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Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Mold

What Should I Expect From An Indoor Air Quality Test?

What Should I Expect From An Indoor Air Quality Test?

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

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Healthy Home Asbestos Lead Mold

4 Renovations to Make the Home Safer

4 Renovations to Make the Home Safer

 

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

1.   Repainting the House

lead paint hazard

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

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

 

2.   Update Leaky Sinks

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

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

 

3.   Lighting and Electrical Changes

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

 

4.   Refresh your Floors

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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Health Healthy Home

Unexplained Health Issues: When a Doctor Can’t Find Anything Wrong…

Unexplained Health Issues: When a Doctor Can’t Find Anything Wrong…

When a patient is not feeling well, chances are you look for the presence of disease. But if the symptoms persist and don’t appear to be caused by disease, they may be caused by an environmental hazard such as mold, lead, radon, asbestos, or even poor indoor air quality. So, it often makes sense to turn to a certified microbial inspector to test the patient’s home or workplace.

Categories
Indoor Air Quality & Radon Healthy Home Mold

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

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

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

A Word About VOCs

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

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

VOCs and Your Health

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

Top Sources of VOCs

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

Other Common Sources of VOCs

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

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

What Can I Do?

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

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

indoor air quality testing

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

Live well!

 

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Healthy Home

7 Holiday Hazards and How to Avoid Them

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

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Healthy Home Mold

The Link Between Christmas Trees, Mold & Asthma

 

The Link Between Christmas Trees, Mold & Asthma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
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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Lead Health Healthy Home

Prevent Lead Poisoning: Get Your Home Tested, Get Your Child Tested, Says the EPA

Prevent Lead Poisoning: Get Your Home Tested, Get Your Child Tested, Says the EPA

Protect Your Children By Following These Preventive Do’s and Don’ts

National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is October 24th – 30th

prevent lead poisoningAlthough lead poisoning is the #1 preventable childhood disease in the US, every year, over 500,000 children under the age of six are diagnosed with lead poisoning. Incredibly, this figure does not include the number of children between the ages of six and eighteen that already suffer from lead poisoning. In addition, many other children have not yet been diagnosed, especially since the numbers of children tested during COVID dropped.

To that extent, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that in the early months of the pandemic, roughly 10,000 children with elevated levels of lead in their blood may have gone undetected. Additionally, the CDC estimates that more than 20 million housing units in the United States contain lead-based paint, which was banned in 1978, so with the stay-at-home orders that were in place for over a year, more children were consistently exposed to lead. About 3.3 million American households have children under 6 years of age who live in homes with lead exposure hazards. Even relatively low levels of lead exposure can impair a child’s cognitive development.

lead in water testTo alert parents that they need to act to protect their children from the permanent and irreversible damage of lead poisoning, the U.S. Environmental Protection Action has designated Oct. 24 – 30 National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. Early action, especially testing the home for the presence of lead paint and lead dust — will help to prevent serious health problems and save lives, since even small levels of lead exposure can irreversibly influence children’s development. Lead poisoning causes autism-like symptoms, brain damage, lower IQ, ADD, violent tendencies, and behavior and learning problems, among other devastating issues.

The more parents know about lead poisoning, the less likely their children will be harmed. Here are eight valuable do’s and don’ts from Robert Weitz, a licensed lead consultant and principal of RTK Environmental Group, to help protect you and your family from the devastating effects of lead poisoning.

DO’S:

1. Understand the facts about lead paint.

lead paint hazardsLead 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 deteriorates, or 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. Most lead dust is invisible, travels through the air, and is very harmful when inhaled. Lead dust is the most common form of lead poisoning.

2. Have your home tested for lead paint, especially if it was built before 1978.

Whether you are planning to renovate or are moving into a new home, have your home tested for lead paint to see if you and your family are at risk. Hire an independent, certified testing company that only conducts testing and does not do abatement, as that is a major conflict of interest.

3. Know the sources of lead poisoning.

Lead paint that is ingested is the primary cause of lead poisoning. It can be in the form of lead paint chips or lead dust released from window frames, doors, stairs, or multiple interior components, or uncontained renovations, which gets into the air, water, soil, and on the floor. Lead dust can also be found on playground equipment, pools, and toys. Other sources of lead are older pipes and plumbing fixtures, stained glass, toys, pottery glazes, leaded crystal, jewelry, antiques, folk remedies, food cans, artificial turf, and more.

4. 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 lurking, you or your contractor can unknowingly release toxic lead dust into the air. If a professional lead inspection firm finds lead remnants in your home, you will likely need a lead cleanup plan.

DON’TS:

1. Don’t assume lead poisoning cannot happen to you.

Lead poisoning does not discriminate. Many people believe that lead poisoning occurs only in inner city housing, yet as of the 2010 Census, suburban, owner occupied homes are now the main cause of lead poisoning in the US. Unfortunately, in suburban and rural areas, most people do not even consider the lead paint dangers that may be in their homes. Whether you live in an 1800’s Victorian mansion or a studio apartment in a big city, if your home contains lead paint, you and your family are susceptible to lead poisoning.

2. Never let an unlicensed contractor work on your home, especially if it contains lead paint.

lead testing new yorkThe company that does your work – from a simple painting job to a full-house renovation – must be certified in lead-safe work practices by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Do not let a tradesperson tell you certification is not needed. It is. Under the EPA’s Renovation, Repair, and Paint rule (RRP), all work performed on painted surfaces in a pre-1978 built home must follow a strict protocol. Certified tradespeople have to document the work they perform. Once the work is performed, the next and very important step is to have the environmental testing firm conduct a second lead test to be sure your home is 100 percent lead free.

3. Don’t assume your pediatrician tests your child for lead.

Pediatrician Lead TestingIn some states, lead screening for children under the age of three is mandatory. But in most, it is left at the discretion of the pediatrician. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, testing for lead poisoning often depends on where you live. The best way for you to know if you child has been tested for lead poisoning is to ask your 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.

If you would like to schedule lead testing, give us a call at 800.392.6468 or click here.

Categories
Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon

18 Common Things in Your Home Polluting Your Indoor Air

Headaches? Tired for no reason? You are not alone. If you’ve been feeling sick without explanation or without a known cause, you may have an indoor air quality issue caused by everyday items that release volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, into the environment.

VOCs are toxic vapors that are off-gassed from man-made materials, and everyday items in your home or workplace. They cause poor indoor air quality, commonly referred to as Pillow fabric release VOCs“indoor air pollution.”  VOCs can be toxic, and very dangerous to your health.

Common symptoms of VOC exposure include headaches, fatigue and listlessness, dizziness, nausea, nervousness, and difficulty concentrating. Long-term exposure to VOCs can result in cancer, and damage to the kidneys, liver, and central nervous system. The only way to know what is in your air is to have it tested. So where do VOCs come from?

Here’s a list of the top indoor air quality polluters:

  1. New carpeting
  2. Furniture and cabinets, VOCs in the homeespecially those made of composite material
  3. New bedding, mattresses, and pillows
  4. Paint
  5. Photocopiers and printers
  6. Newspapers
  7. Adhesives and glues
  8. Cosmetics and toiletries
  9. Permanent markers and DIY craft supplies
  10. Vinyl, such as shower curtains or tile
  11. Scented candles
  12. Fabrics
  13. Cleaning and disinfecting chemicals
  14. Air fresheners
  15. Moth balls
  16. Dry cleaning and laundry detergents
  17. Wood-burning stoves
  18. New cars (that “new car” smell)

If you suspect that your indoor air quality may be causing health issues, have your home tested. RTK can test to scented candlesdetermine if there are dangerous levels of mold or chemicals and VOCs in your home including formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and chemical particles. We can then determine what the source of your contamination is. We also test for common asthma triggers, such as dust mites and insects cells. Once you have the results, we can show you how to eliminate the source of the problem, and how to keep future household chemical contamination under control. For information on when to conduct an indoor air quality test, visit our IAQ and Radon page.

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Healthy Home Mold

Mold That Cross Contaminates: A Growing Problem

Mold That Cross Contaminates: A Growing Problem

Unhealthy indoor mold spores are microscopic, and when disturbed, travel quickly and easily through the air, landing wherever the current takes them. That’s the problem with indoor mold. First, mold spores form colonies and grow quickly. Second, they spread easily and can cross contaminate “clean” spaces if not properly handled. Once mold spores spread, your problems grow – literally.

How Does Cross Contamination Occur?

Cross contamination occurs in a variety of ways:

HVAC Units

  • mold cross contaminationMold spores are microscopic, so HVAC units can easily spread clusters of spores through ductwork. Mold spores in a basement can be propelled through HVAC ducts and contaminate clean spaces, even on another floor!

Improper remediation

  • There are terrific remediation companies that do great work. And, there are some remediation companies that don’t properly train their employees, leading to sloppiness and carelessness. If your contractor did not properly contain areas where mold was being removed, they may have inadvertently released the spores into the air and contaminated other parts of your living space. Less-than-reputable contractors may look to take advantage of homeowners who want to quickly fix a mold concern following a major storm or hurricane.

Forgetting to remove contaminated clothing

  • mold contamination Mold spores are frequent travelers. Spores can adhere to your shoes or clothing, which can carry them from one room to another. It’s important to remove shoes and clothing and clean them after you’ve been in an area that is contaminated by mold.

Moving contaminated objects around

  • Moving objects and contents from a contaminated area to other parts of your home or office can also pose a threat of cross contamination. Ask an expert like RTK before removing items from a room where you can see mold. It’s a simple question that could save you thousands in additional remediation.

How Will I Know If I Have Mold Cross Contamination?

mold inspectionThe only way to know if mold has spread to other areas of your home or office is to have it tested by an independent mold testing company like RTK. A complete mold inspection involves testing in other areas where mold may not be visible. Our trained and licensed inspectors take air samples in multiple rooms to pinpoint all the mold contamination. A few extra samples at the beginning can save you a lot of money later in cleanup costs, protect your health, and document which rooms were and were not contaminated before remediation.

What Can I Do to Avoid Cross Contamination?

The first thing to do is to check for mold. During a mold inspection, additional mold samples may be taken to assess potential cross contamination into other areas of the property. Once you know where the mold problem is, it can be properly contained and removed.

An independent testing company will identify contaminated areas and provide a “blueprint” for remediation. Then, make sure you are working with an experienced, professional mold remediation company who will follow proper procedures to remove mold contamination without the risk of cross contamination.

Remember, a reputable company will only remediate and will not test for mold because that is a clear conflict of interest (and illegal in New York State). Here’s what a reputable remediation company will do:

  • proper mold remediationWear proper safety gear
  • Seal off the work area using plastic sheeting so that mold spores do not become dispersed throughout the home
  • Use HEPA vacuums, HEPA air scrubbers, air exchange and commercial-strength dehumidifiers to ensure the air is properly cleaned of airborne mold spores once the physical removal of mold is complete
  • Use an antimicrobial chemical to clean any remaining mold after remediation
  • Apply a sealer or encapsulant to make the treated areas more resistant to water damage and mold, and to minimize possible odors

Once mold remediation is complete, have a clearance test performed to ensure work was done properly and ensure that cross contamination has not occurred.

If you have a mold problem, take action to prevent cross contamination. Speak with your RTK mold inspector about your situation; the inspector will be able to assess potential hazards and keep your mold problem to a minimum.