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Healthy Home

7 Holiday Hazards and How to Avoid Them

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

7 Tips To Ensure Your Home is Healthy and Holiday Ready

7 Tips To Ensure Your Home is Healthy and Holiday Ready

Before the guests arrive, make sure your home is in tip-top shape with these often overlooked household checks. After all, healthy guests make for much happier holidays!

1. Musty Odors

You may think that musty odor is barely noticeable, but that’s likely because you’re used to it. Your guests will notice right away, and if they have allergies, sit them as far away from the turkey as possible, get them a box of tissues, and watch out for the sneezing that will ensue! A musty odor means that your home may have a mold problem, which causes allergies, asthma, and other health issues. You probably can’t see the source of mold, so hire an independent mold inspection expert and check this off your list!

 2. Indoor Air Quality Check

You’ve cleaned, touched up the paint, put in new air fresheners, and even replaced that old rug in the living room with brand new carpeting. You may think all these steps make for a healthier home, but each of these ordinary activities can actually cause poor indoor air quality. Dangerous VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are released into the air from many man-made materials, like detergents, furniture, cleaning products, and candles can cause headaches, fatigue, and other health issues. Studies have shown that indoor air can be up to 100 times more polluted than outdoor air. It’s no wonder we tend to be sicker in the wintertime, when we’re sealed up indoors. Mold is also a major cause of poor indoor air quality. An indoor air quality test can assure that you and your guests are breathing clean air.

3. Clean the Bathroom Fan

This is a given, especially around Thanksgiving. Not only will a properly functioning bathroom fan help dispatch the stench from Grandpa Joe’s reading session, it will also quickly remove humidity from the air, preventing costly mold remediation after too many long showers and inadequate ventilation.

4. Holiday Decoration Hazards

Before you start swinging the hammer and staple gun to get those Christmas decorations up, find out if you are going to disturb possible toxins, such as lead paint or asbestos. If your home was built before 1978, it may contain lead paint, which is extremely dangerous when disturbed. If you are not sure, have your home tested. Also, many Christmas lights, artificial trees, and ornaments contain lead, so read the label carefully, and don’t put your family at risk for permanent neurological damage by purchasing products that contain toxins. Real trees can also be a problem, as they can release mold spores, as well as create mold on wood floors and carpets if you accidentally spill when watering them. Come January, you’ve got a moldy mess.

5. Check the Shower Curtain & Bath Mat

When was the last time you changed your shower curtain or bath mat? If you’re thinking to yourself, “never,” you’re not alone. But these two items are conduits for unhealthy mold spores, bacteria, and other nasty things. And if you have a guest bathroom that hasn’t been used in ages, you may assume it’s clean because it is not used that often. Do your guests a favor and look under the mat before you throw them to the spores!

TIP: An effective way to clean your bath mats and tub liners is to toss them into your washing machine on a gentle cycle with a few light-colored towels, laundry detergent, a cup of baking soda, and 10 or so drops of tea tree oil, which can kill mold. This should have them fresh and clean in no time!

6. Fix that Leaky Sink

In addition to wasting water, leaky sinks can cause big problems in your home. Moisture under a sink can immediately cause mold growth, which causes asthma, allergies, or other serious ailments. Since mold spores occur naturally in the environment, the best way to prevent mold growth is to curtail the moisture source.

7. Turn Up the Thermostat!

A frozen pipe that bursts during your festive dinner can be a disaster! To prevent a burst pipe, turn up the thermostat. This is even more important if you are going away for the holidays, because a quick drop in temperature may cause a pipe to freeze and burst, and you won’t know until you return – a week later – which can be catastrophic! Remember: It can cost more to repair damage from a frozen pipe than it does to keep the thermostat up a few degrees this winter.

Have a happy and healthy holiday season, and call us today to get ready for a healthy home for family and fun!

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Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Lead Mold

How to Prevent Having a “Sick Home” This Winter

 

How to Prevent Having a “Sick Home” This Winter

Sick Building syndromeWith winter just around the corner, we tend to focus on conserving heat in our homes and tightly latch storm windows, secure the doors from drafts, and check the attic insulation. But we should be thinking about keeping our homes healthy as well. Unfortunately, many homes, especially newer ones, are built so airtight that they cannot breathe – literally! So, a warm and cozy house becomes a “sick home”.

Top Causes of Sick Home Syndrome

mold inadequate ventilationInadequate ventilation is a top cause of sick home syndrome. The newer  “air-tight” homes are sealed so well that hardly any fresh air enters. Moisture builds up but can’t escape and that makes a perfect breeding ground for mold. Without fresh air circulating through your rooms, indoor pollutants including chemicals from paint or rugs, mold, radon, and other airborne particles, have nowhere to escape.

This can cause an array of health problems, from breathing issues to allergies to headaches.  Besides airing your home from time to time, you can take other preventative measures to reduce indoor pollutants:

mold humidityMold grows on water-damaged materials and can cause allergies.  To prevent it:

  • Clean humidifier, HVAC and air conditioning drain pans
  • Run your bathroom vent fan when showering and for 30 minutes following
  • Repair cracks in basement walls and floor
  • Keep your (outdoor) gutters clean, so ice does not build up.

Radon is an odorless, invisible gas that can over time increase the risk of lung cancer. It seeps into houses from the earth below.  Get your house tested this fall before winter sets in. Testing for radon is recommended once every 5 years, as your foundation can settle and crack, possibly releasing a new source of radon into your home.

lead paint hazards NYLead paint was used in homes built before 1978, after which it was banned. But many people merely covered the old paint with new. So, when sanding during renovation work or opening or closing windows, the dust may contain lead. Lead dust and paint chips can cause lead poisoning, which is especially dangerous for children. Lead poisoning has been linked to a host of issues, including autism-like symptoms and ADHD.  If you have an older house, get it tested for lead before you close up your house this winter.

volatile organic compound nyVOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are toxic vapors that are off-gassed from man-made materials and everyday household items. When homes are closed and air-tight during the winter, VOCs tend to build up in the air, causing poor indoor air quality. This can cause headaches, dizziness, coughing, and other issues.  Try to limit use of and exposure to cleaning and disinfecting chemicals, candles, new furniture, carpeting or flooring, non-VOC paint, air fresheners, and other items that contain VOCs.

Your health and safety are paramount. If suspect you may have a “sick home”, have an environmental inspector come in to test your indoor air quality. It can make all the difference between a sick home and a healthy family!

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Healthy Home Lead

A Mother’s Lament: I Accidentally Poisoned My Child

Childhood Lead Poisoning: What You Need To Know Now

When my daughter turned one, we received a lovely card from the County Department of Health that said:

“Happy Birthday! Exposure to lead is harmful to your child and can cause learning problems, physical problems, behavioral problems, and organ and brain damage. GET YOUR CHILD TESTED FOR LEAD! Every child should be tested at 1 and 2 years of age.”

Lead paint tesing

I stopped and thought about that for a second. Sure, I was very happy to see that they are educating parents about the dangers of lead poisoning, which causes autism-like symptoms, ADHD, violent tendencies, and other serious issues. But something was still bothering me…

That’s when it hit me – they were telling me to get my child tested, but not my home! I mean, wouldn’t it make more sense for me to have my home tested for lead paint and lead dust? Shouldn’t we be preventing our children from becoming lead poisoned in the first place, rather than testing the level of lead in their blood?

National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is next week, yet we, as a society, remain ignorant about the dangers of lead. Even after the Flint, MI water crisis, and the ongoing issues of lead in water across the US. I have heard from parents, doctors, teachers, and even contractors who just didn’t realize the severity of lead poisoning, and what needs to be done to prevent it — before the damage is done.

I wish someone had educated me. I learned my lesson too late.

A Neighbor’s Renovation Poisoned My Family

When I was pregnant with my son, I was completely naive about the dangers of lead poisoning, and how easily it can happen.

Test for Lead Dust
Lead dust in the bathroom.

We were living in a 100-year-old landmarked building in Greenwich Village. The building across the courtyard was being demolished, and simultaneously, the apartment above us was being renovated. Dust came in through the windows and fell down the chimney, covering our apartment daily. The neighbor sent a cleaning person in a few times a week to clean it up. At the time, I was irritated, and thought that was the least he could do. What I did not realize until a year later was that he should have done a lot more. He was poisoning my family.

asbestos
The 1800’s building next door being demolished with no protection but for a mesh wall.

The construction dust was full of lead, asbestos, and other toxins. When my son and I were tested a year and a half later, we found out our blood lead levels more abnormally high. But by then it was too late. My eldest child is now 12, and he struggles with ADHD and poor concentration every day. Children with elevated levels of lead in their blood are likely to exhibit more developmental issues as they mature. Every day, I beat myself up because I could have prevented this. If only I had known! And who knows what damage it did to me, which may have been passed on to my other two children.

Test for lead paint
Lead dust covering towels in the bathroom.

The more parents know about lead poisoning early on, the less likely their children will be harmed. As a mom, and as an advocate to protect our children from the completely preventable disease of lead poisoning, I’m asking you to educate yourself. Educate a friend. Educate your physician.

And most importantly, have your home tested for lead!

Here’s What Every Parent Needs To Know About Lead Poisoning

lead poisoned pets

Lead dust is the most common cause of lead poisoning – not eating paint chips.

Lead was an additive in residential paint until 1978. When disturbed, it is highly toxic and dangerous to your health. Lead paint and lead dust, which forms when lead paint is chipped away or sanded, both cause lead poisoning. Contrary to what most people think, a child doesn’t have to eat paint chips to get lead poisoning. Lead dust is invisible, travels through the air, and is very harmful when inhaled.

Know the sources of lead poisoning.

Paint – If you live in a home built before 1978, have your home tested for lead paint to see if you and your family are at risk. Hire a professional with an XRF gun to go room to room, as there may be lead in one room, and not another.

lead paint dangers
Toxic dust on the floor of our apartment.

Dust – Everything from opening and closing a window to renovations can send lead dust flying through your home. Lead dust also can be found on floors, playground equipment, pools, and toys.

Soil – Past renovations may have contaminated the soil in which your child plays. Be sure to have your soil tested.

Water – It is important to test the water, because there may be lead in your pipes. This is essential if you are bringing home a newborn or infant, who will be drinking and bathing in that water.

Other sources of lead are plumbing fixtures, clawfoot and porcelain coated bath tubs, stained glass, toys, pottery glazes, leaded crystal, jewelry, antiques, folk remedies, food cans, artificial turf, and more.

blood lead testDon’t assume your pediatrician tests your child for lead.

In some states, lead screening for children under the age of three is mandatory. But in most states, lead testing is done only at the discretion of the pediatrician. If your doctor does not automatically test for lead, ask that it be done. It’s a simple blood test and could save your child’s life.

Take proper precautions when renovating.

Before you start any renovation, whether you hire a contractor or do it yourself, have your home tested to see if and where you have lead paint. If your home was built before 1978, chances are that there is lead somewhere. And unless you know where the lead is located, you or your contractor can unknowingly release toxic lead dust into the air. Make sure whoever does the work follows the EPA’s Renovation, Repair, and Paint rule (RRP) protocol.

Speak up!

If you have a neighbor that is renovating an older property and is not following lead safe work practices, say something! Ask them if they tested for lead, and if they say they did and it’s fine, ask for proof. Don’t trust that someone will give you an honest answer. Lead dust can easily contaminate a chunk of the neighborhood, including your home and soil.

childhood lead poisoningWatch for symptoms of lead poisoning.

Lead poisoning symptoms in children include:

  • Irritability;
  • Learning difficulties;
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite;
  • Abdominal pain;
  • Constipation;
  • Vomiting;
  • Headaches;
  • Sluggishness and fatigue;
  • Seizures.

For more information about lead poisoning prevention, click here. To schedule a test, click here.

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Asbestos Healthy Home Lead Mold

National Kitchen and Bath Month: Unknown Hazards Underneath Your Nose

National Kitchen and Bath Month: Unknown Hazards Underneath Your Nose

While renovating your home may not be top of mind as fall and winter roll around, there are still plenty of updates you may be thinking about. Whether it’s replacing your cabinets, updating the paint in the bathroom, or something smaller like changing the backsplash, there are a lot of factors to consider before starting your next indoor project. After all, you’ll likely be stuck inside while you make some changes to your home; it’s essential to think about those unknown hazards that could be lying underneath that wallpaper.

kitchen moldMold

No matter how clean you may keep your home, mold can still be present. This is one of the leading causes of respiratory issues. Exposure to mold leads to allergies, postnasal drip, and rashes, and the longer you are exposed, the worse these symptoms can get. The most common form that has to be removed is black mold, but mold will present itself in other forms that can hide from your normal cleaning routine.

While you may find this hazard in your bathroom due to condensation on the walls or leaky plumbing, indoor mold can actually be brought in from the outside; your shoes, the air flowing through the windows, and rain through a small crack in the ceiling can all be ways toxic molds show up in your house.

You may consider replacing plumbing fixtures to avoid some molds, but remember to check other damp spaces, like around your HVAC or air conditioning unit, areas near your windows and roofs, along with the attic and basement.

If you find mold anywhere in your home when starting your next DIY project, make sure to get it tested by a mold expert. Knowing exactly what type of mold is in your home will help guide how you choose to remove the material and prevent it in the future. Since any type of mold is caused by moisture, it would be a good idea to insulate windows and doors before the winter and even place dehumidifiers in areas where moisture is common.

Asbestos

Even though asbestos isn’t widely used today, it  can still be found in quite a few places in your home, specifically in areas like your kitchen and bath. Before starting any renovation,, it’s important to check any areas that may still house asbestos.. Older homes built before the 1980s usually have more character, but their age will also come with more hazards, including asbestos.

asbestos popcorn ceiling
Popcorn Ceiling

Used in popcorn ceilings, vinyl tiling in bathrooms and kitchens, and even exteriors like shingles and siding, asbestos is and was used as a fire-resistant material. However, once it deteriorates, it can affect the lungs, causing health issues like mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other long-term respiratory issues. The signs that you have mesothelioma, however, look like that of normal health issues. Coughing, sneezing, and fatigue may be signs of plenty of other diagnoses, and because this form of cancer takes a long time to develop, up to 50 years – it can be hard to receive a diagnosis before it is too late.

A lot of these older homes also don’t have to necessarily disclose asbestos if there’s no sign of deterioration. However, if you plan on renovations or foresee them taking place in the future, it’s best to do some asbestos testing to make sure you and your family stay safe, especially if walls, floors, or other major areas are being taken apart.

Lead

Unlike asbestos, lead does have to be disclosed when selling a home. That being said, often the dangers of lead are similar – they don’t show themselves until deterioration. Home repair activities are where you can start to see health concerns take place. The EPA has an entire page of resources on lead exposure, and in most cases, the best thing to do is to clean regularly to avoid any unnecessary exposure. In more detrimental cases, leaving the home is the best-case scenario.

causes of lead poisoningBelieve it or not, lead-based paint can still be found in about 80% of homes today. Because of this, checking for lead in the home can be a key step in starting any project. While the hazards are much more known compared to asbestos and the array of toxic molds, it’s important to still check for dangers that seem elementary. You never know when items like lead paint on walls will start to deteriorate, and even if you decide to cover this up, the disruption of pain on the wall can cause health issues down the line.

If you found that you have lead paint in your home, it would be a good idea to have your household tested for lead poisoning at a regional treatment center. You can never be too safe when it comes to household toxins, especially lead paint.

There are plenty of hazards you’ll find as you start to take a look at your kitchen and bathroom. That being said, there are also plenty of ways to mediate these potential hazards before they go too far. Working with an inspector to test for items like lead and mold can save you money down the line, without putting too much work in before it’s too late. After all, finding out with floors ripped up that mold has to be removed, or that you have to close a room off for asbestos abatement is an obstacle no one wants to face in the middle of a project.

 

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Healthy Home

Environmental Testing Services Should be on Your Home Inspection Checklist

Environmental Testing Services Should be on Your Home Inspection Checklist

The median age of an American home is 40 years old, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, with 40 million of the nation’s 132 million homes built in the 60s and 70s; 21 million homes built in the 40s and 50s; and 20 million homes constructed before 1939. A big chunk of the nation’s housing stock is aging—with potentially hazardous components once a standard in construction, but not acceptable today. Even newer homes have materials that can deteriorate because of water and other natural forces. Because most home inspectors lack the knowledge and certifications necessary to test for potentially toxic substances, homebuyers should schedule an environmental inspection before plunking down a deposit.

mold testing wall“I always recommend environmental testing as part of a home inspection checklist,” says Fiona Dogan, a real estate salesperson at Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty in Rye, New York. “You invest in environmental test services up front to prevent a bigger problem later.” Dogan said she also recommends environmental testing for sellers in order to identify issues before putting a property on the market.

Environmental testing also helps homebuyers uncover issues that could impact their families’ health, says Nelson Salazar, a real estate salesperson with Coldwell Banker. “For example, we’ve seen a seller move out, and the incoming buyer became sick due to the well water,” he said. “It’s best for everyone to know up front what the issues are. Once you buy a home, you’re less likely to do any future testing.”

What Environmental Tests Should I Have?

An array of residential environmental inspection tests is available. Many realtors suggest these as a starting point:

Mold Testing

Mold can be hidden in the walls, under a coat of paint, and beneath carpeting. Home inspectors will look for visible signs of mold, but unless they see it or smell a musty odor, a prospective homebuyer is unlikely to find out if a house has mold. Mold can be present wherever water or moisture has seeped into a home—around leaky pipes, windows, roofs, or basements that may have flooded and not properly dried. Mold exposure can cause or worsen health issues like allergies, asthma, and more serious respiratory illnesses.

Lead Testing

lead paintBecause lead-based paints were not banned until 1978, many older homes are likely to have lead-based paint. Paint chips can flake off from deterioration—or, during renovations, be released into the air as lead-based dust. Lead can also be absorbed into soil. Older pipes, faucets, and plumbing connectors may contain lead, which can leach into drinking water.

Asbestos Testing

Before the 1980s, asbestos was used in roofs, pipes, heat lines, attics, outside siding, flooring materials, ceiling tiles and wallboards. When left untouched, asbestos doesn’t typically pose a health risk, however, particles may break down and can pose health problems. If a homebuyer is planning any renovations, asbestos testing should be more than a mark on the home inspection list.

Radon Testing

Radon is a radioactive gas that has been found in homes all over the U.S., and found at elevated levels in one out of every 15 homes and causes about 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. This is a must for all homebuyers.

home buying tipsIf environmental issues are found prior to going to contract, the seller may take care of them, says Dogan. “For example, if mold is tested for and found, the seller might take out sheetrock, do mold remediation, perform a re-test to ensure it’s been removed properly, put back the sheetrock, and repaint. If the environmental situation isn’t resolved, the house will be stigmatized. It won’t sell,” she said.

Salazar agreed, noting that the he has on more than one occasion negotiated environmental remediation as part of the contract between buyer and seller.

Not all environmental hazards are obvious. They require expertise, licensure, technology, and experience. To find out more about RTK Environmental Group’s professional environmental inspections performed by Certified Microbial Investigators, and licensed lead and asbestos inspectors, call 800.392.6468 or fill out our online contact form.

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Mold Healthy Home Mold Testing

Air Conditioning Mold Issues: Top Blunders that Cause Unhealthy Mold

Air Conditioning Mold Issues: Top Blunders that Cause Unhealthy Mold

 

It’s been hot. Really hot. And to keep comfortable, we’ve been turning to air conditioning to mitigate the misery. But what many people don’t realize is that by turning on the A/C, they may be spreading trouble – trouble in the form of mold spores – and that’s not so cool. Mold can cause serious health problems including respiratory issues, headaches, fatigue, rashes, itchiness, and other allergy symptoms.

Here’s how mold develops in air conditioning systems and what you can do about it:

Mold in Window Air-Conditioning Units

Some window units have reusable filters that can be cleaned with soap and water, while others are disposable and need to be replaced every 3-6 months. A dirty filter can serve as a food source for mold, accelerating its growth. Many units have a “check filter” light that lets you know it’s time to change the filter. Don’t ignore it!

Even the most expensive window air conditioning units can develop mold. Over time, dust collects inside the vents and other parts. Add a little humidity and mold will begin to grow, feeding on the debris and particles of dust. Many of the parts now used to manufacture these units are plastic, and mold loves to grow on this material. Condensation also loves to gather on plastic. You likely wouldn’t notice the air conditioner’s mold problem until you turn the unit on in the warmer months and that musty mildew odor appears.

window ac moldVery importantly, always be sure to tilt a window air conditioner back so condensate produced will drain outside, NOT inside where interior walls and floors will become saturated. There is a drain hole, usually at the bottom of the back of the unit where it hangs outside that allows this drainage to occur. But you need to go one step further. Interestingly enough, this hole usually has a plug in it for shipping purposes. Be certain to remove the plug when the unit is installed. Otherwise, the condensate will be trapped at the bottom and drain inside the wall and into your room.

HVAC Mold Issues

Ever see a water stain on a ceiling but you’re not sure what’s causing it?  It could be your HVAC air handler in the attic. Ductwork, A/C evaporator coils, and drip pans are the perfect environments for mold to grow.

condensate overflow

So, what causes this? When the condensate pan gets full, water needs to move freely through the drain to exit the premise. Unfortunately, drains often get clogged with debris from rodents, like nuts and sticks or just an accumulation of minerals and other gunk from the water over time. Some units have an alarm that sounds when the water gets too high in the pan, but you shouldn’t rely solely on that because they have been known to fail. Once the water overflows, it travels to the lowest point it can reach, usually dripping through a ceiling or wall. Once these areas get wet, mold can grow in as little as 24-48 hours.

hvac mold preventionAnother common problem is condensation around vents that causes mold growth. When you keep the HVAC unit at colder temperatures, condensation can build up around the ceiling and wall vents when cooler, air-conditioned air hits the warmer air inside a room. You’ll see the mold growing around the vents on the ceiling or wall surface. Ductwork can also harbor mold from condensation and dust accumulation. It’s important to have your ducts cleaned about every four years depending on usage, whether you have pets, and the type of climate you are in.

HVAC Filter Faux Pas

Changing your filters regularly is also key in maintaining your HVAC unit. Most filters are made from standard fiberglass. They are relatively inexpensive but are not fine enough to catch mold spores. Consider upgrading to a high-efficiency filter with a MERV rating of 13 or more. The MERV rating indicates the size of particles the filter is capable of trapping. A MERV 13 will trap almost all the typical airborne contaminants, including dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, smoke, smog, and even virus carriers. Be careful though, for some older units a higher MERV rated filter may impede too much air flow, so check with your HVAC professional if your air handler is more than ten years old.

how often should i change my hvac filterIf you see or smell mold coming from a vent or A/C unit, the best course of action is to turn off the system immediately, then call RTK for independent mold testing. It’s best to have the system tested by a professional mold inspector to prevent cross-contamination in the rest of your home.

Since RTK does not remediate and only tests for mold, there is no conflict of interest. Their comprehensive inspection will ensure you have unbiased results that will determine the best way to handle any mold issue. Call RTK at 800.392.6468.

 

 

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Healthy Home Mold

Tips to Fight Household Mold this Summer

Tips to Fight Household Mold this Summer

It’s mold weather. Hmm? Yes, mold weather. The combination of heat, high humidity, and storms will invite mold to rear its ugly head. It may seem innocent, but it can cause major damage to your health and home. Here’s why you need to pay attention to mold:

Mold causes health problems.

All mold—whether it is toxic or not — causes health issues, including allergic reactions, sneezing, runny, itchy eyes, red nose, and skin rashes. Mold can also cause asthma attacks and can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs.

mold coughMold damages homes.

Mold can destroy the things it grows on – including your home’s walls, floors, carpeting, and furnishings. Often times, mold grows behind drywall, under carpets, and under floorboards. This is dangerous because by the time you find out it’s there; you usually have a major problem. In extreme cases, mold can grow to the extent that the home cannot be remediated, and needs to be knocked down. The key is to control moisture in your home and eliminate mold growth before it takes over.

TIP: Keep your humidifier set at 50% or below during humid summer months.

Don’t wait – take immediate steps to prevent mold, especially after heavy rain.

The most important thing you can do is to control moisture levels in your home. If water enters your home, take immediate steps to get rid of it. Remove anything that gets wet. Use vacuums and fans to rid surfaces of any residual moisture.

TIP: Take action within 24 hours, as mold can invade your home in less than a day.

Another preventative measure is managing the water runoff from your house. If the water pouring off your roof has nowhere to drain, it can and will find its way into your home. Keep your gutters and downspouts debris-free. Also, make sure that your downspouts are adequately angled away from the house. Otherwise, water will collect at the edge of the house and leak into the foundation and basement.

Test for mold if water enters your house.

indoor moldOnce an area is dry, test for mold, especially if you smell a musty odor. Since do-it-yourself mold tests are often inaccurate, your best bet is to call in an independent, certified microbial mold inspector.

Don’t get scammed!

Make sure the company you hire to test does not also do remediation. An independent, certified testing-only service has no incentive to magnify the problem and increase profits through remediation services. They won’t bait you with “free testing”, and have nothing to gain financially by inventing problems in your home or business, therefore can potentially save you thousands on unnecessary repairs. Click here for more information.

The Environmental Protection Agency offers a free download, Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture and Your Home. Check it out HERE.

Categories
Asbestos Healthy Home Lead Mold Testing vs. Remediation

Why You Should Get Residential Environmental Testing (and What to Do After)

Why You Should Get Residential Environmental Testing (and What to Do After)

Introduction

Home is where we spend a large portion of our lives. It’s important to make sure that our homes are not only comfortable, but also free from threats to our families’ health and safety. Residential environmental testing, or environmental inspection, is an important component to ensuring the absence of these threats.

What is Residential Environmental Testing?

Residential environmental testing is a series of inspections conducted at your home. It commonly includes testing for things such as mold, lead, asbestos, and the air quality of your home. There are also specialty inspections and testing that check for allergens, the quality of your water and soil, or look for dangerous gasses.

xrf lead testing new york

Why Should You Get Environmental Testing of Your Home Done?

Environmental inspection can identify improvements that need to be made to your home. Testing is the only way to alert you to the presence of hazards that can be harmful to you and your family, as well as costly to rectify if left untouched for a long period of time.

In addition to the cost of fixing environmental issues themselves, they can also lead to large amounts of medical debt if you allow the hazards to remain untreated. For example, asbestos exposure can cause mesothelioma and, depending on your medical coverage, mesothelioma treatment costs can range from $10,000-50,000 per month. The CDC reports that health issues related to mold can include lung inflammation and asthma. For people with severe allergies, specialty testing of dust and allergens within the home can provide peace of mind and a path toward symptom relief.

When Should You Conduct an Environmental Inspection?

when to get environmental testingIf you’re shopping for a new home, it’s a great idea to have an environmental home inspection in addition to a traditional inspection. On the other hand, if you’re selling your home, it’s also a great time to have these inspections completed because it makes for a great selling point and can help you close faster. In addition, if your home is older, you should have inspections for lead and asbestos done as soon as possible. The U.S. government banned the use of lead paint in 1978 and asbestos in the 1980s, but both are often still present in older buildings. If your home isn’t a newer build, then it’s important to find out if these hazards are present in your home.

It’s also easy to end up with mold in your home and professional removal is important in situations where cleaning won’t fix the problem. There are many reasons and times to test for mold. For example, if your home has had any water damage or you’ve experienced flooding, you should have a mold inspection completed. Homes that have been unoccupied for a while (such as vacation homes) should also be inspected. If you’ve recently had mold remediation, then a follow up inspection is necessary to ensure the issue has been resolved. Of course, if you believe you’ve seen mold, you should also schedule an inspection. And finally, if you have symptoms of mold exposure it’s necessary to test for mold in your home. There are many illnesses you can get from exposure to mold and the symptoms vary; but in general, fatigue, coughing, wheezing, headaches, body aches, and nose bleeds without other explanation are a good indicator that you should inspect for mold.

best NYC mold testing

What Should You Do After Testing?

Hopefully, you received good news after your testing. If nothing harmful was found, then continue to keep an eye on your home and arrange for further testing should other concerns arise. On the other hand, if something was found, the course of action for hazards discovered depends on the specific issue.

If asbestos was found in your home, the next steps largely depend on the condition of the items containing asbestos. For example, if the item is undamaged, then asbestos exposure is unlikely. In this situation, continue to monitor the area because wear and tear can lead to exposure and may require repair. These repairs should always be handled by a professional, not done yourself, because disturbing asbestos creates risk of exposure to the fibers and improper handling can create a hazard where none existed before. Removal is sometimes required by state or local law, but it’s the most expensive option and comes with the greatest risk of exposure to fiber, so it should be avoided if possible.

westchester asbestos testingLead paint is often handled by painting over it and it’s important to take precautions when doing so. You never want to try to sand or scrape off lead paint. Instead, use an encapsulant and then paint over it with new paint. You should dispose of materials, such as drop cloths used while painting over lead paint, and immediately wash the clothing you wore during the project when you finish. Keep the area clean and make sure not to spread dust from the area which may contain lead. After you’re finished, you should regularly monitor the area to make sure the original paint remains covered and keep children and pets away from the area as they are more likely to chip and ingest the paint.

If mold was detected, it’s important to remove the mold. Most mold comes from issues such as leaks, and these problems need to be fixed first so that the mold doesn’t return. The best option is to have a professional come in and handle the remediation. Once you have completed testing and have blueprint for mold removal, you can choose a reputable remediation company to implement the plan. Ask about their certifications, insurance and licensing, as well as how long they’ve been in business. You may even want to ask for references. The process of mold recemdiation itself is detailed here.

What is the Cost of Fixing Residential Environmental Issues?

cost of environmental testingThe price of fixing these issues depends on a lot of factors and can climb quickly. Though location impacts the price, the average mold removal cost is $2,347. Asbestos, on the other hand, can range anywhere from $1,120 for a small space to $30,000 to remediate an entire house. Unfortunately, many insurance policies and home warranties won’t cover the abatement of these hazards, leaving homeowners responsible for the cost. If you have emergency savings, this is always the best option for financing your repairs. However, if you don’t have the necessary funds on hand, you can apply for an equity loan based on the amount of equity you’ve currently paid into your house. The funds can be used for anything and often have a lower interest rate than other personal loans. In the cases of some home improvements, the interest paid on these loans can also be deducted when you file your taxes.

Final Thoughts

Environmental hazards in your home can be frightening and overwhelming to address, but it’s important for the health and safety of yourself and your family to routinely test for them. Regularly monitoring your house, getting testing as needed, and having a plan to handle any problems can make things easier on both your health and peace of mind.

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Healthy Home Asbestos Lead Mold

Clearing a NYC Mold Violation

Clearing a NYC Mold Violation

 

When mold growth is discovered in an apartment building consisting of three or more dwellings, the building owner or landlord may incur a mold violation from the New York City Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD). This is because mold, along with other indoor allergens, can trigger asthma, allergy reactions, and other health issues.

According to Local Law 55 of 2018, building owners and landlords in the New York City five boroughs are required to take the appropriate steps to keep their tenants’ homes free of indoor mold growth. This law also applies to owners of housing units, such as co-ops, condos, shelters and public housing where a tenant has asthma. Property owners must follow specific steps to identify mold growth and remove it safely.

To avoid fines and clear mold violations, building owners should comply with Local Law 55 and follow the steps below.

get rid of NYC mold violations

Correct HPD Mold Violations & Obtain Proper Certification

Understanding Owner Responsibilities

  • Annually inspect apartments for indoor allergen hazards such as mold growth. Vacant apartments should be clear of mold and other allergens before a new tenant moves in.
  • Make sure your tenants are aware of their responsibilities. Provide all tenants with a copy of the Local Law 55 fact sheet, which explains that tenants should alert building owners when they notice signs of indoor allergens.

Remediate Mold Conditions

  • For a building with 10 or more residential units, owners are required to hire a mold assessor and a mold remediator who are licensed by the New York State Department of Labor. These contractors must be independent of one another, so that these services are completely unbiased.
  • If more than 10 square feet of mold growth is found, the first step is to hire a licensed mold assessor who can design a protocol for mold remediation. After mold remediation has been completed, the mold assessor should be contracted again to perform a mold clearance inspection.
  • In a building with fewer than 10 residential units, the building owner is not required to hire a professional mold assessor or remediator, but is required to follow the safe work practices outlined in the law.

nyc mold violation

Certifying the Project

  • After the completion of professional mold remediation and once clearance has been achieved, the mold assessor and mold remediator will file the required documentation under Local Law 61 of 2018.

 

RTK is very experienced in helping building owners and landlords resolve HPD mold violations. With fast scheduling, comprehensive reports, highly-trained inspectors, and expedited lab results, we can help to turn a problem into a problem solved. Contact RTK at 800-392-6468.

Review Local Law 55 on the HPD website here: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/hpd/services-and-information/indoor-allergen-hazards-mold-and-pests.page