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.
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.
We 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-like symptoms to brain damage and lower IQ.
Parasites and Bacteria
Even 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.
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 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 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 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, 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
Volatile 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?
Mold 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!
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.
In recent years, testing revealed that 70% of wells in Stamford, CT were contaminated with uranium and arsenic. Wells from Boston to Washington, DC have tested positive for a variety of harmful contaminants. You may mistakenly believe that because your drinking water comes from a well, it’s pure and safer than water from reservoirs. But well water can contain a host of contaminants, including coliform bacteria, uranium, lead, arsenic, E. coli, nitrates, VOCs (volatile organic compounds) radon, pesticides, and MtBE (a gasoline compound), which can cause a wide variety of health problems, including skin problems; damage to the brain, kidneys, and neurological system; gastro-intestinal illness; hair loss; and immune deficiencies.
The only way to know if your water is harming your family is to have it tested by an independent testing service like RTK Environmental. If you are interested in learning more or setting up a test, call us at (800) 392-6468 or learn more about water testing here.
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.
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 soilis 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.
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)
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
It 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.
It 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.
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!
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 chemical 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 retain 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 leave 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.