials
  • Roof shingles
  • Pipes
  • Insulation
  • Walls
  • Ceilings
  • Tile

Be smart. Have an asbestos survey performed prior to your renovation project. The survey will determine if there are any materials containing this toxic substance that you are about to disturb. Something as simple as installing a ceiling fan or updating your bathroom could have serious implications. If you are unsure and are not ready for testing, hold off on the project.

Tip #3: Take Proper Precautions.

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

  1. Evacuate vulnerable family members.

While you are working, be sure children, the elderly, pregnant women, and pets leave the area while work is being performed. They can return after the work has stopped and the area has been thoroughly cleaned.

  1. 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 ductwork, doors leading out, and windows with the sheeting. Your goal is to prevent toxins from contaminating the rest of the house.

  1. Dress for the occasion.

Look for a mask or respirator with an N95 rating or higher (if you can find one), which filters out very fine particles. And be sure you wear it for the entire time you are working and cleaning. Also, use a Tyvek suit to protect your clothes. If the work takes more than a day, use a new one for each day. 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. If you can’t find a Tyvek suit, be sure to remove your clothes in the containment area, place them in a sealed plastic bag, and put them in the washing machine straight away. Then shower immediately.

  1. Avoid sanding.

Lead dust accounts for most of the pediatric lead-poisoning cases a year. Sanding releases fine lead dust particles, which fly through the air, infiltrating the entire house. Unfortunately, these particles remain in the home for a long time. Therefore, sand as little as possible and when you do wet the surface first to keep dust down.

  1. Clean up thoroughly.

Use a HEPA vacuum to clean the entire work area. Then use warm water and clean rags to wash all surfaces. Then HEPA vacuum again. Every exposed surface must be cleaned well. It’s a good idea to have your home tested post-renovation to ensure all toxic materials were properly removed.

This extra time at home is a gift, so make sure your home is safe for you and your family.

If you want to schedule a lead, asbestos, or mold inspection, call us at 800.392.6468 or click here.

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!

Asbestos Healthy Home

Asbestos – What You Need To Know

Asbestos – What You Need To Know

The presence of asbestos in any home or premises can become a serious matter that requires professional attention. Our goal is to assist you in understanding and correcting any asbestos issue – from start to finish. No job is too big or too small when the health of your family or employees is at stake.

RTK expertly locates any asbestos in your home or workplace. Once the material is completely removed, we’ll verify that your home or workplace is no longer contaminated.

RTK’s asbestos inspectors, project designers, and management planners are licensed by the Department of Public Health in New York and Connecticut and are certified under the federal Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act.

Note: We do not offer asbestos abatement. Our sole focus is on providing an accurate, unbiased assessment of the presence of asbestos on your premises, and any potential health risks.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a heat-resistant fibrous mineral that has been used in the manufacturing of thousands of building materials including home insulation, pipe insulation, floor and ceiling tiles, adhesives, roof shingles, siding, textured ceilings and joint compounds. Over time, these materials can degrade or be disturbed during renovation work, and the asbestos fibers are released into the air. When inhaled, asbestos causes dangerous illnesses, particularly lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis and other serious respiratory ailments.

Therefore, it is important that asbestos be monitored by certified professionals who can help homeowners and commercial property owners identify potential risks. This is especially important prior to doing renovation work or purchasing property.

What does asbestos look like?

what does asbestos look likeMostly commonly, asbestos looks like white fuzz, but it can also appear in different shapes and colors such as brown, gray, or dull green. Chrysotile, the most common type of asbestos, is long, white, and curly. Another common type, amphibole, is brittle and has a rod or needle shape. Studies have shown that amphibole fibers are more likely than chrysotile asbestos to increase the risk of mesothelioma, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Where is asbestos found?

Asbestos is found in many locations, both inside and outside the home or commercial property. These include:
  • Backing of vinyl sheet floor covering
  • Carpet padding
  • Popcorn ceiling tiles
  • Pipe insulation
  • Attic and ceiling insulation
  • Electric and wall insulation
  • Vinyl floor tiles
  • Acoustic ceiling tiles
  • Drop ceiling tiles
  • Fireplace flues
  • Drywall
  • Adhesives
  • Roof shingles
  • Sealants
  • Cement

Are tiles made of asbestos dangerous?

asbestos tileUnlike many asbestos-containing materials, vinyl asbestos flooring is generally safe to be around – provided it is not damaged or chipped in any way. But once the decision is made to remove the tile or disturb it in any way, it becomes a hazard. Any time you disturb asbestos tile, it can release toxic fibers into the air. There are many contractors and laborers suffering from diseases today such as lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma because of a lack of awareness of the dangers of asbestos in the past.


I’m house hunting and looking at older homes. Should I be concerned about asbestos?

All homes can contain asbestos – even newer ones. It is especially important to test older homes, however, as asbestos was more commonly used in the past. RTK’s certified professionals can help homeowners and commercial property owners identify potential risks prior to renovation, demolition, or purchase, potentially saving you thousands of dollars in asbestos abatement and costly cleanup after the fact.


Who is at risk for asbestos exposure?

asbestos lung diseaseAlmost everyone has been exposed to asbestos at one time because asbestos has been used in products for many years. But not everyone who has been exposed will become ill. People with higher levels of exposure are more vulnerable to illness: those who have worked with asbestos materials or spent a long time surrounded by them. This includes those with jobs in mining, construction, sheet metal manufacture, and automotive repair (mechanics that deal with brake and clutch repairs); as well as insulation workers, those who manufacture products containing asbestos, and who do renovation work at marinas and boat yards. You also need to be careful if you live near an asbestos waste disposal site, as the materials may not be properly contained or stored.


What are the symptoms of asbestos exposure?

Symptoms of asbestos exposure are very difficult to detect because most asbestos-related diseases don’t arise until years after exposure. But once you have an asbestos-related illness, symptoms will include shortness of breath; swollen fingertips and toes that appear rounder and wider than normal; a persistent, dry cough; wheezing; loss of appetite with weight loss; and chest tightness or pain.


Can you get rid of asbestos in your lungs?

Unfortunately, you cannot. No known method exists to remove asbestos fibers from the lungs once they are inhaled, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. The Agency does say, however, that some types of asbestos are cleared naturally by the lungs or break down in the lungs.


How prevalent is asbestos-related death in the United States?

According to the Environmental Working Group, currently 12,000 to 15,000 people die every year in the USA from asbestos-related diseases. This number continues to rise. The total number of asbestos-related deaths in the United States may exceed 200,000 by the year 2030, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.


Is asbestos always dangerous?

Left undisturbed, asbestos is generally safe. If it is exposed or damaged, it can be very harmful.


When should I test for asbestos?

asbestos inspectionIf you suspect that your home or workplace contains asbestos, call in trained professionals to examine the materials. They will do so without the risk of releasing fibers into the air. Test for asbestos in these situations:

  • If you are buying, selling or renting a condominium, co-op or home built before 1980
  • Before you or your contractor do any renovation work on property built before 1980
  • Before you or your contractor do any demolition work on property built before 1980


Can I remove asbestos myself?

Legally, yes. But that’s playing with fire. The EPA advises against any sort of DIY asbestos project, whether it’s obtaining a sample or removal. Once asbestos fibers become airborne, they can be inhaled, and then lodge in your lungs. The EPA recommends calling in professionals who are trained, licensed, and certified in asbestos handling and removal, and observe proper safety procedures. The EPA states this is the best way to protect yourself and your family.


How do I know if I have asbestos in my house?

asbestos sampleYou can’t tell if a product or building material contains asbestos by just looking at it. You will need to have a certified testing company take a sample to be analyzed. As asbestos is commonly found in building materials, insulation, and cement products, if you are working or moving products or materials in these categories, then it is best to have a professional do asbestos testing first.


What should I do if I find asbestos in my house?

How you deal with it will depend on the type of asbestos found and the condition it is in. If the asbestos material is in good condition, free from cracks or dust, and there is no danger of the fibers becoming airborne, then it is generally safe to leave it alone. If the material is damaged or deteriorating, or if you are going to disturb the material, it will need to be removed by a professional asbestos abatement contractor.


Asbestos abatement – when should asbestos be removed?

asbestos removalIf you are planning to renovate areas that contain asbestos, you need to have the asbestos removed prior to any demolition, sanding, cutting, or any other disturbance to prevent asbestos fibers from being released into the air.


Is asbestos illegal or banned in the USA?

Shockingly, no. Asbestos is still not completely banned in the USA. In 1973, the EPA’s Clean Air Act banned most spray-applied asbestos products for insulating and fireproofing purposes. In 1989, the EPA implemented the Asbestos Ban and Phase Out Rule, which was supposed to ban asbestos completely. Unfortunately in 1991, the ban was overturned after intensive lobbying by the asbestos industry. Products today can be made with asbestos as long as asbestos accounts for less than one percent of the product’s makeup. Products that currently include asbestos are: automobile clutches, brake pads, vinyl tile, roofing materials, cement piping, home insulation, corrugated sheeting, and even some potting soils.


Do you need to be licensed to handle asbestos?

In most states, asbestos licensure is mandatory. Both the companies and individuals doing the abatement need to be licensed by the state, and sometimes, local authorities. You need separate licenses to test for asbestos and to remove asbestos and usually cannot do both on the same project.

Asbestos Health Indoor Air Quality & Radon

Checking in on Occupational Lung Health

Checking in on Occupational Lung Health

When we think of occupational hazards that leave workers sidelined, what often comes to mind are accidents that happen on the job, such as falls and injuries. But there’s something else that impacts workers’ health, and their lungs specifically, with respect to occupational hazards: the air we breathe.

Asbestos Health Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Lead Mold

Homeowners Guide to Environmental Hazards

Homeowners Guide to Environmental Hazards

We go to the gym, eat healthy and organic foods, and do everything we can to lead a healthy lifestyle. Or do we? Are we paying attention to possible environmental hazards in our homes?

If more than 80% of all homes contain at least one environmental hazard, the chances are great that we will be exposed to several toxins such as lead, mold, radon, asbestos, and volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which are toxic fumes off-gassed from manmade materials.

Asbestos Healthy Home Lead Mold

Before You Buy An Older Home

Before You Buy An Older Home

Older Homes Have Character, But Can be Full of Hazards

If you’ve ever seen an episode of “This Old House” or binge-watched HGTV on demand, you probably have your eye on an older home. After all, they’re often charming, well constructed, architecturally intriguing — and not hard to find.

Asbestos Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Lead Video

Video: Hidden Toxins In Your Home – What You Need To Know

Video: Hidden Toxins In Your Home – What You Need To Know

Suffering from allergies, headaches, fatigue, or cold and flu like symptoms? It may actually be indoor air pollution, or an environmental toxin. Most environmental toxins are hidden from sight. RTK Environmental investigates a Connecticut home and finds hidden mold in an HVAC unit, and gives advice on other places toxins, like lead and asbestos, can hide.

What Causes Poor Indoor Air Quality?

Approximately 90% of indoor air quality issues are caused by high levels of VOCs and unhealthy levels of mold spores. VOCs and other toxic fumes can be found in carpeting, paints, solvents, electronics, cleaning products, air fresheners, candles, pesticides, nicotine, glue, home furnishings, building materials, and more. Mold can hide just about anywhere.

When Are Lead Paint and Asbestos Dangerous?

Lead paint and asbestos are the most dangerous when they are disturbed. If lead or asbestos is properly contained, they generally don’t pose a serious risk. But the minute they start to deteriorate, whether through wear and tear, renovations or remediation, they are a serious health hazard.

What Are The Symptoms of Lead Poisoning?

People who appear healthy may have elevated blood lead levels, which can lead to lifelong problems. Lead poisoning can cause serious, irreversible damage, including: brain damage, ADD and ADHD, aggressive behavior and tendencies for violence, damage to the nervous system, impaired growth, PICA, and in extreme cases, coma or even death.

Lead Exposure Symptoms Include:

– Irritability and mood disorders;
– Learning difficulties;
– Weight loss and loss of appetite;
– Abdominal pain;
– Constipation;
– Vomiting;
– Headaches;
– Sluggishness and fatigue;
– Seizures;
– Pain, numbness and/or tingling of the extremities;
– Muscle and joint pain;
– Memory loss;
– High blood pressure;
– Decline in mental acuity;
– Reduced sperm count, abnormal sperm;

What Are the Symptoms of Asbestos Exposure?

Asbestos is a carcinogen that can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis and other serious respiratory ailments. Asbestosis and asbestos-related illnesses takes years to develop, and can be deadly.

Asbestos Exposure Symptoms Include:

– Tightness in your chest;
– Chest pain;
– Persistent dry cough;
– Finger clubbing (enlarged fingertips);
– Appetite loss;
– Nail deformities.
– Shortness of breath.

If you think you may have hidden toxins in your home, call RTK today to schedule a test.

Asbestos Indoor Air Quality & Radon Video

Video: RTK Visits Good Day New York to Discuss NYC Steam Pipe Explosion & Asbestos Contamination

Video: RTK Visits Good Day New York to Discuss NYC Steam Pipe Explosion & Asbestos Contamination

There are many questions about health and safety following the incredible steam pipe explosion that spewed deadly asbestos throughout New York City’s Flatiron district.

RTK’s Meegan Taddonio joins Good Day New York to discuss what to look for in your home or office, how to protect yourself from asbestos and other dangerous toxins like lead, what you need to know about indoor air quality and asbestos in HVAC units, and more.

If you are concerned that your home or workplace has been contaminated, schedule an Indoor Air Quality and Asbestos test today.

Asbestos Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Video

Video: Fox 5 NY Talks to RTK About Steam Pipe Explosion, Asbestos Contamination

Video: Fox 5 NY Talks to RTK About Steam Pipe Explosion, Asbestos Contamination

RTK gives sound advice on the possible health affects of the massive steam pipe explosion at 21st and 5th in NYC. Asbestos was spewed for blocks, and the cleanup has just begun. Here’s what you need to know to protect your health.

Asbestos is a carcinogen that can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis and other serious respiratory ailments. Asbestos monitoring by a certified professional can help homeowners and commercial property owners identify potential risks prior to purchase or renovation.

Most asbestos-related diseases don’t arise until years after exposure. Currently in the US, more than 15,000 people die each year from asbestos-related diseases, according to the Environmental Working Group. This number continues to increase.

If you are concerned that your home or workplace was contaminated, please feel free to call us with any questions or to schedule a test.