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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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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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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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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.

 

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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.

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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Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Mold

Even A Household Appliance Can Cause Mold

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.

The September 2012 issue of 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.

humidifier moldCleaning 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.

Here 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.

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Indoor Air Quality & Radon

Facts on IAQ: I’m Breathing in WHAT?!

indoor air westchester new yorkIndoor 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.

Air Pollution New York New JerseyPaints, 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.

air quality connecticut

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.


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Mold

What You Need to Know BEFORE You Refinish Your Basement

 


Connecticut Basement MoldThe American Society of Home Inspectors
estimates that 60 percent of U.S. homes have wet basements, and 38 percent run the risk of serious basement mold. So whether you are finishing your basement for the first time or repairing it after a flood, play it safe. You may not be able to completely eliminate the risk of moisture from floods, seeping groundwater, runoff, condensation, and leaks. But you can discourage mold and mildew growth by choosing the right building materials that will not be damaged by moisture or support mold growth.

Here’s some advice to make sure your cave stays cozy and comfortable.

 

1. Determine the level of moisture in your basement and its source. 

westchester county mold testing

Find out if you have a moisture problem before you renovate the basement. You may be able to see water draining from your walls or find damp spots, but often moisture is hidden. You need expert advice. Have an independent environmental testing company like RTK Environmental come in to help you determine where the water is coming from, and how much it is affecting the area. Often times, the problem can be fixed quite easily. Sometimes extending downspouts and angling them away from the home will prevent water from pooling around the foundation. Other times it is a matter of re-grading your yard to drain water away from the house.

 

2. Don’t use traditional building materials.

mold proof flooringWhen wet, organic materials, such as drywall, wood, and paper, quickly become fertile breeding grounds for mold — a mold colony can sprout within 24-48 hours. RTK Environmental suggests using moisture-tolerant materials, such as green board and non-porous tile, especially in areas that come in direct contact with concrete, stone, or brick. If you have cracks in these masonry surfaces, patch them with hydraulic cement, which expands as it sets.

 

3. Install moisture-tolerant insulation on walls and floors.

Thermometer hotMoisture-tolerant insulation protects the inside of your house from wide fluctuations in outside temperature, which often results in indoor condensation. A vapor barrier or rigid-foam insulation can be laid over foundation walls, followed by a metal stud framing and a non-cellulose wall finish. Many professionals recommend extruded polystyrene (XPS). If you choose XPS, please note that it is flammable, and needs to be covered with a thermal barrier, such as USG’s Sheetrock Brand Mold Tough Gypsum Panels.

 

4. Choose the right floor.

mold proof basementBefore you lay down wall-to-wall carpeting to warm up your basement, consider that can trap moisture and cause mold to grow. Opt instead for breathable materials. Ceramic tile is the best, but can be costly. You can also try vinyl plank flooring, which has a wood-like appearance and can be clicked together, just like laminate. It makes installation easy, and repair equally easy. To make the room cozy, add an area rug rather than wall-to-wall. That way, if the rug gets wet, you can remove it to dry it out.

 

 

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Healthy Home Video

The Danger of Cutting Costs on Home Maintenance