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Indoor Air Quality & Radon Healthy Home Mold

How Air Quality Affects Covid-19 Risks

How Air Quality Affects Covid-19 Risks

 

It’s long been known that the air we breathe can have an impact on our health. The new wrinkle is Covid-19, which highlights the need to pay closer attention to air quality.

covid-19 air pollution

A recent national study conducted by the Harvard University T. H. Chan School of Public Health has shown that Americans who have contracted COVID-19, who live in regions in the U.S. with high levels of air pollution, are more likely to die from the disease than those who live in less polluted areas. The study found that each extra microgram of tiny particulate matter per cubic meter of air over the long term increases the Covid-19 mortality rate by 11%. The implications are tremendous.

The study measured outdoor air quality. But, what about our indoor air quality? This is also something to be taken seriously as, according to the EPA, the air indoors can be up to 2 to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air, and in some cases those levels can exceed poor outdoor air quality by as much as 100 times.

“This is a good reminder that we need to be aware of the air we are breathing, indoors and out, as it clearly has an effect on our health,” says Robert Weitz, founder of RTK Environmental Group. “It’s not just pollution from cars and factories which can seep in through windows,” he adds. “Indoors, mold and volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are major pollutants that can be very harmful to our families’ health, and are the main causes of poor indoor air quality in homes and offices.”

coronavirus indoor airThe Harvard study looked at more than 3,000 counties across the country, comparing levels of fine particulate air pollution with coronavirus death counts for each area. Adjusting for population size, hospital beds, number of people tested for COVID-19, weather, and socioeconomic and behavioral variables such as obesity and smoking, the researchers found that a small increase in long-term exposure to particulate matter leads to a large increase in the COVID-19 death rate.

So, what can we do?

Homeowners and building superintendents should first be aware of the sources of poor indoor air quality, then test for them, and if found on the premises, remediate. Here’s a rundown of the big polluters:

VOCs

VOC causeSome of the very household products we’re using to scrub surfaces are off-gassing VOCs (volatile organic compounds). These are toxic vapors given off by bleach and aerosol sprays. VOCs can also come from the chemicals in new furniture, electronics, air fresheners, detergents, carpeting, and other products. If concentrated enough, they can cause headaches, dizziness, and nausea in the short-term and more serious problems long-term.

So, when you’re attempting to disinfect your home or have used that vacation money to buy new furniture, bedding, or electronics, remember to open your windows to allow fresh air to circulate. You may also want to have an indoor air quality test that will help you to identify or rule out any air quality issues.

Mold

air pollution healthAfter spending so much time at home during the pandemic, you may notice a musty odor, which is a tell-tale sign of a mold problem. If so, there’s no better time than the present to deal with it. Mold can exacerbate breathing issues, and also cause headaches, rashes, depression, listlessness, and allergies, let alone flu-like symptoms, especially in those who are immunosuppressed.

And mold can hide just about anywhere – behind walls, under carpeting or floorboards, or in air ducts. In order to pinpoint the source of a mold issue, testing is a good option.

Now is not the time to take risks with your health. Schedule an indoor air quality test today to ensure your home or workplace is the safest it can be. Call RTK at 800.392.6468. Live well!

 

 

 

 

Categories
Healthy Home Asbestos Lead Mold

Planning Pandemic Renovations? Environmental Testing Should be the First Step. Here’s Why:

Planning Pandemic Renovations? Environmental Testing Should be the First Step. Here’s Why:

In recent months, there’s been a surge in people fleeing the city for a home in the ‘burbs. With housing stock fairly limited due to the pandemic, the house you get may get you plenty of fresh air, but it may need a little work.

kitchen renovationNow that you’re spending a good amount of time at home, improvement projects are getting your attention. The big question is, what do you do first?

Typically, renovation work uncovers hidden environmental hazards, such as asbestos, mold, and other toxic substances, all of which can negatively impact your indoor air quality. So, the first step when contemplating any renovation work should be to order an environmental inspection. This will enable you to plan for the potential hazards you may encounter and, ultimately, will protect your family’s health.

Here’s what to be aware of:

Dangerous asbestos fibers can be released into the air when disturbed

hidden asbestos

Before any renovation or demolition, you need to know if you are about to disturb any materials containing asbestos. Typically, asbestos is contained in walls, fireproofing materials, insulation, floor and ceiling tiles, among others.

Although banned in many forms because of its toxicity, asbestos still can be found in the home, especially one that was built prior to 1980. So, if you’re about to tear down your walls and ceilings, remove tile, flooring material or pipe insulation, for example, have an asbestos survey performed prior to your renovation project. An asbestos survey will determine if there are any materials containing this toxic substance. Something as simple as installing a ceiling fan, removing a boiler, or updating your bathroom could have serious implications.

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, which generally occurs 15–40 years down the road.

Mold can contaminate the whole house

black mold bathroomMold spores are everywhere, but once they take hold, mold growth can cause serious health problems for you and your family. When embarking on renovation projects, be mindful of mold hidden under sinks, behind walls, and under carpets or floorboards. Mold is easily spread through HVAC systems, which can cause cross-contamination, spreading mold spores throughout your home.

If you suspect there has been water damage or a leak in your home, have it tested for mold. Musty odors can be a tell-tale sign. If mold is discovered during the test, 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.

Watch out for lead when sanding or disrupting painted surfaces

lead paint testingIf you live in a home built prior to 1978, there may be layers of paint containing lead. Before starting any renovation project – large or small – test for lead paint. Once disturbed, the dust that results can be extremely dangerous. Even a speck 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 minuscule as hanging a picture on a wall, if that wall 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.

“We’ve seen so many renovation projects go awry because the homeowner didn’t start with an environmental inspection,” notes Robert Weitz, founder of RTK Environmental Group. “Even something as simple as upgrading a bathroom sink can turn into an environmental disaster. Mold, lead, and asbestos are commonly uncovered during renovation work and can cause poor indoor air quality,” he says. “But if you know they are there, you can contain them and avoid further issues, including a hefty remediation bill.”

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

 

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Mold Video

Video: The Importance of Cleaning Your Gutters Each Fall

 

The Importance of Cleaning Your Gutters Each Fall

Ever wonder why you may get ice dams in the winter, which lead to leaks, flooding and mold?

Probably because you didn’t take the time to properly clean your gutters and downspouts from leaves and debris in the fall.

Robert Weitz, certified microbial investigator and principal of RTK Environmental Group, explains what you can do now to prevent ice dams and mold later.

 

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Mold

Mold Issues Abound in NYC Due to COVID Exodus

Mold Issues Abound in NYC Due to COVID Exodus

 

NYC COVID ExodusWhen COVID hit New York City in March, many residents who could, opted to flee to second homes or rentals in the Hamptons, Westchester, Fairfield, Putnam, Dutchess, and other Metro areas. Additionally, offices closed and employees worked from home. After Labor Day, office and commercial spaces began to reopen and many people returned to their apartments and brownstones, only to find an unpleasant and unhealthy surprise – mold.

“We have seen the number of insurance claims for mold damage and inquiries about mold testing increase in the city that had been caused by a plumbing issue or leak while premises were vacated,” says Robert Weitz, founder of RTK Environmental Group, a leading environmental testing firm in the northeast.

NYC Pipe BreakPipe breaks, plumbing leaks and roof leaks happen all the time in New York City, but when you don’t catch them right away, mold can develop and become a serious problem. Mold also can be caused by humidity in spaces that are closed up without ventilation. After a water intrusion occurs, mold can take hold in as little as 24 – 48 hours. You can imagine the damage it causes after several months of going unchecked.

What to do if you find mold

If you do return to find a mold issue, the first step is to have a mold inspection. Hire a company that only does independent mold testing and not remediation, so there is no conflict of interest. This will enable you to get an unbiased evaluation of the situation, and a blueprint for remediation. Once you have the report in hand, you can rest easy that the company you hire to remediate will only do the work that’s necessary, and not claim a problem that doesn’t exist.

Brownstone MoldOnce remediation is complete, the best practice is to have the testing company return for a clearance check. This ensures the work was done correctly, and that the mold was properly removed. If it wasn’t, the remediation company should come back to finish the job completely, at no cost to you. As mold can impact your health, this is a prudent course to follow.

RTK Environmental Group has been providing mold testing services to NYC and the tri-state area for over 25 years. If you have a mold issue or have questions, please contact us at 800.392.6468 or 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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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.

Categories
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.

Categories
Flooding & Water Damage Mold Mold Testing

Signs of Mold After a Storm

Signs of Mold After a Storm

Storms can bring on drenching rains, flooding (both indoors and outdoors), and high winds causing leaks and other issues that contribute to mold growth and poor indoor air quality. Problem is, we often don’t realize the extent of the damage until days or weeks after the storm, and a musty order usually signals the problem. That’s when you know that mold growth has really kicked in. The problem with mold is that it can cause structural damage, poor indoor air quality, and health issues.

Look for these signs of mold after a storm.

Visible Mold

water stain moldIf you see mold, then you clearly have a mold issue. If you see water stains, you probably have a mold issue as well. The question then becomes how big is the problem? Because mold is often hidden, growing on the back sides of walls and sheetrock, and under carpets and floorboards, the only way to be sure is to have a mold inspection performed by a certified professional.

Mold Creates a Musty Odor

But what about the mold you cannot see? Musty odors usually point to mold, and mold causes poor indoor air quality. RTK can test to see where the odor is coming from so that you can remediate with confidence, and don’t miss any hidden sources or spots. Summer months are particularly prone to mold growth as high humidity and heat accelerate the proliferation of this fungus.

Health Symptoms from Mold and Poor IAQ

If you are having physical symptoms such as itchy eyes, cough or wheezing that occur in one location of the premises that clear up when you are elsewhere, it’s a sure bet that the location is harboring mold. If you have any of the following unexplained symptoms, they may be caused by MOLD EXPOSURE and poor indoor air quality. In that case, you should have a mold and indoor air quality test.

  • Sneezing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Itchy eyes, nose and throat
  • Cough and postnasal drip
  • Watery eyes
  • Wheezing
  • Rash

Structural Damage Can Cause Mold

If a storm caused a leak from your foundation walls or your roof into your basement, mold is sure to follow. A mold colony can grow within 24 – 48 hours. So, it’s important to test for mold because when the next storm hits, the structural issue that allowed water intrusion will likely occur again if it is not repaired. Mold can eat away at wood structure, floorboards, and sheetrock, leaving them susceptible to decay.

Avoid Mold Removal Scams

Never hire a company that does both mold testing and mold remediation. Why? It is a clear conflict of interest. Often, unscrupulous companies will embellish a mold problem or offer testing on the cheap in hopes of making money on the remediation to follow. But at RTK, we only test for mold and do not remediate, so there is no conflict of interest. Once we have tested your premises, we provide you with a blueprint for mold removal, and you can hire the remediation company of your choice.

If you had flooding or a water intrusion from a storm and think you may have mold, call and schedule a test today at 800.392.6468.

 

Categories
Healthy Home Mold

What Should I Do If My Summer House Has Mold?

What Should I Do If My Summer House Has Mold?

So, you’re heading to the beach as summer season begins. The thought is delicious! But don’t be surprised if you’re greeted by a musty odor after you walk into what you had hoped would be your home away from home. Mildew! Mold! Whether you are at the Jersey Shore or the Hamptons, there’s an excellent chance that the home you’re renting or own has been flooded during a hurricane, been exposed to excess moisture and humidity, or has had a leak. Now, your nose is getting a strong whiff of the result. So what can you do?

“The first thing to do is open the windows and get air to circulate,” advises Robert Weitz, Certified Microbial Investigator and principal of RTK Environmental Group. Weitz says this is a common problem, as many vacation homes sit empty and closed up over the winter months, collecting moisture, especially since air conditioning or heat has been turned off for the season. “Mold is not picky – it only needs moisture and a food source, such as wood, ceiling tiles, carpet or sheet rock, to begin growing. The house next door may be fine, and yours may be a serious health hazard.” The important thing is to have your home tested right away so the problem can be fixed,  your health is not compromised, and your summer is not ruined.

Whether you hire a mold inspector or put up with it will probably depend on whether you are the owner or renter, how long you will be there, and whether you or your vacationers have allergy or breathing issues.

Short-Term Solutions to Summer House Mold:

–      Keep the windows open as much as possible if the weather is dry;

–      Use a dehumidifier to reduce moisture;

–      Change the filter in the air conditioner before you turn it on;

–      Wipe off any visible mold on walls, floors and tiles with a bleach/water mixture;

–      Use allergy medication to help lessen symptoms;

–      Let the landlord know there’s a mold problem.

The Best Solution:

–      Get an independent mold inspection to identify the source;

–      Ask that the inspector pinpoint if the mold is toxic or not;

–      Have the mold properly remediated.

Remember, if you own the house or plan to be there for an extended stay, mold could affect your health, causing wheezing, asthma, and allergy symptoms. The home should be tested by a certified microbial investigator, who can then advise you as to the next steps depending on the outcome of the mold testing. In New York, it is illegal for the same company to test and remediate on the same job. Whatever the case, mold can become a big issue quickly, so don’t ignore it!

 

Categories
Health Mold

Seasonal Allergies? A Cold? COVID-19? Something Else?

Seasonal Allergies? A Cold? COVID-19? Something Else?

This is going to be an allergy season like no other, as every sneeze, sniffle and cough will spark concern. Our best advice is to try not to panic. There can be several explanations for a cough that might have nothing to do with the coronavirus outbreak at all.

During this time of the year, flu, the common cold, and seasonal allergies cause respiratory distress. And now, with us spending so much time indoors, there can be allergens – like mold – that can be causing runny noses and coughs.

Here are a few things to consider about your symptoms.

Check for a Fever

Check for feverIf you are running a fever, this pretty much rules out allergies. But the fever might be caused by the flu, a virus, a cold or something else.

 

Seasonal Allergies or Cold

itchy eyesDoctors note that cold is not usually associated with itchy eyes, so if your eyes are red and irritated, you may be allergic to pollen or an allergen like mold. If you have a cough with no fever, it likely doesn’t mean that you’ve contracted the coronavirus. Check with your physician if in doubt.

 

Is it a Mold Allergy?

If you are having respiratory issues and other symptoms when you are in one location that clear up when you move elsewhere, it’s a good sign that you have a mold allergy. Signs of a mold allergy and symptoms of mold exposure include:

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

If your allergy symptoms do occur in one place more than another, you may want to have the location tested for mold. RTK safely performs mold testing, as it is regarded as an essential service. Additionally, RTK is performing COVID-19 Surface Testing to ensure cleanup of the virus has been performed successfully. Call us at 800.392.6468 to schedule a test or if you have any questions.

 

About Coronavirus

coronavirusThe World Health Organization (WHO) issued a report on coronavirus symptoms. It found that almost 90% of COVID-19 patients had a fever, and nearly 70% had a dry cough. Additional symptoms of coronavirus have included:

  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
  • Loss of taste and smell
  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Sore throat
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue

The bottom line is, when in doubt, check with your physician. If you believe you have a mold problem, or would like COVID-19 surface testing, call RTK at 800.392.6468.