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Indoor Air Quality & Radon Mold

Poor Indoor Air Quality May Be Rampant in Gyms & Fitness Centers

Air Quality in Gyms: Poor Indoor Air May Be Rampant in Fitness Centers

Most people patronize gyms and fitness centers to improve their health and wellness, or so they think. But not all these facilities are as “healthy” as they could be. In fact, some actually have poor indoor air quality (IAQ) – a concern, especially since gyms and fitness centers are now reopening as the pandemic wanes.

gyms vocs

First, all that huffing and puffing actually impacts IAQ. According to a study released in 2021 by the University of Colorado Boulder [1], one sweaty, huffing, exercising person emits as many chemicals from their body as up to five sedentary people. Those human emissions, including acetone from breath and amino acids from sweat, chemically combine with disinfectants and bleach cleaners to form new airborne chemicals that negatively impact indoor air quality. You’re more likely to inhale the toxins while exercising because you are breathing more heavily and at a faster pace.

gym air qualityThen, there’s the building itself. At a recently constructed or renovated facility, testing often finds much higher levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) due to the off-gassing from new building materials and gym equipment. Included in that list would be new furniture, carpeting, adhesives, composite wood products like cabinets and lockers, work-out machines, and vinyl, such as mats, shower curtains or tile. The quality of ventilation also comes into play. Often, high levels of VOCs, formaldehyde, CO2, and particulate matter accumulate because of inadequate ventilation.

Exposure Issues

voc air qualityWhere you live also impacts IAQ. The CDC, EPA, and several medical journals point out that exposure to air pollutants in urban areas is linked to higher rates of asthma and abnormal heart rhythms, and increases the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases, and all other natural causes. [[3],[4],[5]] That said, poor indoor air quality can be present in any indoor environment, with VOCs and mold being the primary causes.

Exposure to VOCs in high levels can cause skin irritation, neurotoxic, and hepatotoxic (toxicity of the liver) effects, and certain of them are carcinogenic.[6] They also make you tired, cranky, and unfocused. The studies found that the concentrations of these substances generally exceeded most accepted standards for indoor air quality. However, no government agency in the United States formally monitors air quality in gyms.

Mold in Gyms

sauna moldYou probably know that feeling when you walk into a gym – it’s humid, damp, and smells sweaty. It’s no surprise, then, that many gyms contain elevated levels of mold, with the steamy sauna, swimming pool area, and shower areas that are in use all day long.

Mold is a health hazard. Breathing in mold is far worse than ingesting it. Mold can cause respiratory issues, sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, itchy or watery eyes, nose and throat, cough and postnasal drip, wheezing, rashes, and more.

What Can You Do?

indoor air quality testing gym

It never hurts to ask a question. Talk to your gym or fitness center management and find out if they’ve had an indoor air quality test. If they haven’t, request one. If you’re deciding which facility to patronize, choose one that has large open areas and windows that open. Oh, and while you’re at it, be sure your indoor air quality at home is acceptable as well, since you spend a majority of your time there.

RTK provides fast and unbiased mold and indoor air quality testing. To schedule a test or learn more, call 800.392.6468 or click here.

References

[1] https://cires.colorado.edu/news/sweat-bleach-gym-air-quality

[2] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0360132314002856

[3] http://www.epa.gov/airnow/2014conference/Plenary/Monday/Boehmer_NAQC_2014_final2.pdf

[4] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25712593

[5] http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM200012143432401#t=abstract

[6] http://ibe.sagepub.com/content/12/6/427.full.pdf+html

 

Categories
Flooding & Water Damage Healthy Home Mold Mold Testing Testing vs. Remediation Weitz Advice

Why It’s Important to Check For Mold in May

Why It’s Important to Check For Mold in May

Here’s How Mold Spores Can Affect Allergies, Health, and Home

April showers may very well bring May flowers, but spring’s warmer temperatures and wet weather can certainly dampen one’s health.

Categories
Health Mold

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

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

This is going to be another nerve-wracking allergy season, 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 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. 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, call RTK at 800.392.6468.

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Mold Mold Testing

A “Free” Mold Inspection? Here’s the Catch…

A “Free” Mold Inspection? Here’s the Catch…

One-stop shops that both test for and remediate mold woo customers with “free” tests or low prices, but consumers often end up paying thousands more in unnecessary repairs.

You may think you are getting a deal by hiring a company that offers “free” or inexpensive mold mold testing new yorktesting. Think about it, though – nothing is free.  Here’s where they’ll get you: A company that offers both testing and remediation has a financial incentive to find problems that may not exist in your home.

Mold Test BaitMany of these companies that offer free and discount mold testing will claim to find mold in your home, and then conveniently offer their own remediation services to fix the problem.  What they don’t tell you is that there is mold present in the air in every home and environment, so technically they are not outright lying! It’s the level and type of mold that counts, but they don’t specify what your “problem” is. An independent testing firm, like RTK Environmental Group, that only tests for mold and does not perform remediation work, does not have a conflict of interest. RTK’s only concern is to find the real trouble spots in your home.unnecessary repairs

Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and principal at RTK Environmental Group, says the result is the consumer may be paying thousands of dollars for bloated repair estimates or an improper and ineffective remediation. “You may think you are saving money, when in reality you end up paying way too much for a problem that may not even exist.”

crooked contractorsInvestigative reporter Jeff Rossen shed light on this scam when he conducted an undercover investigation on NBC-TV’s Today Show into mold remediation, and the results were shocking. He found that some companies were willing to claim that eye shadow smeared on a wall was mold, and then would charge upwards of $10,000 to remove the ‘mold problem.’

Your best bet is to use an independent and certified testing service, like RTK Environmental Group, so there’s no possible conflict of interest. You’ll sleep better knowing you didn’t have to pay for a problem you never had.

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Health Mold

What’s causing your allergies? The answer may surprise you.

What’s causing your allergies? The answer may surprise you.

As trees bloom, that’s when allergies start. Most of us assume our runny noses, itchy eyes, and scratchy throats are caused by pollen. But what’s really causing the mayhem is not just pollen; it can be mold. Why? Because warmer weather and increased humidity create the perfect environment in which mold grows. Mold is a serious allergen, that we don’t often think about as a contributor to allergy and asthma attacks.

allergy causesUnlike pollen, which you can see coating cars, windows, and other items, indoor mold can hide easily in your home (or workplace) – behind walls, in air ducts, under sinks, and in other hard-to-see places.

How do you know if you have a mold allergy? One telltale sign is if your allergies tend to act up when you are in one specific location over others. Indoors, that could mean your home of office. You may have an indoor air quality issue or mold in that location. The symptoms of mold exposure are similar to those of allergic reactions. However, if you suffer from asthma, mold spores can actually complicate your symptoms and even trigger an attack.

Common symptoms of indoor mold exposure can include:

– Sneezing

– Stuffy nose

– Itchy, watery eyes

– Scratchy throat

– Coughing, wheezing

– Runny nose, nasal drip

– Skin rash

So how do you know when your symptoms are no longer allergies and actually a reaction to indoor mold? The best way to find out is to have your home or office tested for mold and indoor air quality by an independent environmental inspector.

RTK Environmental Group is a non-biased company who specializes in environmental testing. RTK can test for mold, indoor air quality, radon, asbestos, lead, and other dangerous toxins that can negatively affect your health. Unlike many companies, RTK only does inspections, so there is no conflict of interest in terms of remediation.

Although there is currently no cure for mold allergies, you can take steps to minimize the symptoms:

– Remove main sources of indoor mold

– Use a dehumidifier

– Regularly clean AC, HVAC, and fan ducts to prevent spores from being distributed (and redistributed)

– Regularly check under your sink for leaks and dampness

– Keep your gutters free from organic debris (year round)

– Regularly clean your bathroom and use the fan after showering, to keep the bathroom dry

Don’t just assume that because you’re sneezing you’re allergic to all pollen and allergens. Indoor mold can cause complications and even pose threatening health risks. By having your home’s indoor air quality regularly tested, not only will you be safer and healthier, but you’ll also breathe easier.

 

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Healthy Home Asbestos Health Lead Mold Soil and Water

First Time Homebuyers: What You Need to Know About Environmental Toxins

First Time Homebuyers: What You Need to Know About Environmental Toxins

 

The coronavirus pandemic has urbanites fleeing the city in droves and moving into their first house. Many are snatching them up at a quick glance, not realizing that the house comes with more than just additional space and fresh air. Environmental hazards like mold, asbestos, lead and radon may be lurking in your new home, and without a proper environmental inspection, you may not know until health symptoms develop.

Homes, anywhere and at any time, can harbor mold, asbestos, lead, or radon, and contain poor indoor air quality, polluted water, or volatile organic compounds (VOCs), any one of which can threaten one’s health. That is why investing in environmental testing services prior to purchase or once you’ve made the investment is a good idea.

5 Environmental Hazards to Watch Out For:

Mold

mold behind cabinetsMold can be visible or hidden behind walls, ceilings, or floors, under carpets, and even in HVAC systems. Mold can cause serious health issues including trouble breathing, allergies, headaches and dizziness. Mold can also be present and affecting your health even if no symptoms present themselves – everyone if affected differently. Testing for mold can pinpoint the source of the problem so that proper steps can be taken to remediate the issue.

Lead

lead soilLead is found in most homes built prior to 1978, the year lead paint was banned for residential use. Lead dust is the most common cause of lead poisoning, as lead dust can spread throughout a home and even into the soil surrounding your home. Unfortunately, most of the time you cannot see lead in dust or soil, so unless you test for it, you may not even know that this hazard is present. Lead poisoning can cause serious host of issues including neurological and cognitive deficits, autism-like symptoms, mood swings, and violent behavior.

Asbestos

Asbestos is commonly found in older homes in pipe insulation, tile, and attic or wall insulation, among dozens of other places. Breathing in asbestos fibers can cause serious health implications. At the least, asbestos is a breathing irritant. At worst, asbestos can cause mesothelioma, a serious cancerous condition that can lead to debilitating health problems and usually death.

Radon

radon testingRadon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, is extremely hazardous to your health. It’s the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US. It is an odorless, tasteless and invisible gas produced when uranium naturally decays in soil and water. Since 90 percent of the land in the Northeast is likely to have elevated radon levels, every home should be tested for radon.

Poor Indoor Air Quality

indoor air quality testingVolatile organic compounds, or VOCs, and mold make up almost 90% of indoor air quality issues. VOCs are toxic fumes that are off gassed from many building and everyday materials including new flooring or carpeting, paint, cleaners and detergents. Poor indoor air quality can cause headaches, nausea, allergies, difficulty breathing, and rashes, just to name a few.

A Traditional Home Inspection Isn’t Enough

Home inspections are obviously necessary for the sale or purchase of a home. But what many buyers are realizing is that these inspections usually do not take into consideration mold infestation, lead, asbestos, and water quality. Most home inspectors lack the knowledge and certifications necessary to test for potentially toxic substances.

What Is an Environmental Home Inspection?

renovation adviceMold testing, lead inspection, asbestos testing, water testing, and indoor air quality testing may all be performed during an environmental inspection. Environmental home inspections can vary depending on the age and condition of the home. Such inspections should be scheduled with a certified, independent testing company – even before your sign a contract. It’s important that the company you hire doesn’t perform both testing and remediation, as that is a conflict of interest.

Not all environmental hazards are obvious, and they can cause serious health issues. To detect them requires expertise, licensure, technology, and experience. If you would like more information on what types of environmental inspections may be right for you, please feel free to call us at 800.392.6468. Live well!

 

Categories
Indoor Air Quality & Radon Health Healthy Home Mold

9 Tips for Better Indoor Air Quality

9 Tips for Better Indoor Air Quality

 

 

good indoor air qualityWe’re all looking for simple ways to be healthier, especially in light of the COVID pandemic. Good health starts with a clean home environment. If we breath air that is unhealthy, our bodies eventually let us know. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to potential issues like mold, mildew, and other causes of poor indoor air quality.

 

Robert Weitz, founder of RTK Environmental Group, warns that if you see mildew on any surfaces, mold is often not far away. “Mildew is a form of mold, so if you detect a musty odor or see mildew, there is likely a bigger problem that needs to be addressed.” Mold and mildew are common causes of poor indoor air quality. Testing for mold is the first step in restoring the health of your home.

 

Mr. Weitz offers many tips to improve your indoor air quality. Poor indoor air quality can cause health issues, including headaches, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue.

 

Here are some of his top suggestions:

  1. Be aware of common indoor pollutants. Around 80% of indoor air quality issues are caused by mold or volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.
  2. Keep a tidy house. Be sure to remove household dust, as it contains all types of particulate matter – from dead insects to skin cells. Gross!
  3. hepa vacuumAdd a certified HEPA vacuum to your cleaning arsenal to prevent smaller particles from being reintroduced into your environment.
  4. Install a whole home air purification system. They can be put directly into your HVAC equipment and can filter out harmful particles.
  5. Buy cleaning products that contain both disinfectant and surfactant to disinfect while removing contaminating particles from surfaces. Low-VOC cleaning products are recommended.
  6. Be proactive against water damage events. If you have a leak or flood, act fast as mold can start to grow within 24 hours. Also, keep an eye on humidity levels in your home; they should remain below 50%.
  7. dirty filterChange the filters on your HVAC system at least every six months and clean all ductwork.
  8. If you have water damage, test for mold, and then have remediation performed based on the results. When remediation is completed, you should conduct clearance testing to ensure the mold was properly removed.
  9. Allow new furniture and carpeting to off-gas and release VOCs and other toxins before moving it into your home. This can be done outdoors or in a dry garage.

 

Be aware of your home’s indoor air quality, and always get an independent company to test when any suspicious odors, spots, or stains are present. Remember, when in doubt, check it out!

 

Categories
Flooding & Water Damage Mold

Top 7 Questions on Ice Dams Answered

Top 7 Questions on Ice Dams Answered

The icicles are beautiful to behold, but there’s a dark side. If you see them hanging from your gutters, you may be in for some trouble. Here’s why:

When you see icicles, it means you have ice dams, and ice dams wreak havoc with roofs. They prevent melting snow from draining, and that means the water has no place to go – except into the tiny little crevices and cracks beneath the roof. And that means the water can seep into your interior walls, attic, and underneath the roof shingles. Dampness can cause mold growth within 24-48 hours, and mold can wreak havoc with your health, causing asthma, headaches, fatigue and more.

1. Water is leaking into my house – What should I do?

icicle roof leak

Act quickly and don’t panic. Report the problem to your insurance company, but don’t wait for their response. You’ll need to take these steps right away:

  • Take pictures or video of the damage, and start to remove the water immediately. Don’t wait for your insurance company to get back to you, because waiting — even for a few hours — could mean more water and mold growth;
  • Wet/dry vacuum, mop, or pump water out of the affected area as quickly as possible. Remove wet items;
  • If you are using towels to catch the water, be sure to change them every few hours so that mold doesn’t start to grow;
  • Outside, pull off snow from above the ice dam with a long-handled aluminum roof rake, while you stand safely on the ground. According to This Old House, this action will help prevent the melting snow from forming new ice dams;
  • Dry out residual moisture that is left in the wood, concrete, and other affected materials inside your home. To do this, you can use a dehumidifiers or plain ventilation;
  • Unplug electrical devices and turn off the circuit breakers in the wet area, if possible;
  • If a material cannot be dried within 24 hours, it should be thrown away. Unfortunately, this includes carpeting, mattresses, pillows, upholstered furniture, and items containing paper, including wallboard;
  • Have your home tested for mold.

2. I don’t see any water, so my roof isn’t leaking, right?

Not necessarily. Ice dams can cause seepage in areas the naked eye can’t see, including Ice Dam preventionbehind walls and under floor boards or carpets – wherever the water finds a path to travel. Mold can grow from even a very small leak, which can have detrimental consequences to your home, and ultimately, to your health. If you think the ice dams on the eaves of your house or gutters are causing indoor leaks, the safest thing to do is hire a certified microbial investigator, who can use a moisture meter to check for wet and damp areas behind walls, as well as take air samples to see if there is a mold problem. If you decide to wait, be diligent about checking attics, basements, and other less trafficked areas in your home for musty odors or visible mold, which are telltale signs of hidden mold. If there’s mold, you should have your home tested for other infestation (often unseen) by an independent mold inspector – one that does only testing, and not remediation, as this would be a conflict of interest.

3. What should I do about the icicles and chunks of ice in my gutters? ice removal

This is a tough one, because a lot can go wrong. The first instinct is to just get the ice out, but that is easier said than done. Getting up on a ladder that is set on snow and ice is dangerous in itself, but add to that a swinging axe, ice pick, or chainsaw, and you could be in trouble. Not only will you mess up your roof and shingles, you can cause yourself bodily harm. If you go online, you may discover some “creative” ideas to remove ice dams, but you should stay away from blowtorches, steam cleaners, heating pads, salt, boiling water, and hot bacon grease. To be safe and not cause further damage to you or your roof, remove the snow from the bottom portion of your roof, closest to you, with a roof rake or long-handled broom. Tip: Don’t stand on your roof to do this! You could slip and fall off, or worse, the roof could collapse right under you from the strain of your weight coupled with the weight of the snow and ice. Stand on the ground to remove roof snow. Just be sure to watch for falling icicles.

4. Can damage from ice dams go further than my attic?

Depending on how and where your ice dams form, the water can go anywhere. We’ve even seen water pouring into the basement. How? The ice dam grew so large that water traveled to a deck attached to the house, pooled, and then headed into the basement. If ice dams travel down your downspouts or the icicles get so large that they are nearing the ground, water may be pooling near your foundation with nowhere to escape.

5. What is the most common mistake made in dealing with ice dams? ice dams roof

It happens all too often: people do cosmetic repairs without making sure the area is completely dry and checking for mold growth. Then, when the weather warms up, they discover they have a full-blown mold infestation. That’s why when there’s water damage, it’s important to test for mold. Hire an independent mold inspector, one who does not do remediation, to get honest and accurate results. An independent testing company can conduct air monitoring and surface sampling tests; identify affected areas and measure the amount of mold – even if it cannot be seen by the naked eye.

6. Will homeowners insurance cover damage from ice dams?

According to the National Association of Realtors®, most homeowners insurance policies cover conditions such as damage caused by ice dams, when water can’t drain into the gutters and instead seeps into the house. But, if the water from an ice dam enters the home from the ground, homeowners insurance generally won’t cover mold remediation. You would need flood insurance for that.

7. How can I prevent ice dams in the future?

There are a number of ways to prevent future ice dams, depending on your situation and how your home or place of business is constructed. Here are a few tips:

  1. Properly insulate.
    Proper insulation of the attic is one solution, as is a tight vapor barrier to prevent ice dam roof moisture from passing from the living areas into and through the insulation. If air from your home finds its way to the underside of the roof sheathing, the heated air raises the temperature of the roof, causing snow to melt, then refreeze when the temperature drops again. Important: make sure you have enough insulation. An insufficiently insulated home is more likely to suffer damage caused by ice dams. To find out how much insulation your home should have (based on location and age), refer to this chart on the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association webpage.
  2. Protect your gutters.
    Whether it’s a snow and ice shield or electrified gutters, there are several ice dam removalproducts that will prevent water from working its way into the home. (A snow and ice shield consists of a membrane that seals the roof under the shingles, forming a continuous barrier to water.)
  3. Ensure adequate ventilation.
    In order to make sure that your attic and roof are properly ventilated, there should be venting at both the eaves and soffits and/or at the gable ends of the attic. You need to have a space for cold air to flow above the insulation to keep the roof cold and prevent the snow from melting. If you have a finished attic, it is a little more complicated, but it can be done. House Logic shares some additional tips here.

If you are experiencing damage from ice dams and melting snow, call RTK Environmental today at (800) 392-6468 to discuss your options and figure out a plan to keep your home and family safe.

Categories
Flooding & Water Damage Mold

Expert Advice: What Can I Do About A Frozen Pipe That Bursts?

Expert Advice: What Can I Do About A Frozen Pipe That Bursts?

Tips to protect your health, prevent mold, and save money on unnecessary remediation because all that water in your home can cause problems.

thaw pipesThe more temperatures slip into the teens and even lower, the greater the chances that pipes will freeze. And when they freeze, they can burst. And that can lead to a whole rash of problems: flooding, structural damage, and mold. And mold can lead to health problems.

“Pipes freeze for three main reasons – quick drops in temperature, poor insulation, and thermostats set at too low a temperature,” says Robert Weitz, founder of RTK Environmental Group, a leading independent environmental testing company serving the northeast for over 20 years. “Pipes often burst when they thaw, so you may be in for an unpleasant surprise,” Weitz continues.

WHAT TO DO IF A PIPE BURSTS:

  •      burst frozen pipe preventionTurn off the water at the main shut-off valve and leave the faucet open.
  •      Try to dry out the area. Damp and wet areas are prime locations for mold growth, which can blossom within 24-48 hours.
  •     Call the plumber.
  •     Take photos and videos of the damage.
  •     Call your insurance company to see if water damage caused by frozen pipes is covered by your policy.
  •     Call an environmental inspection company to test the affected area for mold. RTKDepending on the age of your home, (anything built pre-1980) you may also want to test for asbestos and lead. This will ensure that when the remediation is done, toxic fibers, dust, and mold spores are not released into the air, contaminating the rest of your house or business.
  •     Once the repairs are complete, have an independent certified microbial inspector come in to test the area again to make sure there are no lingering toxins.

Why is a post-remediation test necessary?

It’s not unheard of for a remediation company to fix the main water issue quickly, but not allow ample time for floors, ceilings, and wallboard to dry before finishing the job. When that happens, moisture is sealed into these areas, creating a perfect environment for mold to grow behind the walls and under floors. That’s why testing is so important.

First, it will ensure that you are living in a safe, healthy environment.

tape lift sample moldSecond, an independent environmental testing company will provide you with a detailed report that documents that your home is mold-free. This documentation will be important for possible future insurance claims. If your home floods again and mold returns, your insurance company may question whether the mold was caused by the new event or the previous one. Without proof that your home was deemed mold-free after repairs were made, the insurance company might take the position that a new claim is not justified or that you have met your policy limit.

“The most important thing you can do if a pipe bursts is to have your home or office properly tested for mold and professionally remediated,” Weitz states. “To make sure you are not taken advantage of, hire an independent mold inspection firm that does not perform remediation, as they don’t stand to make additional money on a repair,” he says. To that point, a law was passed in New York in 2016 making it illegal for the same company to perform mold testing and remediation on the same job.

If you have questions or would like to book a test, call RTK at (800) 392-6468.

Categories
Healthy Home Environment Mold

Pets and Environmental Toxins: What You Need To Know

Pets and Environmental Toxins: What You Need To Know

Sasha 2Ask any pet owner if their cat or dog has ever consumed something harmful or poisonous, and most likely an epic story will follow, usually with a happy ending. There are countless common products that we use every day that can poison our pets. Many of these are obvious – bleach, certain houseplants, prescription medications, some human foods – and we try not to expose our pets to them. But what about the potential dangers that are not so obvious? What if we didn’t personally bring the hazard into the home in the first place? What if we don’t even know it’s there?

Sasha and Natalie

About ten years ago, I drove my best friend, Natalie, to the Humane Society to adopt her first cat. We left with a petite tortoiseshell with white paws, and she purred from the backseat the whole way home. Natalie is the kind of cat mom that makes me want to be a cat. Sasha was not only loved abundantly, but she was up to date on her shots and vet visits. She ate the right food, and lived indoors in a clean environment. Or so it seemed.

Three years ago, Sasha had to be euthanized. The vet discovered masses inside her lungs. She developed a chronic cough that would break your heart to hear. In her last weeks, she was struggling to breath. Her lungs filled with fluid that needed to be drained daily by the vet. Not only was this painful for Sasha, but it was strenuous. I saw my friend try everything possible until she had to weigh the depleted options against Sasha’s quality of life. You can cry on a thousand shoulders, but you can’t explain to your animal what is happening and why. And nothing makes it harder than not actually having that answer.

Cleaning products and dogsWe later found that it was due to environmental toxins, and possibly mold, in the apartment. Many animals have health issues that impact them later in life or even suddenly and without warning.  While we can’t control all things, we can increase our awareness and minimize potential unknown dangers to our pets. We have historically used poisonous products and materials to clean, build our homes, and control pests. Common household products that are known to be poisonous to dogs and cats include detergents, fabric softeners, enzymatic cleaners, deodorizers and sprays, toothpaste and mouthwash, Firestarter logs, hand sanitizer (ethanol), liquid potpourri, essential oils, and more. For many of these, we can now source nontoxic and pet friendly options. Consider how much closer our pets’ noses and mouths are to the residual chemicals of these products.

 

pesticides in soil harm animalsRecently, RTK tested a multi-million dollar home in Westchester County, New York. The owners had moved in, and three months later, their Golden Retriever puppy got very sick, and developed cancer. When the test results came back, there were elevated levels of a pesticide in the soil called chlordane, that was outlawed in 1988, and known to cause cancer and a host of other ailments. The puppy passed away just after she turned 6-months-old.

In older homes, the risk of lead and asbestos exposure to animals is as relevant as it is to humans. We don’t always know if we have lead-based paint on our walls, both inside and outside, and we may not be aware of how many building materials contain asbestos. Symptoms from lead exposure include changes in behavior, gastrointestinal or neurologicCats and detergents problems, and anemia. Inhaling asbestos fibers can cause mesothelioma in dogs and cats and the disease develops much more quickly than in people. Pesticides and insecticides are the cause of thousands of reported poisonings each year, and although the EPA monitors all pesticide ingredients before they are produced, pesticides will remain in soil around homes for years. The half-life of chlordane, for example, is more than 30-years. So even if you don’t personally utilize pesticides around your home, your animals and children are not necessarily safe. If you move into a home, whether it’s old, new, or just new to you, these environmental hazards are important to be familiar with.

Sasha 3Natalie and the vet who treated Sasha discussed mold, asbestos and other possible reasons for her condition. One major question mark was that like many of us, Natalie and Sasha lived in three different apartments during her short life. That her death was ultimately a result of exposure to a toxic substance is something Natalie regrets, and wishes she knew which apartment was the culprit, so that she can warn the current tenants. The most sobering piece of this sad puzzle is that Sasha’s symptoms were not remarkable until it was past the point of a treatment option. For that reason alone, we owe our unknowing pets the most discerning awareness about their surroundings. Consider it fair trade for the endless, unwavering love they give us.

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center published an article about potential hazards animals face during home renovations and the website for Mesothelioma Treatment Centers has information about asbestos exposure signs and treatment options for mesothelioma. The Nation Pesticide Information Center has information on individual pesticides and resources if animals or people are exposed.