Spring rains are a welcome refresher for our parched plants and lawns, but they also bring heat and humidity, the perfect environment for mold. If you had a leak or flood and your remediation company did not fully remove the mold, chances are the mold is still present and probably growing with a vengeance.
It’s mold weather. Hmm? Yes, mold weather. The combination of heat, high humidity, and storms will invite mold to rear its ugly head. It may seem innocent, but it can cause major damage to your health and home. Here’s why you need to pay attention to mold:
Mold causes health problems.
All mold—whether it is toxic or not — causes health issues, including allergic reactions, sneezing, runny, itchy eyes, red nose, and skin rashes. Mold can also cause asthma attacks and can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs.
Mold damages homes.
Mold can destroy the things it grows on – including your home’s walls, floors, carpeting, and furnishings. Often times, mold grows behind drywall, under carpets, and under floorboards. This is dangerous because by the time you find out it’s there; you usually have a major problem. In extreme cases, mold can grow to the extent that the home cannot be remediated, and needs to be knocked down. The key is to control moisture in your home and eliminate mold growth before it takes over.
TIP: Keep your humidifier set at 50% or below during humid summer months.
Don’t wait – take immediate steps to prevent mold, especially after heavy rain.
The most important thing you can do is to control moisture levels in your home. If water enters your home, take immediate steps to get rid of it. Remove anything that gets wet. Use vacuums and fans to rid surfaces of any residual moisture.
TIP: Take action within 24 hours, as mold can invade your home in less than a day.
Another preventative measure is managing the water runoff from your house. If the water pouring off your roof has nowhere to drain, it can and will find its way into your home. Keep your gutters and downspouts debris-free. Also, make sure that your downspouts are adequately angled away from the house. Otherwise, water will collect at the edge of the house and leak into the foundation and basement.
Make sure the company you hire to test does not also do remediation. An independent, certified testing-only service has no incentive to magnify the problem and increase profits through remediation services. They won’t bait you with “free testing”, and have nothing to gain financially by inventing problems in your home or business, therefore can potentially save you thousands on unnecessary repairs. Click here for more information.
The Environmental Protection Agency offers a free download, Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture and Your Home. Check it out HERE.
So, you’re heading to the beach as summer season begins. The thought is delicious! But don’t be surprised if you’re greeted by a musty odor after you walk into what you had hoped would be your home away from home. Mildew! Mold! Whether you are at the Jersey Shore or the Hamptons, there’s an excellent chance that the home you’re renting or own has been flooded during a hurricane, been exposed to excess moisture and humidity, or has had a leak. Now, your nose is getting a strong whiff of the result. So what can you do?
“The first thing to do is open the windows and get air to circulate,” advises Robert Weitz, Certified Microbial Investigator and principal of RTK Environmental Group. Weitz says this is a common problem, as many vacation homes sit empty and closed up over the winter months, collecting moisture, especially since air conditioning or heat has been turned off for the season. “Mold is not picky – it only needs moisture and a food source, such as wood, ceiling tiles, carpet or sheet rock, to begin growing. The house next door may be fine, and yours may be a serious health hazard.” The important thing is to have your home tested right away so the problem can be fixed, your health is not compromised, and your summer is not ruined.
Whether you hire a mold inspector or put up with it will probably depend on whether you are the owner or renter, how long you will be there, and whether you or your vacationers have allergy or breathing issues.
Short-Term Solutions to Summer House Mold:
– Keep the windows open as much as possible if the weather is dry;
– Use a dehumidifier to reduce moisture;
– Change the filter in the air conditioner before you turn it on;
– Wipe off any visible mold on walls, floors and tiles with a bleach/water mixture;
– Ask that the inspector pinpoint if the mold is toxic or not;
– Have the mold properly remediated.
Remember, if you own the house or plan to be there for an extended stay, mold could affect your health, causing wheezing, asthma, and allergy symptoms. The home should be tested by a certified microbial investigator, who can then advise you as to the next steps depending on the outcome of the mold testing. In New York, it is illegal for the same company to test and remediate on the same job. Whatever the case, mold can become a big issue quickly, so don’t ignore it!
Humidifiers and HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems can make life a lot more comfortable, but can also make us sick, according to several institutions, including the Mayo Clinic and Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), who report that if humidifiers aren’t maintained properly or if humidity levels are kept too high, can grow and spread mold and bacteria that causes lung and respiratory illnesses, including Legionnaires’ disease.
Humidifiers, whether portable or built into a central heating and cooling system, can ease a slew of problems caused by dry air, from dry sinuses to cracked lips. But without regular maintenance, bacteria, mold, and fungi often grow in tanks and on the filters of portable room humidifiers, or in reservoir-type HVAC systems. These toxins can be released in the mist that the machines emit. Breathing in harmful particles carried by the mist can lead to respiratory problems, including flu-like symptoms, asthma, allergies, and serious infection – even humidifier fever, a respiratory illness caused by exposure to toxins from microorganisms found in wet or moist areas in humidifiers and air conditioners – especially for those of us who already suffer from allergies.
To prevent your humidifier from becoming a health hazard, follow these tips:
• Change the water daily. Empty the tank, wipe all the surfaces, and refill the water daily to reduce the growth of microorganisms. Using water with a low mineral content, such as distilled or demineralized water, will help reduce build-up of mineral scale and the dispersal of minerals and bacteria released into the air.
• Keep your humidifier clean. A humidifier should be cleaned every three days, at least! Be sure to unplug it, and wipe down any deposits or film from the tank with a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution, disinfectant, or chlorine bleach and water mixture. (Follow guidelines recommended by the manufacturer for your particular humidifier.) Be sure to rinse the tank and surface areas after cleaning it.
• Change humidifier filters regularly. People tend to wait until they can see signs of mold on the filter before they change it, which can be too late. Be sure to change your filter as often as the manufacturer recommends, or sooner if usage has been high.
• Don’t try to keep your home too damp. An ideal humidity level is between 30 and 50 percent. If you see condensation on surfaces, walls, or floors near your humidifier, you run the risk of breeding mold, bacteria, and dust mites. You can use a hygrometer to monitor humidity levels. It is not recommended that you run your humidifier round-the-clock.
• Fully clean and dry your humidifier at the end of the season before you put it away. This will help to prevent mold and bacteria growth while in storage.
To keep your HVAC system and your family healthy, follow these tips:
• Read the instruction manual or ask your HVAC specialist about proper maintenance for your unit. There are four main types of whole house units that have a variety of maintenance schedules and operations.
• Be sure the humidistat, which controls humidity, is set between 30 – 45 percent. Anything higher than 45% and you risk mold and bacteria growth through condensation and particles settling in the bottom of ducts, which can spread spores through your entire house quickly.
• Reservoir (drum) style humidifiers require monthly maintenance. This includes cleaning the foam evaporator pad, which should also be replaced annually. Clean the foam pad using a 1:3 solution of water to vinegar, or use a commercial calcium removing fluid. Soak the foam pad until the deposits dissolve. Rinse the pad generously with clean water. If the pad is ripped or does not come fully clean, replace the foam pad.
With a little humidifier TLC, the air in your home or office can make it a happier and healthier place to live or work!
Back-to-school may bring your child more than new teachers and books. Researchers have noted that there is a sharp spike in asthma symptoms among children during the fall. School classrooms and corridors often harbor mold and dust mites, as do ventilation systems.
Parents with children who are allergic to mold should find out if the school has cleaned their vents and if they use high-efficiency air filters to remove mold, pollen, and other particles from the air.
Here are some other precautionary measures you can take:
1. If your child is allergic to mold and rakes leaves during the fall, he should wear a mask to avoid inhaling mold spores.
2. Keep track of the pollen and mold count in your area by visiting the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology website. When counts are high, children who are allergic to mold will show symptoms that include runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes and nose, and dark circles under the eyes.
3. The AAAI recommends that parents make sure their child takes asthma or allergy medications all during the summer so that doses aren’t missed. Skipping medications can lead to increased symptoms in the fall.
4. Develop a treatment plan with your allergist to help prevent problems. Click here to find an allergist near you. Be sure to share the treatment plan with the school’s staff and discuss with them how to handle emergencies. It is prudent for your child to keep inhalers and medicine at school to be used in an emergency or during the course of treatment.
Indoor air quality and pollution are a hot topic, and for good reason. The air inside of our homes and offices can be up to 90% more polluted than the air outside. VOCs, toxic cleaners and chemicals can all pollute your indoor air, which is why air quality testing has become important part of keeping us healthy. This is the time of year when we have to be extra careful, as many of us are living with the air conditioning on 24/7, and have little fresh air circulating.
Paints, solvents, cleansers, disinfectants, air fresheners, pesticides, nicotine, glue…the list of chemicals in our homes goes on and on. These all contribute to poor indoor air quality. Even low concentrations of these can irritate your eyes, nose and throat; cause headaches, loss of coordination and nausea; and can damage the liver, kidneys and the central nervous system. Children and older people are particularly vulnerable. So are pets. In fact, they are often the ones who show signs of illness first.
Indoor air quality testing can determine if there are dangerous levels of chemicals in your home, including radon, carbon monoxide, nicotine and particles from furnaces and wood-burning fireplaces or stoves. You can also test for common asthma triggers such as dust mites and insects cells. Once you have the results, we can tell you how to eliminate them, and how to keep future household chemical contamination under control. For information on when you may want to conduct an indoor air quality test, visit our IAQ and Radon page.
It’s a matter of health – yours and your family’s.
Ah-choo! Is It the Cherry Blossoms or Hidden Mold?
The National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC has ended, but our allergies are just beginning. What’s making you sneeze and your eyes water, nose run, throat tickle? Pollen is the usual culprit, and gets much of the blame. But mold, seen and unseen, may be playing a bigger role in your springtime suffering than you realize.
Most people assume that their symptoms are caused by pollen and ragweed, so they diligently close windows and turn up the air conditioning. You may be so focused on the allergens outdoors, however, that you could be missing equally troublesome irritants, like mold and mildew, inside.
Studies by the Environmental Protection Agency, among others, indicate that indoor air pollution is at least twice as high as outdoor air pollution. As indoor ventilation tends to be limited, allergens like mold can wreak havoc. If you are taking allergy medication and keeping your windows closed, yet are still suffering from symptoms generally caused by allergens, you should consider having your home tested for mold and indoor air quality. You also should take the following steps to reduce household mold:
Remove organic debris from your gutters and yard – especially if it is decomposing. Dead branches and leaves are prime growth spots for mold.
Clean bathrooms, and especially bathtub and shower areas, windowsills and shower curtains with a bleach or disinfectant mixture at least once a month to prevent mold growth.
Use an exhaust fan in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms to vent excess moisture. Also, make sure the exhaust fan is cleaned every 3 months.
Use a dehumidifier – especially in damp areas of your home. Keep the dehumidifier set at 50% humidity. Any more than that will encourage mold growth.
Try to keep your home dry and ventilated.
Keep your basement carpet-free to avoid moisture build up and mold growth.
Regularly check under sinks for leaks. Mold can grow quickly where there’s moisture.
Don’t put wet shoes or damp clothing in your closets. Let them dry fully first to avoid mold growth.
If you are having problems with allergies and medication doesn’t seem to be clearing it up, have your home tested by an independent professional, like RTK, to see if mold may be the culprit. Once the source of mold is pinpointed, the professional can help you devise a remediation plan. It is important that the testing company does not also do remediation because of the inherent conflict of interest. In such a case, you may be setting yourself up for inflated bills and unnecessary repairs. For more about hidden allergy triggers, read this article from WebMD.
For years, we battled a leaky roof. We patched it, but it still leaked. Water would soak the ceilings and pour into the house during a big storm. Buckets and towels became our best friend.
During the winter, ice dams were another problem; we could not seem to prevent leaks. Eventually, mold set in. Everyone in the family has allergies, and we could tell that mold was causing a problem as our asthma and conditions got worse.
To add to our headaches, we had a leak somewhere in the chimney that plagued us for years. Nobody could seem to solve this problem, so water would come in through the chimney flashing and soak the living room wall as well.
We finally wound up replacing the roof, had the chimney redone, and hired a contractor to fix the visibly damaged walls and ceilings. This is where we made our big mistake. We did not have a mold inspection or mold removal or remediation plan.
The contractors fixed the ugly parts, not realizing that there was mold in places they could not see. Thousand and thousands of dollars later, mold suddenly started reappearing on our new walls and ceilings. Our breathing and allergy problems continued. We decided to get a mold inspection this time, and were able to pinpoint where the problems were. We had to shell out a ton of money yet again for a contractor to come back and do the work properly.
If we had just invested in a mold inspection the first time, we would have saved about $15,000 and a ton of aggravation. Lesson learned!
It’s been nearly six months, and Superstorm Sandy still won’t give us a break. Even as spring arrives, allergies from mold created when homes and were flooded last year are turning into a big problem all across the tri-state area.
Dr. Philip Perlman of St. Francis Hospital on Long Island explained to WCBS 880 how the extra allergen could affect people. “Now that houses are dried out, [people are not free from the effects of mold as] the mold is growing behind the walls and they’re not realizing it’s there… Now they’re realizing something else is going on – sneezy, stuffy feeling and watery eyes,” Perlman told WCBS-AM.
Experts, including allergy specialist Dr. Clifford Bassett, clinical assistant professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine, say the problem will be compounded now that trees are bursting with pollen. “We’re expecting to see a very robust allergy season because of a lot of precipitation during late winter and the warmer temperatures we’re seeing now,” said Bassett.
So what can you do? Aside from the regular regimen of allergy medications and nasal sprays, become informed. Knowing fact from fiction can make the difference between misery and relief for millions of spring allergy sufferers, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
Most important: have your home tested for mold, especially if you suffered damage from Superstorm Sandy. If you are living in an environment that contains allergens both inside and outside, you will suffer round the clock. If an independent inspector finds that you have mold, hire a reputable contractor that does only remediation work not a combination of testing and remediation, as that’s a conflict of interest. Then you will breathe a lot easier!
Contact RTK at (800) 392-6468 to schedule an appointment or click here.