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.
The icicles are beautiful to behold, but there’s a dark side. If you see them hanging from your gutters, you may be in for some trouble. Here’s why:
When you see icicles, it means you have ice dams, and ice dams wreak havoc with roofs. They prevent melting snow from draining, and that means the water has no place to go – except into the tiny little crevices and cracks beneath the roof. And that means the water can seep into your interior walls, attic, and underneath the roof shingles. Dampness can cause mold growth within 24-48 hours, and mold can wreak havoc with your health, causing asthma, headaches, fatigue and more.
1. Water is leaking into my house – What should I do?
Act quickly and don’t panic. Report the problem to your insurance company, but don’t wait for their response. You’ll need to take these steps right away:
Take pictures or video of the damage, and start to remove the water immediately. Don’t wait for your insurance company to get back to you, because waiting — even for a few hours — could mean more water and mold growth;
Wet/dry vacuum, mop, or pump water out of the affected area as quickly as possible. Remove wet items;
If you are using towels to catch the water, be sure to change them every few hours so that mold doesn’t start to grow;
Outside, pull off snow from above the ice dam with a long-handled aluminum roof rake, while you stand safely on the ground. According to This Old House, this action will help prevent the melting snow from forming new ice dams;
Dry out residual moisture that is left in the wood, concrete, and other affected materials inside your home. To do this, you can use a dehumidifiers or plain ventilation;
Unplug electrical devices and turn off the circuit breakers in the wet area, if possible;
If a material cannot be dried within 24 hours, it should be thrown away. Unfortunately, this includes carpeting, mattresses, pillows, upholstered furniture, and items containing paper, including wallboard;
Have your home tested for mold.
2. I don’t see any water, so my roof isn’t leaking, right?
Not necessarily. Ice dams can cause seepage in areas the naked eye can’t see, including behind walls and under floor boards or carpets – wherever the water finds a path to travel. Mold can grow from even a very small leak, which can have detrimental consequences to your home, and ultimately, to your health. If you think the ice dams on the eaves of your house or gutters are causing indoor leaks, the safest thing to do is hire a certified microbial investigator, who can use a moisture meter to check for wet and damp areas behind walls, as well as take air samples to see if there is a mold problem. If you decide to wait, be diligent about checking attics, basements, and other less trafficked areas in your home for musty odors or visible mold, which are telltale signs of hidden mold. If there’s mold, you should have your home tested for other infestation (often unseen) by an independent mold inspector – one that does only testing, and not remediation, as this would be a conflict of interest.
3. What should I do about the icicles and chunks of ice in my gutters?
This is a tough one, because a lot can go wrong. The first instinct is to just get the ice out, but that is easier said than done. Getting up on a ladder that is set on snow and ice is dangerous in itself, but add to that a swinging axe, ice pick, or chainsaw, and you could be in trouble. Not only will you mess up your roof and shingles, you can cause yourself bodily harm. If you go online, you may discover some “creative” ideas to remove ice dams, but you should stay away from blowtorches, steam cleaners, heating pads, salt, boiling water, and hot bacon grease. To be safe and not cause further damage to you or your roof, remove the snow from the bottom portion of your roof, closest to you, with a roof rake or long-handled broom. Tip: Don’t stand on your roof to do this! You could slip and fall off, or worse, the roof could collapse right under you from the strain of your weight coupled with the weight of the snow and ice. Stand on the ground to remove roof snow. Just be sure to watch for falling icicles.
4. Can damage from ice dams go further than my attic?
Depending on how and where your ice dams form, the water can go anywhere. We’ve even seen water pouring into the basement. How? The ice dam grew so large that water traveled to a deck attached to the house, pooled, and then headed into the basement. If ice dams travel down your downspouts or the icicles get so large that they are nearing the ground, water may be pooling near your foundation with nowhere to escape.
5. What is the most common mistake made in dealing with ice dams?
It happens all too often: people do cosmetic repairs without making sure the area is completely dry and checking for mold growth. Then, when the weather warms up, they discover they have a full-blown mold infestation. That’s why when there’s water damage, it’s important to test for mold. Hire an independent mold inspector, one who does not do remediation, to get honest and accurate results. An independent testing company can conduct air monitoring and surface sampling tests; identify affected areas and measure the amount of mold – even if it cannot be seen by the naked eye.
6. Will homeowners insurance cover damage from ice dams?
According to the National Association of Realtors®, most homeowners insurance policies cover conditions such as damage caused by ice dams, when water can’t drain into the gutters and instead seeps into the house. But, if the water from an ice dam enters the home from the ground, homeowners insurance generally won’t cover mold remediation. You would need flood insurance for that.
7. How can I prevent ice dams in the future?
There are a number of ways to prevent future ice dams, depending on your situation and how your home or place of business is constructed. Here are a few tips:
Proper insulation of the attic is one solution, as is a tight vapor barrier to prevent moisture from passing from the living areas into and through the insulation. If air from your home finds its way to the underside of the roof sheathing, the heated air raises the temperature of the roof, causing snow to melt, then refreeze when the temperature drops again. Important: make sure you have enough insulation. An insufficiently insulated home is more likely to suffer damage caused by ice dams. To find out how much insulation your home should have (based on location and age), refer to this chart on the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association webpage.
Protect your gutters.
Whether it’s a snow and ice shield or electrified gutters, there are several products that will prevent water from working its way into the home. (A snow and ice shield consists of a membrane that seals the roof under the shingles, forming a continuous barrier to water.)
Ensure adequate ventilation. In order to make sure that your attic and roof are properly ventilated, there should be venting at both the eaves and soffits and/or at the gable ends of the attic. You need to have a space for cold air to flow above the insulation to keep the roof cold and prevent the snow from melting. If you have a finished attic, it is a little more complicated, but it can be done. House Logic shares some additional tips here.
If you are experiencing damage from ice dams and melting snow, call RTK Environmental today at (800) 392-6468 to discuss your options and figure out a plan to keep your home and family safe.
Here’s a scary fact: infants who live in homes that contain mold are three times more likely to develop asthma by age seven, the age at which asthma can be diagnosed, according to a study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the scientific journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
Led by researchers from the University of Cincinnati, the study determined that early life exposure to mold played a critical role in childhood asthma development. Eighteen percent of children enrolled in the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study were found to be asthmatic at age 7. Mold exposure levels were measured using a DNA-based analysis tool developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — the environmental relative moldiness index (ERMI). The tool combines results of the analysis of 36 different types of mold into one index, which describes the mold burden in the homes.
Another study from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and Yale University showed a strong connection between children who were exposed to mold in their first year of life and the development of a wheeze and cough by twelve months of age. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vital Signs (May 2011), one in ten children in the US had asthma – that’s almost 7 million children. Asthma was also responsible for nearly 3,500 deaths in the US in 2007, and cost nearly $56 billion in direct medical expenses.
Common symptoms of asthma are:
– Coughing, especially at night;
– Wheezing or whistling sound, especially when breathing out;
– Trouble breathing or fast breathing that causes tightness in the skin around the ribs and neck;
– Frequent colds that settle in the chest.
How can you protect your newborns from asthma? The first step is to know if you have mold in your home. The best way to do that is to have your home tested by a professional. If they determine that levels are too high, they can devise a remediation plan for you so that the problem can be corrected. Call RTK today at (800) 392-6468. Then, both you and your little one will breathe a whole lot easier!
CBS TV’s Dr. Max Gomez: Hurricane Sandy Could Still Harm Your Health
Almost ten months after Sandy the effects of the storm are still being felt in surprising ways. As CBS 2′s Dr. Max Gomez reported, post-hurricane health hazards could be lurking in your home. Mold stole the headlines, but not many people considered the aftermath of disturbing lead paint, asbestos, and other dangerous toxins.
RTK Environmental Group helps uncover the hidden dangers after the storm.
Some people don’t think the mold in their basement or bathroom is more than unsightly. But doctors have a different view. Watch this segment from New 12 CT to find out why it’s important to remove mold.
Call us at (800) 392-6468 if you think you may have a mold problem.
If you are allergic to mold, you probably experience annoyances such as wheezing, headaches, and dizziness. But what you eat can make a big difference in how you feel, as certain foods can help fight your mold allergy.
Fight The Fungus
There are a number of foods that act as anti-fungals and naturally help your body combat mold. Garlic is a winner as it contains allicin, considered a natural antibiotic. Other helpful anti-fungals include onions, fish, green vegetables, soy products, shallots and leeks. These can help your body detox.
Fill Up on Fiber
Fiber plays an important part in reducing levels of mold in your body, too. Increase your daily intake by eating more vegetables, but limit the amount of fruit you eat. Why limit fruit? Their sugar levels actually stimulate fungal growth. So, by limiting fruit, you’ll feel a noticeable difference.
Herbs have been a natural healer for thousands of years. Grapeseed oil has been found to help with bacterial, viral and parasitic infections that may be caused by mold, including sinusitis. Herbal tea can also help fight your mold allergy by detoxifying your liver. For a list of herbs and their healing properties, click here.
If you have a mold allergy and food is not helping to alleviate your symptoms, make sure you locate and eliminate the source of your misery. Have a certified microbial investigator test to determine if mold is lurking, unseen in your home.
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.
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.
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.