Health Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon

Are Your Household Products Toxic?

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

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

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

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

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

Healthy Home Mold

Has Mold Moved Into Your Summer Home?

It’s vacation time, and when you put the key in the door of your beach house or mountain cabin, the last thing you want to smell is the musty odor of mold and mildew, but it happens to owners and renters alike. So what can you do if you walk into a moldy mess?

“The first thing to do is open the windows and get air flowing,” Robert Weitz, Certified Microbial Investigator and principal of RTK Environmental Group says. Weitz said that this is a common problem because many vacation homes sit empty and closed up over the winter months, collecting moisture, as 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.”

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:

–      Keep the windows open as much as possible if it’s dry out;

–      A dehumidifier can also help lessen the moisture in the air;

–      If you decide to turn on the A/C, change the filter first;

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

–      Allergy medication may help lessen symptoms;

–      Let the owner know that they have a mold problem;


The Best Solution:

–      Get an independent mold inspection to identify the source;

–      Pinpoint if the mold is toxic or not;

–      Have the mold properly remediated.

Remember, if you are the owner 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. Whatever the case, mold can become a big issue quickly, so don’t ignore it!



Gardening Healthy Home Lead Soil and Water

Go Outside & Play – But This Time, in Clean Dirt!

How safe are your children when they are playing outside in your yard? Maybe not safe enough.

Consider this: You probably take great safety precautions like making your kids wear bike helmets and sunscreen. But have you checked your soil and pool water for lead dust?

Most people have no idea that lead dust – that is dust that usually comes from old paint that is disturbed by renovation work (sanding and scraping; opening and closing windows); the dust flies through the air and lands in the yard. Since spending time outdoors should be a healthy activity, it pays to find out if the soil is “clean” – free from lead. Soil with high lead levels can be a danger, though – especially to kids. Children can actually be poisoned from lead dust, which could lead to autism-like symptoms, ADD, violent behavior, reduced IQ and a host of other issues. Lead dust can also be tracked inside on people’s shoes.

It can also travel from your neighbors’ renovations to your property if they are not following proper Lead Safe work practices. Lead dust has also been found in high concentrations in pool water.

If you are not sure about the soil your child is playing in, have your soil and water tested for lead and other toxins by a professional. Here are some other tips to minimize risk:

– Children and adults should wash their hands before and after playing or working outside;

– Change clothing after playing or working in the yard or garden;

– Create a safe play area for your child – a sandbox with clean sand and a cover is ideal if you think you may have lead dust around your home or neighborhood;

– Wash any toys that were used in dirt that may contain lead dust with soap and water;

– Any bare soil outside your home should be covered with sod, mulch, or gravel to reduce the hazard;

– Cover your pool when it is not in use;

– If lead levels are found to be high in your yard, tainted soil may actually need to be removed and clean soil may need to be brought in;

– A floor mat inside the door can help reduce lead dust from being tracked in;

– Take your shoes off when you enter your house and leave them at the door.

Spring is a wonderful time to enjoy the outdoors. Be sure to do it safely!




Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Lead

Do-it-yourself renovations: Handle with care

In our last post, we discussed steps homeowners should take when hiring a contractor to remodel their pre-1978 built home. But what if you are doing the work yourself, even a simple painting job in an older home?

Don’t risk your family’s health. Have your home tested for lead by an environmental testing company. You need to know if you’ll be disturbing old layers of lead paint so you can take appropriate steps to keep your family safe.

If remnants of lead paint are found, follow these precautions:

Evacute vulnerable family members. While you are working, be sure children younger than seven, pregnant women and pets leave for the day. Even a speck of lead dust can cause irreversible damage to them. They can return to the house after the work has stopped and the area is thoroughly cleaned.

Contain the area. Close the doors leading to the work area. Then use 4-6 mil plastic sheeting and painter’s tape to seal off the area, even over the doors. Seal all duct work in the area with the plastic sheeting and painter’s tape. Your goal is to prevent lead dust from contaminating the rest of your house.

Dress for success. Look for a mask or respirator with a N95 rating or higher, which filters 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. And 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 250,000 pediatric lead poisoning cases a year. Sanding releases fine lead dust particles, which fly through your air, infiltrating your house. Unfortunately, they stay in the air for a long time. Therefore, sand as little as possible.

Time to clean. First, sweep up as much of the dust and debris as you can and put it into a plastic bag, which you then 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.

When the work is done, have another lead test performed by a professional testing company. Click here for more information or to schedule a lead test.


Healthy Home Lead

Lead Hazards in the Home: It Ain’t Just Paint

Lead Hazards in the Home: It Ain’t Just Paint

Lead-based paint is the main reason why 500,000 children are still being poisoned by lead annually. The only way to really protect your children from lead poisoning is to have your home tested by a professional environmental testing firm.

The most common source of lead poisoning is lead-based paint, which is still found in most homes built before 1978, the year lead paint was banned. Any renovation or simple wear-and-tear of the paint around windows and doors and on stair treads disturbs the paint, sending lead dust flying through the air.

But other sources of lead abound in the home:

Older plumbing fixtures

Faucets, lead pipes, and pipes connected with lead solder, in addition to well pumps made with brass or bronze parts that contain lead, can contaminate drinking water. Lead can leach into water at any temperature, but the amount is much greater when the water is warm or hot.

Lead-glazed ceramic ware, pottery and leaded crystal can contaminate food and liquids stored in them, especially for long periods of time.

Artificial turf

The Centers for Disease Control and Protection reports that recent tests by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services revealed that artificial turf playing fields contain potentially unhealthy levels of lead dust. Artificial turf made of nylon or nylon/polyethylene blend fibers contain potentially dangerous levels of lead. Artificial turf made with only polyethylene fibers contain low levels of lead. This information is important if you have an outdoor carpet made of artificial turf or plan on buying one.

It is also important to keep in mind that even low levels of lead can poison children, pregnant women and their unborn babies, and pets.


Pottery making, working with stained glass, or refinishing furniture can expose you to lead hazards. Try not to work on these hobbies when children are present or if you are pregnant.

Folk medicine

Lead has been found in some traditional folk medicines used by East Indian, Indian, Middle Eastern, West Asian and Hispanic cultures. Lead is added to these remedies to treat certain ailments, including arthritis, infertility, upset stomach, menstrual cramps and colic. For example, greta and azarcon (also known as alarcon, coral, luiga, maria luisa or ruedo) are traditional Hispanic remedies used to treat upset stomach, constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, and used on the gums of teething babies. Both are fine orange powders that have a lead content as high as 90 percent.

To schedule a home lead test, click here.


Healthy Home Lead

Lead-Tainted Products: Not Child’s Play

Lead-Tainted Products: Not Child’s Play

We often blog about lead-based paint, and how improperly remodeling a pre-1978 built home can create lead dust and easily poison a child. But there are numerous other ways lead can enter a home. Today, we look at the sources — in addition to lead paint — that most affect children. Tomorrow, we look at lead from the whole-house perspective.


Lead is still widely used in other countries, and every now and then — even with our strict consumer-protection laws banning lead in toys — imported toys containing lead are found in the United States. To reduce these risks, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issues recalls of toys containing lead, and thankfully these recalls are quickly reported in the media. Unfortunately, if the child has been playing with the toy for even a day, he or she might be poisoned by lead.

More bad news: Lead in plastics has not been banned, and is often used in toys to soften the plastic and make it more flexible. But when plastic is exposed to substances such as sunlight, air, and detergents, the chemical bond between the lead and plastics breaks down and forms lead dust.

And be wary of painted toys, passed down through the generations. If made before 1978, there is a good chance there is lead in the paint. Do not let your children play with these toys.

Toy jewelry

In 2006 a 6-year-old child died after swallowing a heart-shaped metallic charm containing lead, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Just wearing the jewelry will not cause a child’s blood lead level to spike into the dangerous range, but why take the chance? A speck of lead dust as small as a grain of sand can poison a child. And we all know that children, especially those younger than 6 who are at the greatest risk for lead poisoning, love to put objects in their mouths.

The CDC asks parents to search their children’s toys and jewelry boxes for metal jewelry and throw it all away.


Lead has been found in candy imported from Mexico. Certain candy ingredients, specifically chili powder and tamarind, may be a source of lead exposure. In addition, lead may get into the candy during manufacturer from improper handling processes, and the ink used on the candy wrappers contains lead, and often leaches into the candy.

If you would like to schedule a home lead inspection, click here.


Healthy Home

Residential Testing

RTK has been helping homeowners owners keep their homes safe and sound since 1995. There are dozens of reasons to have your home tested for unhealthy environmental hazards including mold, lead, and other toxins. Using state-of-the-art technology and adhering to the latest standards, our inspectors will thoroughly examine your property — the physical structure, indoor air, water supply, and outside soil — for the presence of mold, lead, asbestos, radon, and other environmental problems.