Ah, the scent of a piney Christmas tree, filling your home with love, light, good cheer – and mold spores! Yes, trees decay and release mold spores into the air. And right about now, when the tree has been in your home at least a week, is when the sneezing and wheezing begins.
We recently heard from a mom in the Long Island area, who lives in a home with deteriorating paint built in the 1950’s, questioning the necessity of testing her two young children for lead poisoning. She thought doctors did it automatically, but was concerned and confused when her pediatrician said that she didn’t have to worry about lead poisoning “unless her children were allergic to lead” – even though he knew she lived in an older home that was not in good condition. Yes, we are serious. The doctor actually said this!
EVERYONE CAN BE HARMED BY LEAD PAINT! Clearly, not every doctor knows the dangers of lead paint, therefore it is up to us to make sure parents, neighbors, and friends understand the serious consequences of lead poisoning, and how to prevent it.
Not Every Pediatrician Screens for Lead
In some states, lead screening for children under the age of three is mandatory. But in most, it is left at the discretion of the pediatrician. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, testing for lead poisoning often depends on where you live. Check out these statistics:
• 53% of pediatricians attempt to screen ALL of their patients under the age of 36 months with a blood test for lead toxicity, 38% attempt to screen SOME of their patients, while 9% screen NONE of their patients in this age group.
• Screening practices vary by practice location: 83% of inner city pediatricians screen ALL of their patients under the age of 36 months for lead poisoning, compared to 39% of suburban and 43% of rural pediatricians.
• Overall, pediatricians report screening an average of 52% of their patients ages 9-12 months, 48% of their patients that are 13-14 months old, and 37% of their patients that are 25-36 months old.
• 98% of pediatricians who selectively screen patients under the age of 36 months report do so at the parents’ request.
The best way for you to know if your child has been tested for lead poisoning is to ask your pediatrician. If your doctor does not automatically test for lead, ask that it be done. It’s a simple blood test and could save your child’s life. More importantly, have your home tested to prevent the risks early. For more information about lead dust, click here.
Infants who live in homes with mold are three times more likely to develop asthma by age 7. Horrid news, especially since most homes in the Northeast contain some type of mold.
The alarming statistic about infants comes from a study conducted at the University of Cincinnati published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Researchers analyzed seven years of data gathered on 176 children enrolled in the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study (CCAAPS).
Eighteen percent of children in CCAAPS were asthmatic by age 7, a staggering statistic since current estimates say only 9 percent of school-age children in the United States will develop asthma.
In light of the study, if expectant or new parents suspect there is mold in their homes, it would be prudent to have their home tested immediately. In addition, there are some actions we can all take to make our homes healthier places.
First and most important: Fix all leaks immediately.
Check all washing machine hoses and fittings for leaks and kinks.
Insulate basement and bathroom pipes that “sweat.”
Keep basement drains clean and unclogged.
Be sure window air conditioners have proper exterior drainage; keep filters clean.
Use exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms.
Keep humidity low in your home by running dehumidifiers in damp spaces.
If basement walls are finished with Sheetrock, install vents near floors and ceilings to allow air to flow.
In places where moisture is a problem, use easily washable area rugs rather than wall-to-wall carpeting.
Test your home for mold by calling in a certified mold inspector. Do-it-yourself mold kits are often inaccurate.
Grade soil around the house to direct water away from the foundation.
Keep gutters and downspouts free of debris and ice.
Keep bushes and shrubs at least 12 inches from home siding.
Check roof shingles, vents and flashing for proper seal.
Check siding also – and point the lawn sprinkler away from the house.
It used to take only a few days to ready a home for sale, but today’s savvy sellers know they need to stage it to sell. But no matter how important a first impression is, it’s the soundness of the structure that usually makes or breaks the deal.
RTK’s very own Robert Weitz was recently interviewed by Connecticut for Sale. He shares great advice on Protecting Your Home From Silent Killers, including mold, lead, asbestos, and radon. CLICK HERE to read the article.
You had your home tested for environmental toxins and now you’ve got the results. Now, you’re thinking, you know if you have a problem and how to fix it.
But what if your mold inspection results were delivered as raw data—a jumble of undecipherable numbers and measurements? You don’t need a degree in environmental science to know that’s not helpful to you as a homeowner. Unfortunately, we hear from customers all too often who have used other environmental testing services that they’ve found themselves having to interpret their test results.
What should you expect from an environmental testing company?
Inspectors should provide a clear explanation upfront of their process and all related fees. If you are being promised the cheapest services, you probably are not getting the best results. And you may find yourself surprised when your bill includes expenses related to sampling supplies and laboratory fees that you didn’t even know about.
If, for example, you had a mold inspection and received a report indicating the presence of mold in your home, how would you know the mold count is cause for concern? What are acceptable levels of Cladosporium, Penicillium, or Aspergillus? After all, all homes have some mold in them—mold spores are in the air, on your countertops and furniture. You shouldn’t have to consult a chart to know whether your mold is alarming or okay to leave untreated.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), standards for what is an “acceptable, tolerable or normal” quantity of mold have not been established. Officials recommend you ask your environmental inspector who will interpret the test results, and what recommendations they’ll make based on the sampling. What’s more, the recommendations should take into consideration the building’s characteristics and the factors that led to the current conditions, the CDC notes.
At RTK Environmental group, we’ll do a thorough examination of your home and property for the presence of environmental toxins. We’ll tell you about our process, including an explanation of costs, and provide you with a clear interpretation of test results. Because we don’t do remediation, you can be sure our assessment is accurate and unbiased. We can also return for final testing to ensure the job was done right.
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.
You may mistakenly believe that because your drinking water comes from a well, it’s purer and safer than water from reservoirs. A recent article in a Connecticut newspaper (Stamford Advocate) dispelled that notion, when it reported that unhealthy traces of arsenic were found in private wells in some southern Connecticut towns, and that the Connecticut Department of Public Health received numerous reports of pesticide and heavy metal contamination in residential drinking water across the state.
Common Contaminants & Health Effects
Well water can contain a host of contaminants, including coliform bacteria, lead, arsenic, E. coli, nitrates, VOCs (volatile organic compounds) radon, pesticides, and MtBE (a gasoline compound). Many of these contaminants cannot be identified by taste or odor, making it difficult for homeowners to know if the water quality of their well is acceptable. Contaminants can cause a wide variety of health problems, including skin problems; damage to the brain, kidneys, and neurological system; gastro-intestinal illness; hair loss; and immune deficiencies.
Wells in the Tri-State
Arsenic, radon, and heavy metals can seep into the water supply from rock, not just industrial pollution. Water in areas that have experienced flooding can also become contaminated. Can private wells be regulated by the EPA? The EPA regulates public water systems; it does not regulate private water wells. Yet, nearly 25% of private wells contain harmful contaminants, according to the U.S. Geological Survery Water Science School. In the New York tri-state area, high levels of arsenic, radon, and heavy metals are a major issue.
Although the Connecticut state Department of Public Health does not require private well owners to test their water for known toxins, other communities are taking steps to protect us. Westchester County in New York implemented the Westchester County Private Well Water Testing Legislation, Local Law 7 – 2007, which requires that water test be conducted upon the signing of a contract of sale for any property served by a private well. New Jersey also has similar testing laws.
How Often Should I Test?
At a minimum, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommends that you check your well every spring to make sure there are no mechanical problems, and have it tested once each year for total coliform bacteria, VOCs, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and pH levels. Every few years you should test for additional contaminants.
Who Should Test My Well?
An independent testing company that uses state-certified (licensed) laboratories will give you thorough, unbiased results. If they find a problem, they will help you determine what your next steps should be. For more information on water testing, click here. To set up a well water test in the tri-state area, call RTK at (800) 392-6468 or click here.
Depending on the contaminants, this may spell danger. So, if your drinking water comes from a private well, better to be safe than sorry; have your well tested to make sure you are not putting yourself, your family, or your employees in danger.
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-like symptoms 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!