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Indoor Air Quality & Radon Health Healthy Home Mold

9 Tips for Better Indoor Air Quality

9 Tips for Better Indoor Air Quality

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Here are some of his top suggestions:

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

 

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

 

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Indoor Air Quality & Radon Healthy Home Mold

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

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

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

A Word About VOCs

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

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

VOCs and Your Health

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

Top Sources of VOCs

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

Other Common Sources of VOCs

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

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

What Can I Do?

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

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

indoor air quality testing

With us spending more time at home during COVID-19, it’s more important than ever to ensure your indoor air quality is healthy. If you think you may have an indoor air quality issue, contact RTK Environmental today to find out more about your options.

Live well!

 

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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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Flooding & Water Damage Indoor Air Quality & Radon Mold

Fall Tips to Get Your Home Ready for Winter

Fall Tips to Get Your Home Ready for Winter

With autumn in full swing, take advantage of the crisp days and sunshine to prepare your home for winter. Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, complete these tasks and you won’t spend a fortune on home repairs this winter.


gutters mold
Clean your gutters.

It’s a hassle, but you should clean your gutters before the temperature drops to help prevent ice dams, which form when melted snow pools and refreezes at roof edges and eaves. This ridge of ice then prevents water caused by melting snow from draining from the roof. Since it has nowhere to go, the water can leak into your home and damage walls, ceilings, and insulation. Water damage will soon be followed by mold. No matter what the season, gutters filled with heavy leaves can pull away from your house and cause leaks that damage your home and lead to mold growth. Also be sure your downspouts are angled away from your home to prevent leaks in the basement.

Check your roof for leaks.

You certainly don’t want to start your winter with a leaky roof. Check your ceilings for water spots, mold, or stains. If you spot them, before you call in a roofer, have a mold inspector test your home for mold. That way you’ll know exactly what needs to be replaced so the mold doesn’t come back. You may have small stains or dark spots now, but once the heavy snow sets in, the problem could get much worse, and you could wind up with a full blown mold infestation. You should also check your attic for moisture, as mold can easily grow there if it is not properly ventilated.

Clean your HVAC units, fireplace, furnace, and wood-burning stove.

Indoor air quality suffers in the winter because your home is closed up most of the time. Toxic fumes, including carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), can be emitted from fireplace and wood burning stove smoke and may back up into the house, which can cause serious health issues. Mold and dust can also build up in HVAC units over the summer months, then spread throughout your home when the heat is turned on. To make sure your indoor air quality is at an acceptable level, schedule a test from an environmental inspector like RTK Environmental Group. They will test for VOCs, mold, particulate matter, and other chemicals. For additional tips on indoor air quality, visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s Web site.

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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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Health Indoor Air Quality & Radon

VOCs and Your Car

VOCs and Your Car

Climbing into your car during the heat of summer is not always the most pleasant experience. Besides the heat, there’s that stale air and an odor that’s pretty off-putting. There’s a reason for that: it’s called VOCs or volatile organic compounds that are often contained in the car’s materials and structure.

What are VOCs?

car air qualityVOCs are toxic vapors that are off-gassed from man-made materials. VOCs cause poor indoor air quality, commonly referred to as “indoor air pollution.” That “new car smell” is actually a combination of chemicals emitted from plastics, leather, and other parts that make up the interior of your vehicle. During the summer months, these chemicals are heated to extreme temperatures, and when confined in such a small space, make them more dangerous than usual when inhaled.

VOCs and Your Health

VOCs can cause a host of health issues. The most common are headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. Other symptoms of VOC exposure are nausea, nervousness, and difficulty concentrating. Long-term exposure to VOCs can be far more serious, though, as they can cause cancer, and damage to the kidneys, central nervous system, and liver.

Steps to Minimize Vehicle VOCs

Volatile organic compounds carThe good news is that there are some steps you can take to minimize your exposure to the VOCs that are contained in your car. If you can open the car’s windows remotely, do so. If not, open the door, reach into your car, turn it on, open the windows, and wait a minute before you get in so that the air has time to circulate. When parking your car, you may want to consider keeping the windows cracked while you are away as well.

VOCs in the Environment

VOCs also can be a problem in your home or workplace. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms with no known cause, there may be poor indoor air quality.

RTK can test for many VOCs, including formaldehyde and benzene, which are very common. We can help you determine whether the cause of your illness is your environment, and help you to feel better so that you can live well.

Call us today at 800.392.6468.

 

 

 

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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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Asbestos Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Inspector's Notebook Lead Mold

Safe Home Renovations

Safe Home Renovations

With everyone stuck at home under coronavirus quarantine, many of us are using this opportunity to complete home improvement projects. Whether you are renovating or simply painting, there are precautions you should take to preserve your health. Make sure you don’t disturb any toxic materials, like lead or asbestos, especially if you live in a house built before 1978.

Ask yourself these questions before you begin:

  • What type of surfaces and materials will you disturb?
  • Do you have crumbling pipe insulation or tiles? They may contain asbestos.
  • Will you disrupt any pipes? They might leach lead into your water.
  • Are there painted surfaces that are chipped? The paint may contain lead.

If any or all of the above apply, you’ll want to take some precautions. Otherwise, you may be subjecting yourself and your family to unnecessary health risks, caused by the very particles you’ve disturbed. Now, more than ever, it’s important to take the proper precautions. Here’s how:

Tip #1: Test for Lead Paint.

If your home was built prior to 1978, you probably have lead paint somewhere. (Paint containing lead was banned in 1978.) When paint containing lead is kept in good condition, it does not pose a significant health risk. But, if it is disturbed, it releases dangerous lead dust into the air, and when that dust settles onto flat surfaces is the leading cause of lead poisoning. Lead poisoning is known to cause autism-like symptoms, ADHD, brain damage, lower IQ, and a host of other physical and mental issues.

So, before you start your painting project, have a certified lead risk assessor test your home for lead paint. They can use an XRF spectrometer to look deep into layers of paint on walls to determine if there is lead paint not only on the surface, but also underneath in underlying layers.

If you are not comfortable with having a lead inspector come to your home while you are in quarantine, you may want to wait on that project, or treat it as if there were lead paint on your walls or trim. Follow the EPA’s recommended Renovation, Repair, and Painting rule for DIYers, which can be found here.

If, instead, you move ahead and disturb surfaces that contain lead paint, chances are you will have released toxins in the process. The clean-up can be very expensive. Worst of all, you may have subjected yourself and your family to a serious health hazard.

If you think you may have lead paint, call in an environmental testing company to have your home tested. If the test reveals toxic lead dust, a lead inspector can tell you the exact locations of the lead. Be sure you follow lead-safe work practices, or hire a contractor certified in lead-safe work practices.

Tip #2: Check for Asbestos.

asbestos testBefore any renovation or demolition, you need to know if you are about to disturb any materials containing asbestos. Asbestos is banned in many forms because of its toxicity. Inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause serious, even fatal illnesses, including malignant lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.

Asbestos is common in older homes, and you can be exposed to asbestos fibers through demolition of many items, most commonly:

  • Flooring materials
  • Roof shingles
  • Pipes
  • Insulation
  • Walls
  • Ceilings
  • Tile

Be smart. Have an asbestos survey performed prior to your renovation project. The survey will determine if there are any materials containing this toxic substance that you are about to disturb. Something as simple as installing a ceiling fan or updating your bathroom could have serious implications. If you are unsure and are not ready for testing, hold off on the project.

Tip #3: Take Proper Precautions.

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

  1. Evacuate vulnerable family members.

While you are working, be sure children, the elderly, pregnant women, and pets leave the area while work is being performed. They can return after the work has stopped and the area has been thoroughly cleaned.

  1. Contain the offending area.

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

  1. Dress for the occasion.

Look for a mask or respirator with an N95 rating or higher (if you can find one), which filters out very fine particles. And be sure you wear it for the entire time you are working and cleaning. Also, use a Tyvek suit to protect your clothes. If the work takes more than a day, use a new one for each day. 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. If you can’t find a Tyvek suit, be sure to remove your clothes in the containment area, place them in a sealed plastic bag, and put them in the washing machine straight away. Then shower immediately.

  1. Avoid sanding.

Lead dust accounts for most of the pediatric lead-poisoning cases a year. Sanding releases fine lead dust particles, which fly through the air, infiltrating the entire house. Unfortunately, these particles remain in the home for a long time. Therefore, sand as little as possible and when you do wet the surface first to keep dust down.

  1. Clean up thoroughly.

Use a HEPA vacuum to clean the entire work area. Then use warm water and clean rags to wash all surfaces. Then HEPA vacuum again. Every exposed surface must be cleaned well. It’s a good idea to have your home tested post-renovation to ensure all toxic materials were properly removed.

This extra time at home is a gift, so make sure your home is safe for you and your family.

If you want to schedule a lead, asbestos, or mold inspection, call us at 800.392.6468 or click here.

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Health Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon

During Stressful Times, Try to Protect Your Health and Boost Your Immunity

During Stressful Times, Try to Protect Your Health and Boost Your Immunity     

In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, we seem to be much more aware of our physical spaces – not just maintaining distance between people, but our homes and our workspaces. As we struggle to adjust to the new normal, it’s more important than ever to ensure that our homes and workplaces are “healthy” so that we can protect our health and boost our immune systems.

Besides all the stress, there are other factors that can impact your immune system, making you more susceptible to illness: mold, poor indoor air quality, and even contaminated water.

Poor Indoor Air Quality

VOCWhile we’re all trying to prevent the virus from spreading, we should also be aware that some of the very household products we’re using to scrub surfaces are off-gassing Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs. These are toxic vapors given off by bleach and aerosol sprays.

VOCs can come from the chemicals in air fresheners, detergents, furniture, carpeting, and other products. If concentrated enough, they can be potent, causing headaches, dizziness, and nausea in the short-term and more serious problems long term. VOCs can cause poor indoor air quality, commonly referred to as “indoor air pollution.” Today, about 80% of indoor air pollution is caused by either mold or VOCs.

So, when you’re attempting to disinfect your home, remember to open your windows to allow fresh air to circulate. You may also want to order an indoor air quality test that will help you to identify or rule out any air quality issues.

Mold

moldNow that you’re spending more time at home, you may notice that you have 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. If you smell a musty odor, you probably have mold. In order to pinpoint the source of a mold issue, testing is a good option.

Contaminated Water

With all of the hand-washing going on, you are in constant contact with your water supply. Every time you wash your hands, clean a dish, prepare a baby’s bottle, or draw a warm bath, you are exposing yourself to whatever is in your water supply. In many cases, what’s in the supply can be nasty: we’re talking lead, bacteria, heavy metals from pipes, arsenic that naturally occurs in groundwater, radon, pesticides, and more.

Whether you drink from well water or water that comes from a reservoir, consider ordering a water test from an independent source to determine the water quality.

So, even though the focus now is on Coronavirus, you can take steps to improve the quality of the environment of your immediate surroundings. Have your home tested by an independent, unbiased environmental testing service that performs testing only. (Leave remediation to other firms to avoid a potential conflict of interest.)

Schedule a test today and make sure your home and workplace are the safest places they can be. Call RTK at 800.392.6468 or click here.

 

 

 

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Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Lead

Scented Candles: Are They Dangerous?

Scented Candles: Are They Dangerous?

What’s not to love about a good scented candle? They fill our homes with lovely aromas. A coconut breeze brings you to a beach in Bali or a breath of lavender vanilla makes your stress melt away. But reviews are mixed about the impact of burning these candles on our health.

The fact is, many scented candles are mass-produced with sub-standard ingredients, and can lead to poor indoor air quality (IAQ). The wick, wax, and perfume they’re made from can emit harmful chemicals.

Chemicals Abound in Fragrances

chemical fragranceAccording to the American Lung Association, for people who suffer from asthma, just the scents alone can cause problems with breathing. The candles emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), some of which are irritants; others can cause cancer. In addition, they can react with other gases and form additional air pollutants even after they are airborne.

What’s in all those fragrances and scents? Formaldehyde, alcohol, esters, and petroleum distillates, all of which can cause health issues. Headaches, dizziness, and trouble breathing are among some of the symptoms that have been reported from the inhalation of these VOCs.

And there are other hazards

cored wickDo you ever wonder how a candlewick is able to stand up? Many wicks are “cored,” meaning they are made out of metal wrapped in cotton to give them strength. When the wicks burn, trace amounts of heavy metals are released into the air. In the past, lead also was used in candlewicks, but in 2003, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission banned using more than .06% lead in a wick. Lead has since been replaced by zinc and tin. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that candles are any safer; they still may be releasing trace amounts of lead and other toxins into your environment.

How can you tell if there is lead in the wick? Try this simple test. Rub the wick of an un-burnt candle onto a piece of white paper. If the wick leaves a gray pencil-like mark there’s probably lead in it; if there’s no gray, you’re probably safe.

Danger from candles: it’s more than fire

scented candleUnless you buy a soy- or vegetable-based candle, the wax in a waxed candle is usually made out of paraffin, which is a petroleum byproduct. When paraffin is burned, it can release acetone, benzene, and toluene into the air, all known VOCs that are carcinogenic. They are the same chemicals released in diesel fuel emissions!

According to a study from South Carolina State University, paraffin wax can cause long-term harm. “The paraffin candles we tested released unwanted chemicals into the air. For a person who lights a candle every day for years or just uses them frequently, inhalation of these dangerous pollutants drifting in the air could contribute to the development of health risks like cancer, common allergies, and even asthma,” said Dr. Ruhullah Massoudi, a chemistry professor in the Department of Biological and Physical Sciences. “None of the vegetable-based candles produced toxic chemicals.”

Burning a scented candle also can produce particulate matter and soot that can remain suspended in the air for hours. The smallest particles can elude our bodies’ natural defense systems and pass right into our lungs, causing coughing and wheezing, and even acute health issues like heart attacks or stroke.

What Can I Do?

soy candlesLimit the time you burn candles in order to reduce any negative impacts on your health. Try vegetable and soy based candles, which are much healthier options. You also should consider using electric candles: they’re high on ambiance and low on health hazards.

While lighting candles isn’t going to kill you overnight, they can contribute to overall poor air quality in your home. If you are concerned about the quality of your indoor air, schedule an Indoor Air Quality test to find out if there are unacceptable levels of VOCs or mold, or any other toxic substances that you might be breathing in.