Health Mold

Sneezing? It Could Be Your Christmas Tree!

new york mold testingAh, the delightful 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.

Connecticut researchers have discovered that the mold count mold allergy new jerseyfrom a live Christmas tree rose to five times the normal level two weeks after the tree was brought indoors. According to Philip Hemmers, MD, an allergist and immunologist with St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, Conn., the high levels of the mold correlate with allergic rhinitis and an increased rate of asthma symptoms and asthma-related hospitalizations in other studies. Dr. Hemmers’ advice: If you don’t feel well during the holidays, your evergreen Christmas tree could be the culprit.

He recommends people with mold sensitivity keep a live Christmas tree in their home for only four to seven days. Signs of mold sensitivity can include chronic allergies, headaches, mold allergy treatmentfatigue, skin rashes, throat and eye irritations, wheezing, and many respiratory problems including asthma.

If tossing the tree so quickly isn’t for you, another option is over the counter allergy medicine. It works wonders for many people, letting you enjoy your fresh tree until after the New Year.

Once the tree is discarded, vacuum and dust well. To be sure you’ve removed any mold spores, and to see if mold is growing even in places you can’t see, call an environmental testing company. “Getting your home tested for mold now can save you big headaches allergy connecticutlater,” says Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator. “Most people wait months, long after a mold infestation has taken root, before they deal with the problem. Once this happens, repairs are often extensive and very expensive. I’ve seen people who had to leave their homes for extended periods while these problems were being remedied.”

Weitz is a principal at RTK Environmental Group, the Northeast’s leading environmental testing company. For more information or to schedule an appointment to have your home tested for mold, click here.


5 Tips to Survive a Basement Flood & Prevent Mold

You don’t have to be a meteorologist to know that this summer, rivers in the Northeast have had their fill, and then some. Unfortunately, road closures and downed trees because of waterlogged soil and flooding are not the only issues. The combination of steady rains and soaked soil have left many basements flooded. Combine that with the hot weather, and suddenly mold rears its ugly head.

When the rain falls at such a rate, the ground cannot handle the volume and rather than being absorbed, water pools near our homes. This causes many of our basements to flood, which can lead to problems very quickly. Damp and wet areas are prime locations for mold growth, which can blossom within 24 hours. Drying out the affected areas as soon as possible is very important.

Here’s what you can do right away:

1. Mop, vacuum, or pump the water from the area. But be careful if the outside soil is saturated – If you pump out the area too fast, the pressure from the exterior water could damage your basement wall or possibly collapse it.

2. Remove all wet materials from the area.

Get the water out quickly.
Get the water out quickly.

3. Dry out residual moisture that is left in the concrete, wood, and other materials. When the rain stops, if you have windows that open to the outside, mount fans in them.

4. Use a dehumidifier and ventilate the area well.

5. Remove carpeting and dry outside, if possible. If you can’t remove the carpeting, remove as much moisture as possible by using a wet vacuum. Then use fans to circulate air both over and preferably under the carpet. The carpet must be dried within 12 to 24 hours, or it will become infested with mold and need to be discarded.

Remove wet items immediately. Use a dehumidifier or fan to help dry out the area.
Remove wet items immediately. Use a dehumidifier or fan to help dry out the area.

If you are unable to take these steps quickly or are unsure as to whether you already have a mold problem, the best thing to do for the health of your family and your home is to call in a professional to conduct a mold test. To learn more about what you can do to prepare for future storms, click here.

Flooding & Water Damage

4 Top Tips for Pre-Storm Preparation

Hurricane season has begun, and Tropical Storm Andrea has already drenched us. With the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) predicting 13-20 named storms (7-11 being major hurricanes), we have a lot to prepare for.

Luckily, there are things homeowners can do to get ready for the storm and protect your home from developing a mold problem after flooding. They may not stop the gale-force winds, heavy rain, and some flooding, but following these tips can lessen the potential damage to your home.

Tip 1: Be sure your gutters and downspouts are free from leaves and debris.

moldy-gutterIt is important to make sure your gutters and outside drains are clean before the storm. Remove any debris from gutters and downspouts, and be sure that they are adequately angled away from the house. Otherwise, water will collect at the edge of the house and leak into the foundation and basement. If you have extensions on your downspouts to direct water away from the foundation, be sure to secure them in place with rocks or stakes. With gale-force winds, they may blow off.


Tip 2: Prepare your basement.

If youMold Testing think you may have flooding, there are several things you can do in advance to prepare. Check basement floor drains to be sure they are not covered. Remove anything from the floor that you do not want to get wet. If you have boxes or any other cellulose materials on the floor, place them on tables or crates to alleviate direct contact with water. Remove items from places water may get in, like below windows.


Tip 3: Be prepared to power your sump pump by an alternative method if you have a power failure.

Sump pumps only work if you have electricity. If you have a generator, make sure it is connected to the sump pump and fueled or charged. If you don’t have a generator, make sure you keep an eye on your basement for flooding. If using a generator, be sure it is well ventilated and DO NOT use indoors.

Tip 4: Anticipate leaks in advance, if you can.

Some of us know that we have trouble spots in our home. Don’t wait until leaks start – prepare now. Check every window in the house to be sure they are closed tight. Place towels and buckets on the floor in the affected areas. If you know a window leaks, secure towels in that area before the rain begins. In heavy rains, you may need to change the towels and empty the buckets several times. Most importantly, once the rain and leaking has stopped, remove the wet towels and buckets from the area immediately, or you risk mold growth, which can grow in as little as 24 – 48 hours.

If you do have flooding in your basement or home, check out this helpful article for tips on what to do right away. And if you think you have a mold problem, the best thing to do for the health of your family and your home is to call in a professional to conduct a mold test.

Flooding & Water Damage Mold

Winter conditions can be ripe for mold growth

If you have to run (and empty) dehumidifiers to fight mold growth in your home all summer long, you probably enjoy having a break from your war on mold when winter comes. Well, we’re sorry to be the bearers of bad news, but winter weather can create mold problems, too. And these situations are often beyond your control.

frozen pipeWhen temperatures dip below freezing, inadequately insulted pipes can burst. If you’ve been reading this blog regularly, you know you have to you clean up the water within 24 hours, otherwise mold will begin to multiply. But the water you see may only be the tip of the iceberg. A burst pipe is likely to spread water through the floors and walls, where it is invisible to the naked eye.

That’s why a company like RTK Environmental Group (the sponsor of this blog) tests not only for mold but also inspects your home for hidden leaks and moisture, which will lead to mold problems down the road. It uses scientific tools to spot hidden moisture in your walls and floorboards, and pinpoint the source.

So how does moisture lead to mold? Every home has airborne mold spores that are too tiny to see. Mold spores need only two elements to take root: moisture and food from a porous material such as carpeting, upholstered furniture, and Sheetrock. After a water pipe bursts, moisture encourages mold spores to form a mold colony. As the colony grows, it releases more mold spores into the air, where it can easily be carried by the gentlest air currents throughout your home.

There are home testing kits to detect mold, but they are often inaccurate, and cannot detect mold or moisture that is not visible to the naked eye. The Environmental Protection Agency suggests professional mold sampling to be sure your home or office has been adequately cleaned or remediated. For more information on how RTK approaches mold inspection, click here. If you’d like to find out if you might need a mold inspection, call 800.393.6468.

Health Mold

Fight Your Mold Allergy With … Food!

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.

Helpful Herbs

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.


Healthy Home Mold

Five Tips to Mold-Proof Your Summer Home This Winter

Before you shut the door to your summer home next week, be sure to take the necessary steps to winterize it so that you don’t open the door next spring to a moldy mess.

1. Get the outside ready. Turn off the water to outside faucets and drain hoses before storing them. You should also close the fireplace flues and dampers to avoid anything unwanted coming down the chimney. Finally, make sure your gutters are clean and downspouts are angled away from your home.

2. Turn off the main water supply. Pipes can freeze and burst during the winter if they are filled with water and the heat is off. So, turn off the main water supply and open all faucets and drain them of water. If you are in a very cold area, you may even want to drain the toilets and water heater. For more information on how to winterize a toilet, click here. To see how to drain a water heater, click here.

3. Set the thermostat. It may seem incongruous to turn on the heat as it is still warm outside, but in a few months when the temperature drops below freezing, a warm house will prevent your pipes from freezing and keep your home dry through the winter. Most experts recommend keeping the thermostat between 55° F and 58° F.

4. Clean out the refrigerator and freezer. Some people choose to empty them completely, and turn off the unit for the season. If you do this, be sure to prop the doors open to prevent mold growth inside. If you decide to leave the fridge on, do not leave anything in it that may spoil if the power goes out. This can be especially dangerous if you leave food in the freezer and lose power for an extended period of time. When the power goes back on, the food will refreeze, and you won’t know that it was defrosted and probably rotted.

5. Clean, clean, clean – and we mean everything! Remove all trash, clean the towels and linens, vacuum, and scrub. It may seem like a burden to clean before you leave, but those little crumbs in the carpet can attract critters and a little bit of mildew in the shower now turn out to be a whole lot of mold later. Make sure your towels and linens are completely dry before you store them.

If you want to be extra cautious, you may want to have a friend or neighbor stop in periodically throughout the season to make sure nothing is awry. Follow these steps and you’ll know that you won’t open the doors to an environmental disaster next season!

Healthy Home Mold

Has Mold Moved Into Your Summer Home?

It’s vacation time, and when you put the key in the door of your beach house or mountain cabin, the last thing you want to smell is the musty odor of mold and mildew, but it happens to owners and renters alike. So what can you do if you walk into a moldy mess?

“The first thing to do is open the windows and get air flowing,” Robert Weitz, Certified Microbial Investigator and principal of RTK Environmental Group says. Weitz said that this is a common problem because many vacation homes sit empty and closed up over the winter months, collecting moisture, as air conditioning or heat has been turned off for the season. “Mold is not picky – it only needs moisture and a food source, such as wood, ceiling tiles, carpet or sheet rock, to begin growing.”

Whether you hire a mold inspector or put up with it will probably depend on whether you are the owner or renter, how long you will be there, and whether you or your vacationers have allergy or breathing issues.

Short-Term Solutions:

–      Keep the windows open as much as possible if it’s dry out;

–      A dehumidifier can also help lessen the moisture in the air;

–      If you decide to turn on the A/C, change the filter first;

–      Wipe off any visible mold on walls, floors and tiles with a bleach/water mixture;

–      Allergy medication may help lessen symptoms;

–      Let the owner know that they have a mold problem;


The Best Solution:

–      Get an independent mold inspection to identify the source;

–      Pinpoint if the mold is toxic or not;

–      Have the mold properly remediated.

Remember, if you are the owner or plan to be there for an extended stay, mold could affect your health causing wheezing, asthma, and allergy symptoms. The home should be tested by a certified microbial investigator, who can then advise you as to the next steps depending on the outcome of the mold testing. Whatever the case, mold can become a big issue quickly, so don’t ignore it!



Health Mold

Mold, Allergies, and Misery — Welcome to Spring


Experts and allergists across the country are predicting that spring of 2012 may be one of the worst allergy seasons in a decade. 
Researchers blame climate change. The mild winter and early spring has allergy sufferers running to the medicine cabinet for relief. But high pollen counts are not the only issue – mold spores are unusually abundant this time of year. Both indoor and outdoor mold can significantly affect allergy sufferers, and can even cause asthma in otherwise healthy individuals.

 What can you do to lessen the amount of mold in your home? Here are a few tips:

  • Clean out your gutters, even if you cleaned them in the fall. Leaves and debris collect all winter, then rot, creating a fertile place for mold to grow – right on the exterior of your home;
  • While you’re at it, remove organic debris from your yard – especially if it is decomposing. Dead branches and leaves are prime growth spots for mold;
  • Clean bathrooms, and especially bathtub and shower areas, window sills and shower curtains with a bleach or disinfectant mixture at least once a month to prevent mold growth;
  • Use an exhaust fan in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms to vent excess moisture;
  • Use a dehumidifier – especially in damp areas of your home. Keep the dehumidifier set at 50% humidity. Any more than that will encourage mold growth;
  • Try to keep your home dry and ventilated;
  • Keep your basement carpet-free to avoid moisture build up and mold growth;
  • Regularly check under sinks and plumbing for leaks. Mold can grow quickly in these areas;
  • Don’t put wet shoes or damp clothing in your closets.  Let them dry fully first to avoid mold growth.

If you are having problems with mold allergies, the best course of action is to have your home tested by a professional to identify the source of the mold and then devise a remediation plan. Then you can truly — breath easy.














Unhealthy Mold and Its Horrid Consequences

Mold causes all sorts of headaches! It’s unsightly. It smells. And it causes allergies and asthma.

Testing by certified microbial investigators is the only way to find out where mold is lurking in your home or business. RTK Environmental Group’s investigators spend hours each day testing homes for mold. What follows are some of the frequently asked questions we get from our clients.

Q: Our home was flooded in the fall, and our plaster walls are now moldy. Do the plaster walls, like gypsum board, need to be ripped out?
Yes. If the plaster is moldy, chances are the wooden studs that support the plaster are moldy as well. Mold growing in the walls, out of sight, is a common occurrence.

Q: I bleached the mold that was growing on my basement walls. Will it still cause respiratory problems?
Without a professional environmental inspection, it’s impossible to tell if all your mold is gone. In most cases, bleaching alone is not enough to stop mold from spreading. Even one spore is enough to contaminate the area again. And a little known fact: Even dead mold spores can cause an allergic reaction, so be sure that the area is well ventilated.

Q. I am a really good housekeeper, yet no matter how hard I clean, I still get mold on my walls. Why?
Mold is everywhere, part of our natural environment. Outdoors, mold is an important part of nature, breaking down dead organic materials. Just look at what happens to fallen leaves; that’s mold at work. But indoors, mold is a huge problem. It doesn’t take much for mold to take hold, particularly if there is excess humidity in the home. Within 24 hours, if an area remains damp or wet, toxic mold can start growing. Mold reproduces by tiny spores, too small for the naked eye to see. And once these spores start floating through the air, they begin to latch on to other surfaces and multiply. Rest assured: Mold grows even in the cleanest homes.

Q. Since mold is everywhere, why should I care?
You have to care about mold, because it can make you and your family sick. The most common affect is an allergic reaction when mold spores are inhaled. Typical reactions include hay fever or asthma, and irritation of the nose, eyes, throat and lungs. Unfortunately, it is impossible to determine how you will be affected by mold until it attacks. And since allergic reactions can happen from both dead and live mold spores, killing mold with bleach is not a solution. It’s important to test for mold for two reasons: To find out where mold is lurking and to discover the type of mold in your home or office. Once you know those two facts, you can hire a remediation firm to remove the mold.

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

Testing vs. Remediation

Why independent environmental testing can save you money

At first blush, it might seem more efficient and economical to hire an environmental testing company that will test for environmental toxins in your home, water and soil – lead, mold, asbestos, radon — and then remove those toxins.