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Health Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon

During Stressful Times, Try to Protect Your Health and Boost Your Immunity

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

VOCWhile 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.

Mold

moldNow 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.

Contaminated Water

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.

 

 

 

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Health Healthy Home

Unexplained Health Issues: When a Doctor Can’t Find Anything Wrong…

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.

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Health Indoor Air Quality & Radon Mold

Humidifier Health Hazards: The Dirty Details

Humidifier Health Hazards: The Dirty Details

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.

Humidifier with ionic air purifier isolated on white

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!

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Health Healthy Home

Protect Your Kids from Environmental Toxins; Strive for a Healthy Home

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:

Mold

mold asthma linkHere’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.

Lead

leaded windowsillIf 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-like symptoms, ADHD, brain damage, lower IQs, and a host of other physical and mental problems.

Poor Indoor Air Quality

indoor air qualityPoor 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.

Contaminated Water

water testingBelieve 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.

 

 

 

Categories
Health Mold

Fall Mold Allergies in Schools

Fall Mold Allergies in Schools

mold in schoolBack-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.

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Health Mold

Mold and Infants: How It Can Affect Their Health

Mold and Infants: How It Can Affect Their Health

Infants who live in homes with mold are three times more likely to develop asthma by age 7. Horrid news, especially since most homes in the Northeast contain some type of mold.

infant asthmaThe alarming statistic about infants comes from a study conducted at the University of Cincinnati published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Researchers analyzed seven years of data gathered on 176 children enrolled in the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study (CCAAPS).

Eighteen percent of children in CCAAPS were asthmatic by age 7, a staggering statistic since current estimates say only 9 percent of school-age children in the United States will develop asthma.

In light of the study, if expectant or new parents suspect there is mold in their homes, it would be prudent to have their home tested immediately. In addition, there are some actions we can all take to make our homes healthier places.

INDOORS

  • First and most important: Fix all leaks immediately.
  • Check all washing machine hoses and fittings for leaks and kinks.
  • Insulate basement and bathroom pipes that “sweat.”
  • Keep basement drains clean and unclogged.
  • children and moldBe sure window air conditioners have proper exterior drainage; keep filters clean.
  • Use exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms.
  • Keep humidity low in your home by running dehumidifiers in damp spaces.
  • If basement walls are finished with Sheetrock, install vents near floors and ceilings to allow air to flow.
  • In places where moisture is a problem, use easily washable area rugs rather than wall-to-wall carpeting.
  • Test your home for mold by calling in a certified mold inspector. Do-it-yourself mold kits are often inaccurate.

OUTDOORS:

  • Grade soil around the house to direct water away from the foundation.
  • Keep gutters and downspouts free of debris and ice.
  • Keep bushes and shrubs at least 12 inches from home siding.
  • Check roof shingles, vents and flashing for proper seal.
  • Check siding also – and point the lawn sprinkler away from the house.

 

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Health Mold

Black Mold – Does Mold Color Matter?

mold-resting-new-jerseyBlack Mold – Does Mold Color Matter?

Spring rains are a welcome refresher for our parched plants and lawns, but they also bring heat and humidity, the perfect environment for mold. If you had a leak or flood and your remediation company did not fully remove the mold, chances are the mold is still present and probably growing with a vengeance.

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Gardening Health Soil and Water

How to Get the Healthiest Crop From Your Garden

 

How to Get the Healthiest Crop From Your Garden

Organic gardening is a wonderful way to bring fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables straight from your garden to your table. To ensure that your produce is perfect, start with a soil test to make sure you are not planting in a toxic terrain.

After taking the necessary painstaking measures to ensure that your garden contains non-GMO seeds, no chemicals and pesticides, and organic compost to enrich and fertilize the soil, your hard work may be fruitless. If you plant your produce in soil that contains lead, arsenic, petroleum, pesticides, these and other toxins will make their way into your harvest – and into your mouth.

Sources of Soil Contamination:

Lead in soil is a very common problem, especially if you live in a pre-1978 built home or in a neighborhood of older homes. How does lead get into your soil? Sanding, prior to painting the exterior of an older home, can spew lead dust through the air. Flaking paint chips can also infiltrate into the soil. Lead dust can also be released through open windows when sanding a home’s interior walls. Even more disturbing, simply opening and closing windowsills that contain lead paint can release lead dust into your home and yard on a daily basis.

Another possible source of contamination is tainted compost. If you use public compost, you may be exposed to dangerous levels of lead and other toxins. Here’s why: When municipalities pick up lawn clippings and organic debris for composting, they don’t test first to see if the clippings and debris are free from contamination.

Flooding may also contaminate soil. Storm surges and flooding from storms and hurricanes, like Sandy and Irene, can spread industrial toxic contaminants to residential areas miles away. The floodwaters from Sandy carried an unthinkable mixture of wastewater, sludge, and toxins into people’s pristine yards, where many of the pollutants remain today.

Effects of Toxic Soil:

The damaging effects of ingesting these toxins – chromium, lead, petroleum, solvents, and many pesticide and herbicide formulations, among others – are extensive. According to Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF), these contaminants can be carcinogenic, and cause disease or other chronic health conditions.

What Can You Do?

The first line of protection for you and your family is to have your soil tested. A certified environmental testing company, like RTK, can tell you if your soil is safe. If the test reveals the levels of lead or other toxins in your soil are too high, several options exist to fix the problem – including soil removal, raising pH levels and adding organic matter, or mixing in new soil. A certified inspector can tell you which may be the best option for your situation.

Click here for more information or to schedule a soil test today.

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Health Mold

Seasonal Allergies or Mold Problem?

Seasonal Allergies or Mold Problem?

You may blame pollen, ragweed, and seasonal allergies for your sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose, and tickle in your throat. For many allergy sufferers, mold may be playing a bigger role than you realize – especially if you had a water leak from an ice dam this winter. Now that temperatures have warmed up, people are finding that mold is growing inside their walls and ceilings where the leak was. However, in addition to roof leaks, there are a number of sources of household mold and mildew that may be causing allergies.

How can you tell the difference between seasonal allergies and a mold allergy?

It can be difficult, as many of the symptoms are the same. However, if you are indoors with the windows closed and you are still suffering, or if you only experience these symptoms in a certain location, like your office or home, mold may be the culprit.

Signs of a mold allergy and symptoms of mold exposure include:

– Sneezing
– Runny or stuffy nose
– Watery eyes
– Wheezing or difficulty breathing
– Itchy eyes, nose and throat
– Cough and postnasal drip
– Dry, scaly skin

There is a direct connection between mold and asthma!

If you have asthma and are allergic to mold, your asthma symptoms can be triggered by exposure to mold spores, and can sometimes be severe. In addition to the usual symptoms, you may experience acute coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. Studies by the Environmental Protection Agency, among others, indicate that indoor air pollution is at least twice as high as outdoor air pollution. As indoor ventilation tends to be limited, allergens like mold can wreak havoc. If you are taking allergy medication and keeping your windows closed, yet are still suffering from symptoms generally caused by allergens, have your home or office tested for mold and indoor air quality.

Sources of Household Mold and Mildew & How To Prevent It

There are certain things you can do to help reduce household mold in your home, and therefore mold allergies.

  • Clean bathrooms, and especially bathtub and shower areas, windowsills and shower curtains with a bleach or disinfectant mixture at least once a month to prevent mold growth.
  • Remove organic debris from your gutters and yard. Dead branches and leaves are prime growth spots for mold.
  • Use an exhaust fan in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms to vent excess moisture. Be sure they vent to the outside of the home. Clean fans every 3 months.
  • Regularly check under sinks for leaks. Mold can grow quickly where there’s moisture.
  • Use a dehumidifier – especially in damp areas of your home. Keep the dehumidifier set at 50% humidity. Any more than that will encourage mold growth.
  • Keep your basement carpet-free to avoid moisture build up and mold growth.

Mold allergies share many of the same symptoms of other allergies, so it can often be difficult to diagnose. If you suspect your allergies may be more significant than seasonal allergies and medication is not helping, have your home, office or school tested for mold by an independent professional. Obviously you cannot avoid mold altogether, but removing it from your home or work environment is a huge leap in the right direction!

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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.