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Inspector's Notebook Asbestos Healthy Home Lead Weitz Advice

3 Things Architects Need to Know About Environmental Testing

3 Things Architects Need to Know About Environmental Testing

 

When you start a new project, there are a lot of people relying on you to ensure everything goes smoothly. Whether you are working for a customer directly or a builder, they are going to count on you to ensure the quality and safety of the job, and to ensure that all environmental testing required by law is complete. We’ve compiled a list of the top things’ architects should know about environmental testing.

 

  1. To help avoid liability issues, test for asbestos.

asbestos testingMany architects leave required pre-project asbestos testing up to the builder, which can be a mistake. Builders sometimes forgo asbestos testing to save time and money. But accidentally contaminating a building because walls, tiles, ceilings or other suspect material containing asbestos were ripped out without proper precautions being taken can contaminate a much larger area. Aside from that, testing for asbestos is a good idea in general to protect the health of workers on the job and avoid issues with OSHA. It can also shield you from further liability.

 

  1. Test for lead paint prior to starting work.

lead paint hazardsLead paint is another potential problem for architects. Be sure to test for lead paint before you start a renovation project. Home lead test kits are not enough, as they only test for lead on the surface. Be sure to hire an independent professional to conduct XRF lead paint testing, which will tell you if the underlayers of paint contain dangerous lead.

 

  1. Working with a qualified, unbiased testing company which does not do remediation can save you money.

independent environmental testingNot every environmental testing company is the same. There are those that do both testing and remediation, which is a clear conflict of interest. The more issues they say they find, the more they stand to make in the remediation or abatement to follow.

RTK Environmental only does testing and never remediation, so you can rest assured our results are unbiased and accurate. Additionally, RTK provides you with a plan for remediation, so you don’t waste money on areas that don’t need to be remediated. And with our fast turnaround times, you can move your project forward faster.

Contact RTK to schedule an inspection for your project today. Click here or call 800.392.6468.

 

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Healthy Home Inspector's Notebook

Smart Home Inspectors Recommend Environmental Inspections – Here’s Why

Smart Home Inspectors Recommend Environmental Inspections – Here’s Why

mold home inspectionWith the spring market here, the home inspection business is getting busy, as home inspectors are an important part of the home buying process. But what happens if you find suspect environmental toxins? Savvy inspectors call RTK for a follow-up environmental inspection. It shields them from liability and protects the health of the potential buyers.

home inspection finds moldWhen you find mold, asbestos, lead, or other suspect materials during a home inspection and you are not licensed to conduct the proper testing, your clients may ask for a recommendation for further testing. RTK has been a trusted resource for environmental home inspectors for nearly 30 years.

We regularly work with home inspectors to conduct environmental inspections. RTK uses precise equipment and the latest technology. Clients receive a detailed report that is clearly written and easy to understand in as little as 24 hours. Additionally:

  • We understand that our role is to support and protect you, not to take over the relationship with your client
  • We can efficiently perform multiple types of testing simultaneously, including lead, mold and asbestos
  • We respond quickly and are priced fairly and accurate
  • RTK is licensed to meet the New York State Department of Labor mold law criteria

And, with an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, a 5-star rating on Google, and the Angi Super Service Award in our corner, you can feel good about referring RTK. Contact us at 800.392.6468 or click here to schedule an appointment. Problem solved!

asbestos home inspection

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Lead Inspector's Notebook

New York City’s New Lead Laws: What Building Owners and Managers Need to Do Now

New York City’s New Lead Laws: What Building Owners and Managers Need to Do Now

 

New York City announced in 2019 that the lead laws were going to change significantly to better protect tenants from lead poisoning. While many of these rules don’t go into effect right away, the time is now to start preparing so that you will be compliant. Here are the most time-sensitive new requirements.

XRF Inspections to be Required for All Units

XRF lead paint testing

Effective August 9, 2021, Local Law 31 of 2020, states that owners must have XRF lead inspections of all surfaces in every unit conducted by a third-party EPA-certified inspector or risk assessor to determine whether lead paint is present in the dwelling. These inspections must be completed within five years of the effective date of the law, which is August 9, 2025, OR within one year of a child under 6 first residing in that unit, whichever is sooner. Residing in a unit is defined as spending 10 or more hours per week there. In such cases, an XRF test must be completed for that unit quickly.

“This is going to be critical to do sooner rather than later, because the new lead law redefined multiple dwellings to include one- and two-family house rentals, with the exception being units occupied by the owner’s family,” notes Robert Weitz, Principal of RTK Environmental. “That means a lot more buildings are going to require lead testing.”

Certification of Compliance with Local Law 1 in HPD’s Annual Property Registration

As of May of 2020, New York City’s annual property registrations include five questions. The property owner or manager must certify that it has complied with Local Law 1, or there are steep penalties that can cost you up to $10,000.

Owners or property managers must certify that they:

  • have provided tenants annual lead paint notices
  • have taken appropriate action to obtain responses from the occupants
  • are conducting annual inspections and providing the results to tenants
  • are correcting any lead hazards by using certified contractors and RRP (Renovation, Repair and Painting) lead-safe work practices
  • abating lead paint between the times tenants occupy a unit and when it is vacant
  • maintaining documentation for 10 years.

Why test for lead now?

NYC local law 1August 2025 will be here before you know it. The closer you get to the date on which everyone must be compliant, the more challenging it will be to find a lead inspector with the proper XRF equipment, as they will be in high demand. This will likely lead to heftier fees for lead inspections as well. Smart owners and managers will hire a certified, independent lead assessor now to avoid surge pricing and the possibility of having to wait weeks or even months – for an inspector to be available.

If you need more incentive, as of 2020, contractors applying for Home Improvement License must certify that they are EPA certified in RRP. If they are not certified in RRP, they are prohibited from lead abatement and doing work that could potentially disturb lead paint. This means if a lead hazard is found, you may have to wait for a contractor to be available as well, which means you’ll be racking up those daily $250 fines.

What are lead-based paint hazards?

lead paint windowsillsA speck of lead dust the size of a grain of sand is enough to poison a child. That’s why it’s important to understand where lead lurks. Lead-based paint hazards include:

  • Dust from peeling paint, window sills, or doors
  • Damaged or peeling lead paint
  • Lead paint on:
    • Crumbling plaster or rotted wood
    • Window sills and any other surfaces that have been chewed on by children
    • Doors and windows that stick or rub together

Lead Poisoning Symptoms and Effects

With the new law, the blood lead level indicating that a child has been lead poisoned has been lowered from 10 to 5 ug/dl (retroactive to June 1, 2012), which is now consistent with the CDC guidelines. Even if a person appears to be healthy, they may have elevated blood lead levels, which can lead to complex health problems.

Lead poisoning can cause serious, irreversible damage including: brain damage, ADD and ADHD, aggressive behavior and tendencies for violence, damage to the nervous system, impaired growth, reproductive issues, lower IQ, and in extreme cases, coma or even death.

Be Smart!

Take the first steps to becoming compliant with New York City’s new lead laws. Contact RTK Environmental at 800.392.6468 or click here to schedule online. Our inspectors are EPA licensed and certified. And since we only do testing and never remediation, your results will be unbiased. Contact us today!

 

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Inspector's Notebook Weitz Advice

Environmental Hazards on the Job: Are You Protected?

Environmental Hazards on the Job: Are You Protected?

Every day, workers in many industries, especially construction, remediation, abatement, and restoration, are potentially exposed to environmental hazards while on the job. At the very least, those workers are entitled to a safe work site, which is why they are protected by the standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

OSHA rulesThe issue remains, however, whether those standards are adhered to. And that burden, generally, has fallen on the employer. However, if a worker is exposed and a lawsuit is filed, not only can the employer be liable, but many others could be held responsible as well, including the owner of the property. Always ask your contractor for an insurance certificate to be safe. Any way you look at it, there’s a simple solution to avoid the penalties, potential lawsuits, and harm to workers: test for environmental hazards first.

Worker’s Rights

osha asbestos ruleOSHA standards are rules that describe the methods that employers must use to protect their employees from hazards. According to OSHA, when workers are on a job site, they have the right to be protected from environmental toxins. Although there is no specific law in New York State or Connecticut requiring lead and asbestos testing prior to remediation or renovation work, insurance and remediation companies aren’t taking any chances; they are opting for pre-job environmental testing.

Workers also have the right to get copies of test results that find and measure hazards, and can file an anonymous complaint asking OSHA to inspect a workplace if they believe there is a serious hazard or that their employer is not following OSHA’s rules.

So, what are the OSHA’s rules?

Lead

osha lead rulesOSHA states that it is the duty of the employer to ensure that no employee is exposed to lead at concentrations greater than fifty micrograms per cubic meter of air (50 ug/m3) averaged over an 8-hour period. That said, no amount of exposure to lead is safe. Lead poisoning causes irreparable neurological damage, autism-like symptoms, reproductive issues, violent behavior, and more.

Lead exposure can occur through demolition, flame-torch cutting, welding, use of heat guns, sanders, scrapers, or grinders to remove lead paint, and abrasive blasting of steel structures. In construction, lead is also frequently contained in roofing materials, cornices, tank linings, and electrical conduits. In plumbing, soft solder, used chiefly for soldering tinplate and copper pipe joints, is an alloy of lead and tin. Soft solder has been banned for many uses in the United States, as has lead paint, but many older homes and buildings still contain these materials.

SOLUTION: Don’t wait for a problem to occur – test for lead before you begin a project. If lead is found, employees should be provided with protective clothing and, where necessary, with respiratory protection.

Asbestos

osha asbestos lawOSHA has regulations to protect workers from the hazards of asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that is frequently found in private and commercial homes and properties, as well as many building materials. When asbestos fibers are inhaled, it can lead to lung cancer and mesothelioma.

OSHA standards cover work in the general industry such as exposure during maintenance or plumbing work. Standards for the construction industry include construction, alteration, repair, maintenance, or renovation and demolition of structures containing asbestos.

OSHA also states that testing of workplaces covered by the standards must be completed to determine if asbestos is present and if the work will generate airborne fibers by a specific method under each standard. In that case, asbestos monitoring and personal protective equipment may be necessary.

SOLUTION: Your best course of action is to test for asbestos to know if workers will be disturbing the toxic material before a project begins. This way, employers can take necessary steps to protect their workers from any asbestos hazards.

Personal Protective Equipment

OSHA PPE ruleAccording to OSHA, personal protective equipment, or PPE, is designed to protect workers from serious workplace injuries or illnesses resulting from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, and other workplace hazards. Besides face shields, safety glasses, hard hats, and safety shoes, protective equipment includes a variety of devices and garments such as goggles, coveralls, gloves, vests, and respirators. OSHA says that an employer is required to provide PPE, including respirators, when hazards are present. Employers are required to assess their workplace to determine if hazards are present that require the use of personal protective equipment.

Penalties & Fines

OSHA finesIf you are cited for an OSHA violation, the fines are steep; they start at $13,653 for a one-time violation, $13,653 per day following a failure to abate, and $136,532 for willful or repeated violations.

Advice for Homeowners

The simplest way to avoid lawsuits, penalties, and irreparable harm to workers is to test for hazardous materials prior to starting a job. Be sure to ask the company you hire about lead and asbestos testing, especially if it was built before 1980, as older homes tend to harbor these toxins. If lead or asbestos is present, make sure they are following the EPA regulations for working with these materials.

To schedule an inspection, call RTK at 800.392.6468 or click here. To contact OSHA, visit www.osha.gov, or call 1-800-321-OSHA.

 

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Inspector's Notebook Health Weitz Advice

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

Rental Properties Often Harbor Environmental Hazards: Here’s What Tenants 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 health and property, it’s smart to familiarize yourself with the legal responsibilities of both landlords and tenants. Although landlords are responsible for a majority of environmental issues in rentals, tenants have responsibilities, too.

Tenant Responsibilities 

Tenants also play a role in preventing mold and indoor allergens, and can be held responsible for environmental hazards caused by their negligence. Tenants should heed the following advice:

Mold

  • tenant moldTell the landlord about any mold or unusual odors you’ve observed in the unit before you move in, and ask the landlord to fix the problem prior to your moving in. If you are already occupying the space, you should promptly tell your landlord about any mold that you find or conditions that are likely to cause mold.
  • Keep homes clean and dry.
  • Report any plumbing issues or leaks immediately, as mold can begin to grow within 24 – 48 hours.

Indoor Air Quality, VOCs & Radon

  • tenant indoor air qualityAvoid using pesticides and chemicals with strong odors because they contain volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which cause poor indoor air quality and health issues.
  • Do not manufacture, store, dispose of, transport, or use hazardous substances on the premises.
  • Have radon and carbon monoxide detectors (landlord responsibility) installed in your home to catch any potential issues early.
  • You can hire a professional, like RTK, to test for radon and determine whether it makes your home unhealthy.

Asbestos

  • asbestos tenant responsibilityYou can usually see suspect asbestos. Pipe insulation, 9×9 tiles, and popcorn ceilings are common areas that you may find asbestos. If asbestos has been damaged and become airborne, the only way to know is to have an air test. If the result is positive, you may have the right to withhold rent or move out before the lease ends without paying future rent if the landlord does not remedy the problem.
  • Sometimes tenants need to move out temporarily if they cannot adequately protect themselves from asbestos during renovations or repairs. The landlord should cover the costs of your temporary housing if you move out.

Lead

  • lead paint tenant responsibilityUnless you test for lead, you can’t be absolutely sure whether your rental home contains lead paint or lead dust unless it is tested. You should ask the landlord if the paint has ever been tested for lead. If it has, ask to see the results.
  • If you have a child under the age of 6, you must notify your landlord, as different rules apply.
  • In New York City, 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.
  • Before hiring a home improvement contractor, they must show evidence that they are EPA-certified and follow lead-based safety standards.
  • Inspections must be conducted by an EPA-certified lead inspector or risk assessor not associated with the owner or any firm hired to perform lead-based paint remediation.

Pests

  • tenant responsibilities pestsPlace food in sealed containers, keep counters and sinks clean, and get rid of clutter such as newspapers and paper bags to prevent pests.
  • Use garbage cans with tight-fitting lids to prevent pests from taking up residence.
  • Take garbage and recycling out every day, and tie up garbage bags before removing them from your apartment.

Be aware that the tenant is liable if an environmental hazard violation is caused by their own willful act, assistance or negligence, or that of any member of their family, household, or a guest.

In the end, the goal of both tenants and landlords is the same – to keep everyone healthy. The best way to prevent future 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 or click here.

To learn more about landlord responsibilities, click here.

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.

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Environment Inspector's Notebook

Winner of 2020 RTK Scholarship Announced, Aditi Madhusudan

Winner of 2020 RTK Scholarship Announced, Aditi Madhusudan

Congratulations to Aditi Madhusudan of Alpharetta, Georgia, who is the recipient of the RTK Scholars Award for 2020. Madhusudan was chosen from an impressive pool of applicants with remarkable accomplishments in various science-related fields. She will receive $1,500, which will be applied to her studies at University of Georgia, where she is majoring in biology and economics, and intends to pursue a degree in medicine.

“Students like Aditi who have such passion, understanding, and dedication to finding the underlying causes of health issues are the next generation of doctors and scientists,” said Robert Weitz, Principal and Founder of RTK, a leading environmental testing company, which initiated the RTK Scholars Program in 2015. “Her ambitions are extraordinary, and her understanding of the complex role toxins play in our environment as they relate to our health is impressive,” he adds. “RTK is committed to supporting and furthering students’ scientific education, and our scholarship program helps them succeed.”

In her essay, Madhusudan explained why she was attracted to the subject.

“As a future doctor, I want to bring awareness to illness caused by environmental triggers and encourage people to get their households tested for mold, air quality, and/or allergens depending on their symptoms. Through advocacy in the medical community, I hope to work towards overcoming these health issues associated with environmental triggers and change the culture of medicine to view patients more holistically in the context of their day-to-day environments,” she said. She emphasized that she is aiming to make the world a healthier place through knowledge and education.

The RTK Scholars Program has awarded over $10,000 in recent years. Past winners include Joseph Vecchio of Keyport, New Jersey; Katie Galletta of Goffstown, New Hampshire; Renwick Wilson of Greenwich, Connecticut; Kolby Galloway of Easley, South Carolina; Elliott Davis of North Potomac, Maryland; Nicholas Bulthuis of Chicago, Illinois; and Dylan McCloskey of Liberty, Missouri.

The RTK Scholars Program is now accepting applications for the 2021 award. The application deadline is May 31, 2021. If you would like more information or to apply, please visit RTK Environmental Science Scholarship Program.

 

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Healthy Home Inspector's Notebook

While We’re in Your Home or Workplace, Your Safety is RTK’s Priority

While We’re in Your Home or Workplace, Your Safety is RTK’s Priority

RTK’s mission has always been about protecting your health through environmental testing. As we’re adapting to the times, RTK will continue to take precautionary measures while we’re in your home or workplace, and provide the unmatched care you’ve come to expect.

As long-time environmental inspection experts, RTK understands the importance of safety. We protect you against contaminants. Now, during this health emergency, we are taking even more stringent steps to protect you during our visits. Our inspectors take extra precautions to prepare and operate in the safest manner:

  • Inspectors wear rubber gloves and other protective equipment such as booties, Tyvek suits, and respirators as needed, to protect themselves and you from direct contact and any dangerous airborne particles.
  • Additionally, disinfectant wipes and solutions are used before and after use of equipment and contact with surfaces, and during the course of inspection services.
  • Safe, but manageable, distances are kept from you to provide extra comfort during this trying time.

We at RTK feel it is important to let our valued clients know of the steps we are taking to continue our service in a way that is as safe as possible for all involved.

As an essential service, RTK remains fully operational, and is readily available to provide environmental testing services at homes and workplaces to those in need. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 800.392.6468 or RTKENVIRONMENTAL.COM.

Categories
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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Inspector's Notebook

RTK Awards Coveted Science Scholarship to Outstanding New Jersey Student


Future Keyport Environmental Biotechnologist Heads to Boston College This Fall

 

Congratulations to Joseph Vecchio of Keyport, New Jersey, who is the recipient of the RTK Scholars Award for 2018. Vecchio was chosen from an impressive pool of applicants with remarkable accomplishments in various science-related fields. Vecchio will receive $1,500, which will be applied to his studies at Boston College this fall in his pursuit of environmental biotechnology.