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Asbestos Lead Mold

Avoid These 3 Hidden DIY Renovation Mistakes

Avoid These 3 Hidden DIY Renovation Mistakes

Longer days and extra daylight make summer an ideal time to tackle home improvement projects. Don’t allow the lazy, hazy days of summer blind you to the potential environmental hazards that turn up during do-it-yourself renovations. Whether you are painting the house, updating a kitchen, or redecorating the kids’ rooms while they are away at camp, take heed.

Here’s our “Watch Out” list with renovation tips:

1. Watch Out for Lead When Sanding or Disrupting Painted Surfaces

If you live in a home built prior to 1978, paint containing lead can be anywhere. Before starting any renovation project – big or small – test for lead paint. It can be extremely dangerous. Even a speck of dust from lead paint can cause lead poisoning, which leads to neurological issues, brain damage, and other serious, irreversible health consequences.

Whether you are remodeling your kitchen, sanding and staining the deck, or doing something as small as hanging pictures on a wall that contains lead paint, proper EPA Lead Safe work practices, outlined in the Renovation, Repair, and Painting Program (RRP), should be followed. Although following RRP work practices is not required for DIYers, it is the best way to safeguard your health and the health of those around you. For more information on Lead Safe work practices for DIYers, click here.

2. Watch Out That You Don’t Release Asbestos Fibers Into the Air

Before any renovation or demolition, you need to know if you are about to disturb any materials containing asbestos. Even though it is a naturally occurring mineral fiber, asbestos is banned in certain forms because of its toxicity. Once used for everything from insulation and decoration to fireproofing, asbestos now is restricted to certain products, but is still used.

Therefore, you can be exposed to asbestos fibers through demolition of walls and ceilings, tile, flooring materials, roof shingles, pipes, and many other items throughout your home. Inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause serious and fatal illnesses, including malignant lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. Experts state that even a few hours’ exposure to the toxic fibers can be enough to trigger illness from 15–40 years down the road.

Be smart – have an asbestos survey performed prior to your renovation project. An asbestos 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, removing a boiler, or updating your bathroom could have serious implications.

3. Watch Out for Mold

When conquering DIY projects, be mindful of mold hidden under sinks, behind walls, or anywhere that has cellulose material, warmth, and moisture. Mold can cause health problems.

Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and founder of RTK Environmental Group, knows how prevalent mold can be. “Too often, we are called in to test for mold after a DIY project has gone wrong, or after someone tried to remediate mold on their own,” he says. “One of the most common mistakes homeowners make is ripping out wallboard, ceilings, and other building materials that are wet without mold testing or proper containment,” says Weitz, who saw this mistake repeatedly after Hurricane Sandy. “When extreme situations occur, like a hurricane, basement flooding, or a roof leak, people panic and start ripping things out with the intention of making the problem go away faster,” Weitz explains. “In doing this, they spread the mold spores throughout the home and ventilation system. Next thing they know, they have a full-blown mold infestation.”

So what should you do? First, if you know there has been water damage or a leak in the area, have it tested for mold. If mold is found, you can choose to have it professionally removed by a remediation company, or you can do-it-yourself following strict EPA mold remediation guidelines. DIY mold removal requires specialized equipment, air filtration, negative air pressure, protective personal wear, and more. Angie’s List  shares information on the possible hazards of DIY mold removal.

For more information on environmental testing and tips to keep you healthy and safe, contact us.

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Asbestos Flooding & Water Damage Health Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Lead Mold Mold Testing Soil and Water Weitz Advice

Storm Cleanup: After a Storm, Don’t let Mold or Toxins Take up Residence in Your Home

Storm Cleanup: After a Storm, Don’t let Mold or Toxins Take up Residence in Your Home

As massive cleanup efforts and power restoration continue throughout the region after a lightning-fast-moving storm, homeowners should be aware of the potential that flooding and water damage are causing.

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Health Lead

Does Your Pediatrician Screen for Lead Poisoning?

Does Your Pediatrician Screen for Lead Poisoning?

We recently heard from a mom in the Long Island area, who lives in a home with deteriorating paint built in the 1950’s, questioning the necessity of testing her two young children for lead poisoning. She thought doctors did it automatically, but was concerned and confused when her pediatrician said that she didn’t have to worry about lead poisoning “unless her children were allergic to lead” – even though he knew she lived in an older home that was not in good condition. Yes, we are serious. The doctor actually said this!

EVERYONE CAN BE HARMED BY LEAD PAINT! Clearly, not every doctor knows the dangers of lead paint, therefore it is up to us to make sure parents, neighbors, and friends understand the serious consequences of lead poisoning, and how to prevent it.

Not Every Pediatrician Screens for Lead

In some states, lead screening for children under the age of three is mandatory. But in most, it is left at the discretion of the pediatrician. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, testing for lead poisoning often depends on where you live. Check out these statistics:

• 53% of pediatricians attempt to screen ALL of their patients under the age of 36 months with a blood test for lead toxicity, 38% attempt to screen SOME of their patients, while 9% screen NONE of their patients in this age group.

• Screening practices vary by practice location: 83% of inner city pediatricians screen ALL of their patients under the age of 36 months for lead poisoning, compared to 39% of suburban and 43% of rural pediatricians.

• Overall, pediatricians report screening an average of 52% of their patients ages 9-12 months, 48% of their patients that are 13-14 months old, and 37% of their patients that are 25-36 months old.

• 98% of pediatricians who selectively screen patients under the age of 36 months report do so at the parents’ request.

The best way for you to know if your child has been tested for lead poisoning is to ask your pediatrician. If your doctor does not automatically test for lead, ask that it be done. It’s a simple blood test and could save your child’s life. More importantly, have your home tested to prevent the risks early. For more information about lead dust, click here.

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

Safe Home Renovations

Safe Home Renovations

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

Ask yourself these questions before you begin:

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

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

Tip #1: Test for Lead Paint.

If your home was built prior to 1978, you probably have lead paint somewhere. (Paint containing lead was banned in 1978.) When paint containing lead is kept in good condition, it does not pose a significant health risk. But, if it is disturbed, it releases dangerous lead dust into the air, and when that dust settles onto flat surfaces is the leading cause of lead poisoning. Lead poisoning is known to cause autism, 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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Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Lead

Scented Candles: Are They Dangerous?

Scented Candles: Are They Dangerous?

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

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

Chemicals Abound in Fragrances

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

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

And there are other hazards

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

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

Danger from candles: it’s more than fire

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

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

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

What Can I Do?

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

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

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Lead

Toxins In Toys

Toxins In Toys

’Tis the season to be careful about toy safety — or risk buying toys containing lead contaminants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a holiday alert about the potential lead hazards in toys and products used by children.

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Healthy Home Lead

Is Your Artificial Christmas Tree Toxic?

Is Your Artificial Christmas Tree Toxic?

Many people buy artificial Christmas trees to avoid the mess of dropped needles spread throughout their homes. Unfortunately, that pristine artificial tree could be spreading something you can’t see: toxic lead dust.

Most artificial trees are manufactured in China and made from two items: PVC, a petroleum-based plastic, and lead, used to stabilize PVC. The lead in the “greens” breaks down into lead dust, which is released into the air, poisoning everyone, but especially children younger than six.

Many people are unaware of a 2002 study conducted at the University of North Carolina at Asheville that found three out of four artificial trees tested contained lead – that translates to 50 million American households with a PVC-based artificial tree. Most Americans have no idea that there is lead in artificial trees; only California mandates a lead warning label on every box containing an artificial tree. This applies to ornaments and decorations as well.

If you or a loved one has an artificial tree, follow the advice of the researchers at UNC Asheville:

  • Keep children and pets away from the tree; do not allow them to touch it.
  • If you touch the tree, wash your hands thoroughly before touching your face or handling food.
  • Do not vacuum dust from under the tree. Vacuuming could spread invisible, poisonous lead dust through the air. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that a speck of lead dust, as small as a grain of sand, can poison a child.
  • Keep gifts away from the tree, to keep lead dust from coating the wrapping.

What else can you do? Buy a tree Made in America. Check out this article for tips on artificial tree buying.

Lead poisoning can cause irreversible brain and nervous system damage in children, as well as autism, ADD/ADHD, lower IQ scores, violent behavior, and seizures, among other things. If there’s a possibility lead dust is released in your home or on your property, you should have your home tested for lead by an environmental testing company.

Click here  for more information or to schedule an appointment to have your home tested for lead.

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Gardening Health Lead

Prevent Lead Poisoning: Get Your Home Tested, Get Your Child Tested

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

Spread the Word – National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is October 20th – 26th 

Although lead poisoning is the #1 preventable disease in U.S. children, every year, over 500,000 children under the age of six are diagnosed with lead poisoning. Incredibly, this figure does not include the number of children between the ages of six and eighteen that already suffer from lead poisoning. In addition, many other children have not yet been diagnosed.

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Asbestos Dust Lead

Are Toxins Hiding In Your Dust? Find Out With a Dust Characterization

Are Toxins Hiding In Your Dust? Find Out With a Dust Characterization

lead dustNearby new construction can certainly be a nuisance, what with all the noise and disruption. But there is a much larger issue that should concern you: the dust.

Dust from construction can be downright toxic. It can easily seep into your apartment, workplace or home, polluting your indoor air and covering your belongings. A simple test can tell you what’s contained in that dust and whether it can cause health damage.

In New York City alone, where the construction sector added 45,300 new jobs between 2010 and 2018, an increase of 40 percent, and construction spending set a record of $61.5 billion in 2018, there’s plenty of dust to go around.

Is dust really an issue?

asbestos dustConstruction dust often contains a host of contaminants, including lead and asbestos. Older buildings are very likely to contain these dangerous materials, which, when they are disturbed, become part of the stream of ordinary dust.

Dust generally falls into three categories: workplace, industrial, and home. With the rise of construction in New York City, it is most certainly an issue to be aware of. According to the Hayward Score, which identifies major issues in your home that can impact your health, your dust often contains a complex combination of particulates, dander, pollen, fibers, heavy metals, chemicals, mold spores, and more.

Dangerous lead and asbestos are often found in dust in cities, especially when there is nearby construction. Gabriel Filippelli, a professor of earth sciences and director of the Center for Urban Health at Indiana University-Purdue University, furthers states in the Washington Post that lead-contaminated soils, and dust generated from them, are tightly linked to the lead poisoning of children.

These substances can also cause:

  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • Cancer
  • Neurological issues
  • Reproductive problems
  • Impairing a child’s development
  • Cognitive damage
  • Other health issues

dust characterization testA dust characterization can help you to identify these and other unknown particles, including cellulose fibers, dander and dust mites, biologicals, minerals, fungal allergens, synthetics, and MMVF (manmade vitreous fibers). RTK’s dust characterizations, performed by licensed environmental inspectors, can usually determine—or rule out— whatever mysterious matter is plaguing your home or workplace.

 

When should I have a dust characterization?

dust transferIf you live or work in a construction area, or if your neighbor is doing renovation work or remodeling and you notice an increased amount of dust on your premises, you should definitely consider a dust characterization. You may be at risk, as you don’t know what substances are being carried through the air. Other reasons to have a dust test are:

  • If you have small children who crawl on the floor, they are more likely to ingest dust from hand to mouth contact;
  • If you are experiencing unexplained health symptoms;
  • If you work outdoors or live in a city.

If you are concerned about dust in your home or apartment, call us at (800) 392.6468 to discuss your situation. We’ll tailor our test to your specific needs and environment.

Protect your health!

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Healthy Home Lead

Lead in Newark’s Water – How to Protect Yourself

Lead in Newark’s Water – How to Protect Yourself

 

The next lead-in-water crisis has hit, and this time it’s close to home. Newark, New Jersey is following in the Flint, Michigan footsteps, and tragedies like these will continue due to the country’s aging water infrastructure. This is leaving us all to wonder, who’s next?

lead in plumbing

The fact is, anyone can have lead in their water, among other contaminants. Where buildings contain older plumbing and fixtures, where there’s a faulty public water supply, and when lead leaches in from contaminated soil into wells, trouble is sure to follow.

Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that its analysis revealed that tens of thousands of household lead filters provided to residents of the Pequannock, New Jersey service area last year “may not be performing as expected,” and recommended that Newark residents be provided bottled water to drink and cook with. What’s worse, it will take weeks to test the filters to figure out what’s going on.

The EPA also is trying to determine when lead began to leach into the water system.

The stakes are high. Lead contamination can damage a child’s health. Even low levels of lead have been linked to serious, irreversible brain damage among other ailments. Experts agree there really is no safe level of lead in drinking water.

While we don’t have control over the public water supply, there are things we can do. And, it’s more than buying bottled water to drink, which doesn’t solve the issue of contaminated water. That’s because every day, we use tap water to bathe, wash clothes and dishes, brush our teeth, water our vegetable gardens, and more.

The bottom line is this: if your water contains lead or other toxins, your health is at risk.

 

What can you do? Here are 4 tips to help ensure your water is safe.

 

  1. Have Your Water Tested by a Professional

test your waterHome water testing kits may seem like a good idea, but they won’t give you the accurate results or peace of mind you need. If the sample is not taken correctly, which happens often, results will not be correct, and you could be putting your health at risk. Whether it’s your home, office, school, gym, or a public facility, only a comprehensive water test conducted by an independent testing company can produce proper water draws and reliable results by using state-certified and licensed laboratories.

Your local health department may offer to test your water for free for bacteria or nitrates, but it’s far from a comprehensive test and involves some work on your part. Choose a professional service that performs only testing so that you get thorough, unbiased results. If they find a problem, they will help you determine what your next steps should be.

Comprehensive water testing will confirm whether your water supply contains any of these environmental hazards that can cause serious health issues:

  • Lead or other heavy metals
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
  • Bacteria
  • Radon
  • Asbestos
  • Arsenic
  • Uranium
  • Pesticides
  • PCBs
  • E. coli
  • Coliform
  • Dozens of other contaminants

 

  1. Test Your Water Annually – and from Every Faucet

water testingThe Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends that, at the very least, you check your well every spring to make sure there are no mechanical problems and have it tested once each year for total coliform bacteria, total dissolved solids, nitrates, and pH levels. Every few years you should test for additional contaminants. If your water source comes from municipal infrastructure, take the time to read the water quality report, which is required to be published annually.

Even if the report’s results are excellent, that does not mean your pipes or fixtures are free from harmful lead or bacteria. Pipes traveling from the road to your home can deteriorate, and sometimes the parts disintegrate right into the water, which flows to your home. The only way to know for sure is to have a licensed professional test water from each faucet in your home. There may be a problem in one faucet, and not the rest, which is often the case.

 

  1. Know If the EPA Regulates Your Water

EPA water testingThe EPA regulates public water systems, but it does not regulate private water wells. Nearly 25% of all private wells contain harmful contaminants, according to the U.S. Geological Survey Water Science School. In the New York tri-state area, high levels of radon, heavy metals, and arsenic are a major issue. These contaminants can seep into your water supply from bedrock, not just industrial pollution. Water in areas that have experienced flooding can also become contaminated.

Although the Connecticut State Department of Public Health does not require private well owners to test their water for known toxins, other communities are taking steps. In New York, Westchester County implemented Westchester County Private Well Water Testing Legislation, Local Law 7 – 2007, which requires that water testing be conducted upon the signing of a contract of sale for any property served by a private well. New Jersey also has a similar law, which is what prompted action in the Newark water crisis.

 

  1. Watch for Health Symptoms That May Be Caused by Contaminated Water

contaminated water symptomsDrinking and bathing in contaminated water can cause chronic health issues, including joint pain; damage to the brain, kidneys, and neurological system; skin rashes and other dermatological problems; body numbness; gastro-intestinal illness; hair loss; and immune deficiencies. If you or a family member has any of these symptoms, your water may be to blame.

Newark is just the tip of the iceberg. As infrastructure continues to age and deteriorate, more and more cities and towns will suffer from this same issue. Don’t wait for a problem to grow on a grand scale – by then it will be too late. Step up to the plate and have your water tested now.

For more information on water testing, click here. For more information on hair loss, visit hairpluspills.com. To set up a water test in the tri-state area, call RTK at (800) 392-6468 or click here.