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.
We recently heard from a mom in the Long Island area, who lives in a home with deteriorating paint built in the 1950’s, questioning the necessity of testing her two young children for lead poisoning. She thought doctors did it automatically, but was concerned and confused when her pediatrician said that she didn’t have to worry about lead poisoning “unless her children were allergic to lead” – even though he knew she lived in an older home that was not in good condition. Yes, we are serious. The doctor actually said this!
EVERYONE CAN BE HARMED BY LEAD PAINT! Clearly, not every doctor knows the dangers of lead paint, therefore it is up to us to make sure parents, neighbors, and friends understand the serious consequences of lead poisoning, and how to prevent it.
Not Every Pediatrician Screens for Lead
In some states, lead screening for children under the age of three is mandatory. But in most, it is left at the discretion of the pediatrician. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, testing for lead poisoning often depends on where you live. Check out these statistics:
• 53% of pediatricians attempt to screen ALL of their patients under the age of 36 months with a blood test for lead toxicity, 38% attempt to screen SOME of their patients, while 9% screen NONE of their patients in this age group.
• Screening practices vary by practice location: 83% of inner city pediatricians screen ALL of their patients under the age of 36 months for lead poisoning, compared to 39% of suburban and 43% of rural pediatricians.
• Overall, pediatricians report screening an average of 52% of their patients ages 9-12 months, 48% of their patients that are 13-14 months old, and 37% of their patients that are 25-36 months old.
• 98% of pediatricians who selectively screen patients under the age of 36 months report do so at the parents’ request.
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. More importantly, have your home tested to prevent the risks early. For more information about lead dust, click here.
Seasonal Allergies? A Cold? COVID-19? Something Else?
This is going to be an allergy season like no other, 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 outbreak 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. Additionally, RTK is performing COVID-19 Surface Testing to ensure cleanup of the virus has been performed successfully. 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, or would like COVID-19 surface testing, call RTK at 800.392.6468.
During Stressful Times, Try to Protect Your Health and Boost Your Immunity
In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, we seem to be much more aware of our physical spaces – not just maintaining distance between people, but our homes and our workspaces. As we struggle to adjust to the new normal, it’s more important than ever to ensure that our homes and workplaces are “healthy” so that we can protect our health and boost our immune systems.
Besides all the stress, there are other factors that can impact your immune system, making you more susceptible to illness: mold, poor indoor air quality, and even contaminated water.
Poor Indoor Air Quality
While we’re all trying to prevent the virus from spreading, we should also be aware that some of the very household products we’re using to scrub surfaces are off-gassing Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs. These are toxic vapors given off by bleach and aerosol sprays.
VOCs can come from the chemicals in air fresheners, detergents, furniture, carpeting, and other products. If concentrated enough, they can be potent, causing headaches, dizziness, and nausea in the short-term and more serious problems long term. VOCs can cause poor indoor air quality, commonly referred to as “indoor air pollution.” Today, about 80% of indoor air pollution is caused by either mold or VOCs.
So, when you’re attempting to disinfect your home, remember to open your windows to allow fresh air to circulate. You may also want to order an indoor air quality test that will help you to identify or rule out any air quality issues.
Now that you’re spending more time at home, you may notice that you have a mold problem. If so, there’s no better time than the present to deal with it. Mold can exacerbate breathing issues, and also cause headaches, rashes, depression, listlessness, and allergies, let alone flu-like symptoms, especially in those who are immunosuppressed.
And mold can hide just about anywhere – behind walls, under carpeting or floorboards, or in air ducts. If you smell a musty odor, you probably have mold. In order to pinpoint the source of a mold issue, testing is a good option.
With all of the hand-washing going on, you are in constant contact with your water supply. Every time you wash your hands, clean a dish, prepare a baby’s bottle, or draw a warm bath, you are exposing yourself to whatever is in your water supply. In many cases, what’s in the supply can be nasty: we’re talking lead, bacteria, heavy metals from pipes, arsenic that naturally occurs in groundwater, radon, pesticides, and more.
Whether you drink from well water or water that comes from a reservoir, consider ordering a water test from an independent source to determine the water quality.
So, even though the focus now is on Coronavirus, you can take steps to improve the quality of the environment of your immediate surroundings. Have your home tested by an independent, unbiased environmental testing service that performs testing only. (Leave remediation to other firms to avoid a potential conflict of interest.)
Schedule a test today and make sure your home and workplace are the safest places they can be. Call RTK at 800.392.6468 or click here.
Unexplained Health Issues: When a Doctor Can’t Find Anything Wrong…
When a patient is not feeling well, chances are you look for the presence of disease. But if the symptoms persist and don’t appear to be caused by disease, they may be caused by an environmental hazard such as mold, lead, radon, asbestos, or even poor indoor air quality. So, it often makes sense to turn to a certified microbial inspector to test the patient’s home or workplace.
Humidifiers and HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems can make life a lot more comfortable, but can also make us sick, according to several institutions, including the Mayo Clinic and Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), who report that if humidifiers aren’t maintained properly or if humidity levels are kept too high, can grow and spread mold and bacteria that causes lung and respiratory illnesses, including Legionnaires’ disease.
Humidifiers, whether portable or built into a central heating and cooling system, can ease a slew of problems caused by dry air, from dry sinuses to cracked lips. But without regular maintenance, bacteria, mold, and fungi often grow in tanks and on the filters of portable room humidifiers, or in reservoir-type HVAC systems. These toxins can be released in the mist that the machines emit. Breathing in harmful particles carried by the mist can lead to respiratory problems, including flu-like symptoms, asthma, allergies, and serious infection – even humidifier fever, a respiratory illness caused by exposure to toxins from microorganisms found in wet or moist areas in humidifiers and air conditioners – especially for those of us who already suffer from allergies.
To prevent your humidifier from becoming a health hazard, follow these tips:
• Change the water daily. Empty the tank, wipe all the surfaces, and refill the water daily to reduce the growth of microorganisms. Using water with a low mineral content, such as distilled or demineralized water, will help reduce build-up of mineral scale and the dispersal of minerals and bacteria released into the air.
• Keep your humidifier clean. A humidifier should be cleaned every three days, at least! Be sure to unplug it, and wipe down any deposits or film from the tank with a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution, disinfectant, or chlorine bleach and water mixture. (Follow guidelines recommended by the manufacturer for your particular humidifier.) Be sure to rinse the tank and surface areas after cleaning it.
• Change humidifier filters regularly. People tend to wait until they can see signs of mold on the filter before they change it, which can be too late. Be sure to change your filter as often as the manufacturer recommends, or sooner if usage has been high.
• Don’t try to keep your home too damp. An ideal humidity level is between 30 and 50 percent. If you see condensation on surfaces, walls, or floors near your humidifier, you run the risk of breeding mold, bacteria, and dust mites. You can use a hygrometer to monitor humidity levels. It is not recommended that you run your humidifier round-the-clock.
• Fully clean and dry your humidifier at the end of the season before you put it away. This will help to prevent mold and bacteria growth while in storage.
To keep your HVAC system and your family healthy, follow these tips:
• Read the instruction manual or ask your HVAC specialist about proper maintenance for your unit. There are four main types of whole house units that have a variety of maintenance schedules and operations.
• Be sure the humidistat, which controls humidity, is set between 30 – 45 percent. Anything higher than 45% and you risk mold and bacteria growth through condensation and particles settling in the bottom of ducts, which can spread spores through your entire house quickly.
• Reservoir (drum) style humidifiers require monthly maintenance. This includes cleaning the foam evaporator pad, which should also be replaced annually. Clean the foam pad using a 1:3 solution of water to vinegar, or use a commercial calcium removing fluid. Soak the foam pad until the deposits dissolve. Rinse the pad generously with clean water. If the pad is ripped or does not come fully clean, replace the foam pad.
With a little humidifier TLC, the air in your home or office can make it a happier and healthier place to live or work!
Protect Your Kids from Environmental Toxins; Strive for a Healthy Home
You may crave Home Sweet Home, but if your place harbors mold, lead, poor indoor air quality, or contaminated water, you may be heading towards an unhealthy future.
You can avoid lots of problems if you have your home tested by an independent, unbiased environmental testing service that performs testing only. (Leave remediation to other firms so you avoid a conflict of interest.)
The Toxic Culprits:
Here’s a scary fact: infants who live in homes that contain mold are three times more likely to develop asthma by age seven, according to a study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. The study determined that early life exposure to mold plays a critical role in childhood asthma development. But that’s not all. Mold can cause headaches, rashes, depression, listlessness, allergies, and flu-like symptoms.
If you smell a musty odor, you probably have a mold problem. Mold can hide just about anywhere – behind walls, under carpeting or floorboards, or in ducts. In order to pinpoint the source of a mold issue, test.
If you live in a home built before 1978 – the year lead paint was banned – chances are there are layers of lead paint on your walls, windows or any other painted surfaces inside or outside. Even the smallest levels of lead exposure from paint chips or lead dust caused when you open and shut those windows or have deteriorated lead painted surfaces can irreversibly affect a child’s development, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Children can easily ingest household lead because it exists in paint chips, tap water, dust, and even in your soil outdoors. Lead poisoning has been shown to cause autism, ADHD, brain damage, lower IQs, and a host of other physical and mental problems.
Poor Indoor Air Quality
Poor indoor air quality is not just about radon anymore (even though it is still the second leading cause of lung cancer.) Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, are making a huge name for themselves – and not in a good way. VOCs are toxic vapors that are off-gassed from man-made materials including everyday household products.
VOCs cause poor indoor air quality, commonly referred to as “indoor air pollution.” VOCs come from detergents, furniture, carpeting, air fresheners, and a number of other products. They can cause headaches, dizziness, nervousness, and nausea in the short-term; and cancer, kidney damage, liver damage, and central nervous system damage long-term.
About 80% of indoor air pollution is caused by either mold or VOCs. An indoor air quality test will help you to identify or rule out the issue.
Believe it or not, you are in constant contact with your water supply. Every time you clean a dish, prepare a bottle, draw a warm bath, or even wash your hands before you touch your baby’s skin or eat a meal, you are exposing yourself and your child to whatever is in your water supply. And what’s in the supply can be nasty: we’re talking lead, bacteria, heavy metals from pipes, arsenic that naturally occurs in groundwater, radon, pesticides, and more.
Whether you drink from well water or water piped into your city from reservoirs, consider ordering a water test from an independent source. A comprehensive analysis of your drinking water is important to the health of your family.
There are dozens of reasons to have your home tested for unhealthy environmental hazards including mold, lead, and other toxins. But the one that matters most is your family’s health. Schedule a test today and make sure your home is the safest place it can be. Call RTK at 800.392.6468 or click here.
Back-to-school may bring your child more than new teachers and books. Researchers have noted that there is a sharp spike in asthma symptoms among children during the fall. School classrooms and corridors often harbor mold and dust mites, as do ventilation systems.
Parents with children who are allergic to mold should find out if the school has cleaned their vents and if they use high-efficiency air filters to remove mold, pollen, and other particles from the air.
Here are some other precautionary measures you can take:
1. If your child is allergic to mold and rakes leaves during the fall, he should wear a mask to avoid inhaling mold spores.
2. Keep track of the pollen and mold count in your area by visiting the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology website. When counts are high, children who are allergic to mold will show symptoms that include runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes and nose, and dark circles under the eyes.
3. The AAAI recommends that parents make sure their child takes asthma or allergy medications all during the summer so that doses aren’t missed. Skipping medications can lead to increased symptoms in the fall.
4. Develop a treatment plan with your allergist to help prevent problems. Click here to find an allergist near you. Be sure to share the treatment plan with the school’s staff and discuss with them how to handle emergencies. It is prudent for your child to keep inhalers and medicine at school to be used in an emergency or during the course of treatment.