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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.

Categories
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!

Categories
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.

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Health

Is Your Office Making You Sick? Could Be Sick Building Syndrome

 

These 6 Things Could Be To Blame for Sick Building Syndrome

It’s that time of year that many of us dread. Seasons are changing, and cool nights and warm days are moving in. It’s back to school for many, and suddenly there seem to be a lot more common colds, coughs, and sniffles. But if you notice that your symptoms only occur in a specific location, such as your office, school, or apartment building, you may be suffering from sick building syndrome. Sick Building Syndrome is a term used to describe buildings where occupants experience health issues and discomfort while inside, but feel better shortly after leaving.

Symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Dry cough
  • Eye, throat, or nose irritation
  • Nasal allergies
  • Itchy, dry skin
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • General feelings of malaise
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty concentrating.

So what is actually in your office, workplace, or school that’s making you sick? Here are 6 of the most common offenders:

1. MOLD SPORES, BLACK MOLD, AND LESS-FUN FUNGI

Mold is the leading cause of Sick Building Syndrome and can have dire effects on your health. In fact, in about 80% of sick building syndrome cases, mold infestations (black mold and other types) are the main cause of illness.

Indoor mold is not only disgusting, it’s also extremely unhealthy. Mold, which can either be toxic or an allergen, thrives in damp environments and spreads easily. Mold is typically found in basements, bathrooms, kitchens, attics and other areas of buildings that may be susceptible to high humidity levels. Mold infestations can be caused by pipe breaks, water leaks, roof leaks, and other water intrusions. Mold spores can spread to an entire building through the heating and air duct system.

Easy tip: Check the plants in your office. Overwatering can cause mold. Yes, your plant may be making you sick!

 

2. THE HVAC SYSTEM

We all cringe when we have to breathe recycled air on an airplane, yet the indoor air quality in our office or workplace may not be too much better! According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air may be up to 100 times more polluted than outdoor air. Poor air circulation and inadequate ventilation may force us to breathe in toxins and chemicals, including lead dust, exhaust, radon, formaldehyde, asbestos, and VOCs from adhesives, upholstery, printers, carpeting, copy machines, manufactured wood products, pesticides, and cleaning agents. Yuck!

Easy tip: Make sure your building changes the filters on the HVAC system every 3-months, and has the system fully inspected and serviced at least twice a year.

3. COMPUTERS AND OFFICE EQUIPMENT

 

When was the last time you cleaned your computer or dusted your blinds? If you said ‘never,” you’re not alone. Simply put: Offices are filthy. Dust mites build up in neglected areas (have you looked at your printer cords and vent covers lately). Take notice of the fans being used to keep electronic equipment from overheating. Chances are you’ll find a lot of dust, lint, pollen, and dirt particles, building up over time. You’re breathing all this stuff in.

Easy tip: Once a month, have the cleaning crew perform a full dusting of windowsills, HVAC vents, computer cords, areas around electronics, and in file rooms. You’ll breathe easier.

4. CARPETING

 

Between the off gassing of VOCs, and serving as a haven for bacteria and mold spores, you’ll never look at carpeting the same way again! Every time you roll your chair back and forth on the mat, every footstep you take, you may be releasing mold spores and unhealthy bacteria into the air. Doing so may cause asthma, allergies, and a host of other ailments.

Easy tip: Have your carpeting professionally cleaned every one to six months, depending on traffic.

5. THE REFRIGERATOR

 

Ever look in the office fridge and try to figure out whether you should put your sandwich near the container of green, fuzzy stuff or on the sticky orange patch with mystery debris stuck in it? Leaving food in the garbage and not storing food properly are big no-nos in an office, and can cause biological contamination. Cleaning the refrigerator out frequently will help prevent odors and mold, which can lead to health problems.

6. YOUR OFFICE MATE

 

The guy who eats at his desk every day may seem motivated, but he could be making you sick. If he is not keeping his eating area clean, he may be attracting pests, like rodents and insects. Cockroaches have been linked to respiratory problems, and according to the EPA, certain proteins in cockroach droppings and saliva can cause allergic reactions and trigger asthma symptoms. Eww!

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU THINK YOU HAVE A ‘SICK BUILDING?’

Before you assume it’s your building making you sick, get some more information. Talk to your coworkers and other building occupants. If a number of them are experiencing similar health problems that only occur when you are in the building, there’s a good chance that you’ve got a “sick building” and that you are suffering from Sick Building Syndrome.

 

If this is the case, report the situation to human resources, the office manger, or landlord, and request a thorough environmental health inspection. An independent testing company, like RTK Environmental, will conduct indoor air quality testing to determine if mold, VOCs, radon, or other harmful toxins are present in your environment. You may also want to see your physician to rule out any other possible medical conditions. Be sure to tell them if the symptoms occur when you are in a specific location. If you would like to schedule an indoor air quality inspection or have questions about sick building syndrome, call us today at (800) 392-6468.

 

Categories
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.

Categories
Health Indoor Air Quality & Radon Mold

Parents: Is There Mold In Your Child’s School?

Parents: Is There Mold In Your Child’s School?

The oppressive humidity and heat this summer have wreaked havoc with indoor air quality, let along some torrential downpours. And worse, mold has proliferated in dozens of schools in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. There are reports that schools in the tri-state area have delayed openings and closed buildings until the mold can be removed.

Categories
Gardening Health Healthy Home Soil and Water Weitz Advice

This Summer Make Sure Your Water, Air and Soil Are Safe

Home inspections 101

After a long, looooooong winter – one that felt like it would end sometime in 2020 – summer is finally within sight. And thank goodness for that.

But before you dive into the pool, crank up the air conditioner, or start that victory garden, you’ll want to make sure that your water, air, and soil are clean and safe. Let’s face it; the frigid temperatures, wild winter weather, and common wear and tear that are typically noticeable this time of year are all indicators of potential contamination.

Categories
Health Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon

The Quest for an Environmentally-Friendly Home: Popular Design Elements in Use Today

 

Ready For an Environmentally-Friendly Home? Check Out These Popular Design Elements

by Dylan Snyder REALTOR®
The Snyder Group at Keller Williams Realty

Homeowners and homebuyers are increasingly interested in design elements that may serve to help the environment and reduce energy costs. From site location to reduction in energy consumption, small and large changes can make for more comfortable living and take into account the values of occupants. Environmentally friendly design can begin prior to construction or be retrofitted into existing homes by licensed professionals.

Categories
Flooding & Water Damage Health Mold

Superstorm Sandy’s Lessons a Reminder as We Recover from the Latest ‘Bomb Cyclone’

 

Lesson 1: When Rebuilding, Save Money and Protect Your Health by Avoiding These Seven Common Mistakes

As people are scrambling to clean up the heavy damage from the most recent Nor’easter and now Quinn, experts warn it is dangerous to rebuild too quickly. Their advice is to remember how hasty repairs after Superstorm Sandy created hazardous environmental conditions, and subsequently required costly re-dos.

power outage damage“During Sandy, many homes and businesses were damaged by falling trees and massive flooding,” says Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and founder of RTK Environmental Group. “This led to panic. People started ripping out wet and damaged materials, causing even more damage than anyone could have imagined.”

Mr. Weitz explains that these hasty decisions actually created problems. “What occurred was that toxic lead dust and asbestos fibers in homes built before 1980 were released into the air, and microscopic mold spores then spread and became trapped behind walls and floorboards that had not fully dried out yet, causing a secondary, hidden mold infestation.”

storm damageAny one of these issues could be considered a health hazard, but the combination of mold, lead, and asbestos is a trifecta of toxins that can cause all sorts of short- and long-term, chronic health issues. Now, Weitz urges property owners to proceed with caution before fixing the damage caused by the Bomb Cyclone. “The idea is to learn from the six most common mistakes made after Superstorm Sandy,” he cautions.

Mistake 1: There’s No Plan

If you’ve endured any kind of damage, you need a plan. Here are some steps to reverse that:

– Inspect the damage. Be sure to take photos and video of everything for insurance purposes;

– Contact your insurance company and FEMA to find out what benefits and help may be available to you;

– Throw away any wet materials, especially if time has passed. They are likely to have mold growth;

– Dry out the area completely. Use fans, vents, dehumidifiers, and open windows when possible;

– Check for wind and tree damage on the roof and windows, which can cause leaks and mold;

– Watch for ice dams, which can create leaks behind walls, in ceilings, and under floors

– If you lost power, check appliances that use water, such as refrigerators or washers, for leakage and mold – both inside them and around them.

Mistake 2: Going In Blind

Lead paint hazardAfter Sandy, the main goal was to fix quickly what was wrong, without considering the potential consequences. If you have damage, the right thing to do is to start with an environmental inspection to assess your current and future environmental risk. An independent examination will pinpoint exactly what needs to be removed, what’s salvageable, and which environmental hazards are present or could occur.

Mistake 3: Hiring the Wrong Contractor

Beware of any “one-stop-shop” contractor who both tests for environmental hazards and performs the repairs. That’s a conflict of interest. Mold testing on the cheap and convenient offers to do the remediation services to fix the problem are a red flag. An independent, certified testing company does not do remediation, and therefore, offers consumers an unbiased opinion about any contamination. In 2016, after Hurricane Sandy, so many consumers were duped by contractors offering to both test and remediate, New York State passed a law that makes it is illegal for the same company to test and remediate mold on the same job. Mold inspectors and contractors must now also be certified by the state to ensure that professionals are properly trained to handle your mold problem.

Mistake 4: Pre-Paying for Services

mold remediationNever pre-pay for work to “hold a timeslot” or give a large down payment before any work has started. After Sandy, many people lost tens of thousands of dollars when corrupt contractors took the money and ran. Better to take the time to check contractors and testing companies on verified sites like the Better Business Bureau and Angi.

Mistake 5: Not Testing Before and After You Rebuild

mold testing nycIf you rebuild before the water-damaged area is completely dried out, you will be sealing mold into your walls. Mold can easily grow back and cause major damage. So, test before you rebuild and have a blueprint for removal. Afterwards, test to be sure the job was done correctly and the mold was cleaned up properly.

Mistake 6: Not Obtaining Proper Documentation

An independent environmental testing company like RTK Environmental Group will provide you with a detailed report, documenting that your home is safe or is cleared to be rebuilt and has a safe environmental toxin level (mold, lead, asbestos, radon, bacteria, and other toxins). This documentation will be critical when you sell your home or for insurance claims. To ensure that your document will hold up in possible legal situations or in court, make sure the company that performs the testing is certified, licensed, insured, and does not perform remediation, which could result in a conflict of interest claim.

Mistake 7: Not Getting the Paperwork Done

roof leakIf your home has water damage again and mold returns, your insurance company may question whether the mold was actually caused by the new event. Without independent proof that an inspector found your home to be mold-free after earlier repairs, the insurance company might take the position that a new claim is not justified or that you have met your policy limit.

“By taking some simple steps ahead of time, homeowners can save money and heartache, and protect their health,” says Weitz.

For more information, please visit our site at www.rtkenvironmental.comor call 800.392.6468 to set up an inspection.