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Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Mold

Even A Household Appliance Can Cause Mold

Dehumidifiers, bathroom exhaust fans, and kitchen range hoods can vastly improve the air you breathe indoors, but they also have a downside: if not maintained properly, they can become little mold-producing factories.

The September 2012 issue of Consumer Reports says that neglecting to thoroughly clean a bathroom fan or dehumidifier, for example, allows dirt to accumulate and this, plus a little moisture, creates the perfect environment in which mold can grow. Another place you are likely to find mold growth is in a front load washing machines.

humidifier moldCleaning dehumidifiers once a month is recommended.  Yet, according to the article, 60% of the dehumidifiers found in today’s households are not cleaned frequently enough and may be fostering mold growth. Bathroom exhaust fans are another source of mold but only 16% are cleaned every few months as recommended.

Failure to clean these appliances rigorously can also result in the growth of fungi and bacteria that cause lung inflammation.

Here are the recommended cleaning schedules for household appliances:

So, if you’re the culprit and neglected to clean household appliances regularly, check them carefully for mold. Mold can spread from these devices to other parts of your home, and that can be detrimental to your health – let alone your wallet.

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Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Lead Mold

How to Prevent Having a “Sick Home” This Winter

Sick Home

With winter just weeks away, we usually focus on conserving heat in our homes and tightly latch storm windows, secure the doors from drafts, and check the attic insulation. But we should be thinking about keeping our homes healthy as well. Unfortunately, many homes, especially newer ones, are built so airtight that they cannot breathe – literally! So, a warm and cozy house becomes a “sick home”.

Inadequate ventilation is a top cause of sick home syndrome. The newer  “air-tight” homes are sealed so well that hardly any fresh air enters. Moisture builds up but can’t escape and that makes a perfect breeding ground for mold. Without fresh air circulating through your rooms, indoor pollutants including chemicals from paint or rugs, mold, radon, and other airborne particles, have nowhere to escape.

This can cause an array of health problems, from breathing issues to allergies to headaches.  Besides airing your home from time to time, you can take other preventative measures to reduce indoor pollutants:

Mold grows on water-damaged materials and can cause allergies.  To prevent it:

  • Clean humidifier and air conditioning drain pans
  • Run your bathroom vent fan when showering and for 30 minutes following
  • Repair cracks in basement walls and floor
  • Keep your (outdoor) gutters clean, so ice does not build up.

Radon is an odorless, invisible gas that can over time increase the risk of lung cancer. It seeps into houses from the earth below.  Get your house tested this fall before winter sets in.  Testing for radon is recommended once every 5 years, as your foundation can settle and crack, possibly releasing a new source of radon into your home.

Lead paint was used in homes built before 1978, after which it was outlawed. But many people merely covered the old paint with new. So, when sanding during renovation work or opening or closing windows, the dust may contain lead. Lead dust and paint chips can cause lead poisoning, which is especially dangerous for children. Lead poisoning has been linked to a host of issues, including autism and ADHD.  If you have an older house, get it tested for lead before you close up your house this winter.

Your health and safety are paramount. If suspect you may have a “sick home”, have an environmental inspector come in to test your indoor air quality. It can make all the difference between a sick home and a healthy family!

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Health Indoor Air Quality & Radon

Is Your Office’s Air Making You Sick?

Inhale.  Exhale.  Did you know that the average person takes about 23,000 breaths a day? Unfortunately, air is not the only thing entering your lungs – especially in office or school environments, which are often riddled with dust and allergens.Dust — the tiny particles of fiber, skin scales, insect parts, pollen, cobwebs and dirt that settle on surfaces everywhere – is the culprit for many ailments that develop in the office, according to the Hartford Courant. Chronic coughs and sneezing, scratchy throats, itchy eyes, and even headaches may be attributed to the dust that you’re breathing in daily in your office, which may be a potential health hazard.

Ironically, we go to great lengths to make sure our homes are safe havens, but rarely consider our work spaces – where we spend upwards of 8-hours a day.

An office can be a hotbed of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) issues.  A recent article in the Connecticut OSHA Quarterly explained that there are many ‘neglected areas’ in an office that never get cleaned. Computers and central processing units (CPU) equipment in general are magnets for dust accumulations. Other common and overlooked sources of dust in the workplace are computer cords, plugs, window blind louvers, base boards, trim work, window wells, surfaces at floor-to-wall junctures, underneath office furniture and heating units, fabric of upholstered office furniture, and cubical partitions. Click here to see a photo gallery of dust in various workplaces.

So, before you take a deep breath at work, have a professional conduct an indoor air quality test. Information from the U.S. EPA can be found in their publication “An Office Building Occupants Guide to Indoor Air Quality”. EPA-402-k-97-003

 

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Asbestos

The NY Islanders Found Asbestos at Home – Can It Happen to You?

In 2012, the New York Islanders found out they may be moving to a new home the next season because of lingering asbestos problems at the aging Nassau Coliseum – their home for the past 40 years. Does the age of a structure make asbestos more likely? Sure – but it’s the condition that the asbestos is in that can be dangerous.

commercial asbestos testingAsbestos exposure has been linked to the development of serious respiratory diseases and cancers, including mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. Unfortunately, for nearly 100 years, asbestos was one of the most commonly used materials in construction, shipbuilding and manufacturing, both commercially and residentially.

So, old sports arenas are not the only places to struggle with asbestos issues. Many schools, buildings, and homes also contain asbestos. It is commonly found in insulation, cement, pipes, composites, floor tile, fireproofing material, gaskets, and coatings. If asbestos is left undisturbed, the EPA says that it is generally safe. When it is disturbed during renovation or if it is crumbling from age, dangerous particles are released into the air and can settle into your respiratory system.

What should you do if you think you have asbestos in your home or workplace?

asbestos warningFirst and foremost, do not disturb it. Immediately contact a professional testing company to come in to test for asbestos. It may be that the asbestos in your home is in good shape and does not need removal. In that event, consider having the asbestos encapsulated to insure that the fibers will not become airborne. However, if the asbestos is deteriorating, a testing company can provide you with an asbestos remediation plan to keep you and your family from harm.

Asbestos exposure has been linked to the development of serious respiratory diseases and cancers, including mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.

Here’s the good news: Asbestos can be very dangerous, but it is easily managed. Take the necessary steps and do a test. You’ll breathe a whole lot easier!

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Asbestos Lead

9/11’s toxic dust

Sept. 11, 2001 has been memorialized by unforgettable images, among which were the buildings collapsing in a blanket of dust and smoke, and people rushing from the scene, covered in a white dust that we now know was toxic.

The numbers of Ground Zero workers with serious medical issues keep growing. Many are claiming the toxic dust they inhaled have caused a myriad of health issues, including cancer, asthma, persistent coughs (known among those afflicted as WTC cough), and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

At the time, workers and volunteers were assured by Christie Whitman, then administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, that the air was safe to breathe. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey asked Paul Lioy, director of exposure science at Rutgers University and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, to collect and test samples of the dust. It turned out that the dust was a toxic cocktail of asbestos; metallic particles including lead; cement; gypsum; calcium carbonate; and glass fibers. The dust pH was highly alkaline and extremely caustic, and according to experts, caused severe medical problems for first responders and those who spent months cleaning the site.

This weekend, as we all remember and pay homage to those who lost their lives, it is also a good time to be reminded to pay more attention to the air we breathe daily. Lead dust – present in many pre-1978 built homes (the year lead paint was banned) – is poisonous to everyone, but especially children, pregnant women and pets. The list of health problems it causes is long and troublesome, including brain damage, loss of IQ, learning disability, hearing loss, nervous system and kidney damage.

Asbestos is a human carcinogen, and is linked to lung cancer, laryngeal cancers and malignant mesothelioma. Since these cancers develop 10 to 30 years after exposure, many of the 9/11 workers might be still symptom free.

If you suspect an environmental hazard might be lurking in your home, your first stop should be to have your home tested by certified inspectors. Once testing is complete and a remediation plan established, hire only contractors who are certified to remove the specific hazard.

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Asbestos

The 411 on Asbestos

Many people worry about asbestos -especially when purchasing a new home. But what do you really know about asbestos? The mere presence of asbestos is not usually a problem. Over time, however, asbestos may become damaged. When it does, it can release dangerous asbestos fibers into the air you breathe. The removal of asbestos, if not done correctly, can also pose a health threat. Here are some answers to our most frequently asked questions.

Q. What is asbestos?

A. Asbestos is a very strong mineral fiber that was once added to many different products to strengthen them. It was also used to provide heat insulation and fire resistance. There are several types of asbestos fibers.

Q. Where is asbestos found?

A. Asbestos can be found in roofing materials, siding shingles, insulation (homes built between 1930 – 1950), textured paint (pre-1977), patching compounds (pre-1977), walls and floors around wood-burning stoves, vinyl floor tiles and adhesives, insulation for hot water and steam pipes in older homes, and oil and coal furnaces.

Q. How Can Asbestos affect my health?

A. Exposure to asbestos, especially airborne asbestos fibers, increases your risk of developing lung disease. Disease symptoms may take several years to develop following exposure. Continued exposure can increase the amount of fibers that remain in the lung. Fibers embedded in lung tissue over time may cause serious lung diseases including asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma.

Q. I suspect there is asbestos in my home. What should I do?

A. First and foremost, do not disturb the asbestos. It is generally not harmful until it is disturbed and fibers are released into the air. Next, have a professional testing company come in to test for asbestos. It may be that the asbestos in your home is in good shape and does not need removal. If not, they can provide an asbestos remediation plan for you so that you and your family are safe.

Q. I am planning on renovating my home and I know there is asbestos there. Are there any precautions I can take?

A. Once you have tested for asbestos and confirmed that it will be a problem, have any removal and repairs done by certified professionals who are specially trained in handling asbestos.

Q. We are going to be doing demolition on our home and know we only have asbestos in one place that won’t be touched asbestos. Is it safe to go ahead with the demolition without having the house tested for asbestos?

A. A demolition could expose an asbestos problem you weren’t aware of. Also, look for signs of wear and tear in areas you know contain asbestos. But whatever you do, don’t touch it. Consider having the asbestos encapsulated to insure that the fibers will not become airborne.

Asbestos can be very dangerous, but is easily managed. Take the necessary steps to make sure you and your family is not harmed by asbestos.