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Flooding & Water Damage Asbestos Healthy Home Lead Mold Mold Testing

6 Mistakes People Make When Rebuilding After a Storm

6 Mistakes People Make When Rebuilding After a Storm

 

Many people are now realizing that Ida and Henri have caused a great deal of mold after the fact. Knowing what to do in the event that you have flooding and water damage is critical in preventing mold growth. Additionally, there are several things to know about rebuilding, which you may not be aware of. Whatever phase of the post-storm cleanup you are in, these tips can help you get your life back to normal.

Avoid These 6 Mistakes:

  1. Don’t Rebuild Too Quickly

Many people make the mistake of ripping out wet materials right away and not letting the area dry out completely before they rebuild. This can cause major hassles down the road, as mold will grow with a vengeance.

wet sheetrock

  1. Wet Sheetrock

Mold loves to grow on sheetrock, so you want to ensure everything near the new sheetrock is clean and dry. Be sure to clean wood framing before putting sheetrock back. Also make sure concrete floors are dry. If there is any moisture still left, you run the risk of regrowing your mold problem.

wet fiberglass

  1. Don’t Leave Wet Fiberglass Insulation in Walls

Wet fiberglass insulation left in wall cavities can turn into a hidden mold nightmare. Make sure you remove and replace any wet insulation before you restore the sheetrock. This can save you thousands in unnecessary repairs.

lead and asbestos hazards

  1. Disturbing Asbestos and Lead Paint

In a rush to put things back to normal, many people don’t realize that when they are ripping out wet and damaged materials, they may be inadvertently disturbing asbestos fibers and lead paint, which are both serious health hazards. The only way to know what you are about to unleash in your home is to have the area tested for lead and asbestos, especially if your home was built prior to 1980.

mold testing after a storm

  1. Test for Mold Before and After Remediation

Why test twice? Simple. The first test is to identify where the mold is, and map out what really needs to be removed and remediated. This can save thousands in unnecessary repairs.

The second test is called a clearance test which occurs after remediation, which is important for a few reasons. Primarily, you want to ensure that the mold was removed properly, as your health is at stake. Additionally, it’s important for future insurance claims. If your home floods again and mold returns, your insurance company may question whether the mold was caused by the new event. Without proof that your home was deemed mold-free after repairs were made, the insurance company might take the position that a new claim is not justified or that you have met your policy limit. Finally, if you are in an area prone to storms and flooding, when reselling your home, you may be asked to prove that your home is free from toxins.

wet carpet mold

  1. Don’t Keep Wet Flooring

Nobody wants to throw out a floor. But if water has made its way below the carpeting, tiles, or wood flooring, you may have mold growing where you can’t see it. Rebuilding the walls and ceilings above it without removing the affected area is a waste of money if you don’t fix the underlying issue. An independent mold test can tell you whether your flooring is salvageable.

An independent, certified testing company like RTK Environmental does not do remediation, and therefore, offers consumers an unbiased opinion about any contamination. If you have questions about recent water damage or restoration, call us at 800.392.6468.

 

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Inspector's Notebook Asbestos Healthy Home Lead Weitz Advice

3 Things Architects Need to Know About Environmental Testing

3 Things Architects Need to Know About Environmental Testing

 

When you start a new project, there are a lot of people relying on you to ensure everything goes smoothly. Whether you are working for a customer directly or a builder, they are going to count on you to ensure the quality and safety of the job, and to ensure that all environmental testing required by law is complete. We’ve compiled a list of the top things’ architects should know about environmental testing.

 

  1. To help avoid liability issues, test for asbestos.

asbestos testingMany architects leave required pre-project asbestos testing up to the builder, which can be a mistake. Builders sometimes forgo asbestos testing to save time and money. But accidentally contaminating a building because walls, tiles, ceilings or other suspect material containing asbestos were ripped out without proper precautions being taken can contaminate a much larger area. Aside from that, testing for asbestos is a good idea in general to protect the health of workers on the job and avoid issues with OSHA. It can also shield you from further liability.

 

  1. Test for lead paint prior to starting work.

lead paint hazardsLead paint is another potential problem for architects. Be sure to test for lead paint before you start a renovation project. Home lead test kits are not enough, as they only test for lead on the surface. Be sure to hire an independent professional to conduct XRF lead paint testing, which will tell you if the underlayers of paint contain dangerous lead.

 

  1. Working with a qualified, unbiased testing company which does not do remediation can save you money.

independent environmental testingNot every environmental testing company is the same. There are those that do both testing and remediation, which is a clear conflict of interest. The more issues they say they find, the more they stand to make in the remediation or abatement to follow.

RTK Environmental only does testing and never remediation, so you can rest assured our results are unbiased and accurate. Additionally, RTK provides you with a plan for remediation, so you don’t waste money on areas that don’t need to be remediated. And with our fast turnaround times, you can move your project forward faster.

Contact RTK to schedule an inspection for your project today. Click here or call 800.392.6468.

 

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Healthy Home Inspector's Notebook

Smart Home Inspectors Recommend Environmental Inspections – Here’s Why

Smart Home Inspectors Recommend Environmental Inspections – Here’s Why

mold home inspectionWith the spring market here, the home inspection business is getting busy, as home inspectors are an important part of the home buying process. But what happens if you find suspect environmental toxins? Savvy inspectors call RTK for a follow-up environmental inspection. It shields them from liability and protects the health of the potential buyers.

home inspection finds moldWhen you find mold, asbestos, lead, or other suspect materials during a home inspection and you are not licensed to conduct the proper testing, your clients may ask for a recommendation for further testing. RTK has been a trusted resource for environmental home inspectors for nearly 30 years.

We regularly work with home inspectors to conduct environmental inspections. RTK uses precise equipment and the latest technology. Clients receive a detailed report that is clearly written and easy to understand in as little as 24 hours. Additionally:

  • We understand that our role is to support and protect you, not to take over the relationship with your client
  • We can efficiently perform multiple types of testing simultaneously, including lead, mold and asbestos
  • We respond quickly and are priced fairly and accurate
  • RTK is licensed to meet the New York State Department of Labor mold law criteria

And, with an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, a 5-star rating on Google, and the Angi Super Service Award in our corner, you can feel good about referring RTK. Contact us at 800.392.6468 or click here to schedule an appointment. Problem solved!

asbestos home inspection

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Indoor Air Quality & Radon Healthy Home

Study Reveals Home Indoor Air Quality is Worse Than Office

Study Reveals Home Indoor Air Quality is Worse Than Office

 

Indoor air pollution has been classified as one of the top five environmental health hazards. And in the United States, where it is estimated that we spend close to 90% of our time indoors, the quality of the air we breathe – indoors – can have an impact on our health. Since the pandemic, more people have been working remotely, which has led to higher than usual interest in the quality of the air they were breathing.

indoor air quality studyInterest in studying the impact of COVID-19 in different settings has led to higher scrutiny of the indoor air quality (IAQ) at homes during the lockdown. Researchers at Texas A&M recently published a pilot study that found that IAQ was worse in homes than in offices. Fine particulate matter (PM) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the home were significantly higher that offices, 90% of which were in compliance with environmental standards. The study also found a higher frequency of Sick Building Syndrome symptoms while working from home as the IAQ was worse at home.

Why is IAQ worse in homes than in the office?

“In the home, building materials, cleaning agents, air fresheners, adhesives, paints, pesticides and biological contaminants from poor ventilation systems all contribute to poorer air quality,” explains Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and principal of RTK Environmental Group. “There also may be dust from construction or renovation work that may contain lead or asbestos, mold, pesticides, chemicals from cleaning supplies, VOCs from new furniture or carpeting, and other airborne chemicals.”

office indoor air quality However, the likelihood of poor IAQ in office buildings can be lower because offices have better heating and air conditioning systems, as well as air filtration systems. “Offices are also more likely to maintain their HVAC systems, servicing them every 6 – 12 months and changing filters regularly, whereas homeowners may go years without taking these steps,” Weitz says.

He points out that homes today can be made to be airtight, reducing natural ventilation as they are controlled by HVAC systems. “A big difference between home and office HVAC systems is that non-residential buildings typically have a mechanical ventilation for outdoor air change, whereas homes could be closed up for months without significant fresh air exchange, depending on the season.”

basement office indoor air qualityWith estimates that 1 in 4 Americans are still working remotely, and that 22% of the workforce (36.2 million Americans) will continue to work remotely through 2025, indoor air quality is definitely something to monitor.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, poor indoor air quality poses a significant threat to well-being. Short-term symptoms may include headaches, dizziness, dry cough, skin irritations, irritated eyes, nose and throat, as well as fatigue. However, long-term exposure to poor IAQ can cause heart disease, respiratory diseases, and cancer, according to the EPA.

What can you do about poor IAQ?

First, have your home indoor air quality tested by an independent company like RTK. They will be able to identify or rule out the root causes of the VOCs or poor indoor air quality. This will give you the framework to plan your remediation. The EPA says that it’s most effective to find the sources of pollutants to improve IAQ. This may include sources that contain asbestos, mold, lead dust, or gas stoves that can be adjusted to reduce the level of emissions released in your house.

tips for better indoor air qualityYou also should consider bringing fresh air into your house by opening doors and windows. Even a small amount of fresh air can make a difference.

You may want to install air purifiers as well, as many filter out microscopic pollutants and particles from the air. HEPA and carbon filters are the best, but be aware that the HEPA filters particulate matter only, whereas carbon filters get rid of VOCs and odors. It’s best to have an air purifier with both types of filters.

If you are going to continue to work from home or if you are concerned about the quality of your indoor air in general, have your indoor air quality checked. If you would like to schedule an indoor air quality test, call (800) 392.6468 or click here. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have. Live well!

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Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Mold

What Should I Expect From An Indoor Air Quality Test?

What Should I Expect From An Indoor Air Quality Test?

Maybe you haven’t been feeling well and neither you nor your physician can figure out why. Or maybe you’re trying to live a healthier lifestyle and simply want to know if the level of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in your home or workplace is acceptable.

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Healthy Home Asbestos Lead Mold

4 Renovations to Make the Home Safer

4 Renovations to Make the Home Safer

 

The new year provides a perfect opportunity to start making sure that your house is in tip-top shape for the upcoming seasons. As the weather starts to get warmer, it’s important to make sure you don’t just cover the basics, but check that those out-of-sight, out-of-mind areas are on that to-do list too. Here are a few renovations for the home that will not only help make it safer but will also create a refresh for the new year.

1.   Repainting the House

lead paint hazard

A quick way to refresh any room is a quick repaint. It’s important to note that before starting this project, testing for lead paint is key to making sure this project doesn’t become something massive. If your home was built before the 1978, it’s more likely than not that the home was decorated with lead paint. Before you sand down and prime your walls, scheduling a lead inspection can help you pinpoint problem areas before starting.

Additionally, a new coat of paint will provide an extra layer of protection from moisture. By preventing this moisture, you’re less likely to experience mold and mildew, which will cause more damage later on. If you’re considering a repaint, make sure to sand and prime, in order to create a layer that is both appealing and protective.

 

2.   Update Leaky Sinks

update leaky sinkLeaky sinks and tubs are a moisture haven if not treated properly. Similar to wall moisture, dampness that accumulates from underneath sinks can cause mold growth, which can, in turn, cause asthma, allergies, and other health issues. While bleach can be a useful short-term fix, it’s best to get to the root of the problem and treat mold with a permanent solution.

Update your bathroom with new sinks to not only match your current interior but also provide a clean slate to curb future repairs. Replacing your bathroom vanity with a model that provides aeration for your sink pipes will help you avoid the potential for loose plumbing joints, condensation, and leaks. You can also make sure your shower and bathtub are updated with new pipes to help decrease the chance of repair later.

 

3.   Lighting and Electrical Changes

updated lighting Keeping your house well-lit is a great way to ensure that your home feels like it’s received a refresh without doing too much work. If the lights are flickering, or you feel as though you’ve used your circuit breaker one too many times, updating light fixtures and adding extra outlets can keep your home up-to-date and safe. Adding these updates to your fixtures and your outlets, not only will potentially increase your home’s value but will also save you money on your electricity bills going forward – a win-win heading into the new year!

 

4.   Refresh your Floors

refresh floorsThere are two options when it comes to updating the floors in your home: refinishing them, if they’re not currently scratched up from years of wear and tear, or replacing them with something newer. If you currently have carpet, updating to hardwood could be a great solution to the health of your home, as well as the people you live with.

Health conditions like allergies and asthma can be triggered by dust that accumulates in old carpets, so updating with hardwood flooring can get rid of grime, allergens, dust particles, etc., that can exist, giving your home a more breathable “fresh” start. This renovation may take the longest, but when finished will provide a great advantage to you in the new year. It improves the functionality of space and will offer you the ability to adjust rooms as your lifestyle changes. Once you have installed new floors, you may want to consider an indoor air quality test to ensure they are not emitting volatile organic compounds, which can cause negative repercussions on your health.

Whatever adjustments you’re making as the winter season takes full effect, it’s important that you’re making sure to stay safe, not just trying to revamp your home design.

 

 

 

 

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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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Indoor Air Quality & Radon Healthy Home Mold

Spending More Time Indoors? Poor Indoor Air Quality Could Be Exacerbating Health Symptoms

Spending More Time Indoors? Poor Indoor Air Quality Could Be Exacerbating Health Symptoms

There’s nothing like fresh air, but with the winter here and pandemic measures hampering mobility, you’re apt to be spending more time indoors. And because of that, the air you are breathing may be a problem. Why? Because mold spores, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), lead dust, radon, and other sources of indoor air pollution may be present. If they are, your health may be affected.

A Word About VOCs

Volatile organic compounds, which are in the form of a gas, are toxic vapors that emanate from man-made materials and everyday household (and workplace) items. A multitude of different chemicals fall under the umbrella of VOCs, including formaldehyde, benzene, plasticizers, and by-products produced by chlorination in water treatment, such as chloroform.

volatile organic compoundsProblem is, VOCs are found in thousands of different household and office products, from electronics to paint to carpeting to furniture, and are off-gassed over time. That means your home’s indoor air quality is likely to become polluted. Now, especially during flu season and the coronavirus pandemic, when these diseases affect the lungs even more, we need to be extra vigilant about keeping indoor air as clean as possible. Otherwise, the impact of VOCs on your health can be pretty steep.

VOCs and Your Health

Short-term exposure to and inhaling air containing elevated levels of VOCs can cause throat and eye irritation, nausea, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, and headaches. Long-term exposure, however, is linked to cancer, as well as damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system.

Top Sources of VOCs

formaldehyde sourcesOne of the biggest sources of formaldehyde, in particular, are new building materials, according to an article in the New York Times, that points out that new plywood, particleboard, adhesives, varnishes, paints, and carpeting are all common offenders. Even if your home isn’t brand new, you can still be exposed to VOCs through painting, renovations, new furniture or bedding, household cleaners, disinfectants, cosmetics, and more.

Other Common Sources of VOCs

  • Electronics, such as copiers and printers
  • Scented candles
  • Fabrics
  • Adhesives
  • Toiletries
  • Composite wood products, like furniture and cabinets
  • Vinyl, such as shower curtains or tile
  • Air fresheners
  • Moth balls
  • Dry cleaning and laundry detergents
  • Caulk
  • Wood burning stoves

According to the New York Times, one of the best defenses is to keep levels low in the first place by looking for “low- or no-V.O.C.” or “low formaldehyde” labels when shopping for paint, couches, mattresses and wood products. If you do purchase an item that has that “new car smell” or some other chemical odor, you should let it off-gas in a garage or an outdoor area before bringing it indoors.

What Can I Do?

The best defense against elevated levels of VOCs is fresh air and proper ventilation. This can be a challenge during colder months, of course, but there are additional steps you can take.

  • prevent poor indoor air qualityOpen your windows – even for just a few minutes a day – to circulate fresh air.
  • Make sure your HVAC system is in tip top shape. Mold and dust can easily build up in HVAC systems if you don’t maintain them properly, and pollutants will spread throughout your home, compounding the indoor air quality and VOC issues.
  • Test your indoor air quality. Mold and VOCs are responsible for approximately 80% of indoor air quality issues. Once you have identified a problem and the source, you can take steps to mitigate the issue.
  • If you have a newer, air-tight home, you may want to consider a whole-house ventilation system, as your house is less likely to “breathe” and release the build-up of toxins on its own. These systems can be costly, however, and don’t work in all homes.

indoor air quality testing

With us spending more time at home during COVID, it’s more important than ever to ensure your indoor air quality is healthy. If you think you may have an indoor air quality issue, contact RTK Environmental today to find out more about your options.

Live well!

 

Categories
Healthy Home

7 Holiday Hazards and How to Avoid Them

The holidays should be filled with joy – not health hazards. These scrooges may show up during the holidays, but they don’t have to ruin your festivities if you use common sense to protect yourself.

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Healthy Home Mold

The Link Between Christmas Trees, Mold & Asthma

 

The Link Between Christmas Trees, Mold & Asthma

Every wonder why your asthma and allergies get worse around the holidays? It could be your Christmas tree, which can be filled with mold spores and allergens.

According to Dr. Alison Stallings, a dermatologist at Advanced Dermatology of Westchester, it’s more common than you think. “Patients come in with a rash that started on their arms, and it turns out they’ve been wrestling with putting up the tree,” she explains. Rashes can be the result of a mold allergy or sensitivity, she says, noting that other symptoms can include headaches, fatigue, throat and eye irritations, wheezing, and many respiratory problems including asthma.

Symptoms increase when the tree begins to decay and mold spores are released into the air. Indoor mold counts can rise rapidly within two weeks of bringing a live tree into a home. Research done at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University found that 70% of the molds found in live Christmas trees can set off reactions like severe asthma attacks, fatigue, and sinus congestion.

For people with a mold sensitivity or allergy, limit the time you keep a live Christmas tree in your home to no more than seven days. If tossing the tree so quickly isn’t for you, you can seek relief by taking over the counter allergy medicine.

Here are a few additional tips to help you enjoy a fresh tree:

  • Protect yourself. Wear gloves and long sleeves to bring the tree into your home, and again when you decorate. This will protect your arms from touching the sap, needles, and mold spores.
  • Wash allergens away. Spray the tree down with water before you bring it inside to remove some of the mold and pollen.
  • Dry it out. Allow the tree to stand in a bucket of water and let it dry outside for a few days, which can help prevent mold from growing.
  • Purify your air. Put a household air purifier in the same room as the tree to help remove allergens that are airborne.
  • Toss the tree. Get rid of the tree ASAP. Mold spores may accumulate the longer your tree is in the house.

Once the tree is discarded, make sure you vacuum and dust the room thoroughly. If you want to be certain that you’ve removed all possible mold spores and that they did not contaminate other areas of your home, call an environmental inspection company to test your home for mold and other environmental hazards. This way, you can start the New Year with a clean bill of health for your home.