Seasonal Allergies? A Cold? COVID-19? Something Else?
This is going to be another nerve-wracking allergy season, as every sneeze, sniffle and cough will spark concern. Our best advice is to try not to panic. There can be several explanations for a cough that might have nothing to do with the coronavirus at all.
During this time of the year, flu, the common cold, and seasonal allergies cause respiratory distress. And now, with us spending so much time indoors, there can be allergens – like mold – that can be causing runny noses and coughs.
Here are a few things to consider about your symptoms.
Check for a Fever
If you are running a fever, this pretty much rules out allergies. But the fever might be caused by the flu, a virus, a cold or something else.
Seasonal Allergies or Cold
Doctors note that cold is not usually associated with itchy eyes, so if your eyes are red and irritated, you may be allergic to pollen or an allergen like mold. If you have a cough with no fever, it likely doesn’t mean that you’ve contracted the coronavirus. Check with your physician if in doubt.
Is it a Mold Allergy?
If you are having respiratory issues and other symptoms when you are in one location that clear up when you move elsewhere, it’s a good sign that you have a mold allergy. Signs of a mold allergy and symptoms of mold exposure include:
Runny or stuffy nose
Itchy eyes, nose and throat
Cough and postnasal drip
If your allergy symptoms do occur in one place more than another, you may want to have the location tested for mold. RTK safely performs mold testing, as it is regarded as an essential service. Call us at 800.392.6468 to schedule a test or if you have any questions.
The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a report on coronavirus symptoms. It found that almost 90% of COVID-19 patients had a fever, and nearly 70% had a dry cough. Additional symptoms of coronavirus have included:
Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
Loss of taste and smell
The bottom line is, when in doubt, check with your physician. If you believe you have a mold problem, call RTK at 800.392.6468.
What’s causing your allergies? The answer may surprise you.
As trees bloom, that’s when allergies start. Most of us assume our runny noses, itchy eyes, and scratchy throats are caused by pollen. But what’s really causing the mayhem is not just pollen; it can be mold. Why? Because warmer weather and increased humidity create the perfect environment in which mold grows. Mold is a serious allergen, that we don’t often think about as a contributor to allergy and asthma attacks.
Unlike pollen, which you can see coating cars, windows, and other items, indoor mold can hide easily in your home (or workplace) – behind walls, in air ducts, under sinks, and in other hard-to-see places.
How do you know if you have a mold allergy? One telltale sign is if your allergies tend to act up when you are in one specific location over others. Indoors, that could mean your home of office. You may have an indoor air quality issue or mold in that location. The symptoms of mold exposure are similar to those of allergic reactions. However, if you suffer from asthma, mold spores can actually complicate your symptoms and even trigger an attack.
So how do you know when your symptoms are no longer allergies and actually a reaction to indoor mold? The best way to find out is to have your home or office tested for mold and indoor air quality by an independent environmental inspector.
RTK Environmental Group is a non-biased company who specializes in environmental testing. RTK can test for mold, indoor air quality, radon, asbestos, lead, and other dangerous toxins that can negatively affect your health. Unlike many companies, RTK only does inspections, so there is no conflict of interest in terms of remediation.
– Regularly clean AC, HVAC, and fan ducts to prevent spores from being distributed (and redistributed)
– Regularly check under your sink for leaks and dampness
– Keep your gutters free from organic debris (year round)
– Regularly clean your bathroom and use the fan after showering, to keep the bathroom dry
Don’t just assume that because you’re sneezing you’re allergic to all pollen and allergens. Indoor mold can cause complications and even pose threatening health risks. By having your home’s indoor air quality regularly tested, not only will you be safer and healthier, but you’ll also breathe easier.
First Time Homebuyers: What You Need to Know About Environmental Toxins
The coronavirus pandemic has urbanites fleeing the city in droves and moving into their first house. Many are snatching them up at a quick glance, not realizing that the house comes with more than just additional space and fresh air. Environmental hazards like mold, asbestos, lead and radon may be lurking in your new home, and without a proper environmental inspection, you may not know until health symptoms develop.
Homes, anywhere and at any time, can harbor mold, asbestos, lead, or radon, and contain poor indoor air quality, polluted water, or volatile organic compounds (VOCs), any one of which can threaten one’s health. That is why investing in environmental testing services prior to purchase or once you’ve made the investment is a good idea.
5 Environmental Hazards to Watch Out For:
Mold can be visible or hidden behind walls, ceilings, or floors, under carpets, and even in HVAC systems. Mold can cause serious health issues including trouble breathing, allergies, headaches and dizziness. Mold can also be present and affecting your health even if no symptoms present themselves – everyone if affected differently. Testing for mold can pinpoint the source of the problem so that proper steps can be taken to remediate the issue.
Lead is found in most homes built prior to 1978, the year lead paint was banned for residential use. Lead dust is the most common cause of lead poisoning, as lead dust can spread throughout a home and even into the soil surrounding your home. Unfortunately, most of the time you cannot see lead in dust or soil, so unless you test for it, you may not even know that this hazard is present. Lead poisoning can cause serious host of issues including neurological and cognitive deficits, autism-like symptoms, mood swings, and violent behavior.
Asbestos is commonly found in older homes in pipe insulation, tile, and attic or wall insulation, among dozens of other places. Breathing in asbestos fibers can cause serious health implications. At the least, asbestos is a breathing irritant. At worst, asbestos can cause mesothelioma, a serious cancerous condition that can lead to debilitating health problems and usually death.
Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, is extremely hazardous to your health. It’s the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US. It is an odorless, tasteless and invisible gas produced when uranium naturally decays in soil and water. Since 90 percent of the land in the Northeast is likely to have elevated radon levels, every home should be tested for radon.
Poor Indoor Air Quality
Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, and mold make up almost 90% of indoor air quality issues. VOCs are toxic fumes that are off gassed from many building and everyday materials including new flooring or carpeting, paint, cleaners and detergents. Poor indoor air quality can cause headaches, nausea, allergies, difficulty breathing, and rashes, just to name a few.
A Traditional Home Inspection Isn’t Enough
Home inspections are obviously necessary for the sale or purchase of a home. But what many buyers are realizing is that these inspections usually do not take into consideration mold infestation, lead, asbestos, and water quality. Most home inspectors lack the knowledge and certifications necessary to test for potentially toxic substances.
What Is an Environmental Home Inspection?
Mold testing, lead inspection, asbestos testing, water testing, and indoor air quality testing may all be performed during an environmental inspection. Environmental home inspections can vary depending on the age and condition of the home. Such inspections should be scheduled with a certified, independent testing company – even before your sign a contract. It’s important that the company you hire doesn’t perform both testing and remediation, as that is a conflict of interest.
Not all environmental hazards are obvious, and they can cause serious health issues. To detect them requires expertise, licensure, technology, and experience. If you would like more information on what types of environmental inspections may be right for you, please feel free to call us at 800.392.6468. Live well!
A home garden is a unique and hands-on way to connect with your food. But it’s not just which vegetables and herbs you’re planting, it’s what you’re planting it in that counts, too. The fact is that contaminants lurk in your soil, and can greatly affect what you eat, and ultimately your health. Soil can be polluted by harmful contaminants such as lead, asbestos, pesticides, herbicides, and heavy metals; so it’s important to test your soil before you even start your garden.
Lead is the most common pollutant, especially if your home (or surroundings) were constructed prior to 1978. Before that date, paint contained lead. So, every time the old paint is disturbed (whether renovating or sanding to repaint), lead dust is released. And that dust winds up in the soil and the air you breathe. Lead is highly toxic and can cause severe health problems, including damage to the brain and nervous system. Pregnant women and children are especially susceptible to lead poisoning.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fiber that was commonly used in construction before the 1980s. Again, if those fibers are disturbed and released into the air, you can be affected. Exposure to asbestos has been linked to severely increasing your chances of developing mesothelioma and other cancers.
There are other poisons that can be found in soil – the very solvents, pesticides, and herbicides that are available to the general public and can cause damage to plants, can also affect the soil surrounding your home, and can contaminate water runoff. Pesticides and herbicides can cause neurological poisoning and affect memory, coordination, and response times—especially in children.
Polluted water runoff poses a risk to soil conditions, local water sources, and residential wells. Polluted runoff can result in a variety of health problems and waterborne infectious diseases, especially when water remains stagnant.
So, plant those gardens, but be aware of the noxious elements that can spoil your soil! And remember to have your soil tested by a non-biased environmental company, like RTK Environmental Group, prior to starting any landscaping or gardening projects.
In recent years, testing revealed that 70% of wells in Stamford, CT were contaminated with uranium and arsenic. Wells from Boston to Washington, DC have tested positive for a variety of harmful contaminants. You may mistakenly believe that because your drinking water comes from a well, it’s pure and safer than water from reservoirs. But well water can contain a host of contaminants, including coliform bacteria, uranium, lead, arsenic, E. coli, nitrates, VOCs (volatile organic compounds) radon, pesticides, and MtBE (a gasoline compound), which can cause a wide variety of health problems, including skin problems; damage to the brain, kidneys, and neurological system; gastro-intestinal illness; hair loss; and immune deficiencies.
The only way to know if your water is harming your family is to have it tested by an independent testing service like RTK Environmental. If you are interested in learning more or setting up a test, call us at (800) 392-6468 or learn more about water testing here.
We’re all looking for simple ways to be healthier, especially in light of the COVID pandemic. Good health starts with a clean home environment. If we breath air that is unhealthy, our bodies eventually let us know. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to potential issues like mold, mildew, and other causes of poor indoor air quality.
Robert Weitz, founder of RTK Environmental Group, warns that if you see mildew on any surfaces, mold is often not far away. “Mildew is a form of mold, so if you detect a musty odor or see mildew, there is likely a bigger problem that needs to be addressed.” Mold and mildew are common causes of poor indoor air quality. Testing for mold is the first step in restoring the health of your home.
Mr. Weitz offers many tips to improve your indoor air quality. Poor indoor air quality can cause health issues, including headaches, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue.
Here are some of his top suggestions:
Be aware of common indoor pollutants. Around 80% of indoor air quality issues are caused by mold or volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.
Keep a tidy house. Be sure to remove household dust, as it contains all types of particulate matter – from dead insects to skin cells. Gross!
Add a certified HEPA vacuum to your cleaning arsenal to prevent smaller particles from being reintroduced into your environment.
Install a whole home air purification system. They can be put directly into your HVAC equipment and can filter out harmful particles.
Buy cleaning products that contain both disinfectant and surfactant to disinfect while removing contaminating particles from surfaces. Low-VOC cleaning products are recommended.
Be proactive against water damage events. If you have a leak or flood, act fast as mold can start to grow within 24 hours. Also, keep an eye on humidity levels in your home; they should remain below 50%.
Change the filters on your HVAC system at least every six months and clean all ductwork.
If you have water damage, test for mold, and then have remediation performed based on the results. When remediation is completed, you should conduct clearance testing to ensure the mold was properly removed.
Allow new furniture and carpeting to off-gas and release VOCs and other toxins before moving it into your home. This can be done outdoors or in a dry garage.
Be aware of your home’s indoor air quality, and always get an independent company to test when any suspicious odors, spots, or stains are present. Remember, when in doubt, check it out!
You may have heard about essential oils, but do you really know what they are, or how they can cleanse your home and your body? Lisa Zawrotny, a Wellness Advocate, known as the Ultimate Oil Mom, gave us some excellent insight on the therapeutic benefits of using essential oils for fighting off seasonal discomfort and indoor air quality issues.
What is an Essential Oil?
“It’s the essence of a plant. It is found in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants, like the zest from a citrus fruit – it’s a fragrant oil, not greasy,” says Zawrotny. She explains the aroma gives plants their distinctive fragrance and also protects plants from natural enemies, like mold and insects. Essential oils have long been used for beauty treatments, health care practices, and food preparation.
How Do You Extract An Essential Oil?
Essential oils are extracted through one of two processes: cold pressing or steam distilling, Zawrotny explains. There are four levels of oil purity, which determines what you can use the oil for: smell, flavor, aromatherapy, or natural health. The highest level of purity is certified therapeutic grade, a quality protocol to which essential oils are carefully and thoroughly tested against.
How Do You Use An Essential Oil?
The benefits of essential oils are obtained in three ways: aromatically through diffusion, topically applied to the skin after being diluted with a carrier oil (like coconut oil), or internally through ingestion. All three approaches work well to support the body, but new research is showing an even greater impact with diffusing oils than previously thought. We weren’t surprised to learn that only therapeutic grade oils can be used for health purposes, but we were surprised that it seems the body can benefit from the aroma even when it is not delivered through the nose. Scientists are finding odor receptors throughout the body, where they play a pivotal role in a host of physiological functions. You can read The New York Times article here.
Essential Oils Can Help Protect Against Seasonal & Environmental Elements
“There are several oils that can help you to combat seasonal discomfort naturally,” Zawrotny says. A few of her favorites include Peppermint, Lavender, and Lemon. “These are cleansing oils, and can be diffused in your home to help cleanse the air, and promote clear breathing and healthy respiratory functions,” she explains. Eucalyptus supports the respiratory system, and helps to maintain clear airways. Whether used alone or in combination, these oils have been known for thousands of years to promote healthy inflammatory response, as well as help bolster the immune system, creating calming and balancing effects, internally and externally.
TIP: Add a few drops of Eucalyptus or Peppermint oil to a hot bath or on a washcloth under your feet in the shower – the aromatic properties will blend with the steam to open airways and help quickly relieve seasonal symptoms.
Essential Oils Can Improve Air Quality
Not only do essential oils smell good, but also some have strong air purification properties. Remember, these oils were inside the plant to help protect it from mold, so it has powerful properties to cleanse your air. Cinnamon, Melaleuca (tea tree), Oregano, Clove, Thyme, Grapefruit extract, and Rosemary oils can be diffused into the air, providing additional support to soothe potential symptoms. However, it can’t be used to rid your home of mold. If you think you have a mold problem, have your home tested by an independent inspector to make sure you and your family is not in danger. If the problem is serious, the inspector may recommend professional remediation.
Bonus: When oils are diffused into the air, they are also absorbed into your body through your nose and skin and can help build immunity and have a healing impact, including cell renewal.
Essential oils make great cleaning agents. You can use the oils directly on surfaces to clean naturally. Certain oils work very well for cleaning, including Clove, Lemon, Wild Orange, Cinnamon, Rosemary, and Eucalyptus. Fill a small spray bottle with vinegar and add 10-20 drops of your favorite oil – it makes a great natural cleaner! You can diffuse it in the home, or add a few drops to a pot of boiling water to purify and freshen the air.
Essential oils have many potential benefits, but Zawrotny suggests doing your own research. A great place to start is www.aromaticscience.com. If your home has an environmental issue, like mold, lead, or poor indoor air quality, oils alone will not solve the problem, and your health could be in danger. The only way to know if you and your family are in a safe environment is to have your home tested. Once you know what you may be dealing with, you can then determine the best way to proceed.
Protect Your Children By Following These Preventive Do’s and Don’ts
Spread the Word – National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is October 25th – 31th
Although lead poisoning is the #1 preventable disease in U.S. children, every year, over 500,000 children between the ages of 1 -5 are diagnosed with lead poisoning. Incredibly, this figure does not include the number of children between the ages of six and eighteen that already suffer from lead poisoning. In addition, many other children have not yet been diagnosed. About 3.6 million American households have children under 6
years of age who live in homes with lead exposure hazards.
Storm Cleanup: After a Storm, Don’t let Mold or Toxins Take up Residence in Your Home
As massive cleanup efforts and power restoration continue throughout the region after a lightning-fast-moving storm, homeowners should be aware of the potential that flooding and water damage are causing.
Climbing into your car during the heat of summer is not always the most pleasant experience. Besides the heat, there’s that stale air and an odor that’s pretty off-putting. There’s a reason for that: it’s called VOCs or volatile organic compounds that are often contained in the car’s materials and structure.
What are VOCs?
VOCs are toxic vapors that are off-gassed from man-made materials. VOCs cause poor indoor air quality, commonly referred to as “indoor air pollution.” That “new car smell” is actually a combination of chemicals emitted from plastics, leather, and other parts that make up the interior of your vehicle. During the summer months, these chemicals are heated to extreme temperatures, and when confined in such a small space, make them more dangerous than usual when inhaled.
VOCs and Your Health
VOCs can cause a host of health issues. The most common are headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. Other symptoms of VOC exposure are nausea, nervousness, and difficulty concentrating. Long-term exposure to VOCs can be far more serious, though, as they can cause cancer, and damage to the kidneys, central nervous system, and liver.
Steps to Minimize Vehicle VOCs
The good news is that there are some steps you can take to minimize your exposure to the VOCs that are contained in your car. If you can open the car’s windows remotely, do so. If not, open the door, reach into your car, turn it on, open the windows, and wait a minute before you get in so that the air has time to circulate. When parking your car, you may want to consider keeping the windows cracked while you are away as well.
VOCs in the Environment
VOCs also can be a problem in your home or workplace. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms with no known cause, there may be poor indoor air quality.
RTK can test for many VOCs, including formaldehyde and benzene, which are very common. We can help you determine whether the cause of your illness is your environment, and help you to feel better so that you can live well.