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Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Mold

Appliance Maintenance to Prevent Mold

Appliance Maintenance to Prevent Mold

Here’s what you should do and how often to prevent mold growth in your home.

Dehumidifiers, bathroom exhaust fans, and kitchen range hoods can vastly improve the air you breathe indoors, but they also have a downside: if not maintained properly, they can become little mold-producing factories.

Consumer Reports says that neglecting to thoroughly clean a bathroom fan or dehumidifier, for example, allows dirt to accumulate and this, plus a little moisture, creates the perfect environment in which mold can grow. Another place you are likely to find mold growth is in a front load washing machines.

mold dehumidifierCleaning dehumidifiers once a month is recommended.  Yet, according to the article, 60% of the dehumidifiers found in today’s households are not cleaned frequently enough and may be fostering mold growth. Bathroom exhaust fans are another source of mold but only 16% are cleaned every few months as recommended.

Failure to clean these appliances rigorously can also result in the growth of fungi and bacteria that cause lung inflammation.

kitchen fan moldHere are the recommended cleaning schedules for household appliances:

So, if you’re the culprit and neglected to clean household appliances regularly, check them carefully for mold. Mold can spread from these devices to other parts of your home, and that can be detrimental to your health – let alone your wallet.

Contact RTK to schedule a mold or indoor air quality test today!

Mold Health Indoor Air Quality & Radon

Parents: Is There Mold In Your Child’s School?

Is There Mold In Your Child’s School?

Mold in school is becoming a more common problem. The damage to classrooms from the heat and humidity from the summer months have many parents concerned about the indoor air quality in schools. And worse, mold has proliferated in dozens of schools in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, with the latest reports of mold in classrooms coming from the Hartford area.

As a parent, this is disturbing news. There are few things more important than the safety of our children in schools or daycare programs. We’ve created this guide to inform you what you need to know about mold, and alert you to the symptoms and signs of mold in schools or any other buildings.

Where is mold in schools found?

Classrooms, hallways, offices, and building corridors often harbor mold spores and dust mites, as do ventilation systems.

If your child has allergies, especially to mold, you should find out how often the school cleans its building 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 also very common areas for mold to grow 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 mold and mildew 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; this puts the child at special risk, whether at school or home. Although children are particularly vulnerable to mold contaminants, there is no law requiring schools to protect students (or staff) from mold contamination.

Is it a cold or a mold allergy?

How do you know if your child has a cold, the flu, seasonal allergies, or a mold allergy? It’s not always easy to determine, as many of the symptoms are the same. Signs of a mold allergy and symptoms of mold exposure include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Itchy eyes, nose and throat
  • Cough and postnasal drip
  • Watery eyes
  • Wheezing
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Brain Fog

If you child is fine in the morning, but returns from school with any of these symptoms, there is a good chance that there’s an irritant at the school, especially if the symptoms subside when the child is at home.

Symptoms of Toxic Mold Exposure

Toxic mold exposure can also cause:

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

Mold and asthma

If your child is allergic to mold and also has asthma, his or her asthma symptoms may be triggered by exposure to mold spores and can sometimes be severe. In addition to the usual symptoms, 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.

What else can you do?

  • Ask other parents or the PTA if they have noticed any signs of mold at the school or symptoms in their children.
  • Ask if they are aware of any unusual or musty odors in the school.
  • If the answers are in the affirmative, and if your child is experiencing health issues, request that mold testing be done.
  • If mold is 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.

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

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.

Mold Indoor Air Quality & Radon

What To Do If You Find Mold in an HVAC System

What To Do If You Find Mold in an HVAC System

For HVAC specialists, spring is a busy season. Pre-summer system cleanings are plentiful, as nobody wants poor indoor air quality – especially during summer months when the air conditioning is running and likely recirculating your air around the clock. Many times, you’ll discover mold in drip or condensation pans, in ductwork, or around vents.

HVAC moldAs you know, dust and debris collect in HVAC and heating units over time. When those materials absorb moisture, mold can form quickly.

If you find mold on a job, stop work immediately so that you don’t spread the mold and cross-contaminate other areas of the residence. Then call RTK for a mold assessment. Since RTK only tests and never remediates, you can be assured our results are unbiased and accurate.

How does mold impact the homeowner? During summer months, condensation often occurs in HVAC units and ducts, and this can lead to mold growth. Then, once the heat or A/C is turned on, microscopic mold spores can easily spread and contaminate clean spaces anywhere else in the building.

Signs of HVAC Mold:

  1. There is a musty smell in the dwelling.

  2. The homeowner is experiencing allergic symptoms, which may include a runny nose, trouble breathing, rash, or watering eyes.

  3. When the homeowner turns on the heat or A/C, they complain that their nose, throat, and eyes feel irritated.

  4. The homeowner suffers from unexplained headaches that go away when they leave the premises.

  5. They feel nausea, fatigue, and dizziness only when they 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.

mold iaqIf you find mold in an HVAC system, the best course of action is to have the system tested. An independent company, like RTK, can assess whether your client will be spreading mold spores when the heat is turned on.

Mold and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are the most common causes of indoor air pollution and can easily be tested for and treated. Call us at 800.392.6468 to schedule a test or learn more.

VOCs Indoor Air Quality & Radon

Breathe Easier by Reducing Volatile Organic Compounds in Your Home 

Breathe Easier by Reducing Volatile Organic Compounds in Your Home 


Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, are a group of volatile chemicals easily emitted into the air because of their high vapor pressure at room temperature. These compounds are found in most manmade items, such as carpeting, appliances, paint, cleaning products, and personal care products, to name just a few. Regrettably, the VOCs that make our homes look nice can pose serious dangers to our health and well-being. So, let’s look at the dangers and sources of VOCs in the home. We also will give you important tips on how to reduce your VOC exposure. 

Causes of VOCs

Dangers of VOCs  

Over the short term, exposure to VOCs can lead to health problems, such as headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and nausea. VOCs also can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat. Long-term exposure to VOCs can lead to more serious health problems, such as liver and kidney damage, respiratory problems, and even cancer.  

Common Sources of VOCs in the Home 

VOCYour home harbors a vast array of VOCs sources, including: 

  1. Paints and coatings used on walls, furniture, and floors, which release VOC fumes into the air that can be harmful if inhaled. 
  2. Household cleaning products, including floor cleaners, glass cleaners, and bathroom cleaners. An additional danger: these products are frequently used in poorly ventilated areas such as shower stalls, which can increase exposure. 
  3. Air fresheners are loaded with VOCs, including phthalates, which are known to disrupt hormones in the body. Air fresheners can also contain other harmful chemicals, such as benzene and formaldehyde. 
  4. Building materials, including carpets, adhesives, and insulation, can release fumes into the air for years after they have been installed. 
  5. Personal care products, such as perfumes, hair sprays, and deodorants, often contain VOCs. These products can be harmful if inhaled or absorbed through the skin. 

Identifying VOCs in the Home 

If you are feeling unwell and are not sure why, you may have high levels of VOCs in your home. Headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and nausea can all be symptoms of VOC exposure. The best way to discover the source of the exposure is to have your home tested by a professional. A professional can help pinpoint or rule out the responsible sources. 

VOC symptomsRTK has tested hundreds of homes for VOCs and was surprised to find out that in many cases, popular brands of furniture, including baby items, were off the charts for these dangerous chemicals.  

“We recently tested the new nursery of a newborn child, and just about everything was emitting toxic fumes,” said Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and founder of RTK.  “These products were from a brand name, very popular company—we were shocked,” Weitz said. “People buy products they think are ‘healthy’ but they don’t read the labels, and that’s where you’ll find the truth.” He recommends testing for many reasons. 

Weitz emphasized that testing can help preserve the property value of your house, which is likely to be a household’s largest financial asset. He recommends that homebuyers test before they purchase a house. In turn, homeowners should test for VOCs prior to putting a home on the market. 

Property owners also could have VOC compliance concerns, said Weitz. VOC testing may be required to comply with local, state, or federal regulations. For example, some states require VOC testing for certain types of building materials or household products. 

VOC carpeting

Reducing Exposure to VOCs 

There are several steps you can take to reduce your exposure to VOCs in the home: 

  1. Choose low-VOC products: When purchasing paints, cleaning products, air fresheners, and personal care products, choose products that are labeled “low-VOC” or “VOC-free.” 
  2. Increase ventilation: Proper ventilation can help reduce exposure to VOCs. Open windows and doors, use exhaust fans and change the filters regularly, and use air purifiers with carbon filters to improve indoor air quality. 
  3. Avoid harsh cleaning products: Instead of using harsh cleaning products, try using natural alternatives, such as vinegar and baking soda. 
  4. Be careful when renovating: If you are renovating your home, be aware of the VOCs in building materials and choose low-VOC options whenever possible. 
  5. Let new furniture air out: Before you bring new furniture or carpeting into your home, unwrap it and let it air out for a few days in the garage or a well-ventilated area. This will reduce the level of VOC buildup in your home. 
  6. Store products safely: Store products containing VOCs in a well-ventilated area and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use and disposal. 

VOC labelsVOCs are a serious concern in the home and can pose a significant danger to our health and well-being. VOC testing is important for identifying potential sources of exposure to harmful chemicals, improving indoor air quality, and ensuring compliance with regulations. Homeowners can take steps to reduce their exposure to VOCs by choosing low-VOC products, increasing ventilation, and storing products safely.

If you are concerned about VOCs in your home, consider scheduling a VOC testing appointment with a qualified professional like RTK Environmental. By being aware of the sources of VOCs and taking steps to reduce exposure, we can help ensure that our homes are safe and healthy places to live. Call us at 800.392.6468 to learn more.

VOCs and Clothing

VOCs and Your Health



Indoor Air Quality & Radon Healthy Home

VOCs and Clothing: What You Need to Know 

VOCs and Clothing: What You Need to Know

As we discussed in our last blog, volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are toxic gasses emitted from chemicals in everyday items which can cause a number of health symptoms and issues.

So, what are some of the biggest sources of VOCs?

Clothing & VOCs

Believe it or not, there are usually VOCs in new clothes, especially those wrapped in plastic like men’s shirts and socks. Textiles are not regulated for VOCs, so anything that is wrinkle free, permanent press, or crease resistant generally contains formaldehyde. Many clothing dyes even contain VOCs. Luckily, it is usually as easy as running it through the wash a few times to rinse out those chemicals.

VOCs and Dry-Cleaning

Dry cleaning can cause a more serious threat to your health and the environment. Most dry-cleaning processes use the dangerous chemical tetrachloroethylene, which is widely used as a scouring solvent that removes oils from fabrics, as a carrier solvent, as a fabric finish or water repellent. Exposure to tetrachloroethylene can cause a host of health issues, including irritation to the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and respiratory system. It has also been shown to cause liver damage and is a potential occupational carcinogen.

Another dangerous VOC-emitting chemical used in dry cleaning is perchloroethylene. According to the Occidental College’s Pollution Prevention Center, 85% of the nearly 40,000 dry cleaners in the United States use perchloroethylene (or “perc”) as a solvent in their dry-cleaning process.

Perc is a synthetic VOC that poses a health risk to humans, as well as a threat to the environment. Minimal contact with perc can cause headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, and skin and respiratory irritation. Prolonged perc exposure has been linked to liver and kidney damage, and cancer. Perc has also been identified as a “probable” human carcinogen by California’s Proposition 65.

Perc can enter the body through drinking water contamination, dermal exposure, or most frequently, inhalation. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that clothes dry cleaned with perc can elevate levels of the chemical throughout a home, especially in the room where the garments are stored. It is also transmitted through a nursing mother’s milk.

Green Dry Cleaning

green dry cleaning

A healthier option is using an eco-friendly dry cleaner that does not use these harsh chemicals, but rather liquid carbon dioxide cleaning or professional wet cleaning. But do your research because all “environmentally safe” dry cleaners are not equal. Ask them if their dry-cleaning process is completely VOC free, and what their process is.

If you are concerned about VOCs in your home or workplace, contact RTK for testing and more information at 800.392.6468 or click here. Find part 3 here, or read part 1 here.







Indoor Air Quality & Radon Healthy Home

The World Is Full of Dangerous Chemicals and VOCs: Here’s How to Protect Your Health

The World Is Full of Dangerous Chemicals and VOCs: Here’s How to Protect Your Health  

Let’s face it – we live in a world full of chemicals. From cleaning products to paints to furniture and carpeting, volatile organic compounds (or VOCs) permeate the air we breathe, and many endanger our health. RTK presents a multi-part series on VOCs effect on indoor air quality so you can take steps to lessen the effect of VOCs in your everyday life.

PART 1: 

volatile organic compound

What Are VOCs?

VOCs are toxic vapors that are off gassed from synthetic materials and everyday items. VOCs cause poor indoor air quality, commonly referred to as “indoor air pollution.” VOCs can be extremely dangerous to health, especially those compounds that have toxic elements.

Cancer & VOCs

Cancer is on the rise, and one of the causes is right before our eyes. Most new, manufactured products contain VOCs, many of which contain known toxic carcinogens. They have been proven to cause cancer, yet manufacturers still use VOCs because of their cost-effectiveness in the manufacturing process.

indoor air quality

Where are VOCs found?

  • Paint
  • Adhesives
  • Clothing
  • Carpeting
  • Composite wood products, like furniture and cabinets
  • Bedding and pillows
  • Copiers, printers, and toners
  • Cosmetics and toiletries
  • Vinyl, such as shower curtains or tile
  • Sealing caulk
  • Certain scented candles
  • Fabrics
  • Cleaning and disinfecting chemicals
  • Air fresheners
  • Moth balls
  • Dry cleaning and laundry detergents
  • Wood burning stoves
  • Yes, even that new car smell!

VOCs and Your Health

Whether we are exposed to VOCs for an extended or brief period they can still affect our health. The key is recognizing symptoms of exposure and finding the culprit(s).

voc headacheCommon Symptoms of VOC Exposure Include:

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

Long-Term Effects of VOC Exposure Include:

  • Cancer
  • Kidney damage
  • Liver damage
  • Central Nervous System damage

There are steps you can take to minimize VOCs in your home. RTK will tell you how throughout this multi-part series. If you are concerned about VOCs in your home or workplace, contact RTK for testing and more information at 800.392.6468 or click here.

Part 2: VOCs and Clothing

Part 3: Identifying and Reducing VOCs in the Home

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, 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!


Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Mold

Why Is Santa Sneezing?


What’s Making Santa Sneeze? Let’s Hope You Don’t Find Out!

Stay off of Santa’s Naughty List! Nobody likes a stinky home. But an unhealthy one is even worse!

Musty odors are are a tell-tale sign that you may have a mildew or 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. Save your guests with allergies the embarrassment of sneezing on the holiday ham.

A healthy home is a happy home. We want to take the time to thank all of our clients and friends for your business. May you all have a healthy and happy holiday season!


The RTK Family

Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Lead Mold

How to Prevent Having a “Sick Home” This Winter


How to Prevent Having a “Sick Home” This Winter

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

Top Causes of Sick Home Syndrome

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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