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Asbestos Flooding & Water Damage Lead Mold Soil and Water

Healthy Homes

As we stressed in our last post, testing your home for environmental toxins — lead, mold, radon, asbestos — is vital, especially if your family consists of young children or pregnant women. Hidden dangers are lurking just about everywhere. In addition to testing, you can keep your family healthy and your home safe by following these suggestions from the Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

  • Energy-efficient heating equipment lowers your monthly energy bills and, if properly sized and maintained, reduces air pollution. Be sure all ducts are tightly sealed, which experts say can lower your bills by as much as 20 percent. Be wary of any equipment older than 15 years. It might need to be replaced.
  •  Organic fruits and vegetables minimize exposure to pesticides. If you can’t afford to buy everything organic, consider buying organics from following list of the most pesticide-saturated fruits and veggies, known as the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen”: apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, imported nectarines, imported grapes, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, domestic blueberries, lettuce, and kale/collard greens. And whether it’s organic or conventional, wash all produce well before eating to reduce risk of infection.
  • Find a new home for your old electronics – computers, television, cell phones, e-readers, etc. E-cycling reduces waste and helps manage toxic chemicals. Check your state’s environmental agency for information on where to recycle old equipment.
  • Many eat fish for health reasons, but beware: Big fish, such as shark and swordfish, often contain contaminants, including metals, industrial chemicals and pesticides. Safer options include tilapia, mussels, clams and shrimp.
  • Phthalates and bisphenol-A (BPA) are potentially harmful chemicals in plastics that can leak out and into our children’s bodies, negatively impacting brain development and reproduction. Choose plastics No. 1, 2, 4, and 5 for drinkware and containers. In addition, never heat plastic, especially in the microwave; wash plastic in the dishwasher; or pour warm liquids into plastic containers.
  • Water often contains lead, especially if plumbing is older than 10 years old. Test your pipes for lead. Also, run your water for a few minutes every morning or whenever it hasn’t been used for a while, and use cold water for cooking.
  • Smoking is the most common cause of indoor air pollution. Plus, secondhand smoke can cause asthma attacks, respiratory problems, and possibly cancer. So if you must smoke – and we hope you’ll consider stopping – smoke outside away from doors, windows, and vents.

We live in a world laden with pollutants, but these steps can help you keep your home pollutant-free.



The four ‘Ds’ to fight mold

Water in the home is the biggest source of mold problems. Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and principal at RTK Environmental Group, has devised what he calls the four ‘Ds’ to fight mold, a simple way for people to remember what they should do before and after water penetrates their homes or businesses to keep mold damage to a minimum.

Health Mold

Rain today, mold tomorrow

Rain today, mold tomorrow

What’s with our recent weather? Earthquake. Two tropical storms. Snow in October. Week-long power outages. They may seem different, but they have something in common: damage to homes and businesses, not to mention the lingering after-effect: mold!

Here we are in autumn when sneezing, coughing, itchy watery eyes, even wheezing, are all expected during the season. But this year’s allergy symptoms might be caused by mold in your home rather than the ragweed in your yard.

A physician can pinpoint the reason why you’re suffering, but only a professional mold inspection service can discover if mold has invaded your home.

The latest technology should be used to locate hidden mold so that your walls, ceilings, and floors are not destroyed during the testing process. Once the culprit is found, you should hire a separate remediation company to do the repairs. You want to be careful not to have the testing and remediation done by the same company as that’s a conflict of interest. Full disclosure: this blog post is sponsored by RTK Environmental Group, which is one of the most trusted environmental service firms in the northeast. After RTK gives you the report, they provide remediation plans so contractors know exactly what to remove and where to find it, and your mold problem will be gone in the most cost-effective way possible.  (RTK does not do remediation work.)

Here are some do-it-yourself tasks to help prevent mold before winter sets in.

* Check all washing machine hoses and fittings for leaks and kinks.
* Insulate basement and bathroom pipes that often “sweat.”
* Keep basement drains clean and unclogged.
* Remove window air conditioners or cover them well.
* Use exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms.
* Install vents near floors and ceilings to allow air flow if your basement walls are finished with sheetrock.them out. In the future, never lay carpet near a moist source.
* Use easily washable area rugs rather than wall-to-wall carpeting, which is often a breeding ground for mold.
* Fix any leaks in your home.

* To direct water away from your home, be sure soil is graded away from the foundation.
* Clear leaves and debris from gutters and downspouts. Be sure to continue this through the winter, removing ice.
* Trim all bushes and shrubs so they are at least 12 inches from your home’s siding.
* Check siding, roof shingles, vents and flashing for proper seal.


Toxic mold and pets

Toxic mold can be deadly to humans; the same holds true for pets. The first case of mold poisoning in pets was documented in last month’s issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the findings should concern every pet owner.

According to the report, Douglas Mader, DVM, of Marathon (Fla.) Veterinary Hospital, was performing routine dental procedures on two healthy, indoor Himalayan sibling cats, when he noticed frothy blood in the endotracheal tubes used to supply anesthesia.

The procedures were immediately stopped, but one cat died the next day, followed by the second cat two weeks later. Dr. Mader tested the cats’ blood and discovered both contained a toxin, which is produced by Stachybotrys chartarum, also known as toxic black mold. In people, toxic black mold can cause respiratory-related health problems, pulmonary hemorrhage and death. In the cats, the mold caused pulmonary hemorrhage.

Dr. Mader questioned the pets’ owners to try to figure out when the cats were exposed to the mold. Apparently, the owners’ home was flooded during a hurricane, seven months earlier. Dr. Mader suggested that they have a professional environmental testing company test their home for mold. The verdict: Severe mold contamination in the walls. The walls were then gutted and replaced.

Although Dr. Mader claims this is the first documented case of toxic black mold poisoning pets, he suspects it’s not the first time it’s happened. To prevent the problem, he recommends that pet owners familiarize themselves with the symptoms of mold poisoning, which can range from respiratory disease to pulmonary trauma. He also suggests that your veterinarian test your pet’s blood for mold, especially if you live in an area of high humidity or have recently experienced heavy rains or flooding.

As always, the first line of defense whenever water enters your home is to have it professionally tested for mold. Only then will you discover the source of any mold infestation and where it is  present. Ultimately this will save you thousands of dollars. Without the testing, you’re apt to think mold exists only where you can see it or smell it, which would be a mistake. It’s wise to remember that mold does its damage behind walls, in ceilings, and under floors.


Flooding & Water Damage Mold

We are still not out of the water!

Homes in record numbers were flooded, some for the first time, by tropical storms Irene and Lee. So, weeks later, you may be wondering, Why do I smell mold?

We have some answers and tips for you:

What’s that smell?
Although mold begins growing within 24 hours after water enters your home, it takes a while before you can actually detect the musty odor that means mold.

What to do?
1. It’s important to test for mold to determine where it lurks as well as its root cause. Do-it-yourself testing kits can be unreliable. Qualified, trained mold inspection services are much more thorough and, therefore, offer the best protection.
2. If you can see the mold on hard surfaces, clean it off with detergent and water. Be sure to dry the surface completely.
3. If the problem is too large, a commercial cleaning company is your only solution.

Where, oh where, is that mold?
Mold plays hide-and-seek, which is why testing is so important. Typical hiding places include:
• the back side of dry wall, wall paper or paneling
• the top side of ceiling tiles
• the underside of carpets and pads
• around pipes – inside and outside your walls
• the surface of walls behind furniture
• inside ductwork
• in roof materials.

Am I safer not living in a floodplain?
We all regard coastal areas as being in the danger zone, but look at what happened inland when Irene and Lee struck. The persistently heavy rains caused massive flooding. So, living outside coastal areas won’t necessarily protect you against floods.

Am I covered?
Standard insurance policies do not cover flooding. Only having flood insurance can help.

Flooding & Water Damage Mold

Mold and Fabric

We’re halfway through October, and almost half of the days it has rained. What’s the significance of that? All the extra moisture is fodder for mold growth. The only way to determine whether mold is lurking in your home is to hire a professional mold inspection company, which will also target the root cause of the problem to prevent further infestation.

Next, it’s time to get busy: throw out anything that smells moldy. If the item is washable, there are steps you can take to remove the mold. But remember: The longer mold stays on a fabric, the worse it will smell and the more time it has to weaken and eventually cause rot.

To remove new mold from washable fabrics, add ¾ cup of white vinegar to your wash load. It may take a few washings with vinegar before all traces of the smell disappears. Once the smell is gone, wash your clothes with detergent.

Old mold growth:
If the mold is old and flakey, take the items outside (to avoid mold spores from spreading indoors), and one by one, brush off any loose mold growth. Be sure to wear a protective face mask and gloves. After brushing, leave the items outside in the sun to dry. The heat and light will help kill any remaining mold spores on the clothing. Then, wash the garment in vinegar, followed by a detergent wash.

If a mold stain persists, sponge the contaminated area with chlorine bleach (2 tablespoons bleach to a quart of water), obviously not a good solution for colored fabrics. For those, mix lemon juice and salt and leave on the mold spots for 10 minutes. After either process, rinse fabric well. Then launder as usual, and fully dry the fabrics to keep the mold from returning.

Flooding & Water Damage Mold Testing vs. Remediation

Mold Testing: 1, 2, 3!

Recently, life has seemed even unfair – especially for those whose basements were flooded either by tropical storm Irene or Lee. Many had to discard whatever got wet — papers, pictures, furniture, rugs — and then had to call in remediators to dry out their basements.

But that didn’t necessarily solve the problem. For many, the damp musty odor was back. And that usually means mold is lurking somewhere.

The bottom line is it’s not enough to simply dry out your basements and get rid of wet and moldy things. Mold can invade places you cannot see. The only way to find hidden mold — the mold behind your walls and in your ceilings — is to test. And not with do-it-yourself kits. They are not up to the job.

Professional testing will:
• discover exactly where and why excess moisture is entering your home;
• include air monitoring, surface sampling and bulk sampling to compare the results with normal mold levels;
• identify all affected areas and measure the amount of mold;
• recommend safe and cost effective ways to eliminate the moisture and resolve the mold problem. Testing companies like RTK Environmental do not perform remediation, so there is never a conflict of interest;
• determine if the health of your family is at risk.

Before remediation, testing identifies where the mold lurks; after remediation, testing is the homeowner’s guarantee that all mold is gone.

While there is cost involved in hiring professionals to properly test for mold, in the long run, it can save homeowners thousands of dollars, not to mention peace of mind knowing a mold problem is resolved.

Flooding & Water Damage Mold

Mold: Good, bad and ugly

You don’t have to be a meteorologist to know that the past few weeks, rivers in the Northeast neared levels they haven’t reached in decades. It’s become almost commonplace to see streets flooded and trees down because of water-logged soil.

Rising water tables have also played havoc with our basements and personal property. Water in your house causes immediate problems, but just when you think the danger is gone, toxic mold starts invading your home. Sometimes you see or smell it – and sometimes you don’t. Life can be so unfair!

Here are some answers to the questions our customers frequently ask:

Is all mold bad?

Not at all. Outside, mold plays an important role in our environment, breaking down dead organic matter such as fallen trees and leaves. We’ll soon see the good mold on fallen leaves.

Indoor mold is also normal, but this is where the problems can start. Mold latches on to moist surfaces, starts growing, and begins causing all sorts of health issues such as allergic reactions that mimic hay-fever symptoms – sneezing, runny, itchy eyes, red nose and skin rashes. Mold can also cause asthma attacks and can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat and lungs.

Can mold damage my home?

Mold can destroy the things it grows on – including your home’s walls, floors and furnishings. The key is to control moisture in your home and eliminate mold growth before it takes over.

What can I do to prevent mold?

The most important thing you can do is to control moisture levels in your home. If water enters your home, take immediate steps to get rid of it. Use vacuums and fans to rid surfaces of any residual moisture.

Do this within 24 hours, as toxic mold can invade your home in less than a day.

Once an area is dry, test for mold. Since do-it-yourself home tests are often inaccurate, your best bet is to call in a certified microbial mold inspector.

The Environmental Protection Agency offers a free download, Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture and Your Home. Check it out at http://www.epa.gov/mold/pdfs/moldguide.pdf.

Flooding & Water Damage Mold

Irene Left A Mess – Now What?

Even before Hurricane Irene hit, the Northeast experienced a record rainfall this August. Irene just added more problems to our already damp or flooded basements and high water tables. Now what? First off,  let’s not forget about mold, which can get a jumpstart anywhere water has seeped into your home. Within 24 hours, toxic mold can become a problem. You might not see it immediately, but within a few weeks, mold’s smell will tell you it has taken hold.  And that’s when the real problems begin, since mold can trigger allergies that cause headaches and coughing, as well as irritate the nose, skin, and eyes. For people with asthma, mold can make breathing particularly difficult.

There are immediate steps homeowners should take as soon as water enters their houses:

  • Take pictures of the damage, and remove the water immediately. Don’t wait for your insurance company to call you back. Waiting — even for a few hours — could accentuate the problem.
  • Mop, vacuum, or pump water out of the affected area as soon as possible. Remove wet items and materials.
  • Dry out residual moisture that is left in concrete, wood, and other materials. You can use a dehumidifier or ventilation. If basement or attic windows open, mount fans in the openings. Unplug electrical devices and turn off the circuit breakers in the wet area, if possible.
  • Anything that is not wet, bring to higher ground.
  • Some items, once wet, should be thrown away immediately, including cosmetics, medical supplies, stuffed animals, and baby toys.
  • Toss out materials that can’t be dried within 24 hours, such as mattresses, pillows, carpets, upholstered furniture, and items containing paper, including wallboard.
  • Put aluminum foil under the legs of furniture to avoid staining damp floors. Wooden clothespins can keep upholstered furniture skirting off damp floors.
  • Once the area is dry, bring in dehumidifiers and large fans to remove any excess moisture.
  • Have your home tested for mold by an accredited inspection company.

Mold in foreclosed homes: Great deal or deal-breaker?

As the number of foreclosed homes rises, the deals are plenty – but so are the potential problems. One of the fastest growing issues with foreclosed and bank-owned homes is mold.

When homes are occupied, a cycle of ventilation occurs and moisture gets sucked out, often times driven by heating and air conditioning. When homes are abandoned, however, the electricity is shut off so there is no circulation of air and no sump pump to push standing water out of the basement, which can cause major mold problems. The infestation of mold in bank-owned, vacant houses is growing throughout the country. Water leaks and flood problems go untreated, and can lead to mold issues within days.

If you can see mold or smell a musty odor in a home, you can be sure that there is a lot more mold that you cannot see hiding – especially behind the walls and under the floor boards and carpets. Because of this, any mold damage might require expensive remediation efforts to once again make the home habitable.

Since buyers purchase these homes in an as-is condition, they need to be aware of the potential problems and added-costs a mold infestation brings with it. Many bank-owned properties will not have documented histories about past conditions or treatments. Even if you make an offer on a house right away, banks often take months to process the paperwork and by then it’s too late and a small mold problem is now a full-house infestation that can cost thousands of dollars to fix. Once a residence is severely infested with mold, often times the floors and walls must be completely torn out to correct the problems.

Exposure to mold, especially toxic mold, can cause a variety of health problems. People suffering from asthma or allergies, including small children, infants, the elderly, and people with acute health problems are more susceptible to health problems related to mold infestation.

The safest way to proceed with a foreclosed home is to have a mold inspection done by a certified professional. They can tell you exactly what it will cost you to fix the problem, and then you can weigh your options and figure out if the house is still a good deal.