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Indoor Air Quality & Radon Healthy Home

Study Reveals Home Indoor Air Quality is Worse Than Office

Study Reveals Home Indoor Air Quality is Worse Than Office

 

Indoor air pollution has been classified as one of the top five environmental health hazards. And in the United States, where it is estimated that we spend close to 90% of our time indoors, the quality of the air we breathe – indoors – can have an impact on our health. Since the pandemic, more people have been working remotely, which has led to higher than usual interest in the quality of the air they were breathing.

indoor air quality studyInterest in studying the impact of COVID-19 in different settings has led to higher scrutiny of the indoor air quality (IAQ) at homes during the lockdown. Researchers at Texas A&M recently published a pilot study that found that IAQ was worse in homes than in offices. Fine particulate matter (PM) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the home were significantly higher that offices, 90% of which were in compliance with environmental standards. The study also found a higher frequency of Sick Building Syndrome symptoms while working from home as the IAQ was worse at home.

Why is IAQ worse in homes than in the office?

“In the home, building materials, cleaning agents, air fresheners, adhesives, paints, pesticides and biological contaminants from poor ventilation systems all contribute to poorer air quality,” explains Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and principal of RTK Environmental Group. “There also may be dust from construction or renovation work that may contain lead or asbestos, mold, pesticides, chemicals from cleaning supplies, VOCs from new furniture or carpeting, and other airborne chemicals.”

office indoor air quality However, the likelihood of poor IAQ in office buildings can be lower because offices have better heating and air conditioning systems, as well as air filtration systems. “Offices are also more likely to maintain their HVAC systems, servicing them every 6 – 12 months and changing filters regularly, whereas homeowners may go years without taking these steps,” Weitz says.

He points out that homes today can be made to be airtight, reducing natural ventilation as they are controlled by HVAC systems. “A big difference between home and office HVAC systems is that non-residential buildings typically have a mechanical ventilation for outdoor air change, whereas homes could be closed up for months without significant fresh air exchange, depending on the season.”

basement office indoor air qualityWith estimates that 1 in 4 Americans are still working remotely, and that 22% of the workforce (36.2 million Americans) will continue to work remotely through 2025, indoor air quality is definitely something to monitor.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, poor indoor air quality poses a significant threat to well-being. Short-term symptoms may include headaches, dizziness, dry cough, skin irritations, irritated eyes, nose and throat, as well as fatigue. However, long-term exposure to poor IAQ can cause heart disease, respiratory diseases, and cancer, according to the EPA.

What can you do about poor IAQ?

First, have your home indoor air quality tested by an independent company like RTK. They will be able to identify or rule out the root causes of the VOCs or poor indoor air quality. This will give you the framework to plan your remediation. The EPA says that it’s most effective to find the sources of pollutants to improve IAQ. This may include sources that contain asbestos, mold, lead dust, or gas stoves that can be adjusted to reduce the level of emissions released in your house.

tips for better indoor air qualityYou also should consider bringing fresh air into your house by opening doors and windows. Even a small amount of fresh air can make a difference.

You may want to install air purifiers as well, as many filter out microscopic pollutants and particles from the air. HEPA and carbon filters are the best, but be aware that the HEPA filters particulate matter only, whereas carbon filters get rid of VOCs and odors. It’s best to have an air purifier with both types of filters.

If you are going to continue to work from home or if you are concerned about the quality of your indoor air in general, have your indoor air quality checked. If you would like to schedule an indoor air quality test, call (800) 392.6468 or click here. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have. Live well!

Categories
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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Indoor Air Quality & Radon

Radon: The Silent Killer

Radon: The Silent Killer

Most of us have heard of radon, and if we have bought or sold a house recently, the terms of the sale probably depended on a radon test. But that does not mean we have any idea of what radon is or the harm it can cause. As January is National Radon Action Month, we wanted to share as much as we could about the silent killer.

What is Radon?

Radon is an invisible and odorless radioactive gas produced when uranium naturally decays in soil and water. The Environmental Protection Agency confirms that radon gas is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers. The EPA estimates that more than six million homes in the United States have a radon problem, and the toxic gas claims the lives of more than 21,000 Americans annually.

In fact, radon caused more American fatalities in 2018 than drunk driving, carbon monoxide poisoning, house fires and choking combined.

Both the EPA and the Surgeon General urge every homeowner to test their homes at least every two years for radon. Radon testing should be part of a thorough indoor air quality test. Paints, solvents, cleansers, disinfectants, air fresheners, pesticides, nicotine, glue, home furnishings and building materials — the list of chemicals in our homes goes on and on – poisons the air we breathe. Even low concentrations of these chemicals can irritate your eyes, nose and throat; cause headaches, loss of coordination and nausea; and can damage the liver, kidneys and the central nervous system.

Indoor air quality tests should check for radon, mold, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), particles from furnaces and wood-burning fireplaces and stoves, and common allergens.

To schedule a test, call RTK Environmental Group at 800.392.6468, or click here.

 

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!

 

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

Landlord Responsibilities for Environmental Hazards in Rental Units

Rental Properties Often Harbor Environmental Hazards: Here’s What Landlords Should Know

Most buildings, whether residential or commercial, may contain one or more environmental or health hazards, often hidden from view. Hazards such as mold, asbestos, lead, radon, and even pests can pose serious risks to tenants who occupy these spaces. To protect your tenants and properties, it’s smart to familiarize yourself with the local laws, rules or ordinances to which you are subject. The laws governing landlord and tenant obligations vary from state to state, locality to locality. The following, found in Local Law 55-2018 in New York City, will give you a good idea about what you need to do to avoid issues stemming from environmental hazards and pests.

Landlord Responsibilities (NYC)

mold apartment landlordMold

  • Every year, landlords should inspect units for indoor allergen hazards such as mold, and respond to any complaints received directly from tenants.
  • Make sure vacant apartments are thoroughly cleaned and free of mold and pests before a new tenant moves in.
  • Provide the What Tenants and Landlords Should Know About Indoor Allergens and Local Law 55 fact sheet and a Notice with each tenant’s lease that clearly states the property owner’s responsibilities to keep the building free of indoor allergens.
  • A landlord has a responsibility to remediate mold in a tenant’s unit, just as they would with any other hazard. If the mold arises because of the tenant’s actions, however, the landlord may not be obligated to address it, and it may become the tenant’s responsibility. This would include things like accidentally overflowing bathtubs or trying to do plumbing work yourself.
  • Owners of residential properties with 3 or more units are required to hire a New York State Department of Labor-licensed mold assessor, like RTK Environmental, to assess conditions whenever there are more than 10 square feet of mold. After the assessment, landlords are responsible for hiring a separate remediation contractor. These two contractors must be completely independent of each other, as doing both the testing and remediation on the same job is a violation of the 2016 New York State mold law and would be a clear conflict of interest. A licensed mold contractor must also comply with New York City Administrative Code section 24-154 and New York State Labor Law Article 32. There may be penalties to a property owner for failure to comply with New York City requirements.
  • Safe work practices are required for mold removal, whether you hire a contractor or you do the work yourself or with your own staff. These practices include:
    • Hire a NYS certified microbial investigator, like RTK, to test for mold before and after remediation to identify the problem and ensure it was properly remediated.
    • Removing any standing water, and fix leaks or moisture conditions.
    • Isolating the work area with plastic sheeting and covering egress pathways.
    • Limiting the spread of dust. Use methods such as sealing off openings (e.g. doorways, ventilation ducts, etc.) and gently misting the molding area with soap and water before cleaning.
    • Cleaning mold with soap or detergent and water. Dry the cleaned area completely. If these areas are not dried completely, mold will likely return.
    • Removing and discarding materials that cannot be cleaned properly.
    • Throwing away all cleaning-related waste in heavy-duty plastic bags.
    • Cleaning any visible dust from the work area with wet mops or HEPA vacuums.
    • Leaving the work area dry and visibly free from mold, dust, and debris. 

Asbestos

popcorn ceiling landlordThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires owners of buildings constructed before 1981 to place warning labels, train staff, and notify employees or outside contractors who are working in areas that might contain asbestos.

  • To establish that there is no asbestos on your property, you must have a licensed inspector, like RTK, test for it. You have a duty to take reasonable precautions to protect tenants from asbestos as this material has been linked to an elevated risk of lung cancer and other health issues.
  • If the landlord is planning a renovation or repair in a pre-1981 building that will disturb suspect asbestos containing material, they need to test for asbestos and remove it prior to any work being performed.

Lead

lead paint landlordA federal regulation now requires landlords of “target housing” (most housing built before 1978) to disclose any known lead paint hazards to prospective tenants. New York City landlords and residents also must follow Local Law 31 to avoid costly fines and penalties. Here’s the breakdown of Local Law 31:

  • X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) inspections are now required for all surfaces in every rental unit for “multiple dwelling” buildings built prior to 1960 (as well as for buildings built between 1960 and 1978 with known lead-based paint).
  • XRF lead inspections must take place within 5 years of the effective date of the law (by August 9, 2025) or within one year if a child under the age of 6 resides in or moves into the unit.
  • Inspections must be conducted by a third-party, EPA-certified lead inspector or risk assessor, independent of the owner or any firm hired to perform lead-based paint remediation.
  • Home improvement contractors must show evidence that they are EPA-certified and follow RRP lead-based safety standards.
  • On December 1, 2021, the definition of lead-based paint changed from paint that has a lead content measured at 1.0 mg/cm2 or greater as determined by laboratory analysis or by an instrument called an X-ray florescence analyzer (XRF) to be defined as paint that has a lead content measured at 0.5 mg/cm2 or greater as determined by laboratory analysis or an XRF instrument with an approved PCS and programmed at a testing action level of 0.5 mg/cm2.
  • Federal regulations also require that prospective tenants be given a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pamphlet, Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home, about residential lead poisoning hazards.

The older the housing, the more likely it is that it contains lead paint, that can cause lead poisoning, especially when the paint is disturbed.

  • Lead poisoning can occur from lead dust the size of a grain of sand (dust from lead paint can be released when a painted surface is disturbed). Lead poisoning can lead to serious, irreversible brain damage, neurological reproductive and behavioral issues, autism-like symptoms, and more.
  • Test for lead to be sure you are protected.

Radon

radon landlordNo laws actually require landlords to identify radon or remove it from their property, despite radon’s association with lung cancer. Radon has been detected everywhere in the United States, so it is a hazard that should be on a landlord’s radar for testing.

  • When radon is trapped in homes that have poor or inadequate insulation or ventilation, it can become a severe health hazard.
  • In areas where there is rocky terrain, like the Northeast, there are substantial amounts of radon, caused by the high concentrations of uranium in the soil and rock.

In the end, the goal of both tenants and landlords is the same – to keep everyone healthy and protected. The best way to prevent further issues and potential contamination is to have the property tested for environmental toxins. This way, there is a clear path to what needs to be done to ensure everyone’s safety. And be sure to test after the remediation or abatement is complete to ensure the work was properly completed. Call RTK at 800.392.6468 to schedule an environmental inspection today.

To learn more about tenant responsibilities, click here.

Categories
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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Indoor Air Quality & Radon Mold

How to Filter and Clean Indoor Air to Keep You Healthy

How to Filter and Clean Indoor Air to Keep You Healthy

Almost all the air pollution indoors is caused by things within the house such as your gas stove or furniture. These things release gas and other debris into the air. Day-to-day living inside the home and pets can also cause indoor issues such as mold, dander, and dust. Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are also a major polluter. Here are some tips for improving indoor air quality. 

Checking the ventilation

clean HVAC systemAir exchange and ventilation within a house are key components of your HVAC or Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning system. They are extremely useful for maintaining clean air inside a home. You must monitor the ventilation in your home, and be sure to check for mold. Inspect the vents outside the home. They need to be open and also keep the return air vents clean. These vents within the house are also significant for improving the air quality of your home. It is a good idea to have an exhaust fan inside the kitchen. If the kitchen doesn’t have an exhaust fan, just open a window while cooking. Using exhaust fans in the kitchen is particularly significant when you are cooking by using a gas stove. Stoves and heaters that burn fuel also release carbon monoxide which can make you sick.

It is also a good idea to open the window slightly while you are using a gas heater. Keep the fireplace flue open if you have a wood-burning fireplace. When you have a wood-burning fireplace you will have flue accumulated within your chimney. The chimney is the duct that releases gas and smoke from the fireplace outside your home. If you fail to open it, this smoke will engulf and pollute the living area of your house. Almost all the air conditioners these days have a digital thermostat for regulating the temperatures and an air filter for filtering out the debris and dust. 

Controlling the moisture

control moisture to prevent moldExcessive moisture within the house can lead to the growth of mold, mildew, bacteria, and bugs. They can be caused by moist vapor such as water-damaged areas, steam, and standing water. For keeping the bathroom air clean, use your bathroom exhaust fan that can eliminate the contaminants from the bathrooms. The kitchen exhaust fan can also pull out the humidity caused by cooking and washing.

When you are living in humid areas you can use a dehumidifier to get rid of excessive moisture. Your dryer vent must be vented outside for moving heat, chemicals, and moisture outside. In case your home was damaged by flood water or other water problems just fix the issues. In case the dryer is unvented or is not working properly you will have particles and moisture within your laundry area. In case the dryer is gas-fired it might even release carbon monoxide when it is not properly vented. 

Beware of VOCs

VOCs are toxic vapors that are off-gassed from man-made materials, and everyday household items. VOCs cause poor indoor air quality. Exposure to VOCs can leave you feeling sick without explanation or a known cause. They can be very dangerous to your health and can be toxic. Unfortunately, VOCs are found in many places, including new carpeting, bedding, and furniture; composite wood products, like cabinets and flooring; paint; copiers and printers; adhesives, personal care products, vinyl shower curtains or tile; scented candles; cleaning and disinfecting chemicals, air fresheners, laundry detergents – the list just goes on. Proper ventilation and the use of low- or no-VOC emitting products will help ease the potential side effects of these toxic gases.

Do not smoke indoors

Smoking and the secondary smoke caused by smoking are both hazardous for your health. Smoking cigarettes releases several harmful chemicals that are capable of making you sick. Adults and children that are exposed to this secondary smoke have greater chances of being affected by heart diseases. Even the kids are likely to receive lung infections, ear infections, aggravated allergies, and asthma. Yet, your home can have clean air even if you are a smoker. You can either quit smoking or smoke outside the home. Make it a point to smoke outside even when the weather is wet, cold, or uncomfortable. While smoking outside, ensure that all the windows and doors to the house are closed and the smoke will not make its way back inside the living area.

Growing air purifying plants

air purifying plantsHouseplants are great for cleaning the air in your home. They can remove VOCs, which irritate eyes and skin or make it hard to breathe due to their build-up potential on carpets and fabrics. English ivy is a popular choice because its leaves naturally scrub away dirt from surfaces while removing these noxious molecules at the same time! When growing indoor plants, you might have to use LED grow lights as a source of light in spaces where sunlight is missing. These grow lights will help your plants grow fast and healthy.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that maintenance of your systems, vents, and filters together with the use of good practices are significant for maintaining clean air inside the house. If you suspect mold or VOCs are causing an issue, hire an independent environmental testing company – one that does not also remediate, as this is a clear conflict of interest. It is a good idea to get a licensed HVAC contractor to inspect the existing systems and ensure that you are on the right track and taking the right steps. If you are unable to fix the problems immediately, try to get rid of the damaged instruments. Allowing the damaged instruments to sit in the home can lead to bacteria and mold growth, among other things, and this can make you and your family sick.

 

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 Indoor Air Quality & Radon

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

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

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

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

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

Signs of Mold In Air Ducts:

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

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

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

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

Categories
Indoor Air Quality & Radon Mold

Post-COVID, How to Prepare Your Office for A Healthy Return to Work

Post-COVID, How to Prepare Your Office for A Healthy Return to Work

 

office reopeningMany employers are preparing to reopen their offices after employees have been working remotely for the past 15 +/- months. In addition to preparing for new cleaning, health, and safety protocols and updating policies and work-from-home procedures, you should stop for a moment and consider the environmental state of the office you will be returning to.

 

With offices largely unused for long periods of time, there may have been little or no good air circulation. If so, the office may be harboring mold and poor indoor air quality.

 

HVAC mold“We’re seeing offices, schools, and other facilities with significant mold issues says Robert Weitz, principal of RTK Environmental. “In cases where companies turned off air conditioning or increased the indoor temperature, stagnant air and humidity may have begun to create major mold problems.” Weitz said in those cases, the cleanup might come with a hefty price tag.  “Most offices will not have such significant damage, but you should still take precautions for your own health and safety as well as that of your employees,” he says.

 

Mold in Offices

 

mold under sinkMold is a serious health hazard that should not be taken lightly. Mold causes breathing difficulties, allergies, fatigue, rashes, lower productivity, and more. With offices being shut for many months, moist conditions might have contributed to the growth of mold colonies in refrigerators, carpeting, HVAC systems, and may be widespread behind walls. Before you return to the office, it pays to have a mold test.

 

Indoor Air Quality in Offices

poor office air qualityPoor indoor air quality is caused by mold, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), dust, and other contaminants. It can cause headaches, fatigue and listlessness, dizziness, nausea, nervousness, and difficulty concentrating, among other issues. And, if you have new office equipment, carpeting, flooring, or furniture, you may have elevated VOCs, as these materials tend to off-gas toxins.

 

Here are some important areas to check:

HVAC Systems

HVAC IAQWhether you turned off your HVAC system or not, you should at the get go change the filters, as dust and debris are likely to have taken up residence there. Worse, the HVAC system may be harboring mold. During summer months, condensation, which can cause mold growth, often occurs in HVAC units and associated ducting. Once the heat is turned on, microscopic mold spores can easily spread through ductwork. The spores can contaminate clean spaces anywhere in the building. The safest bet is to test your indoor air.

Refrigerators

Many people are returning to work to find mold growing in their refrigerators. This can usually be cleaned with bleach or an anti-fungal product. You may also spot water stains on the carpeting, meaning that the refrigerator leaked during the closure. If that is the case, you may have a mold problem that goes deeper than the fridge.

Carpets and Ceilings

If you notice water staining on ceilings or carpets, there was likely significant water intrusion. Burst pipes and leaks may have gone unnoticed. Mold may be growing in places you cannot see. But you won’t know that unless you test.

Computers and Office Equipment

VOC office equipmentDust and debris are likely everywhere on your computers, keyboards, copiers, and other office machines. Be sure to dust and vacuum your equipment thoroughly so that you don’t release any extra irritants into the air once the machines are back in use.

Under Sinks

Check for water staining under sinks, as there may have been a leak in the pipes, which would cause mold growth.

 

Before you reopen the office, have a mold and indoor air quality test. Not only does it show your employees that you care and are taking safety guidelines seriously, but it will protect the health of your employees, leading to a more productive workforce. Call us at 800.392.6468 to schedule a test.