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Health Environment Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Mold Mold Testing VOCs

Indoor Air Quality: How What You Breathe Can Impact Your Health and Comfort

Indoor Air Quality: How What You Breathe Can Impact Your Health and Comfort

During the winter months, coughs and runny noses are pretty typical. Often, these ailments stem from invisible enemies within our homes and offices – poor indoor air quality (IAQ). Surprisingly, more than 80% of IAQ problems are due to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or mold, which can be harmful to your health, causing symptoms from headaches and fatigue to sneezing and runny nose.

IAQ is the measure of the air quality within and around buildings, especially in relation to the health and comfort of its occupants. Controlling indoor pollutants like mold and VOCs is crucial. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than outside air, making it a pressing concern during the winter when we spend most of our time indoors.

The Impact of Mold and VOCS

Mold and VOCs are prevalent sources of indoor air pollution. Mold can trigger respiratory issues and allergies, while VOCs—found in everyday items like paint, furniture, personal care and cleaning products and air fresheners—can lead to severe health conditions. Short-term exposure to these pollutants can cause symptoms like eye irritation and dizziness, while long-term exposure may lead to chronic diseases or cancer.

How can you reduce your exposure to Mold & VOCs

  • Test for Mold and VOCs: It’s essential to identify the presence of these pollutants in your home. Professional IAQ assessments can reveal hidden mold and analyze over 70 common VOCs, offering a clear picture of your indoor air quality.
  • Choose Low-VOC Products: Opt for safer cleaning and personal care products that don’t emit harmful chemicals.
  • Control Moisture: Keep indoor humidity levels between 30-50% to prevent mold growth. Fix leaks and address condensation issues promptly.
  • Improve Ventilation: Regularly open windows to allow fresh air in and reduce VOC concentrations, especially on days when outdoor pollution levels are low.
  • Be Mindful During Renovations: Postpone activities like painting or installing new carpets to warmer months when you can ventilate your space more effectively.
  • Use Air Purifiers: Air purifiers with carbon and HEPA filters can reduce the levels of particulate matter, including mold spores and VOCs.
  • Maintain Your HVAC System: Ensure that your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems are regularly serviced to filter and circulate air efficiently.

Indoor Air Quality Testing

Maintaining good IAQ is not a seasonal concern but a year-round commitment. By emphasizing the importance of regular testing and recognizing the considerable effects of mold and VOCs, you are taking an important step in IAQ management. This proactive approach is key to enhancing the health and comfort of your living or working spaces. Enlisting the expertise of independent professionals such as RTK can be instrumental. They offer comprehensive mold and VOC evaluations that identify specific issues, leading you toward a healthier and more comfortable indoor environment.

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Healthy Home Environment Health Mold senior Senior Living

Home Hunting: What Every Senior Should Look For

Home Hunting: What Every Senior Should Look For

Entering your golden years signifies a pivotal chapter where comfort, safety, and accessibility in your living space become paramount. The quest for a forever home that caters to the evolving needs of senior living can be both exciting and challenging. This comprehensive guide aims to simplify this journey by highlighting eight critical features aging homebuyers should prioritize. These considerations promise to transform a house into a nurturing haven, offering both functionality and peace of mind.

Emphasizing Single-Level Living

The allure of a single-story home is undeniable for aging individuals. Stairs can become a significant hindrance as mobility changes, so a one-level layout is a smart choice. It offers ease of movement, reduces the risk of falls, and enhances the overall comfort of daily living. Furthermore, this design facilitates the installation of mobility aids, if necessary, making it a future-proof investment for your senior years.

Securing Peace with a Home Warranty

A robust home warranty can be a game-changer, offering protection against unforeseen repair costs. This investment covers crucial home systems like heating, cooling, electrical, and plumbing, alongside appliance repairs. The assurance of financial coverage for potential breakdowns can provide significant relief, allowing you to enjoy your retirement without the worry of unexpected repair expenses. For more insights, continue reading about how a home warranty can safeguard your peace of mind.

Prioritizing a Healthy Environment

Environmental testing is a crucial step in ensuring your new home is safe and free from hazards like mold, asbestos, and lead.  When it comes to mold, seniors are more susceptible to its effects because they often have weaker immune systems, poorer lung function, and take medications for other health problems that can make them more vulnerable.  Identifying and addressing these hazards is not just about immediate safety, but also about long-term health. Taking proactive measures to test and remediate any environmental hazards reflects a commitment to a healthy, worry-free living environment in your later years. Looking for expert mold testing or indoor air quality services? Schedule an appointment with RTK Environmental and ensure your home is safe and healthy.

Proximity to Quality Senior Care

Location matters, especially when it involves easy access to reputable senior care facilities. In the event of health changes, having quality care options nearby is invaluable. Conduct thorough online research to understand facility offerings, pricing, and reviews from other families. This proactive approach ensures that you are well-prepared and informed, making your home choice not just about comfort, but also about practical access to essential health services.

Accessibility with Wide Doorways

Wide doorways are more than a design choice; they are a nod to future-proofing your home. Ensuring doorways can accommodate mobility aids such as wheelchairs and walkers is crucial. This feature enhances accessibility and ensures that your home remains a comfortable and functional space, regardless of mobility changes that might occur with age.

Illuminating with Ample Lighting

Good lighting is essential, particularly as vision changes with age. A well-lit home, combining natural and artificial light sources, minimizes the risk of accidents and improves overall well-being. This feature is not just about brightness; it’s about creating a warm, inviting atmosphere that is both safe and visually appealing.

Embracing Low-Maintenance Exteriors

As one ages, home maintenance can become a daunting task. Opting for a home with low-maintenance exteriors like durable siding and simple landscaping can significantly reduce the burden. This choice allows more time to enjoy retirement activities rather than worrying about extensive home upkeep.

Ensuring Access with Wheelchair Ramps

If mobility is or becomes a concern, planning for wheelchair ramps is essential. These modifications ensure that your home remains accessible and welcoming, regardless of mobility levels. It’s about creating an inclusive environment that adapts to your needs over time.

Choosing a home for your golden years is a decision that extends beyond aesthetic appeal. It’s about creating a space that embodies comfort, safety, and convenience. By focusing on strategies like purchasing a home warranty and making senior-friendly updates, you’re not just buying a house; you’re investing in a home that will support and enhance your quality of life as you age. This guide is your compass to finding a haven that meets your needs today and anticipates those of tomorrow, allowing you to age gracefully and with dignity.

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Healthy Home Lead Mold Mold Testing VOCs

Essential Tips to Sidestep Holiday Hazards

 

‘Tis the season to be jolly but ignoring household hazards could just be sheer folly. So, we’ve compiled some valuable tips to keep you and yours healthy during the holiday season.

 

Live Christmas Trees Can Produce Mold

This is something you’ve probably never thought about. Yet, the festive charm of a live Christmas tree might mask its ability – potential – to aggravate asthma and allergies. That’s because somewhere, hidden in those fragrant green boughs, there may be mold spores and allergens. To keep this problem at bay, keep the tree indoors for a shorter period of time, wear protective clothing while handling it, and consider spraying it with water before bringing it inside and carrying it out for disposal. Be certain to keep it a good distance from the fireplace and keep it well watered to prevent it from drying out. Air purifiers can also help in reducing airborne allergens.

Artificial Trees Can Also Pose Problems

Though you won’t be plagued by needles shed by live trees, artificial Christmas trees can introduce another hazard: toxic lead dust because of how they are manufactured. The older those trees are, the greater the risk that they will release harmful lead dust, which can lead to lead poisoning. When shopping for an artificial tree, opt for those made in the USA and check for labels indicating they are made from safer materials like polyethylene plastic (PE).

Christmas Lights May Have a Lead Problem

It’s common for Christmas lights to contain trace amounts of lead, that are used in making wires more pliable. While this doesn’t mean you should forego the festive glow, it’s wise to wash your hands after handling the lights and to clean the surrounding areas in order to prevent the spread of any lead-containing dust.

Vintage Tableware: Beautiful but with an Ugly Fact

Grandma’s crystal and china might add elegance to your holiday table, but these older pieces often contain lead. Use them cautiously, especially around children and pregnant women. If you do use them don’t leave any food or liquid in them for any extended period of time, the lead will leach into the liquid or food and be absorbed into the blood stream when they are consumed.

Indoor Air Quality and Scented Products Can Pose Risks, Too

The delightful scents of holiday candles and air fresheners come with a downside: they may be releasing volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These can cause health issues ranging from headaches to respiratory problems. Check labels and choose non-toxic scented candles made from natural ingredients; avoid paraffin wax and artificial fragrances.

Heavy Metals Contained in Menorahs

Vintage menorahs, especially those made of brass or ceramic glazed, may contain lead and cadmium. If you’re using a family heirloom, minimize the risk by cleaning it thoroughly each season and washing your hands after handling it.

Dirty Decoration Storage: A Mold Hotspot

Holiday decorations stored in damp conditions can become a breeding ground for mold. Check storage boxes for signs of moisture or mold before bringing them into your living areas. In case of mold, clean the items and consider having your storage areas inspected for water damage.

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Indoor Air Pollution and Its’ Sources

With the arrival of colder weather, when windows and doors remain shut, the risk of indoor air pollution increases. This pollution can come from burning candles, holiday cooking, and chemicals in household products. To counter this, ventilate your home regularly, use natural air fresheners, and choose green cleaning products.

Wood-Burning Fireplaces and Stoves: A Cozy but Polluting Tradition

Warmth and light emanating from wood-burning fireplaces and stoves may be enjoyable, but they also impact indoor air quality and contribute to various health issues. If wood burning is essential, use well-dried wood and consider installing a HEPA filter that will help to filter smaller particulate. Where possible, explore cleaner heating alternatives and create a cozy ambiance with a fireplace video and holiday music instead.

By taking these simple precautions, you can enjoy a festive and healthy holiday season. Remember, your health and safety are paramount. Stay informed, stay safe, and have a wonderful holiday!

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Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Mold

Appliance Maintenance to Prevent Mold

Appliance Maintenance to Prevent Mold

Here’s what you should do and how often to prevent mold growth in your home.

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.

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.

mold dehumidifierCleaning 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.

kitchen fan moldHere 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.

Contact RTK to schedule a mold or indoor air quality test today!

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Indoor Air Quality & Radon

Radon: The Silent Killer

Radon: The Silent Killer

Most of us have heard of radon, and if we have bought or sold a house recently, the terms of the sale probably depended on a radon test. But that does not mean we have any idea of what radon is or the harm it can cause. As January is National Radon Action Month, we wanted to share as much as we could about the silent killer.

What is Radon?

Radon is an invisible and odorless radioactive gas produced when uranium naturally decays in soil and water. The Environmental Protection Agency confirms that radon gas is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers. The EPA estimates that more than six million homes in the United States have a radon problem, and the toxic gas claims the lives of more than 21,000 Americans annually.

In fact, radon caused more American fatalities in 2018 than drunk driving, carbon monoxide poisoning, house fires and choking combined.

Both the EPA and the Surgeon General urge every homeowner to test their homes at least every two years for radon. Radon testing should be part of a thorough indoor air quality test. Paints, solvents, cleansers, disinfectants, air fresheners, pesticides, nicotine, glue, home furnishings and building materials — the list of chemicals in our homes goes on and on – poisons the air we breathe. Even low concentrations of these chemicals 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.

Indoor air quality tests should check for radon, mold, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), particles from furnaces and wood-burning fireplaces and stoves, and common allergens.

To schedule a test, call RTK Environmental Group at 800.392.6468, or click here.

 

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Flooding & Water Damage Indoor Air Quality & Radon Mold

Fall Tips to Get Your Home Ready for Winter

Fall Tips to Get Your Home Ready for Winter

With autumn in full swing, take advantage of the crisp days and sunshine to prepare your home for winter. Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, complete these tasks and you won’t spend a fortune on home repairs this winter.


gutters mold
Clean your gutters.

It’s a hassle, but you should clean your gutters before the temperature drops to help prevent ice dams, which form when melted snow pools and refreezes at roof edges and eaves. This ridge of ice then prevents water caused by melting snow from draining from the roof. Since it has nowhere to go, the water can leak into your home and damage walls, ceilings, and insulation. Water damage will soon be followed by mold. No matter what the season, gutters filled with heavy leaves can pull away from your house and cause leaks that damage your home and lead to mold growth. Also be sure your downspouts are angled away from your home to prevent leaks in the basement.

Check your roof for leaks.

You certainly don’t want to start your winter with a leaky roof. Check your ceilings for water spots, mold, or stains. If you spot them, before you call in a roofer, have a mold inspector test your home for mold. That way you’ll know exactly what needs to be replaced so the mold doesn’t come back. You may have small stains or dark spots now, but once the heavy snow sets in, the problem could get much worse, and you could wind up with a full blown mold infestation. You should also check your attic for moisture, as mold can easily grow there if it is not properly ventilated.

Clean your HVAC units, fireplace, furnace, and wood-burning stove.

Indoor air quality suffers in the winter because your home is closed up most of the time. Toxic fumes, including carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), can be emitted from fireplace and wood burning stove smoke and may back up into the house, which can cause serious health issues. Mold and dust can also build up in HVAC units over the summer months, then spread throughout your home when the heat is turned on. To make sure your indoor air quality is at an acceptable level, schedule a test from an environmental inspector like RTK Environmental Group. They will test for VOCs, mold, particulate matter, and other chemicals. For additional tips on indoor air quality, visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s Web site.

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Mold

Christmas Trees Can Harbor Mold

Christmas Trees Can Harbor Mold

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.

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Flooding & Water Damage Healthy Home Mold

The Health Hazards of Basement Offices

The Health Hazards of Basement Offices

With the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, there has been a rise of professionals working from home. But if you set up offices in your basement, you could be soon wheezing and coughing. And the problem never seems to go away.

basement office moldThat’s because these barons of the basement are probably subjected to long-term mold exposure, since basements are often moist, and moisture and mold go hand-in-hand.

Mold is not just ugly looking, it’s increasingly recognized as a serious health hazard,” says Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and principal of RTK Environmental Group, the leading environmental testing firm in the Northeast. Mold has been known to trigger allergies that cause headaches and coughing, as well as irritate the nose, skin, and eyes. For people with asthma, mold can make breathing particularly difficult.

Mold can get a jump start anywhere you’ve got leaky pipes, drippy appliances, or water creeping into the house via the roof, gutters, siding or foundation. To survive, mold simply requires two elements: a source of moisture and a source of food. Mold spores will adhere themselves to porous materials like paper, carpeting, and sheetrock, all things commonly found in home offices.

basement mold If you think you can simply throw away paper files contaminated with mold, think again. Some mold spores have been known to sporulate or “throw themselves” toward moisture sources. Once airborne, the microscopic mold spores can easily float and be carried by the gentlest air currents.  Additionally, there may be mold hidden behind walls, in air ducts, under floorboards, and places you’d never think of. It can be detected only through proper testing.

That’s why it is prudent for people who work at home to call in experts to detect mold problems and pinpoint the infestation’s possible causes.

For more information or to schedule a mold test, call RTK Environmental at 800.392.6468.

 

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Health Mold

Mold and Infants: How It Can Affect Their Health

Mold and Infants: How It Can Affect Their Health

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.

infant asthmaThe 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.

INDOORS

  • 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.
  • children and moldBe 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.

OUTDOORS:

  • 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.

 

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Health

Is Your Office Making You Sick? Could Be Sick Building Syndrome

 

These 6 Things Could Be To Blame for Sick Building Syndrome

It’s that time of year that many of us dread. Seasons are changing, and cool nights and warm days are moving in. It’s back to school for many, and suddenly there seem to be a lot more common colds, coughs, and sniffles. But if you notice that your symptoms only occur in a specific location, such as your office, school, or apartment building, you may be suffering from sick building syndrome. Sick Building Syndrome is a term used to describe buildings where occupants experience health issues and discomfort while inside, but feel better shortly after leaving.

Symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Dry cough
  • Eye, throat, or nose irritation
  • Nasal allergies
  • Itchy, dry skin
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • General feelings of malaise
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty concentrating.

So what is actually in your office, workplace, or school that’s making you sick? Here are 6 of the most common offenders:

1. MOLD SPORES, BLACK MOLD, AND LESS-FUN FUNGI

Mold is the leading cause of Sick Building Syndrome and can have dire effects on your health. In fact, in about 80% of sick building syndrome cases, mold infestations (black mold and other types) are the main cause of illness.

Indoor mold is not only disgusting, it’s also extremely unhealthy. Mold, which can either be toxic or an allergen, thrives in damp environments and spreads easily. Mold is typically found in basements, bathrooms, kitchens, attics and other areas of buildings that may be susceptible to high humidity levels. Mold infestations can be caused by pipe breaks, water leaks, roof leaks, and other water intrusions. Mold spores can spread to an entire building through the heating and air duct system.

Easy tip: Check the plants in your office. Overwatering can cause mold. Yes, your plant may be making you sick!

 

2. THE HVAC SYSTEM

We all cringe when we have to breathe recycled air on an airplane, yet the indoor air quality in our office or workplace may not be too much better! According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air may be up to 100 times more polluted than outdoor air. Poor air circulation and inadequate ventilation may force us to breathe in toxins and chemicals, including lead dust, exhaust, radon, formaldehyde, asbestos, and VOCs from adhesives, upholstery, printers, carpeting, copy machines, manufactured wood products, pesticides, and cleaning agents. Yuck!

Easy tip: Make sure your building changes the filters on the HVAC system every 3-months, and has the system fully inspected and serviced at least twice a year.

3. COMPUTERS AND OFFICE EQUIPMENT

 

When was the last time you cleaned your computer or dusted your blinds? If you said ‘never,” you’re not alone. Simply put: Offices are filthy. Dust mites build up in neglected areas (have you looked at your printer cords and vent covers lately). Take notice of the fans being used to keep electronic equipment from overheating. Chances are you’ll find a lot of dust, lint, pollen, and dirt particles, building up over time. You’re breathing all this stuff in.

Easy tip: Once a month, have the cleaning crew perform a full dusting of windowsills, HVAC vents, computer cords, areas around electronics, and in file rooms. You’ll breathe easier.

4. CARPETING

 

Between the off gassing of VOCs, and serving as a haven for bacteria and mold spores, you’ll never look at carpeting the same way again! Every time you roll your chair back and forth on the mat, every footstep you take, you may be releasing mold spores and unhealthy bacteria into the air. Doing so may cause asthma, allergies, and a host of other ailments.

Easy tip: Have your carpeting professionally cleaned every one to six months, depending on traffic.

5. THE REFRIGERATOR

 

Ever look in the office fridge and try to figure out whether you should put your sandwich near the container of green, fuzzy stuff or on the sticky orange patch with mystery debris stuck in it? Leaving food in the garbage and not storing food properly are big no-nos in an office, and can cause biological contamination. Cleaning the refrigerator out frequently will help prevent odors and mold, which can lead to health problems.

6. YOUR OFFICE MATE

 

The guy who eats at his desk every day may seem motivated, but he could be making you sick. If he is not keeping his eating area clean, he may be attracting pests, like rodents and insects. Cockroaches have been linked to respiratory problems, and according to the EPA, certain proteins in cockroach droppings and saliva can cause allergic reactions and trigger asthma symptoms. Eww!

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU THINK YOU HAVE A ‘SICK BUILDING?’

Before you assume it’s your building making you sick, get some more information. Talk to your coworkers and other building occupants. If a number of them are experiencing similar health problems that only occur when you are in the building, there’s a good chance that you’ve got a “sick building” and that you are suffering from Sick Building Syndrome.

 

If this is the case, report the situation to human resources, the office manger, or landlord, and request a thorough environmental health inspection. An independent testing company, like RTK Environmental, will conduct indoor air quality testing to determine if mold, VOCs, radon, or other harmful toxins are present in your environment. You may also want to see your physician to rule out any other possible medical conditions. Be sure to tell them if the symptoms occur when you are in a specific location. If you would like to schedule an indoor air quality inspection or have questions about sick building syndrome, call us today at (800) 392-6468.