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Environment Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Mold Mold Testing VOCs

From “Sneeze City” to “Breathe Easy Boulevard”: Your Guide to Conquering IAQ and Mold Issues by World Asthma Day

May 2 marks World Asthma Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness about asthma, a chronic respiratory condition affecting millions worldwide. This day emphasizes the importance of understanding and mitigating factors that exacerbate asthma symptoms, such as poor indoor air quality (IAQ), mold and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Here’s our best advice to transform “Sneeze City” into “Breathe Easy Boulevard.”

Understanding the connection between Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and asthma
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is defined by the condition of air within and in surrounding buildings, particularly concerning the health and comfort of building occupants. Poor IAQ can emerge from factors such as insufficient ventilation, contamination by mold, VOCs, and various particulate matter.

What are Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs?
VOCs are gases emitted from certain man-made materials that can have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Sources of VOCs in homes include paints, varnishes, cleaning supplies, and building materials. VOCs can be very dangerous to your health and can be toxic, so finding the source of VOC pollution is critical.

Beware the Mold Menace
Mold is more than just an unsightly annoyance; it can pose serious health risks, especially to individuals with asthma and other respiratory conditions. Molds reproduce by creating spores that float through the air, that when inhaled, can trigger wheezing, sneezing, and asthma attacks. Addressing mold issues is not just about cleaning up visible growth; it’s about ensuring these spores – and VOC emissions – are not circulating throughout your indoor environment.

Key Steps to Enhance IAQ and Manage Mold

  • Identify the Problem: The first step in solving any IAQ problem is identifying the sources of pollutants, which might include mold growth and VOCs from household products or construction materials. These can often be hidden in walls, behind ceiling tiles, or in other out-of-sight areas.
  • Get Professional Testing: Engage a professional from a reputable company like RTK Environmental to test your indoor environment. This will provide a clear picture of your air quality and the presence of any mold, VOCs or other allergens.
  • Address Humidity Levels: Mold thrives in moist environments. Use dehumidifiers and air conditioners to maintain humidity levels between 30-50% to help prevent mold growth. Simultaneously, consider reducing sources of VOCs by choosing low-emission products for your home.
  • Improve ventilation in your home. Use exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens and ensure that ventilation systems are directing air outside of your home to minimize the recirculation of pollutants, including VOCs.
  • Schedule Regular Cleaning and Maintenance: Dust and vacuum your home regularly using vacuums equipped with HEPA filters to capture fine particles and prevent them from being redistributed around your home. Also, consider using natural cleaning products that emit fewer VOCs.
  • Begin Mold Remediation: If mold is discovered, it’s important to follow proper remediation protocols to ensure the mold – and any VOCs from damp building materials – are removed effectively and safely. RTK Environmental stresses the importance of professional remediation followed by post-remediation clearance testing to ensure that all mold and VOCs have been removed.

You can take definitive steps towards improving your indoor air quality and managing mold and VOCs. Not only will this make your home healthier, but it will also provide relief to asthma sufferers and others affected by poor air quality. Remember, controlling your environment is a crucial step in controlling asthma and allergies. Let’s move from Sneeze City to Breathe Easy Boulevard together!

For more detailed information and professional guidance, contact RTK Environmental at rtkenvironmental.com specialists in environmental testing and consulting, who can provide further insights and services to ensure your indoor environment is safe and healthy.

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Indoor Air Quality & Radon Asbestos Dust Environment Healthy Home Mold VOCs

Top Causes of Poor Indoor Air Quality

Top Causes of Poor Indoor Air Quality & Pollution

Did you know inside air may be 25-100 times more polluted than outside air? Up to 80% of indoor air quality issues are caused by high levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and unhealthy levels of mold spores. Other pollutants include dander, asbestos, radon, smoke, formaldehyde, particulate matter, and pesticides.Causes of VOCsVOCs and other toxic fumes can be found in hundreds of household and workplace materials, including:

  • New carpeting
  • Composite wood products, like furniture and cabinets
  • Bedding and pillows
  • Detergents
  • Paint
  • Copiers and printers
  • Adhesives
  • Cosmetics and toiletries
  • Vinyl, such as shower curtains or tile
  • Sealing caulk
  • Scented candles
  • Fabrics
  • Cleaning and disinfecting chemicals
  • Air fresheners
  • Moth balls
  • Dry cleaning and laundry detergents
  • Wood burning stoves

Symptoms of Poor IAQ

Poor IAQ symptomsPoor indoor air quality can cause a host of health symptoms, including:

  • Asthma
  • Cold & allergy like symptoms
  • Persistent cough
  • Depression
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Eye irritation
  • Nose and throat irritation
  • Headaches
  • Loss of coordination
  • Nausea

If you have been feeling off without any known cause, it could be an indoor air quality issue. Have RTK test your home for common VOCs and mold – protect your health!

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Health Environment Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Mold Mold Testing VOCs

Indoor Air Quality: How What You Breathe Can Impact Your Health and Comfort

Indoor Air Quality: How What You Breathe Can Impact Your Health and Comfort

During the winter months, coughs and runny noses are pretty typical. Often, these ailments stem from invisible enemies within our homes and offices – poor indoor air quality (IAQ). Surprisingly, more than 80% of IAQ problems are due to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or mold, which can be harmful to your health, causing symptoms from headaches and fatigue to sneezing and runny nose.

IAQ is the measure of the air quality within and around buildings, especially in relation to the health and comfort of its occupants. Controlling indoor pollutants like mold and VOCs is crucial. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than outside air, making it a pressing concern during the winter when we spend most of our time indoors.

The Impact of Mold and VOCS

Mold and VOCs are prevalent sources of indoor air pollution. Mold can trigger respiratory issues and allergies, while VOCs—found in everyday items like paint, furniture, personal care and cleaning products and air fresheners—can lead to severe health conditions. Short-term exposure to these pollutants can cause symptoms like eye irritation and dizziness, while long-term exposure may lead to chronic diseases or cancer.

How can you reduce your exposure to Mold & VOCs

  • Test for Mold and VOCs: It’s essential to identify the presence of these pollutants in your home. Professional IAQ assessments can reveal hidden mold and analyze over 70 common VOCs, offering a clear picture of your indoor air quality.
  • Choose Low-VOC Products: Opt for safer cleaning and personal care products that don’t emit harmful chemicals.
  • Control Moisture: Keep indoor humidity levels between 30-50% to prevent mold growth. Fix leaks and address condensation issues promptly.
  • Improve Ventilation: Regularly open windows to allow fresh air in and reduce VOC concentrations, especially on days when outdoor pollution levels are low.
  • Be Mindful During Renovations: Postpone activities like painting or installing new carpets to warmer months when you can ventilate your space more effectively.
  • Use Air Purifiers: Air purifiers with carbon and HEPA filters can reduce the levels of particulate matter, including mold spores and VOCs.
  • Maintain Your HVAC System: Ensure that your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems are regularly serviced to filter and circulate air efficiently.

Indoor Air Quality Testing

Maintaining good IAQ is not a seasonal concern but a year-round commitment. By emphasizing the importance of regular testing and recognizing the considerable effects of mold and VOCs, you are taking an important step in IAQ management. This proactive approach is key to enhancing the health and comfort of your living or working spaces. Enlisting the expertise of independent professionals such as RTK can be instrumental. They offer comprehensive mold and VOC evaluations that identify specific issues, leading you toward a healthier and more comfortable indoor environment.

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Healthy Home Lead Mold Mold Testing VOCs

Essential Tips to Sidestep Holiday Hazards

 

‘Tis the season to be jolly but ignoring household hazards could just be sheer folly. So, we’ve compiled some valuable tips to keep you and yours healthy during the holiday season.

 

Live Christmas Trees Can Produce Mold

This is something you’ve probably never thought about. Yet, the festive charm of a live Christmas tree might mask its ability – potential – to aggravate asthma and allergies. That’s because somewhere, hidden in those fragrant green boughs, there may be mold spores and allergens. To keep this problem at bay, keep the tree indoors for a shorter period of time, wear protective clothing while handling it, and consider spraying it with water before bringing it inside and carrying it out for disposal. Be certain to keep it a good distance from the fireplace and keep it well watered to prevent it from drying out. Air purifiers can also help in reducing airborne allergens.

Artificial Trees Can Also Pose Problems

Though you won’t be plagued by needles shed by live trees, artificial Christmas trees can introduce another hazard: toxic lead dust because of how they are manufactured. The older those trees are, the greater the risk that they will release harmful lead dust, which can lead to lead poisoning. When shopping for an artificial tree, opt for those made in the USA and check for labels indicating they are made from safer materials like polyethylene plastic (PE).

Christmas Lights May Have a Lead Problem

It’s common for Christmas lights to contain trace amounts of lead, that are used in making wires more pliable. While this doesn’t mean you should forego the festive glow, it’s wise to wash your hands after handling the lights and to clean the surrounding areas in order to prevent the spread of any lead-containing dust.

Vintage Tableware: Beautiful but with an Ugly Fact

Grandma’s crystal and china might add elegance to your holiday table, but these older pieces often contain lead. Use them cautiously, especially around children and pregnant women. If you do use them don’t leave any food or liquid in them for any extended period of time, the lead will leach into the liquid or food and be absorbed into the blood stream when they are consumed.

Indoor Air Quality and Scented Products Can Pose Risks, Too

The delightful scents of holiday candles and air fresheners come with a downside: they may be releasing volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These can cause health issues ranging from headaches to respiratory problems. Check labels and choose non-toxic scented candles made from natural ingredients; avoid paraffin wax and artificial fragrances.

Heavy Metals Contained in Menorahs

Vintage menorahs, especially those made of brass or ceramic glazed, may contain lead and cadmium. If you’re using a family heirloom, minimize the risk by cleaning it thoroughly each season and washing your hands after handling it.

Dirty Decoration Storage: A Mold Hotspot

Holiday decorations stored in damp conditions can become a breeding ground for mold. Check storage boxes for signs of moisture or mold before bringing them into your living areas. In case of mold, clean the items and consider having your storage areas inspected for water damage.

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Indoor Air Pollution and Its’ Sources

With the arrival of colder weather, when windows and doors remain shut, the risk of indoor air pollution increases. This pollution can come from burning candles, holiday cooking, and chemicals in household products. To counter this, ventilate your home regularly, use natural air fresheners, and choose green cleaning products.

Wood-Burning Fireplaces and Stoves: A Cozy but Polluting Tradition

Warmth and light emanating from wood-burning fireplaces and stoves may be enjoyable, but they also impact indoor air quality and contribute to various health issues. If wood burning is essential, use well-dried wood and consider installing a HEPA filter that will help to filter smaller particulate. Where possible, explore cleaner heating alternatives and create a cozy ambiance with a fireplace video and holiday music instead.

By taking these simple precautions, you can enjoy a festive and healthy holiday season. Remember, your health and safety are paramount. Stay informed, stay safe, and have a wonderful holiday!

Categories
VOCs Indoor Air Quality & Radon

Breathe Easier by Reducing Volatile Organic Compounds in Your Home 

Breathe Easier by Reducing Volatile Organic Compounds in Your Home 

 

Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, are a group of volatile chemicals easily emitted into the air because of their high vapor pressure at room temperature. These compounds are found in most manmade items, such as carpeting, appliances, paint, cleaning products, and personal care products, to name just a few. Regrettably, the VOCs that make our homes look nice can pose serious dangers to our health and well-being. So, let’s look at the dangers and sources of VOCs in the home. We also will give you important tips on how to reduce your VOC exposure. 

Causes of VOCs

Dangers of VOCs  

Over the short term, exposure to VOCs can lead to health problems, such as headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and nausea. VOCs also can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat. Long-term exposure to VOCs can lead to more serious health problems, such as liver and kidney damage, respiratory problems, and even cancer.  

Common Sources of VOCs in the Home 

VOCYour home harbors a vast array of VOCs sources, including: 

  1. Paints and coatings used on walls, furniture, and floors, which release VOC fumes into the air that can be harmful if inhaled. 
  2. Household cleaning products, including floor cleaners, glass cleaners, and bathroom cleaners. An additional danger: these products are frequently used in poorly ventilated areas such as shower stalls, which can increase exposure. 
  3. Air fresheners are loaded with VOCs, including phthalates, which are known to disrupt hormones in the body. Air fresheners can also contain other harmful chemicals, such as benzene and formaldehyde. 
  4. Building materials, including carpets, adhesives, and insulation, can release fumes into the air for years after they have been installed. 
  5. Personal care products, such as perfumes, hair sprays, and deodorants, often contain VOCs. These products can be harmful if inhaled or absorbed through the skin. 

Identifying VOCs in the Home 

If you are feeling unwell and are not sure why, you may have high levels of VOCs in your home. Headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and nausea can all be symptoms of VOC exposure. The best way to discover the source of the exposure is to have your home tested by a professional. A professional can help pinpoint or rule out the responsible sources. 

VOC symptomsRTK has tested hundreds of homes for VOCs and was surprised to find out that in many cases, popular brands of furniture, including baby items, were off the charts for these dangerous chemicals.  

“We recently tested the new nursery of a newborn child, and just about everything was emitting toxic fumes,” said Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and founder of RTK.  “These products were from a brand name, very popular company—we were shocked,” Weitz said. “People buy products they think are ‘healthy’ but they don’t read the labels, and that’s where you’ll find the truth.” He recommends testing for many reasons. 

Weitz emphasized that testing can help preserve the property value of your house, which is likely to be a household’s largest financial asset. He recommends that homebuyers test before they purchase a house. In turn, homeowners should test for VOCs prior to putting a home on the market. 

Property owners also could have VOC compliance concerns, said Weitz. VOC testing may be required to comply with local, state, or federal regulations. For example, some states require VOC testing for certain types of building materials or household products. 

VOC carpeting

Reducing Exposure to VOCs 

There are several steps you can take to reduce your exposure to VOCs in the home: 

  1. Choose low-VOC products: When purchasing paints, cleaning products, air fresheners, and personal care products, choose products that are labeled “low-VOC” or “VOC-free.” 
  2. Increase ventilation: Proper ventilation can help reduce exposure to VOCs. Open windows and doors, use exhaust fans and change the filters regularly, and use air purifiers with carbon filters to improve indoor air quality. 
  3. Avoid harsh cleaning products: Instead of using harsh cleaning products, try using natural alternatives, such as vinegar and baking soda. 
  4. Be careful when renovating: If you are renovating your home, be aware of the VOCs in building materials and choose low-VOC options whenever possible. 
  5. Let new furniture air out: Before you bring new furniture or carpeting into your home, unwrap it and let it air out for a few days in the garage or a well-ventilated area. This will reduce the level of VOC buildup in your home. 
  6. Store products safely: Store products containing VOCs in a well-ventilated area and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use and disposal. 

VOC labelsVOCs are a serious concern in the home and can pose a significant danger to our health and well-being. VOC testing is important for identifying potential sources of exposure to harmful chemicals, improving indoor air quality, and ensuring compliance with regulations. Homeowners can take steps to reduce their exposure to VOCs by choosing low-VOC products, increasing ventilation, and storing products safely.

If you are concerned about VOCs in your home, consider scheduling a VOC testing appointment with a qualified professional like RTK Environmental. By being aware of the sources of VOCs and taking steps to reduce exposure, we can help ensure that our homes are safe and healthy places to live. Call us at 800.392.6468 to learn more.

VOCs and Clothing

VOCs and Your Health