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Healthy Home Asbestos Health Lead Mold Soil and Water

First Time Homebuyers: What You Need to Know About Environmental Toxins

First Time Homebuyers: What You Need to Know About Environmental Toxins

 

The coronavirus pandemic has urbanites fleeing the city in droves and moving into their first house. Many are snatching them up at a quick glance, not realizing that the house comes with more than just additional space and fresh air. Environmental hazards like mold, asbestos, lead and radon may be lurking in your new home, and without a proper environmental inspection, you may not know until health symptoms develop.

Homes, anywhere and at any time, can harbor mold, asbestos, lead, or radon, and contain poor indoor air quality, polluted water, or volatile organic compounds (VOCs), any one of which can threaten one’s health. That is why investing in environmental testing services prior to purchase or once you’ve made the investment is a good idea.

5 Environmental Hazards to Watch Out For:

Mold

mold behind cabinetsMold can be visible or hidden behind walls, ceilings, or floors, under carpets, and even in HVAC systems. Mold can cause serious health issues including trouble breathing, allergies, headaches and dizziness. Mold can also be present and affecting your health even if no symptoms present themselves – everyone if affected differently. Testing for mold can pinpoint the source of the problem so that proper steps can be taken to remediate the issue.

Lead

lead soilLead is found in most homes built prior to 1978, the year lead paint was banned for residential use. Lead dust is the most common cause of lead poisoning, as lead dust can spread throughout a home and even into the soil surrounding your home. Unfortunately, most of the time you cannot see lead in dust or soil, so unless you test for it, you may not even know that this hazard is present. Lead poisoning can cause serious host of issues including neurological and cognitive deficits, autism-like symptoms, mood swings, and violent behavior.

Asbestos

Asbestos is commonly found in older homes in pipe insulation, tile, and attic or wall insulation, among dozens of other places. Breathing in asbestos fibers can cause serious health implications. At the least, asbestos is a breathing irritant. At worst, asbestos can cause mesothelioma, a serious cancerous condition that can lead to debilitating health problems and usually death.

Radon

radon testingRadon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, is extremely hazardous to your health. It’s the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US. It is an odorless, tasteless and invisible gas produced when uranium naturally decays in soil and water. Since 90 percent of the land in the Northeast is likely to have elevated radon levels, every home should be tested for radon.

Poor Indoor Air Quality

indoor air quality testingVolatile organic compounds, or VOCs, and mold make up almost 90% of indoor air quality issues. VOCs are toxic fumes that are off gassed from many building and everyday materials including new flooring or carpeting, paint, cleaners and detergents. Poor indoor air quality can cause headaches, nausea, allergies, difficulty breathing, and rashes, just to name a few.

A Traditional Home Inspection Isn’t Enough

Home inspections are obviously necessary for the sale or purchase of a home. But what many buyers are realizing is that these inspections usually do not take into consideration mold infestation, lead, asbestos, and water quality. Most home inspectors lack the knowledge and certifications necessary to test for potentially toxic substances.

What Is an Environmental Home Inspection?

renovation adviceMold testing, lead inspection, asbestos testing, water testing, and indoor air quality testing may all be performed during an environmental inspection. Environmental home inspections can vary depending on the age and condition of the home. Such inspections should be scheduled with a certified, independent testing company – even before your sign a contract. It’s important that the company you hire doesn’t perform both testing and remediation, as that is a conflict of interest.

Not all environmental hazards are obvious, and they can cause serious health issues. To detect them requires expertise, licensure, technology, and experience. If you would like more information on what types of environmental inspections may be right for you, please feel free to call us at 800.392.6468. Live well!

 

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Asbestos Healthy Home Lead

Renovate Right: Top 3 Tips for DIYers

Renovate Right: Top 3 Tips for DIYers

This is the time of year many of us DIYers are eager to get moving on home improvements. But before you start sanding and swinging that hammer, there are a few important things to think about:

What type of surfaces and materials will you be disturbing? Is there chipping paint? Crumbling pipe insulation? Smell of mildew?

If any or all of the above, you’ll need to take some precautions. Why? You may be subjecting yourself and your family to possible health risks, caused by the very particles you’ve disturbed. So, renovate the right way. Here’s how:

Tip #1: Know the composition of the materials you disturb before you even begin – have your home tested!

environmental testing nyc

Mold that you cannot see may be lurking behind your walls. Pipe insulation may contain asbestos fibers. Layers of old paint beneath more recent paint may contain lead. When you disturb these materials, dust and spores from these toxic materials may be released in the air. Then, they may travel through your home’s HVAC system. Once that happens, you’ve contaminated your indoor environment. So, BEFORE you start the project, have a certified microbial inspector do some tests. If you wait until after you’ve disturbed these materials and discover that you have released toxins in the process, the clean up can be very expensive. Worst of all, you may have subjected yourself and your family to real health hazards.

So, Step One: call in an environmental testing company to have your home tested, especially if you live in a pre-1978 built home. If the test reveals toxic lead remnants, be sure you follow lead safe work practices, or hire a contractor certified in lead-safe work practices under the Renovation, Repair, and Paint rule (RRP).

Tip #2: Take proper precautions.

If a test confirms environmental hazards, take appropriate steps to keep yourself and your family safe. Follow these precautions:

– Evacuate vulnerable family members. While you are working, be sure children, pregnant Protect Childrenwomen, and pets leave the premises for the day. They can return to the house after the work has stopped and the area is thoroughly cleaned. Even a speck of lead dust can cause irreversible damage to one’s health.

– Contain the offending area. Close doors leading to the work area. Then use 4-6 mil plastic sheeting and painter’s tape to seal off the work area. Seal all duct work, doors leading out, and windows with the sheeting. Your goal is to prevent toxins from contaminating the rest of the house.

– Dress for the occasion. Look for a mask or respirator with an N95 rating or higher, which mold inspection nycfilters out very fine particles. And be sure you wear it for the entire time you are working and cleaning. Also, buy a Tyvek suit to protect your clothes. If the work takes more than a day, leave the Tyvek suit in the contained area. Be sure to cover your feet with booties, which also should never leave the contained area. Once you remove the Tyvek suit and the booties, head to your washing machine, strip, and wash your clothes.

– Avoid sanding. Lead dust accounts for most of the 500,000 pediatric lead-poisoning cases a year. Sanding releases fine lead dust particles, which fly through your air, infiltrating the entire house. Unfortunately, these particles remain in the home for a long time. Therefore, sand as little as possible.home renovation tips ny

– Clean up well. First, sweep up as much of the dust and debris as you can and put it into a plastic bag, which you then should seal with painter’s tape. Use a HEPA vacuum to remove any remaining lead dust particles. Then use warm water and clean rags to wash all surfaces. Every exposed surface must be cleaned well.

Tip #3: Protect your family from unnecessary health risks.

When the work is done, be sure to have a second environmental inspection performed by a certified testing company to be sure your home has been properly cleaned from lead, asbestos, mold, and other toxins. Otherwise, the health affects can be devastating.

Lead poisoning is shown to causHealthy Familye autism-like symptoms, ADHD, brain damage, lower IQ, and a host of other physical and mental issues. Mold causes asthma, allergies, and other serious respiratory ailments. Asbestos is a carcinogen that can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis and other serious respiratory ailments. Most asbestos-related diseases don’t arise until years after exposure.

Make sure your home is safe for you and your family. Test today.

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Asbestos Gardening Health Healthy Home Lead Soil and Water

Is Your Garden Soil Safe?

Is Your Garden Soil Safe?

A home garden is a unique and hands-on way to connect with your food. But it’s not just which vegetables and herbs you’re planting, it’s what you’re planting it in that counts, too. The fact is that contaminants lurk in your soil, and can greatly affect what you eat, and ultimately your health. Soil can be polluted by harmful contaminants such as lead, asbestos, pesticides, herbicides, and heavy metals; so it’s important to test your soil before you even start your garden.

Lead is the most common pollutant, especially if your home (or surroundings) were constructed prior to 1978. Before that date, paint contained lead. So, every time the old paint is disturbed (whether renovating or sanding to repaint), lead dust is released. And that dust winds up in the soil and the air you breathe. Lead is highly toxic and can cause severe health problems, including damage to the brain and nervous system. Pregnant women and children are especially susceptible to lead poisoning.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fiber that was commonly used in construction before the 1980s. Again, if those fibers are disturbed and released into the air, you can be affected. Exposure to asbestos has been linked to severely increasing your chances of developing mesothelioma and other cancers.

There are other poisons that can be found in soil – the very solvents, pesticides, and herbicides that are available to the general public and can cause damage to plants, can also affect the soil surrounding your home, and can contaminate water runoff. Pesticides and herbicides can cause neurological poisoning and affect memory, coordination, and response times—especially in children.

Polluted water runoff poses a risk to soil conditions, local water sources, and residential wells. Polluted runoff can result in a variety of health problems and waterborne infectious diseases, especially when water remains stagnant.

So, plant those gardens, but be aware of the noxious elements that can spoil your soil! And remember to have your soil tested by a non-biased environmental company, like RTK Environmental Group, prior to starting any landscaping or gardening projects.

 

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Healthy Home

Beware of Basement Air!

Beware of Basement Air

Basements can be a paradise of space. We can put home gyms, TV or game rooms, and laundry facilities there, and use it for storage. All great ideas. Except…you’ve got to be sure it’s safe. What you might not realize is that poor indoor air quality can turn your basement into a health hazard. Air quality is affected by the presence of mold, radon, and other toxins. Symptoms can include:

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

If you get any of these symptoms, especially while in or after spending some time in your basement, you may have a serious indoor air quality problem.

tape lift sample mold“Basements are often damp, and moisture and mold go hand-in-hand,” says Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and founder of RTK Environmental. “Mold and poor indoor air quality have been known to trigger allergies that cause coughs and headaches, as well as irritations to the nose, skin, and eyes. If you are working out in an environment that is full of dust and mold allergens, it can be particularly difficult to breathe.”

If you have not had an indoor air quality test, you should. It can tell you if the air you are breathing is negatively affecting your health. “More and more, our daily lives revolve around being healthy – eating well, physical activity, regular wellness checkups, organic food, non-toxic products, and more,” points out Weitz. “What we don’t realize is that it’s all for nothing if the air we are breathing in is filling our bodies with toxins.”

Here are the most common things to watch out for:

1. Mold

Mold is the leading cause of poor indoor air quality in basements and can have dire effects on your health. In fact, in about 80% of “sick building syndrome” cases, where poor air quality spreads, mold infestations (black mold and other types) are the main cause of illness.

Mold thrives in damp environments and spreads easily.

2. Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs

basement VOCWe may cringe when we have to breathe recycled air on an airplane, yet the indoor air quality in our basements may not be too much better or even worse! According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air may be up to 100 times more polluted than outdoor air. Because the air in your basement tends to be stagnant, it can breed unhealthy conditions. 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, appliances, carpeting, manufactured wood products, machines, pesticides, cleaning agents and even personal care products.

3. Gym Equipment

Dust AllergyWhen was the last time you washed your basement elliptical (with soap) or really dusted your treadmill? If you say, ‘I can’t remember,” then listen up. Basements are generally dirtier than the rest of our house because they are dusted and vacuumed less frequently. Therefore, dust mites and vermin droppings can build up in neglected areas, like crawl spaces and behind the clothes dryer, and on fans used to keep you cool on exercise equipment. Chances are you’re breathing in lint, mites, dust, and other particles, and it’s not good for your health.

 4. Carpeting

Yoga HealthWith rugs serving as a haven for dirt, bacteria, and mold spores, you’ll probably never look at carpeting the same way again. Every time you walk across that carpet, you may be releasing mold spores and unhealthy microorganisms into the air. Doing so may cause asthma, allergies, and a host of other ailments. So, you may want to move your yoga mat upstairs before your downward dog brings you within inches of a health problem.

 5. The Washing Machine

basement moldEver open the washing machine and get a whiff of an awful stale scent? That’s mold and mildew. Washing machines are prone to harboring mold, especially front loaders. Failure to clean your washer rigorously can result in the growth of fungi and bacteria that can cause lung inflammation. Cleaning the washing machine frequently will help prevent odors as well. Be sure to leave the door open in between washes to allow air to circulate and dry out the machine.

6. Your Family

basement pestsWatch out for crumbs! Whether Dad’s eating a sandwich while watching the game or the kids are snacking on chips and soda while playing video games, if they’re not keeping the area clean, they 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.

7. Storage

IAQYour self-built shelves that hold your treasures, like Grandma’s china and your kid’s artwork from nursery school, keep clutter out of your main living area. But if those shelves have been relegated to the basement, they could be creating a problem. Moisture tends to collect in boxes, making it easy for mold to grow. Dust also can accumulate on stored items. Things like pesticides, old paint cans, and cleaning products, when stored inside, can cause harmful indoor air by emitting toxic VOCs. Shelve it elsewhere!

8. Radon

It is not uncommon for radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, to be found in basements. It is an odorless, tasteless and invisible gas produced when uranium naturally decays in soil and water, and it is hazardous to your health. Because 90 percent of the land in the Northeast is likely to have elevated radon levels, every home should be tested for radon, an important part of indoor air quality tests.

How Do I Know if My Basement is Safe?

If you are experiencing any of the health symptoms we’ve listed after you’ve been in the basement for a while, or if you just want to be sure you are not harboring toxic material, have your indoor air quality tested. A thorough environmental health inspection will let you know if you have mold or VOCs, which are responsible for up to 90% of all IAQ issues, and how to alleviate the source of the problem. An independent testing company, like RTK Environmental, will conduct indoor air quality testing to determine if 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 your basement.

If you would like to schedule an indoor air quality inspection or have questions, call us today at (800) 392-6468.

 

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Health Healthy Home Soil and Water Video

Video: Is Your Well Water Contaminated?

In recent years, testing revealed that 70% of wells in Stamford, CT were contaminated with uranium and arsenic. Wells from Boston to Washington, DC have tested positive for a variety of harmful contaminants. You may mistakenly believe that because your drinking water comes from a well, it’s pure and safer than water from reservoirs. But well water can contain a host of contaminants, including coliform bacteria, uranium, lead, arsenic, E. coli, nitrates, VOCs (volatile organic compounds) radon, pesticides, and MtBE (a gasoline compound), which can cause a wide variety of health problems, including skin problems; damage to the brain, kidneys, and neurological system; gastro-intestinal illness; hair loss; and immune deficiencies.

The only way to know if your water is harming your family is to have it tested by an independent testing service like RTK Environmental. If you are interested in learning more or setting up a test, call us at (800) 392-6468 or learn more about water testing here.

 

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Indoor Air Quality & Radon Health Healthy Home Mold

9 Tips for Better Indoor Air Quality

9 Tips for Better Indoor Air Quality

 

 

good indoor air qualityWe’re all looking for simple ways to be healthier, especially in light of the COVID pandemic. Good health starts with a clean home environment. If we breath air that is unhealthy, our bodies eventually let us know. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to potential issues like mold, mildew, and other causes of poor indoor air quality.

 

Robert Weitz, founder of RTK Environmental Group, warns that if you see mildew on any surfaces, mold is often not far away. “Mildew is a form of mold, so if you detect a musty odor or see mildew, there is likely a bigger problem that needs to be addressed.” Mold and mildew are common causes of poor indoor air quality. Testing for mold is the first step in restoring the health of your home.

 

Mr. Weitz offers many tips to improve your indoor air quality. Poor indoor air quality can cause health issues, including headaches, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue.

 

Here are some of his top suggestions:

  1. Be aware of common indoor pollutants. Around 80% of indoor air quality issues are caused by mold or volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.
  2. Keep a tidy house. Be sure to remove household dust, as it contains all types of particulate matter – from dead insects to skin cells. Gross!
  3. hepa vacuumAdd a certified HEPA vacuum to your cleaning arsenal to prevent smaller particles from being reintroduced into your environment.
  4. Install a whole home air purification system. They can be put directly into your HVAC equipment and can filter out harmful particles.
  5. Buy cleaning products that contain both disinfectant and surfactant to disinfect while removing contaminating particles from surfaces. Low-VOC cleaning products are recommended.
  6. Be proactive against water damage events. If you have a leak or flood, act fast as mold can start to grow within 24 hours. Also, keep an eye on humidity levels in your home; they should remain below 50%.
  7. dirty filterChange the filters on your HVAC system at least every six months and clean all ductwork.
  8. If you have water damage, test for mold, and then have remediation performed based on the results. When remediation is completed, you should conduct clearance testing to ensure the mold was properly removed.
  9. Allow new furniture and carpeting to off-gas and release VOCs and other toxins before moving it into your home. This can be done outdoors or in a dry garage.

 

Be aware of your home’s indoor air quality, and always get an independent company to test when any suspicious odors, spots, or stains are present. Remember, when in doubt, check it out!

 

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Health Healthy Home

Essential Oils: Nature’s Surprising Air Cleanser

Essential Oils: Nature’s Surprising Air Cleanser

Essential Oil

You may have heard about essential oils, but do you really know what they are, or how they can cleanse your home and your body? Lisa Zawrotny, a Wellness Advocate, known as the Ultimate Oil Mom, gave us some excellent insight on the therapeutic benefits of using essential oils for fighting off seasonal discomfort and indoor air quality issues.

What is an Essential Oil?

“It’s the essence of a plant. It is found in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants, like the zest from a citrus fruit – it’s a fragrant oil, not greasy,” says Zawrotny. She explains the aroma gives plants their distinctive fragrance and also protects plants from natural enemies, like mold and insects. Essential oils have long been used for beauty treatments, health care practices, and food preparation.

How Do You Extract An Essential Oil?

AromatherapyEssential oils are extracted through one of two processes: cold pressing or steam distilling, Zawrotny explains. There are four levels of oil purity, which determines what you can use the oil for: smell, flavor, aromatherapy, or natural health. The highest level of purity is certified therapeutic grade, a quality protocol to which essential oils are carefully and thoroughly tested against.

How Do You Use An Essential Oil?

The benefits of essential oils are obtained in three ways: aromatically through diffusion, topically applied to the skin after being diluted with a carrier oil (like coconut oil), or internally through ingestion. All three approaches work well to support the body, but new research is showing an even greater impact with diffusing oils than previously thought. We weren’t surprised to learn that only therapeutic grade oils can be used for health purposes, but we were surprised that it seems the body can benefit from the aroma even when it is not delivered through the nose. Scientists are finding odor receptors throughout the body, where they play a pivotal role in a host of physiological functions. You can read The New York Times article here.

Essential Oils Can Help Protect Against Seasonal & Environmental Elements

Lemon Oil“There are several oils that can help you to combat seasonal discomfort naturally,” Zawrotny says. A few of her favorites include Peppermint, Lavender, and Lemon. “These are cleansing oils, and can be diffused in your home to help cleanse the air, and promote clear breathing and healthy respiratory functions,” she explains. Eucalyptus supports the respiratory system, and helps to maintain clear airways. Whether used alone or in combination, these oils have been known for thousands of years to promote healthy inflammatory response, as well as help bolster the immune system, creating calming and balancing effects, internally and externally.Eucalyptus Tub

TIP: Add a few drops of Eucalyptus or Peppermint oil to a hot bath or on a washcloth under your feet in the shower – the aromatic properties will blend with the steam to open airways and help quickly relieve seasonal symptoms.

Essential Oils Can Improve Air Quality

Aromatherapy DiffuserNot only do essential oils smell good, but also some have strong air purification properties. Remember, these oils were inside the plant to help protect it from mold, so it has powerful properties to cleanse your air. Cinnamon, Melaleuca (tea tree), Oregano, Clove, Thyme, Grapefruit extract, and Rosemary oils can be diffused into the air, providing additional support to soothe potential symptoms. However, it can’t be used to rid your home of mold. If you think you have a mold problem, have your home tested by an independent inspector to make sure you and your family is not in danger. If the problem is serious, the inspector may recommend professional remediation.

Bonus: When oils are diffused into the air, they are also absorbed into your body through your nose and skin and can help build immunity and have a healing impact, including cell renewal.

467249269Clean Green

Essential oils make great cleaning agents. You can use the oils directly on surfaces to clean naturally. Certain oils work very well for cleaning, including Clove, Lemon, Wild Orange, Cinnamon, Rosemary, and Eucalyptus. Fill a small spray bottle with vinegar and add 10-20 drops of your favorite oil – it makes a great natural cleaner! You can diffuse it in the home, or add a few drops to a pot of boiling water to purify and freshen the air.

Essential Oil ApplicationEssential oils have many potential benefits, but Zawrotny suggests doing your own research. A great place to start is www.aromaticscience.com. If your home has an environmental issue, like mold, lead, or poor indoor air quality, oils alone will not solve the problem, and your health could be in danger. The only way to know if you and your family are in a safe environment is to have your home tested. Once you know what you may be dealing with, you can then determine the best way to proceed.

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Healthy Home Environment Mold

Pets and Environmental Toxins: What You Need To Know

Pets and Environmental Toxins: What You Need To Know

Sasha 2Ask any pet owner if their cat or dog has ever consumed something harmful or poisonous, and most likely an epic story will follow, usually with a happy ending. There are countless common products that we use every day that can poison our pets. Many of these are obvious – bleach, certain houseplants, prescription medications, some human foods – and we try not to expose our pets to them. But what about the potential dangers that are not so obvious? What if we didn’t personally bring the hazard into the home in the first place? What if we don’t even know it’s there?

Sasha and Natalie

About ten years ago, I drove my best friend, Natalie, to the Humane Society to adopt her first cat. We left with a petite tortoiseshell with white paws, and she purred from the backseat the whole way home. Natalie is the kind of cat mom that makes me want to be a cat. Sasha was not only loved abundantly, but she was up to date on her shots and vet visits. She ate the right food, and lived indoors in a clean environment. Or so it seemed.

Three years ago, Sasha had to be euthanized. The vet discovered masses inside her lungs. She developed a chronic cough that would break your heart to hear. In her last weeks, she was struggling to breath. Her lungs filled with fluid that needed to be drained daily by the vet. Not only was this painful for Sasha, but it was strenuous. I saw my friend try everything possible until she had to weigh the depleted options against Sasha’s quality of life. You can cry on a thousand shoulders, but you can’t explain to your animal what is happening and why. And nothing makes it harder than not actually having that answer.

Cleaning products and dogsWe later found that it was due to environmental toxins, and possibly mold, in the apartment. Many animals have health issues that impact them later in life or even suddenly and without warning.  While we can’t control all things, we can increase our awareness and minimize potential unknown dangers to our pets. We have historically used poisonous products and materials to clean, build our homes, and control pests. Common household products that are known to be poisonous to dogs and cats include detergents, fabric softeners, enzymatic cleaners, deodorizers and sprays, toothpaste and mouthwash, Firestarter logs, hand sanitizer (ethanol), liquid potpourri, essential oils, and more. For many of these, we can now source nontoxic and pet friendly options. Consider how much closer our pets’ noses and mouths are to the residual chemicals of these products.

 

pesticides in soil harm animalsRecently, RTK tested a multi-million dollar home in Westchester County, New York. The owners had moved in, and three months later, their Golden Retriever puppy got very sick, and developed cancer. When the test results came back, there were elevated levels of a pesticide in the soil called chlordane, that was outlawed in 1988, and known to cause cancer and a host of other ailments. The puppy passed away just after she turned 6-months-old.

In older homes, the risk of lead and asbestos exposure to animals is as relevant as it is to humans. We don’t always know if we have lead-based paint on our walls, both inside and outside, and we may not be aware of how many building materials contain asbestos. Symptoms from lead exposure include changes in behavior, gastrointestinal or neurologicCats and detergents problems, and anemia. Inhaling asbestos fibers can cause mesothelioma in dogs and cats and the disease develops much more quickly than in people. Pesticides and insecticides are the cause of thousands of reported poisonings each year, and although the EPA monitors all pesticide ingredients before they are produced, pesticides will remain in soil around homes for years. The half-life of chlordane, for example, is more than 30-years. So even if you don’t personally utilize pesticides around your home, your animals and children are not necessarily safe. If you move into a home, whether it’s old, new, or just new to you, these environmental hazards are important to be familiar with.

Sasha 3Natalie and the vet who treated Sasha discussed mold, asbestos and other possible reasons for her condition. One major question mark was that like many of us, Natalie and Sasha lived in three different apartments during her short life. That her death was ultimately a result of exposure to a toxic substance is something Natalie regrets, and wishes she knew which apartment was the culprit, so that she can warn the current tenants. The most sobering piece of this sad puzzle is that Sasha’s symptoms were not remarkable until it was past the point of a treatment option. For that reason alone, we owe our unknowing pets the most discerning awareness about their surroundings. Consider it fair trade for the endless, unwavering love they give us.

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center published an article about potential hazards animals face during home renovations and the website for Mesothelioma Treatment Centers has information about asbestos exposure signs and treatment options for mesothelioma. The Nation Pesticide Information Center has information on individual pesticides and resources if animals or people are exposed. 

Categories
Indoor Air Quality & Radon Healthy Home Mold

Spending More Time Indoors? Here’s What You Should Know About the Air You’re Inhaling, Especially Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Spending More Time Indoors? Here’s What You Should Know About the Air You’re Inhaling, Especially Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

There’s nothing like fresh air, but with the winter approaching 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 a recent 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-19, 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!

 

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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.