What You Need to Know about Renovation Work and Asbestos
Do-it-yourself renovations have become commonplace. Unfortunately, many DIYers are unaware of the danger that lurks if asbestos is present and disturbed. Asbestos has been used in the construction of walls, ceilings and floors (mostly for fireproofing), and often serves as insulation for pipes.
If asbestos is left undisturbed, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that it is generally safe. But when it is disturbed during renovation or if it is crumbling from age, dangerous particles are released into the air, breathed in, and can settle into your respiratory system. Exposure to this dangerous material can cause serious respiratory diseases and cancer, including mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.
Because of these health risks, federal and state agencies have developed very strict rules for asbestos removal. Construction workers must receive specialized training to learn safe asbestos removal techniques. If they find deteriorating asbestos that needs to be removed, then you’ll need to hire a reputable contractor who has the appropriate qualifications and licensing for asbestos removal. So your first step, when considering renovation work, should be to hire an independent testing company to test for asbestos.
Mold Testing: Do-It-Yourself Kits vs. Professional Testing
Is it ok to use a do-it-yourself mold testing kit? Are home testing kits for mold reliable? Will a home testing kit ensure the health of my family? We get questions like these all the time. The answer is simple – no.
There are offers for home mold testing kits everywhere, from your hardware store to the internet. Each guarantees you will be able to determine if there is mold in your home. But before you invest in one of these kits, there are some important facts to keep in mind.
Mold is everywhere, and actually plays an important part in our ecological system. For example, if it weren’t for mold, fallen leaves would not break down, with the result being mountainous piles of leaves everywhere.
Home mold kits are basically science experiments that tell you if your home has mold. All homes have some level of mold. What you need to know is:
– The type of mold present in your home;
– Where the mold is located;
– The source of the moisture in your home; and
– What can be done to rid your home of mold.
DIY-mold testing kits do not reveal this information. You need a professional mold test, conducted by a certified microbial investigator (CMI), to accurately report these important facts.
How DIY Mold Testing Kits Work
Home mold testing kits use “settle plate applications.” You set the provided dish out for a specific period of time, usually 24 to 48 hours, and the spores are supposed to fall into the dish. Unfortunately, false negatives and false positives are common with home mold tests. Additionally, even if the test discovers you have mold, it does not identify the type of mold, and whether it is toxic or not. To find out this important information, you have to send the dish of collected samples back to the company who distributes the testing kit, of course at an additional cost.
The results come back, and in most cases, they are unreadable. Instead of saying you have black mold or that you need black mold remediation, it will, for example, give the scientific term, “stachybotrys.” It’s up to you to find out what type of mold this is, and whether you need mold removal or remediation.
Where is the Mold?
Sometimes you can see mold growing. In most cases, you cannot. It’s hiding behind your walls, in your ceiling, or under your carpets. Home test kits will not tell you where it is, so without your knowledge, mold is still spreading out of sight.
CMI’s Tool Kit
A CMI’s report is accurate and precise. The investigators test for mold with sophisticated tools, including infra-red equipment, borescopes (to view inaccessible areas), moisture meters and hygrometers (to measure moisture content).
Professional Mold Testing
It’s important to hire a professional environmental testing company that only conducts testing, not mold remediation or mold removal, so you are assured of an accurate and unbiased assessment. A CMI’s inspection will:
Discover where and why excess moisture is entering your property;
Conduct air monitoring, air sampling and bulk sampling to compare the results with normal background mold levels;
Send all samples to independent laboratories accredited by the American Industrial Hygiene Association;
Identify the affected areas and measure the amount and types of mold present;
Determine if the health of your family is at risk and if professional mold remediation is necessary;
If mold removal or mold remediation is required, once it is completed, the CMI will return to your home to conduct a final mold testing. This is the only way to make certain all your mold is gone.
Click here or call 800.392.6468 to contact RTK Environmental Group and set up a mold inspection.
This is the time of year many of us DIYers are eager to get moving on home improvements. But before you start sanding and swinging that hammer, there are a few important things to think about:
What type of surfaces and materials will you be disturbing? Is there chipping paint? Crumbling pipe insulation? Smell of mildew?
If any or all of the above, you’ll need to take some precautions. Why? You may be subjecting yourself and your family to possible health risks, caused by the very particles you’ve disturbed. So, renovate the right way. Here’s how:
Tip #1: Know the composition of the materials you disturb before you even begin – have your home tested!
Mold that you cannot see may be lurking behind your walls. Pipe insulation may contain asbestos fibers. Layers of old paint beneath more recent paint may contain lead. When you disturb these materials, dust and spores from these toxic materials may be released in the air. Then, they may travel through your home’s HVAC system. Once that happens, you’ve contaminated your indoor environment. So, BEFORE you start the project, have a certified microbial inspector do some tests. If you wait until after you’ve disturbed these materials and discover that you have released toxins in the process, the clean up can be very expensive. Worst of all, you may have subjected yourself and your family to real health hazards.
If a test confirms environmental hazards, take appropriate steps to keep yourself and your family safe. Follow these precautions:
– Evacuate vulnerable family members. While you are working, be sure children, pregnant women, and pets leave the premises for the day. They can return to the house after the work has stopped and the area is thoroughly cleaned. Even a speck of lead dust can cause irreversible damage to one’s health.
– Contain the offending area. Close doors leading to the work area. Then use 4-6 mil plastic sheeting and painter’s tape to seal off the work area. Seal all duct work, doors leading out, and windows with the sheeting. Your goal is to prevent toxins from contaminating the rest of the house.
– Dress for the occasion. Look for a mask or respirator with an N95 rating or higher, which filters out very fine particles. And be sure you wear it for the entire time you are working and cleaning. Also, buy a Tyvek suit to protect your clothes. If the work takes more than a day, leave the Tyvek suit in the contained area. Be sure to cover your feet with booties, which also should never leave the contained area. Once you remove the Tyvek suit and the booties, head to your washing machine, strip, and wash your clothes.
– Avoid sanding. Lead dust accounts for most of the 500,000 pediatric lead-poisoning cases a year. Sanding releases fine lead dust particles, which fly through your air, infiltrating the entire house. Unfortunately, these particles remain in the home for a long time. Therefore, sand as little as possible.
– Clean up well. First, sweep up as much of the dust and debris as you can and put it into a plastic bag, which you then should seal with painter’s tape. Use a HEPA vacuum to remove any remaining lead dust particles. Then use warm water and clean rags to wash all surfaces. Every exposed surface must be cleaned well.
Tip #3: Protect your family from unnecessary health risks.
When the work is done, be sure to have a second environmental inspection performed by a certified testing company to be sure your home has been properly cleaned from lead, asbestos, mold, and other toxins. Otherwise, the health affects can be devastating.
Lead poisoning is shown to cause autism, ADHD, brain damage, lower IQ, and a host of other physical and mental issues. Mold causes asthma, allergies, and other serious respiratory ailments. Asbestos is a carcinogen that can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis and other serious respiratory ailments. Most asbestos-related diseases don’t arise until years after exposure.
Make sure your home is safe for you and your family. Test today.
In our last post, we discussed steps homeowners should take when hiring a contractor to remodel their pre-1978 built home. But what if you are doing the work yourself, even a simple painting job in an older home?
Don’t risk your family’s health. Have your home tested for lead by an environmental testing company. You need to know if you’ll be disturbing old layers of lead paint so you can take appropriate steps to keep your family safe.
If remnants of lead paint are found, follow these precautions:
Evacute vulnerable family members. While you are working, be sure children younger than seven, pregnant women and pets leave for the day. Even a speck of lead dust can cause irreversible damage to them. They can return to the house after the work has stopped and the area is thoroughly cleaned.
Contain the area. Close the doors leading to the work area. Then use 4-6 mil plastic sheeting and painter’s tape to seal off the area, even over the doors. Seal all duct work in the area with the plastic sheeting and painter’s tape. Your goal is to prevent lead dust from contaminating the rest of your house.
Dress for success. Look for a mask or respirator with a N95 rating or higher, which filters out very fine particles. And be sure you wear it for the entire time you are working and cleaning. Also, buy a Tyvek suit to protect your clothes. If the work takes more than a day, leave the Tyvek suit in the contained area. And be sure to cover your feet with booties, which also should never leave the contained area. Once you remove the Tyvek suit and the booties, head to your washing machine, strip, and wash your clothes.
Avoid sanding. Lead dust accounts for most of the 250,000 pediatric lead poisoning cases a year. Sanding releases fine lead dust particles, which fly through your air, infiltrating your house. Unfortunately, they stay in the air for a long time. Therefore, sand as little as possible.
Time to clean. First, sweep up as much of the dust and debris as you can and put it into a plastic bag, which you then seal with painter’s tape. Use a HEPA vacuum to remove any remaining lead dust particles. Then use warm water and clean rags to wash all surfaces. Every exposed surface must be cleaned well.
When the work is done, have another lead test performed by a professional testing company. Click here for more information or to schedule a lead test.
Many do-it-yourselfers think that using an at-home mold testing kit will let them know whether they have to worry about that musty odor in the basement or discolored area after a leak. They are wrong. These kits generally contain a fungal growth medium in a Petri dish or some other type of container. The object is to expose this medium to viable spores, which then grow to form mold colonies. Unfortunately, the kits are unreliable and cause many DIYers to make bad decisions.
Here are some of the major flaws and challenges of home mold testing kits:
Home mold test kits that use ‘settle plate applications’ (set the dish out for 24 – 48 hours and spores are supposed to fall into the dish) generally do not measure airborne particles accurately. Spores vary in size, shape, and weight, so they grow at different rates. Also, every environment contains some amount of mold, and it’s difficult to determine whether the mold spores you collect are from a dangerous indoor colony or just part of the outside environment.
DIY mold kits cannot reach areas that are not visible to the eye. You may have mold behind your walls, which is the most dangerous place for it to be. It can spread quickly and infest a whole house before you realize the mold is there.
Even though you may be able to grow mold, you likely won’t be able to identify what type it is. There are over 100,000 different types of mold, and some are much more dangerous than others. If you don’t know what you are dealing with, your health could be at risk.
False negatives and false positives are a common problem with do-it-yourself mold test kits.
Same problem as above. Your HVAC system circulates air and spores are most likely in this air. Unless you have advanced filtering (i.e. HEPA-rated), you should expect to have mold spores being circulated as well. Even with advanced filtering, most HVAC systems suffer from filter by-pass problems, cabinet and duct leakage, etc. Like the settle plate test, if a gazillion colonies form, you may have an HVAC problem, but then again, maybe not. There are certain locations within an HVAC system where mold growth can be a problem. Remember, the main factors that are needed for mold growth are food and moisture so those are the areas to focus on. Mold won’t arbitrarily grow in your ductwork unless there is a significant problem.
Tip: Have the HVAC system inspected by someone who knows where the problem areas are located.
The bottom line is if you think you may have mold, contact a professional. Your decision can make all the difference between potential health problems for you and your family, and a very messy and expensive cleanup, or a job handled professionally, properly and quickly.