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Health Mold

Container Gardens – Are You Growing Something Gross?

Summer is in full swing – and so are our flourishing gardens. But where you planted your herbs and vegetables can make all the difference between a healthy harvest and a moldy mess.

Mold may not harm your petunias, but if you plan to consume your fresh herbs or vegetables, you may have a problem. It is important to check your container gardens for signs of mold growth. Many molds and mold spores can be detrimental to human health.

The growth of mold usually starts on the stems of plants near the soil, where it is dark and damp, and then travels to the leaves. It can look fuzzy, slimy – even crumbly. The color can vary tremendously – black, green, brown, or even white.

The most likely culprit for mold growth in container gardens is over-watering. People are so concerned with making sure their plants are getting enough water that they don’t consider the possibility that the plants are getting too much. More sun can help counter this problem. Another mistake is not having proper drainage at the bottom of your container. If there are no holes for the excess water to drain through, it collects and rots the organic material inside the pot.

If over-watering is not the problem, there are natural methods for fighting mold, like garlic or cinnamon. Check out some additional tips here. A last measure would be a chemical spray, although this should be avoided at all costs if you are planning to eat what you grow.

Container gardens are a wonderful option for gardeners. Be sure to keep yours mold free! And in order to be confident in the soil in which your garden is planted, choose a food-grade potting soil or consider a soil assessment from a reputable environmental testing service provider.

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Health Indoor Air Quality & Radon

Is Your Office’s Air Making You Sick?

Inhale.  Exhale.  Did you know that the average person takes about 23,000 breaths a day? Unfortunately, air is not the only thing entering your lungs – especially in office or school environments, which are often riddled with dust and allergens.Dust — the tiny particles of fiber, skin scales, insect parts, pollen, cobwebs and dirt that settle on surfaces everywhere – is the culprit for many ailments that develop in the office, according to the Hartford Courant. Chronic coughs and sneezing, scratchy throats, itchy eyes, and even headaches may be attributed to the dust that you’re breathing in daily in your office, which may be a potential health hazard.

Ironically, we go to great lengths to make sure our homes are safe havens, but rarely consider our work spaces – where we spend upwards of 8-hours a day.

An office can be a hotbed of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) issues.  A recent article in the Connecticut OSHA Quarterly explained that there are many ‘neglected areas’ in an office that never get cleaned. Computers and central processing units (CPU) equipment in general are magnets for dust accumulations. Other common and overlooked sources of dust in the workplace are computer cords, plugs, window blind louvers, base boards, trim work, window wells, surfaces at floor-to-wall junctures, underneath office furniture and heating units, fabric of upholstered office furniture, and cubical partitions. Click here to see a photo gallery of dust in various workplaces.

So, before you take a deep breath at work, have a professional conduct an indoor air quality test. Information from the U.S. EPA can be found in their publication “An Office Building Occupants Guide to Indoor Air Quality”. EPA-402-k-97-003

 

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Health Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon

Are Your Household Products Toxic?


We have some great recipes to share to create your own non-toxic cleaners. Why? The average home contains between three and twenty-five gallons of toxic materials.

That’s right – and most of these are found in household cleaners, air fresheners, and personal care products such as soaps and lotions, sunscreens, and even kitty litter! A study released earlier this year from Silent Spring Institute in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found chemicals in 200 common household products that were linked to asthma and hormone disruption, among other issues. So how do we know if those chemicals are in our homes?

One major problem is that many chemicals are not listed on labels of the products that were manufactured by both conventional and “alternative” brands. According to a story in US News & World Report, the study, which tested for 66 chemicals, found 55 of them in 87% of products tested.

So what can you do? Educating yourself on the options is the first step. If you choose to make your own non-toxic cleaners, check out these recipes from

If you want to find out what the claims on your labels really mean, check out Consumer Report’s Greener Choices If you are still not sure if a product in your closet is non-toxic, you may want to err on the side of caution and replace it with something you know is safe.

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Health Mold

Summer Cold or Mold Allergy?

Summer cold or mold allergy?  While you may think you or your child just has a relentless cold, it may be something entirely different – an allergy to mold.  Mold allergies produce the same symptoms as the common cold; however, they won’t go away with homemade chicken noodle soup.

A mold allergy does not mean that you are allergic to mold, rather to the spores or seeds.  Often the symptoms for mold allergies reach their height in the summer, and then just never seem to go away – leading many to believe that they have a cold they can’t kick.

mold allergy symptomsMold thrives during the hot, damp summer months which is why we see more mold allergies during that time than any other.  A nasal reaction is usually one of the first signs of an allergy to mold.  The reaction could take the form of a runny nose, congestion, sneezing, or a postnasal drip.

If you feel as though a summer cold is hanging around a bit too long, make an appointment with an allergist to get tested for a mold allergy.  There are two types of tests that can be done: a skin prick test, or a blood test.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for a mold allergy, but there are ways to reduce the symptoms.  While simple over the counter drugs can relieve your pain, it is important to try and avoid mold whenever possible.  Have a certified microbial investigator come check for mold in your home, and if necessary, have it removed as quickly as possible.  Obviously you cannot avoid mold altogether, but removing it from your home is a huge leap in the right direction.

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Health Lead

New Lead Standards Spark Confusion, Concern Among Parents

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took a monumental step in protecting children from lead poisoning by cutting in half the “action level” of lead in the blood stream. Now, any child (age 1 – 5) with more than 5 micrograms per deciliter of lead in the blood is considered at risk.

Although almost 400,000 more children are now considered lead poisoned in the U.S., it means that early action will help us prevent serious health problems and save lives. Even small levels of lead exposure can irreversibly influence children’s development, from ADHD and autism-like symptoms to brain damage and lower IQ.

The other part of the announcement drew harsh criticism –the federal funding for lead poisoning was slashed 94% this year by Congress. So what does that mean for parents, and how are we supposed to protect our kids with limited funding?

Unfortunately, the burden is on us and we need to take action. Here are a few important tips:

1. Prevention is the key – test the house.

Once a child has lead poisoning, it becomes expensive and dangerous. Have your home tested by a certified independent inspector for lead paint. If you find that your home contains lead paint, they will provide you with a comprehensive abatement plan to remove the lead before it becomes a health issue.

2. Have your children tested for lead.

Only about 53% of pediatricians will do a routine lead test at age one. (Read more here on pediatricians and lead testing.) As a rule of thumb, all children should be tested at age one, and again at age two. If you live in a high-risk area, it may be more often. If you are unsure if your doctor performs the blood test routinely, ask and request that it be done.

3. Know the sources of lead poisoning.

Lead paint that is ingested is the primary cause of lead poisoning. It can be in the form of lead paint chips or lead dust released from window frames and doors, which gets into the air, water, soil, and on the floor. Lead dust can also be found on playground equipment and toys. Other sources of lead are older pipes, stained glass, toys, pottery glazes, leaded crystal, jewelry, antiques, folk remedies, food cans, and more.

To download the EPA’s brochure “Lead in Your Home: A Parent’s Reference Guide” click here.

To schedule a lead inspection, click here.

Categories
Health Mold

Mold, Allergies, and Misery — Welcome to Spring

 


Experts and allergists across the country are predicting that spring of 2012 may be one of the worst allergy seasons in a decade. 
Researchers blame climate change. The mild winter and early spring has allergy sufferers running to the medicine cabinet for relief. But high pollen counts are not the only issue – mold spores are unusually abundant this time of year. Both indoor and outdoor mold can significantly affect allergy sufferers, and can even cause asthma in otherwise healthy individuals.

 What can you do to lessen the amount of mold in your home? Here are a few tips:

  • Clean out your gutters, even if you cleaned them in the fall. Leaves and debris collect all winter, then rot, creating a fertile place for mold to grow – right on the exterior of your home;
  • While you’re at it, remove organic debris from your yard – especially if it is decomposing. Dead branches and leaves are prime growth spots for mold;
  • Clean bathrooms, and especially bathtub and shower areas, window sills and shower curtains with a bleach or disinfectant mixture at least once a month to prevent mold growth;
  • Use an exhaust fan in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms to vent excess 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;
  • Try to keep your home dry and ventilated;
  • Keep your basement carpet-free to avoid moisture build up and mold growth;
  • Regularly check under sinks and plumbing for leaks. Mold can grow quickly in these areas;
  • Don’t put wet shoes or damp clothing in your closets.  Let them dry fully first to avoid mold growth.

If you are having problems with mold allergies, the best course of action is to have your home tested by a professional to identify the source of the mold and then devise a remediation plan. Then you can truly — breath easy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Health Lead

Angry? Restless? Lead Poisoning Could Be The Problem.

Adults often downplay the harmful effect of exposing children to lead in the home, especially those adults who grew up in a home or apartment built before 1978, the year lead paint was banned from residential use in the United States. They say: “Look at me. I’m fine. And I grew up when paint always contained lead.”

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Health Lead

How lead endangers an unborn child

From the moment a woman discovers she is pregnant, her future child’s development takes center stage. Pre-natal health becomes paramount. But if she lives in a home or apartment constructed before 1978, she unwittingly might be subjecting her unborn child to lead poisoning.

Lead exists in every neighborhood, not just the inner city. It is found most commonly in paint and dust created by disturbing that paint in older homes, as well as in soil and tap water. If a pregnant woman breathes in or swallows the lead detritus, she can pass the toxic substance on to her unborn child. Unfortunately, just opening and closing a window can send lead dust flying through the air, easily inhaled by anyone in the vicinity.

Lead in the body of a pregnant woman can:
• Put her at risk for miscarriage;
• Cause premature birth and low birth weight;
• Adversely affect the fetus’s brain, kidneys, and nervous system;
• Cause learning or behavior problems, including autism-like symptoms, brain damage, lowered IQ, and ADD/ADHD, after the child is born.

Here’s an action plan that every pregnant woman living in a pre-1978 built dwelling should take:
• Have a blood test to determine if there is lead in your body;
• Have your home tested for lead by an environmental testing company. For any renovation, even a simple painting job, test your home before renovation to pinpoint where lead lurks, and after renovation to be sure all traces of lead are gone.
• Leave your home when it is cleaned, painted or remodeled.
• Talk to your doctor if you have the urge to eat soil or clay, a condition called pica. If you have pica, it is imperative to have the soil around your home tested by an environmental testing company.

Categories
Health Mold

Rain today, mold tomorrow

What’s with our recent weather? Earthquake. Two tropical storms. Snow in October. Week-long power outages. They may seem different, but they have something in common: damage to homes and businesses, not to mention the lingering after-effect: mold!

Here we are in autumn when sneezing, coughing, itchy watery eyes, even wheezing, are all expected during the season. But this year’s allergy symptoms might be caused by mold in your home rather than the ragweed in your yard.

A physician can pinpoint the reason why you’re suffering, but only a professional mold inspection service can discover if mold has invaded your home.

The latest technology should be used to locate hidden mold so that your walls, ceilings, and floors are not destroyed during the testing process. Once the culprit is found, you should hire a separate remediation company to do the repairs. You want to be careful not to have the testing and remediation done by the same company as that’s a conflict of interest. Full disclosure: this blog post is sponsored by RTK Environmental Group, which is one of the most trusted environmental service firms in the northeast. After RTK gives you the report, they provide remediation plans so contractors know exactly what to remove and where to find it, and your mold problem will be gone in the most cost-effective way possible.  (RTK does not do remediation work.)

Here are some do-it-yourself tasks to help prevent mold before winter sets in.

Indoors:
* Check all washing machine hoses and fittings for leaks and kinks.
* Insulate basement and bathroom pipes that often “sweat.”
* Keep basement drains clean and unclogged.
* Remove window air conditioners or cover them well.
* Use exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms.
* Install vents near floors and ceilings to allow air flow if your basement walls are finished with sheetrock.them out. In the future, never lay carpet near a moist source.
* Use easily washable area rugs rather than wall-to-wall carpeting, which is often a breeding ground for mold.
* Fix any leaks in your home.

Outdoors:
* To direct water away from your home, be sure soil is graded away from the foundation.
* Clear leaves and debris from gutters and downspouts. Be sure to continue this through the winter, removing ice.
* Trim all bushes and shrubs so they are at least 12 inches from your home’s siding.
* Check siding, roof shingles, vents and flashing for proper seal.

Categories
Health Lead

Smoking around children? There’s lead in that smoke!

Expose your children to secondhand smoke, and lead levels in their blood will spike, according to researchers at the Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Since even small amounts of lead can poison a child (or adult, for that matter), this news is especially alarming. Consider this: one in five U.S. children live with someone who smokes.

Lead is an ingredient in tobacco smoke, measured in both the smoke exhaled by the smoker and in the smoke from the burning cigarette. According to the Centers for Disease Control, a speck of lead dust, as small as a grain of sand, can poison a child, and at low levels, is highly toxic for neurocognitive development and kidney function.

The new study, published in a recent edition of the American Journal of Public Health, evaluated secondhand smoke and its relationship with children between the ages of 3 and 19, all participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), conducted between 1999 and 2004. The 6,830 children were chosen because they were not active smokers and their blood level measurements were available.

The study found that living with one or more smokers significantly increased the children’s lead levels, greater in younger children, which researchers said might be attributed to the greater amount of time younger children spend at home or with a relative who smokes. Existing childhood lead poisoning prevention programs evaluate children’s blood lead levels by considering housing, lead paint hazards, sources of drinking water and industrial plants near homes. Lead from secondhand smoke usually does not come into play. The Hopkins researchers suggest that lead prevention programs should also evaluate smoking exposure at home, and smoke-free environments should be provided for children to reduce lead exposure.

For more about lead and its dangers, click here.