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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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Gardening Health Soil and Water

How to Get the Healthiest Crop From Your Garden

 

How to Get the Healthiest Crop From Your Garden

Organic gardening is a wonderful way to bring fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables straight from your garden to your table. To ensure that your produce is perfect, start with a soil test to make sure you are not planting in a toxic terrain.

After taking the necessary painstaking measures to ensure that your garden contains non-GMO seeds, no chemicals and pesticides, and organic compost to enrich and fertilize the soil, your hard work may be fruitless. If you plant your produce in soil that contains lead, arsenic, petroleum, pesticides, these and other toxins will make their way into your harvest – and into your mouth.

Sources of Soil Contamination:

Lead in soil is a very common problem, especially if you live in a pre-1978 built home or in a neighborhood of older homes. How does lead get into your soil? Sanding, prior to painting the exterior of an older home, can spew lead dust through the air. Flaking paint chips can also infiltrate into the soil. Lead dust can also be released through open windows when sanding a home’s interior walls. Even more disturbing, simply opening and closing windowsills that contain lead paint can release lead dust into your home and yard on a daily basis.

Another possible source of contamination is tainted compost. If you use public compost, you may be exposed to dangerous levels of lead and other toxins. Here’s why: When municipalities pick up lawn clippings and organic debris for composting, they don’t test first to see if the clippings and debris are free from contamination.

Flooding may also contaminate soil. Storm surges and flooding from storms and hurricanes, like Sandy and Irene, can spread industrial toxic contaminants to residential areas miles away. The floodwaters from Sandy carried an unthinkable mixture of wastewater, sludge, and toxins into people’s pristine yards, where many of the pollutants remain today.

Effects of Toxic Soil:

The damaging effects of ingesting these toxins – chromium, lead, petroleum, solvents, and many pesticide and herbicide formulations, among others – are extensive. According to Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF), these contaminants can be carcinogenic, and cause disease or other chronic health conditions.

What Can You Do?

The first line of protection for you and your family is to have your soil tested. A certified environmental testing company, like RTK, can tell you if your soil is safe. If the test reveals the levels of lead or other toxins in your soil are too high, several options exist to fix the problem – including soil removal, raising pH levels and adding organic matter, or mixing in new soil. A certified inspector can tell you which may be the best option for your situation.

Click here for more information or to schedule a soil test today.

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Healthy Home Lead Soil and Water Weitz Advice

How Do I Know If My Water Is Contaminated?

How Do I Know If My Water Is Contaminated?

The tragedy that unfolded in Flint, Michigan has opened the public’s eyes to a dirty secret – the old, decaying water infrastructure in the United States is leaching toxic material into our water supply and poisoning us. Many other cities, from Cleveland to Newark, discovered that their water supply contains high levels of lead and other contaminants as well.

While we don’t have control over the public water supply, we do have control over our own homes. Buying bottled water to drink does not solve the overarching issue of contaminated water. Every day, we use our tap water to brush our teeth, bathe, wash clothes and dishes, water our vegetable gardens, and more. If your water contains lead or other toxins, your health is at risk. So what can you do? Here are 4 tips to help ensure your water is safe.

1. Have Your Water Tested By A Professional

A water testing kit is not going to give you accurate results or peace of mind that your water is safe, especially if the sample is not taken correctly, which happens often. 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 reliable results by using state-certified (licensed) laboratories. Your local health department sometimes offers 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:

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

These environmental hazards can cause serious health issues.

2. Watch For Health Symptoms From Contaminated Water

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

3. Know If the EPA Regulates Your Water

water testing The EPA regulates public water systems, but it does not regulate private water wells. Yet, nearly 25% of 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 arsenic, radon, and heavy metals are a major issue. Arsenic, radon, and heavy metals can seep into the water supply from rock, 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 to protect us. Westchester County in New York implemented the 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 similar testing laws.

4. Test Your Water Annually – From All Faucets

At a minimum, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) recommends that 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, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and pH levels. Every few years you should test for additional contaminants. If you get your water from a municipality, take the time to read the quality report on water, which must be published annually.

Unfortunately, even if the report is 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, sometimes with parts disintegrating down to dirt, which the water flows through to get into 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.

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

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Gardening Health Healthy Home Soil and Water Weitz Advice

This Summer Make Sure Your Water, Air and Soil Are Safe

Home inspections 101

After a long, looooooong winter – one that felt like it would end sometime in 2020 – summer is finally within sight. And thank goodness for that.

But before you dive into the pool, crank up the air conditioner, or start that victory garden, you’ll want to make sure that your water, air, and soil are clean and safe. Let’s face it; the frigid temperatures, wild winter weather, and common wear and tear that are typically noticeable this time of year are all indicators of potential contamination.

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Healthy Home Lead Mold Soil and Water

Can Water Be Bad For Your Health?

Water is what sustains most life on planet Earth, but what happens when water becomes bad for your health? While it may seem like a simple liquid, water can be quite complex, let alone vital to life. Because it is transparent, that doesn’t mean it is pure. It can be full of contaminants and toxins that can wreak havoc on the human body.

Most of us get our drinking water from the faucets in our homes, and we trust that every time we turn on the tap, we get fresh, clean water. But, you can never be too sure of what lurks in those pipes! Your pipes and plumbing fixtures may contain lead, bacteria, and other toxins, which can leach into your water. Drinking and bathing in contaminated water causes chronic health issues, hair loss, stomach and joint pain, body numbness, skin rashes, and worse.

And then there are the issues created when water seeps, drips, or floods into a home. If unchecked, a mold colony can quickly establish that can cause allergy symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, congestion, itchy eyes, nose and throat postnasal drip, and exacerbate respiratory conditions like asthma.

Here are some common examples of what happens when water inside your home becomes a health hazard.

Lead

With the Flint Water Crisis that started back in 2014, Americans got a lesson in what happens when people are too trusting of the local water authorities who are charged with making sure the water supply is safe. The crisis started when the city of Flint switched its water supply from a freshwater lake, Lake Huron, to the polluted Flint River. Almost immediately, Flint residents began to raise concerns about the water’s taste, color, and odor. And despite the fact that some people were breaking out in rashes, the city waited about five months to issue a boil-water advisory. Even so, this was only because government researchers detected fecal coliform bacteria, more commonly known as E. coli, in the tap water.

So where did this bacteria come from? Unfortunately, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded that the only way that E. coli could have made it into Flint’s water supply was through a potential sewage system leak that seeped into the drinking water distribution system.

But the lead was another matter entirely. The Flint River water started corroding Flint’s old lead pipes, which released toxic levels of lead into the water supply. Add to this the fact that the city couldn’t afford to maintain its water treatment and delivery infrastructure, and many men, women, and children slowly became poisoned in the “safety” of their own homes.

Since lead pipes are commonplace in many cities nationwide, it is important as a homeowner to know when to get your water supply tested. Don’t wait until it’s too late — whenever you notice that something is “off” about your water, it’s in your best interests to call a professional right away.

Mold

mold testing nyIt may be difficult to fathom that a small amount of water entering a home can cause serious health problems, but it can because water is one of the two items needed for mold to colonize. Your carpets, fabrics, drywall, and other common household materials provide the other. High humidity, condensation on areas such as pipes and window, and water leaks create the perfect conditions for mold growth. A mold spore that lands on a damp spot can establish a new colony in less than 24 hours!

Mold growth is quite common in damp or leaky basements. According to a 2017 consumer survey by Real Seal LLC, 55% of respondents said that they had lived in a home with a wet basement and 76% feared that they and their families were being harmed by mold. Additionally, 30% reported that they’d experienced symptoms of mold exposure.

mold testing wallIt is impossible to keep all water and moisture out of your home, which means that no house is immune from mold. Because mold grows very quickly and thrives in hidden places such behind walls, in carpet padding, and in cabinets and closets, every homeowner should consider a mold detection test. Mold testing is definitely in order in the case of a flood, water leak or sewage back-up, a chronically damp basement, visible signs of mold in any area of the house, a musty, unpleasant or foul odor, and finally, if family members or pets are experiencing allergy-like symptoms. A trained mold inspector will examine your home to determine if you have a mold problem. If mold is detected, you will receive a report that will document the scope of the problem and recommend safe and cost effective ways to resolve the mold problem.

With due diligence and environmental testing, you can develop an action plan to keep these health hazards at bay. You can never be too safe when it comes to the health of your family.

Author Bio
Austin Werner is the President of Real Seal LLC, a basement waterproofing company based in Schaumburg, IL. Real Seal is committed to personalized and expedited service and, of course, dry basements!

Categories
Asbestos Gardening Health Healthy Home Lead Soil and Water

Is Your Garden Soil Safe?

A home garden is a unique and hands-on way to connect with your food. But it’s not just which vegetables and herbs you’re planting, it’s what you’re planting it in that counts, too. The fact is that contaminants lurk in your soil, and can greatly affect what you eat, and ultimately your health. Soil can be polluted by harmful contaminants such as lead, asbestos, pesticides, herbicides, and heavy metals; so it’s important to test your soil before you even start your garden.

Lead is the most common pollutant, especially if your home (or surroundings) were constructed prior to 1978. Before that date, paint contained lead. So, every time the old paint is disturbed (whether renovating or sanding to repaint), lead dust is released. And that dust winds up in the soil and the air you breathe. Lead is highly toxic and can cause severe health problems, including damage to the brain and nervous system. Pregnant women and children are especially susceptible to lead poisoning.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fiber that was commonly used in construction before the 1980s. Again, if those fibers are disturbed and released into the air, you can be affected. Exposure to asbestos has been linked to severely increasing your chances of developing mesothelioma and other cancers.

There are other poisons that can be found in soil – the very solvents, pesticides, and herbicides that are available to the general public and can cause damage to plants, can also affect the soil surrounding your home, and can contaminate water runoff. Pesticides and herbicides can cause neurological poisoning and affect memory, coordination, and response times—especially in children.

Polluted water runoff poses a risk to soil conditions, local water sources, and residential wells. Polluted runoff can result in a variety of health problems and waterborne infectious diseases, especially when water remains stagnant.

So, plant those gardens, but be aware of the noxious elements that can spoil your soil! And remember to have your soil tested by a non-biased environmental company, like RTK Environmental Group, prior to starting any landscaping or gardening projects.

 

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Lead Soil and Water

Common Pool Contaminants and How To Protect Yourself

 

Summer is here, and the pool is open! Before you dive in, know what you’re jumping into. Pool’s can be contaminated with lead dust, bacteria, and other toxins.

Lead Dust

While the pool in your yard may seem like a very controlled and safe place for your family to play, it’s not always the case. More and more, we are seeing cases of lead dust contamination in pools. What causes this?

Improper Renovations of Homes Built Before 1978

The primary cause is improperly renovating any home built pre-1978, the year lead paint was banned. If a contractor doesn’t take proper precautions, lead dust from layers of old paint will escape when sanded. Even if your home was constructed more recently, lead dust can travel when a neighbor’s home is renovated.

Fireworks Made In China

Toxic Lead In FireworksWe all love a good explosion around the July 4th holiday. But some fireworks still contain lead, which then explodes in the air and can land in your pool. A good rule of thumb is to cover your pool when you know there will be fireworks to prevent lead dust from contaminating it.

Lead dust is dangerous. Even small levels of lead exposure can irreversibly influence children’s development, from ADHD and autism to brain damage and lower IQ.

Parasites and Bacteria

Chlorine-Resistant Parasites

Pool Related IllnessEven though we maintain out pools, there is a chlorine-resistant parasite called Cryptosporidium, which can survive for 10 days or more even in water that’s chlorinated to kill germs.

Under-Chlorination or Poor Maintenance

If a pool is not properly chlorinated, all sorts of organisms can start to grow, from bacteria to algae. Germs and inhalation of chemicals can cause a rash, diarrhea, and can develop into potentially serious illnesses.

To protect yourself and your family in pool water, CDC recommends:

-Don’t swim if you have diarrhea.

-Don’t swallow the water.

-Shower before and after you are in the water.

A pool should be a fun place to play and cool off during the summer, so make sure your water is clean and lead-free. If you think there is a chance that your pool may be contaminated, call a professional to test the water. You can never be too careful when it comes to your and your family’s safety.

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Healthy Home Soil and Water

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 seven 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 months 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. 

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Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Mold Soil and Water

5 “Hacks” for A Clean, Healthy Home

You’ve cleared away the trappings of the holidays and are ready to start the year off right with a cleaner, healthier home. But hold on, now. Tidying up is important, but it’s the stuff you can’t readily see that poses the biggest problems. Mold, poor indoor air quality, soil contaminants—these are just some of the issues that plague homeowners and, if left unchecked, can cost a fortune to remediate.

This year, resolve to get your house in order with these simple, clever solutions.

1. Clean smart: That lemony fresh smell in common household cleaners is actually a vinegar baking sodachemical substance that contaminates the air you breathe, adding to indoor air pollution. It also can leave a chemical residue on surfaces. Instead, choose natural products or make your own using common household ingredients like baking soda and white vinegar. If anyone in your family experiences headaches, allergies, or skin rashes, hire a pro to conduct an indoor air test.

2. Fan-tastic: Bathroom exhaust fans are essential to blow moisture out after using the shower or bath. Make sure your fans are working properly, are vented to the outdoors, and are cleaned regularly. If you see or suspect mold in your home, hire an independent tester to assess the situation.

3. Use pesticides wisely: Make pesticides your last resort in fighting an infestation, and insecticidal soapretain a pro to deal with any issues in your home. Outdoors, use chemicals in moderation, too, or use natural pesticides like insecticidal soap. Fertilizers and weed killers can seep into the ground, affecting your well water. The Centers for Disease Control recommends testing your water once a year for contaminants.

4. Equipment check: Household systems like furnaces, hot water heaters, and gas stoves need to be properly maintained and vented to avoid introducing soot, or worse, deadly gases like carbon monoxide, into your home. If you think you have an indoor air quality issue, retain a licensed, independent professional to keep your family healthier and your home cleaner.

5. Go shoeless: Take your cues from ancient Asian traditions and encourage visitors to clean homeleave their shoes at the door to keep dirt, pesticides, and driveway salt out. Then, vacuum regularly using a machine with a HEPA filter. If you suspect that toxins may be present, set up a specialty test to be sure.

For more tips to keep your home clean and healthy, call us at 800.392.6468.

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Gardening Soil and Water

Gardening 101: Start With Clean Soil

Garden TomatoNow that the weather is warming up, the garden beckons. Thoughts of luscious vegetables and gorgeous flowers bloom. But before you start turning over the garden, get your soil tested. What you may not realize is that the soil around your house may be hosting a variety of contaminants, including lead, pesticides, bacteria, and heavy metals. And the impact on your family’s health from these unseen dangers may be great.

Lead in soil is a very common problem, especially if you live in a pre-1978 built home or in garden soil contaminationa neighborhood of older homes. How does lead get into your soil? Sanding during the prep period, prior to painting the exterior of an older home, can spew lead dust through the air. (Up until 1978, most paint contained lead.) Flaking paint chips can also find their way into the soil. Lead dust can also be released through open windows when sanding home’s interior walls.

tainted compostAnother possible source of contamination is tainted compost. If you use public compost, you may be exposed to dangerous levels of lead and other toxins. Here’s why: When municipalities pick up lawn clippings and organic debris for composting, they don’t test first to see if the clippings and debris are free from contamination.

The damaging effects of ingesting these toxins — chromium, lead and other metals, contaminated soil connecticutpetroleum, solvents, and many pesticide and herbicide formulations – are many. These contaminants can be carcinogenic, cause congenital disorders or other chronic health conditions. Pregnant women and children are at the highest risk. In fact, more than 500,000 children are poisoned each year by lead.

The only way to protect your family is to have your soil tested by an environmental testing company. They can tell you if your soil is safe, and if there is a problem, can inform you of how to correct it. Click here for more information or to schedule a soil test today.