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Indoor Air Quality & Radon Healthy Home Mold

How Air Quality Affects Covid-19 Risks

How Air Quality Affects Covid-19 Risks

 

It’s long been known that the air we breathe can have an impact on our health. The new wrinkle is Covid-19, which highlights the need to pay closer attention to air quality.

covid-19 air pollution

A recent national study conducted by the Harvard University T. H. Chan School of Public Health has shown that Americans who have contracted COVID-19, who live in regions in the U.S. with high levels of air pollution, are more likely to die from the disease than those who live in less polluted areas. The study found that each extra microgram of tiny particulate matter per cubic meter of air over the long term increases the Covid-19 mortality rate by 11%. The implications are tremendous.

The study measured outdoor air quality. But, what about our indoor air quality? This is also something to be taken seriously as, according to the EPA, the air indoors can be up to 2 to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air, and in some cases those levels can exceed poor outdoor air quality by as much as 100 times.

“This is a good reminder that we need to be aware of the air we are breathing, indoors and out, as it clearly has an effect on our health,” says Robert Weitz, founder of RTK Environmental Group. “It’s not just pollution from cars and factories which can seep in through windows,” he adds. “Indoors, mold and volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are major pollutants that can be very harmful to our families’ health, and are the main causes of poor indoor air quality in homes and offices.”

coronavirus indoor airThe Harvard study looked at more than 3,000 counties across the country, comparing levels of fine particulate air pollution with coronavirus death counts for each area. Adjusting for population size, hospital beds, number of people tested for COVID-19, weather, and socioeconomic and behavioral variables such as obesity and smoking, the researchers found that a small increase in long-term exposure to particulate matter leads to a large increase in the COVID-19 death rate.

So, what can we do?

Homeowners and building superintendents should first be aware of the sources of poor indoor air quality, then test for them, and if found on the premises, remediate. Here’s a rundown of the big polluters:

VOCs

VOC causeSome of the very household products we’re using to scrub surfaces are off-gassing VOCs (volatile organic compounds). These are toxic vapors given off by bleach and aerosol sprays. VOCs can also come from the chemicals in new furniture, electronics, air fresheners, detergents, carpeting, and other products. If concentrated enough, they can cause headaches, dizziness, and nausea in the short-term and more serious problems long-term.

So, when you’re attempting to disinfect your home or have used that vacation money to buy new furniture, bedding, or electronics, remember to open your windows to allow fresh air to circulate. You may also want to have an indoor air quality test that will help you to identify or rule out any air quality issues.

Mold

air pollution healthAfter spending so much time at home during the pandemic, you may notice a musty odor, which is a tell-tale sign of a mold problem. If so, there’s no better time than the present to deal with it. Mold can exacerbate breathing issues, and also cause headaches, rashes, depression, listlessness, and allergies, let alone flu-like symptoms, especially in those who are immunosuppressed.

And mold can hide just about anywhere – behind walls, under carpeting or floorboards, or in air ducts. In order to pinpoint the source of a mold issue, testing is a good option.

Now is not the time to take risks with your health. Schedule an indoor air quality test today to ensure your home or workplace is the safest it can be. Call RTK at 800.392.6468. Live well!

 

 

 

 

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Healthy Home Asbestos Lead Mold

Planning Pandemic Renovations? Environmental Testing Should be the First Step. Here’s Why:

Planning Pandemic Renovations? Environmental Testing Should be the First Step. Here’s Why:

In recent months, there’s been a surge in people fleeing the city for a home in the ‘burbs. With housing stock fairly limited due to the pandemic, the house you get may get you plenty of fresh air, but it may need a little work.

kitchen renovationNow that you’re spending a good amount of time at home, improvement projects are getting your attention. The big question is, what do you do first?

Typically, renovation work uncovers hidden environmental hazards, such as asbestos, mold, and other toxic substances, all of which can negatively impact your indoor air quality. So, the first step when contemplating any renovation work should be to order an environmental inspection. This will enable you to plan for the potential hazards you may encounter and, ultimately, will protect your family’s health.

Here’s what to be aware of:

Dangerous asbestos fibers can be released into the air when disturbed

hidden asbestos

Before any renovation or demolition, you need to know if you are about to disturb any materials containing asbestos. Typically, asbestos is contained in walls, fireproofing materials, insulation, floor and ceiling tiles, among others.

Although banned in many forms because of its toxicity, asbestos still can be found in the home, especially one that was built prior to 1980. So, if you’re about to tear down your walls and ceilings, remove tile, flooring material or pipe insulation, for example, have an asbestos survey performed prior to your renovation project. An asbestos survey will determine if there are any materials containing this toxic substance. Something as simple as installing a ceiling fan, removing a boiler, or updating your bathroom could have serious implications.

Inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause serious and fatal illnesses, including malignant lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. Experts state that even a few hours’ exposure to the toxic fibers can be enough to trigger illness, which generally occurs 15–40 years down the road.

Mold can contaminate the whole house

black mold bathroomMold spores are everywhere, but once they take hold, mold growth can cause serious health problems for you and your family. When embarking on renovation projects, be mindful of mold hidden under sinks, behind walls, and under carpets or floorboards. Mold is easily spread through HVAC systems, which can cause cross-contamination, spreading mold spores throughout your home.

If you suspect there has been water damage or a leak in your home, have it tested for mold. Musty odors can be a tell-tale sign. If mold is discovered during the test, you can choose to have it professionally removed by a remediation company, or you can do-it-yourself following strict EPA mold remediation guidelines. DIY mold removal requires specialized equipment, air filtration, negative air pressure, protective personal wear, and more. Angie’s List shares information on the possible hazards of DIY mold removal.

Watch out for lead when sanding or disrupting painted surfaces

lead paint testingIf you live in a home built prior to 1978, there may be layers of paint containing lead. Before starting any renovation project – large or small – test for lead paint. Once disturbed, the dust that results can be extremely dangerous. Even a speck can cause lead poisoning, which leads to neurological issues, brain damage, and other serious, irreversible health consequences.

Whether you are remodeling your kitchen, sanding and staining the deck, or doing something as minuscule as hanging a picture on a wall, if that wall contains lead paint, proper EPA Lead Safe work practices, outlined in the Renovation, Repair, and Painting Program (RRP), should be followed. Although following RRP work practices is not required for DIYers, it is the best way to safeguard your health and the health of those around you. For more information on Lead Safe work practices for DIYers, click here.

“We’ve seen so many renovation projects go awry because the homeowner didn’t start with an environmental inspection,” notes Robert Weitz, founder of RTK Environmental Group. “Even something as simple as upgrading a bathroom sink can turn into an environmental disaster. Mold, lead, and asbestos are commonly uncovered during renovation work and can cause poor indoor air quality,” he says. “But if you know they are there, you can contain them and avoid further issues, including a hefty remediation bill.”

For more information on environmental testing and tips to keep you healthy and safe, contact us.

 

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Healthy Home

Indoor Air Quality and Your HVAC System: Steps to Take Now

Indoor Air Quality and Your HVAC System: Steps to Take Now

In the northeast, it’s time to turn on the heat. But before you do, check the condition of your HVAC system. If it is not clean, you may wind up with poor indoor air quality, and that can open a can of worms. This is especially important now that we are in our homes most of the time due to the Coronavirus pandemic. If the air we are breathing is not healthy and contains toxins, we are more susceptible to getting sick.

dust in hvacOver time, dust and debris collect in HVAC and heating units, which means when you turn on the heat, you may get a dirty surprise. Worse, the system may also be harboring mold.

During summer months, condensation, which can cause mold growth, often occurs in HVAC units and associated ducting. Once the heat is turned on, microscopic mold spores can easily spread through ductwork. The spores can contaminate clean spaces anywhere in a home or office.

Signs of Mold In Air Ducts:

  1. There is a musty smell in the home or office.
  2. You are experiencing allergic symptoms, which may include a runny nose, trouble breathing, rash, or watering eyes.
  3. When you turn on the heat, your nose, throat, and eyes feel irritated.
  4. You suffer from unexplained headaches that go away when you leave the premises.
  5. You feel nausea, fatigue, and dizziness only when you are home or at the office.
  6. You see mold growing in the intake vents and around the air ducts and drip pans.
  7. There is staining around the vents.

hvac moldIf you think you may have mold in your HVAC system, the best course of action is to have the system tested. An independent company, like RTK, can assess whether you will be spreading mold spores when you turn on the heat. If you’ve already turned on the heat and weren’t aware that you had an issue, you may opt for a mold and IAQ test to ensure mold didn’t spread when it was initially turned on, as this can cause further problems.

Meanwhile, be sure to have your HVAC unit cleaned prior to turning on the heat to prevent indoor air pollution. Also, be sure to change your filters and clean the drip pans.

Mold and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are the most common causes of indoor air pollution, and can easily be tested for and treated. Call RTK to schedule a test today. We follow strict health protocols for COVID, and wear our masks and protective equipment properly.

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Healthy Home

Indoor Air Quality in Schools

Indoor Air Quality in Schools

As Schools Reopen, Keep an Eye on Poor Indoor Air Quality: It’s Not Just About Coronavirus; Pollutants Are Also in the Mix

As we move toward the reopening of schools during a quieter phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, health concerns are top-of-mind. While the public is focusing on social distancing and masks, there should be one other item on the check list: indoor air quality. Because the air students, teachers, and staff breathe will play a critical role in their health going forward.

indoor air quality in schoolsBesides coronavirus droplets, the vapors and particles given off by VOCs or volatile organic compounds, can negatively affect ones’ health, leading to compromised immunity, allergies, and other health problems. VOCs are emitted from various products used or found indoors such as arts and crafts products, disinfectants, pesticides, flooring, furniture, disinfectants and cleaners, and aerosol sprays.

VOCs can irritate eyes, throat and nasal cavities and cause breathing difficulties, and, if you or a loved one is exposed to these vapors over a long period of time, damage to the central nervous system and even cancer can occur. Symptoms can include headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and nausea.

Indoor air quality testingWhile VOCs contribute to poor indoor quality, so does mold. Over the last several years, mold has proliferated in dozens of schools in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, even causing delayed openings for some last year. So, while school systems and daycare centers are working to comply with the new coronavirus regulations, they also need to pay more attention to their overall air quality. Happily, some are and are opting for upgraded filtration and air purifying systems. Others have a way to go.

We’ve created this guide to explain what you need to know about two major indoor air pollutants – mold and VOCs – and alert you to the symptoms and signs of both that may appear in schools and other buildings.

Your Guide to Preventing Indoor Air Pollution in Schools

 

VOCs in Schools

VOCs in schoolsUnfortunately, VOCs are commonly found in school buildings and are given off by many man-made materials including: arts and crafts, carpeting, furniture, printers and copiers, adhesives, cleaning and disinfecting chemicals, aerosol sprays, and paint. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found concentrations of VOCs in indoor air to be as much as five times greater than those found in outdoor air. Indoor levels of VOCs may reach 1,000 times that of the outside air during certain activities. New buildings or newly renovated schools are especially prone to VOCs because all of the new materials are off-gassing simultaneously. Therefore, because children spend between 35-40 hours per week for 9-10 months of the year in schools, potentially they are being exposed to harmful chemicals.

Common symptoms of VOC exposure include:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue and listlessness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Nervousness
  • Difficulty concentrating

Mold in Schools – Where is It Found?

water stain moldClassrooms, hallways, offices, and building corridors often harbor mold spores and dust mites, as do the building’s ventilation systems. If your child has allergies, you should find out how often the school cleans its HVAC vents, and if it uses high-efficiency air filters to remove mold, pollen, and other particles from the air. This may help to alleviate some of a child’s mold allergy symptoms. Libraries, art rooms, and gym locker rooms are typical areas for mold to grow in because they harbor moisture.

Mold and Children

All mold, toxic or not, is a health hazard. While toxic mold is the most harmful to a child’s health, all mildew and mold can cause health issues—especially for those who suffer from allergies. The younger a child is, the less developed his or her lungs and other organs are so the child is more vulnerable to contaminants, putting the child at special risk, whether at school or home.

Is It a Cold, Mold Allergy, COVID or Something Else?

How do you know if your child has a cold, the flu, seasonal allergies, COVID, or a mold allergy as many of the symptoms are the same? If a fever is present, this pretty much rules out allergies. But the fever might be caused by the flu, a virus, a cold or something else.

Signs and symptoms of a mold allergy:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Itchy eyes, nose and throat
  • Headaches
  • Cough and postnasal drip
  • Watery eyes
  • Wheezing 

Symptoms of toxic mold exposure:

  • Sensitivity to light
  • Joint pain and stiffness
  • Poor memory or difficulty finding words
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • A tingling or numbing sensation on skin
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple chemical sensitivity, which causes varying symptoms due to low-level exposures to commonly used chemicals

If you child is fine in the morning, but returns from school with any of these symptoms but the symptoms quickly subside, there is a good chance that there’s an irritant at the school. If the pattern continues over time – child fine in the morning, returns home with symptoms that eventually subside, suggest to your school that they test their indoor air quality. However, if symptoms persist and do not subside, or if a fever develops, contact your physician.

Mold and Asthma

asthma indoor air qualityIf your child is allergic to mold and also has asthma, his or her asthma symptoms may be triggered by exposure to mold spores. The symptoms can sometimes be severe. Your child may experience acute coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. To reduce asthma attacks caused by mold, ask your school to test for mold and air quality to see if the school’s indoor environment is the cause. Also, speak with your doctor about managing your child’s condition.

The Importance of Indoor Air Quality Testing

Testing a school’s indoor air quality should be on everyone’s list. If the result is poor indoor air quality, there are several remedies, including upgrading the building’s HVAC and ventilation systems. Low emission paint, better flooring, and using different cleaning products also are a great start to lowering VOCs in schools. Carnegie Mellon University reviewed five studies evaluating the impact of improved indoor air quality on asthma, and found an average reduction of 38.5% in asthma in buildings with improved air quality.

What Else Can You Do?

Ask other parents or members of the PTA/PTO if they have noticed any signs of mold or VOCs at the school or symptoms of these toxins in their children. Ask if they are aware of any unusual, strong, or musty odors in the school. Also, determine if there has been any recent construction or renovation work done in the school. If the answers are in the affirmative, and if children are experiencing health issues, request that mold and indoor air quality testing be done. If mold or VOCs are discovered, there are remediation protocols that should be followed. Those include post-remediation clearance testing to ensure the remediation was done properly and there is no longer a health hazard present.

If you have questions about mold or VOCs in schools, please feel free to call us at 800.392.6468. We’ll be happy to answer your questions.

 

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Asbestos Flooding & Water Damage Health Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Lead Mold Mold Testing Soil and Water Weitz Advice

Storm Cleanup: After a Storm, Don’t let Mold or Toxins Take up Residence in Your Home

Storm Cleanup: After a Storm, Don’t let Mold or Toxins Take up Residence in Your Home

As massive cleanup efforts and power restoration continue throughout the region after a lightning-fast-moving storm, homeowners should be aware of the potential that flooding and water damage are causing.

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Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon

Home Office Health Hazards

According to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, approximately 43% of employees work remotely with some frequency. And with the current Coronavirus situation, these numbers are temporarily much higher. While there may be benefits to working in your pajamas, you may unknowingly be subjecting yourself to some health hazards.

For starters, the only exercise you might be getting is walking from your desk to your fridge. (Take a walk outside instead!) And you may be missing the daily cleaning service you once enjoyed at the corporate office. (A University of Arizona study found that the average office desk has about 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat!) If your office is located in your home or basement, environmental toxins such as mold, asbestos, radon, and poor indoor air quality also are a concern. The truth is, home offices can be, well, downright unhealthy, and could be making you sick.

Not to worry. RTK Environmental has five tips to help you keep your home office from becoming a mini-microbial metropolis:

1. Check for mold

This is a biggie! If you find you are wheezing, sneezing, or coughing every time you work in your basement office, there may be unseen mold growing, a problem not uncommon in spaces that are partially or fully underground or have poor humidity control, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Use dehumidifiers, increase ventilation, use fans, and insulate cold pipes. If your basement has ever been flooded, replace carpets as they might contain mold or mildew. Mold feeds on moisture, so keep your office dry.

2. Test your indoor air quality

Here’s another hazard that you can’t see, and often can’t smell: poor indoor air quality. Even worse, if there’s radon in your home, you may be at risk of developing lung cancer. According to the Harvard Business Review, not only is poor air quality dangerous, but can make you less productive. Office equipment, furniture, cleaning products, drapes, and other everyday items can be creating a caustic and unhealthy environment. A professional indoor air quality test can identify mold, formaldehyde, PCBs, and many other toxic elements.

3. Be aware of asbestos-containing materials

Be aware of asbestos-containing materials in your home, such as insulation, floor materials, ceiling tiles, wallboards and pipes. Any damaged or decomposed materials which contain asbestos, can pose health problems.

4. Disinfect your desk

Are you eating at your desk? Multi-tasking might be making you more productive, but if you aren’t disinfecting your desk as you would your kitchen counter or other surface for eating, you could be creating a health hazard. Germs that make us sick can live on these surfaces – some for more than 48 hours! Eating at your desk gives germs an easy ride into your body on your food and hands, increasing your chances of getting sick. And if you think that critters, from rodents to bugs, are not enjoying the crumbs and leftover food reside on your desk, you can think again.

5. Clean and maintain HVAC systems

Dust that accumulates in hard to clean or neglected areas can cause chronic coughs and scratchy throats, itchy eyes, and even headaches. Take time regularly to clean computers, mice, phones, plugs, window blinds, baseboards, window wells, and other hard-to-reach areas. Maintain HVAC systems and change filters regularly to avoid dust build-up.

To be absolutely sure your home office is free of environmental toxins, call in a professional services company to test. RTK Environmental Group provides a full complement of environmental testing for mold, lead, asbestos, radon and indoor air quality. Because RTK does not provide remediation services, you can rest assured that the test results will be accurate and unbiased, as there is no conflict of interest.

RTK uses state-of-the-art equipment, and offers expertise and education to its clients. Experienced, knowledgeable investigators identify environmental hazards and identify solutions for cleanup and remediation. Follow-up testing can also be done after remediation, to ensure the toxins were addressed.

To schedule an inspection with RTK Environmental Group or for more information, call us at 800.392.6468.

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Healthy Home

Apartment Living: The Good, Bad and Ugly

Apartment Living: The Good, Bad and Ugly

Living in New York City can be a wonderful thing. It can also be a nightmare. Leaving the soaring apartment rents for a moment, think about what you are breathing in and living with. You may be the cleanest person on this side of the Hudson, but your surroundings, and sometimes neighbors, can negatively impact your environment.

Whether you live in new construction, a landmarked brownstone, or a quaint pre-war walkup, ‘community living’ can easily compromise your health. This can include poor indoor air quality and mold growth where you can’t see it, as well as lead dust and asbestos particles in the air from neighboring repair work and renovation. The fact is your apartment may be harboring toxins.

Here are some of the top things to watch for, coming from someone who lived in a 100- year old building in Greenwich Village for over 15 years.

1. Mold from Leaks and Flooding – The Upstairs Neighbor Nightmare

I had a neighbor who would fall asleep in her bathtub, leaving the water running. I kid you not. On more than one occasion, water escaped into the hall. It also found its way into the walls and floors. Once, when we were away, we returned home to find a ceiling that had completely collapsed, bringing down the electrical wiring. Everything was covered with mold. The flood traveled through my apartment on the third floor, down to the first floor. Within a day, our building had a mold problem. Just like that!

Lesson learned: Whether caused by a burst pipe or small leak, mold from water damage can quickly affect an entire building. When that happens, mold testing is a must, then remediation, and then another test for mold to ensure the problem was properly removed and eradicated.

2. Lead and Asbestos from Improper Renovation Work – The Downstairs Neighbor Nightmare

My downstairs neighbor decided to renovate his apartment. He was kind enough to let us know that there would be noise from sanding, hammering, and demolition. What we were not counting on was the amount of debris that entered our apartment through the chimney and the incredible amount of dust that covered our apartment and almost three floors of the building. The dust also spread through the ventilation system and through open windows. On top of that, all the vibration from sanding and hammering caused some of the paint in our apartment to chip and peel.

To make matters worse, the construction on the first floor meant that everyone entering the building walked through the dust, and tracked it into the hallways and their apartments. We later discovered that that the debris contained lead and asbestos particles. I was pregnant at the time; my son wound up suffering from lead poisoning and now has permanent health issues.

3. Indoor Air Quality – The Next Door Neighbor Nightmare

When you live in NYC, you know that sometimes you will be exposed to bad odors that waft through the halls and walls. But when the person in the apartment next to you smokes, and then burns incense and candles to mask the smell, it can be downright unhealthy for the rest of us. Here’s why: everyday objects, like candles, air fresheners, deodorizers, and more contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) s that are toxins that cause poor indoor air quality, not to mention the chemicals contained in cigarette smoke.

The bottom line is this – if you live in New York City or any other urban area, have the air quality in your apartment tested to make sure you are living in a safe environment. You may need to test more than once, since nearby construction and tenant activity can cause changes in your living space – whether you are aware of them or not. Living in the city can be an amazing experience – as long as you protect yourself. Stay healthy, and live well!

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Healthy Home

Environmental Home Inspections: People Are Asking; Realtors Are Listening

Environmental Home Inspections: People Are Asking; Realtors Are Listening

new york environmental inspectionThe coronavirus pandemic has urbanites seriously thinking about leaving their current abodes in search of more space and a healthier lifestyle. And, as they want to be sure that their prospective new homes don’t have any problems that could lead to health issues, environmental inspections are making the list.

Homes, anywhere and at any time, can harbor mold, asbestos 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 savvy realtors are now recommending investing in environmental testing services prior to purchase or sale. For buyers and sellers both, a toxic environment can kill a deal.

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?

connecticut environmental inspectionMold testing, lead inspection, asbestos testing, water contamination 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 buyer signs a contract. It’s important that the company you hire doesn’t perform both testing and remediation, as that is a conflict of interest.

Why Have an Environmental Inspection?

Testing makes sense. If buyers invest in an inspection prior to purchase, they can save tens of thousands of dollars in remediation and repair costs afterwards. For sellers, if environmental issues are found prior to going to contract, they will have the ability to remediate before the deal goes south.

new york mold testing“I recommend environmental testing as part of a home inspection checklist,” says Fiona Dogan, a real estate agent with Julia B. Fee Sotheby International Realty in Rye, New York. “Smart buyers want to be sure that the home they are about to purchase contains a healthy environment.” She also recommends environmental testing for sellers in order to identify issues even before putting the property on the market. “This can help you to sell your home faster and avoid costly rush charges to have last-minute issues fixed.”

As you help your clients navigate selling or buying a home, give them the option of an environmental inspection. 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 your client, please feel free to call us at 800.392.6468.

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Healthy Home Mold

What Should I Do If My Summer House Has Mold?

What Should I Do If My Summer House Has Mold?

So, you’re heading to the beach as summer season begins. The thought is delicious! But don’t be surprised if you’re greeted by a musty odor after you walk into what you had hoped would be your home away from home. Mildew! Mold! Whether you are at the Jersey Shore or the Hamptons, there’s an excellent chance that the home you’re renting or own has been flooded during a hurricane, been exposed to excess moisture and humidity, or has had a leak. Now, your nose is getting a strong whiff of the result. So what can you do?

“The first thing to do is open the windows and get air to circulate,” advises Robert Weitz, Certified Microbial Investigator and principal of RTK Environmental Group. Weitz says this is a common problem, as many vacation homes sit empty and closed up over the winter months, collecting moisture, especially since air conditioning or heat has been turned off for the season. “Mold is not picky – it only needs moisture and a food source, such as wood, ceiling tiles, carpet or sheet rock, to begin growing. The house next door may be fine, and yours may be a serious health hazard.” The important thing is to have your home tested right away so the problem can be fixed,  your health is not compromised, and your summer is not ruined.

Whether you hire a mold inspector or put up with it will probably depend on whether you are the owner or renter, how long you will be there, and whether you or your vacationers have allergy or breathing issues.

Short-Term Solutions to Summer House Mold:

–      Keep the windows open as much as possible if the weather is dry;

–      Use a dehumidifier to reduce moisture;

–      Change the filter in the air conditioner before you turn it on;

–      Wipe off any visible mold on walls, floors and tiles with a bleach/water mixture;

–      Use allergy medication to help lessen symptoms;

–      Let the landlord know there’s a mold problem.

The Best Solution:

–      Get an independent mold inspection to identify the source;

–      Ask that the inspector pinpoint if the mold is toxic or not;

–      Have the mold properly remediated.

Remember, if you own the house or plan to be there for an extended stay, mold could affect your health, causing wheezing, asthma, and allergy symptoms. The home should be tested by a certified microbial investigator, who can then advise you as to the next steps depending on the outcome of the mold testing. In New York, it is illegal for the same company to test and remediate on the same job. Whatever the case, mold can become a big issue quickly, so don’t ignore it!

 

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Healthy Home

Thinking About Leaving the City? Get an Environmental Home Inspection Before You Buy. The Goal? A Healthy Home.

Thinking About Leaving the City? Get an Environmental Home Inspection Before You Buy.

The Goal? A Healthy Home.

 

The coronavirus pandemic has people seriously thinking about leaving the City in search of more space and a healthy suburban lifestyle. Naturally, buyers want to be sure that their prospective new homes don’t have any unpleasant surprises. That’s why it’s important to consider having an environmental home inspection prior to purchase.

Homes, anywhere and at any time, can harbor mold, asbestos or radon, and contain poor indoor air quality, polluted water, or volatile organic compounds (VOCs), any one of which can lead to serious health issues. That is why savvy realtors recommend investing in environmental testing services prior to purchase. For buyers, unhealthy conditions in a home or apartment can make or break a deal.

A Home’s Age Doesn’t Matter

It’s not just older homes that have problems; newer ones do, too. While older homes are more likely to contain lead (found in pipes and paint) and asbestos (found in hundreds of building materials), newer homes can suffer from poor indoor air quality and mold infestation. Newer structures are built to be airtight to conserve energy, but this can lead to trapping air that contains mold. That can happen when building materials are left outside in the rain while the home is under construction. Damp or wet materials can carry mold spores into the new home. Oftentimes, building materials also contain VOCs, chemicals, and other toxins because of how they are manufactured.

What should you check for?

Most home inspectors lack the knowledge and certifications necessary to test for potentially toxic substances. Therefore, you should schedule an environmental inspection with a certified independent testing company before signing a contract. If you invest in an inspection prior to purchase, you could save tens of thousands of dollars in remediation and repair costs afterwards. And, if environmental issues are found prior to going to contract, the seller may take care of them, or you may get the property for less. Here’s what to test for:

Mold

Mold can be found virtually anywhere in a home—in walls, floors and ceilings, under a sink, and even beneath carpeting. Mold can be present wherever water or moisture has seeped into a home—around windows, roofs, leaky pipes, or basements that may have flooded and not properly dried or have cracks in the foundation.

Exposure to mold can cause or worsen health issues like allergies and asthma, and can exacerbate more serious respiratory illnesses like COVID-19. Typically, the average home inspector will look for visible signs of mold, but unless they see it or smell a musty odor, they won’t know a potential problem exists, which is why you should turn to an independent certified testing company.

Indoor Air Quality

indoor air quality testingIndoor air quality (IAQ) has become a major consideration when buying a home. According to the EPA, our indoor environment is two to five times more toxic than our outdoor environment, and in some cases, the air indoors is 100 times more polluted than the air outdoors, especially in larger cities like New York. In new construction, many of the materials used contain alarmingly high levels of harmful formaldehyde and toxic VOCs.

Asbestos

Exposure to even a few asbestos fibers can cause cancer and respiratory problems. Over the years, asbestos was used in roofing materials, flooring, pipe insulation, ceiling tiles, wallboard, and hundreds of other building supplies. It may never present a problem if material is in good condition, but when asbestos is disturbed, you risk of releasing its fibrous particles into the air. If a homebuyer or home inspector identifies any deteriorating asbestos material or the buyer is planning any renovations, asbestos testing will be more than a mark on the home inspection list, so best to have it covered early.

Lead

lead home inspectionHomes and apartments built before 1978 should be tested for lead paint, inside and out. Lead dust, which comes from deteriorating surfaces, is the most common cause of lead poisoning and is easily ingestible. Typically, the dust is created where there’s friction, such as windows and windowsills. It is also released through sanding and remodeling.

Pipes and faucets are also a source of lead in water. Soil can also have elevations of lead from a home’s deteriorating external painted surfaces. Exposure to lead can cause irreversible neurological damage. 

Radon

Radon is a dangerous, naturally occurring radioactive gas responsible for over 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year, according to the EPA. You can’t see or smell radon. The only way to detect it is with proper sampling techniques. It is very prevalent in the northeast, where it is estimated that one out of every five homes have elevated levels of radon. If you know it’s there, it’s easily remedied with a radon mitigation system.

Water

home inspection water testA comprehensive analysis of the home’s drinking water is important. A basic home inspection will tell you if your pump and faucets work, but it won’t analyze the water quality. Heavy metals in pipes, arsenic that naturally occurs in groundwater, radon that is naturally produced when uranium decays in soil and water, pesticide contamination, and bacteria are just some of the things that can taint the water you will be drinking, bathing in, and using every day.

So, as you plan your next move, make sure you’re buying a “healthy home.” Have an environmental home inspection prior to committing to a purchase. Not all environmental hazards are obvious. 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.