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Asbestos Construction Environment Flooding & Water Damage Healthy Home Insurance Mold Mold Testing Renovation

Don’t Skip the First Step When Renovating a Home: Comprehensive Environmental Testing

Don’t Skip the First Step When Renovating a Home: Comprehensive Environmental Testing

Renovating a home can dramatically improve its comfort and aesthetics, but people often don’t think about what might be lurking behind the walls, ceilings or under the floors. So, it’s crucial to find out if any environmental issues or hazards exist, then address them before renovating begins. Hidden dangers such as the presence of lead, asbestos, and mold can pose significant health risks if disturbed or improperly managed while renovating and after.

The Hidden Dangers of Asbestos in Renovations

Asbestos, a once-common building material known for its durability and fire resistance, can still be found in many homes built before 1980. Commonly used in insulation, walls, floor and ceiling tiles, and fireproofing materials, asbestos is hazardous when disturbed.

Health Effects of Asbestos
If asbestos fibers are released into the air during renovations, they can lead to severe health issues, including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. And while the latency period for these diseases can be extensive, often taking 15–40 years to manifest, it is still crucially important to protect against it.

Conduct an Asbestos Survey
Before any renovation or demolition, conduct an asbestos survey. This survey will determine if materials containing asbestos are present. If so, plan for their safe removal to prevent airborne contamination. Even minor renovations, such as installing a ceiling fan or updating a bathroom, can disturb asbestos and that can have serious implications.

Mold Contamination: A Pervasive Issue

Mold spores are ubiquitous in the environment but become a problem when they find moist conditions conducive for growth. Areas under sinks, behind walls, or beneath floorboards commonly host mold spores. Anywhere there’s moisture the opportunity for mold exists. During renovations, disturbing these areas can spread the spores through HVAC systems, potentially contaminating the entire house.

If you notice musty odors or suspect water damage, it’s critically important to test for mold before proceeding with renovations. Discovering mold early can start the process for professional remediation or DIY removal following strict EPA guidelines, which involve specialized equipment and safety measures to prevent cross-contamination.

The Perils of Lead Found in Older Paint

In homes built before 1978, the presence of lead paint is a common concern. Sanding or cutting into painted surfaces can release lead dust, which is harmful if inhaled or ingested, leading to lead poisoning, causing severe neurological damage, among other health issues.

A speck of lead dust the size of a grain of sand can poison a child. Improper renovations can spread lead dust throughout a home and even outdoors, contaminating the soil near your home as well, which can also leach into your water supply.

Before starting any work, whether it’s a major remodel or a simpler task like hanging a fan, test for lead. If lead is present, follow the EPA Lead Safe work practices as outlined in the Renovation, Repair, and Painting Program (RRP). These practices are crucial to protect your health and prevent the spread of lead dust during renovations.

Expert Insights on Environmental Testing

Robert Weitz, founder of RTK Environmental, emphasizes the importance of environmental inspections before renovations. “We’ve seen so many renovation projects go awry because the homeowner didn’t start with an environmental inspection,” says Weitz. Identifying hazards like mold, lead, and asbestos upfront can prevent costly remediation and help ensure safe indoor air quality throughout the renovation process.

For homeowners planning renovations, taking the time to conduct thorough environmental testing is not just about compliance—it’s about ensuring the health and safety of everyone involved. By identifying and mitigating these risks before they become a problem, you can save on future costs and safeguard your home against potential disasters.


Gardening Health Soil and Water

How to Get the Healthiest Crop From Your Garden


Toxic Soil: Are Your Garden Crops  Safe?

Organic gardening is a wonderful way to bring fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables straight from your garden to your table. To ensure that your produce is perfect, start with a soil test to make sure you are not planting in a toxic terrain.

After taking the necessary painstaking measures to ensure that your garden contains non-GMO seeds, no chemicals and pesticides, and organic compost to enrich and fertilize the soil, your hard work may be fruitless. If you plant your produce in soil that contains lead, arsenic, petroleum, pesticides, these and other toxins will make their way into your harvest – and into your mouth.

Sources of Soil Contamination:

Lead in soil is a very common problem, especially if you live in a pre-1978 built home or in a neighborhood of older homes. How does lead get into your soil? Sanding, prior to painting the exterior of an older home, can spew lead dust through the air. Flaking paint chips can also infiltrate into the soil. Lead dust can also be released through open windows when sanding a home’s interior walls. Even more disturbing, simply opening and closing windowsills that contain lead paint can release lead dust into your home and yard on a daily basis.

Another possible source of contamination is tainted compost. If you use public compost, you may be exposed to dangerous levels of lead and other toxins. Here’s why: When municipalities pick up lawn clippings and organic debris for composting, they don’t test first to see if the clippings and debris are free from contamination.

Flooding may also contaminate soil. Storm surges and flooding from storms and hurricanes, like Sandy and Irene, can spread industrial toxic contaminants to residential areas miles away. The floodwaters from Sandy carried an unthinkable mixture of wastewater, sludge, and toxins into people’s pristine yards, where many of the pollutants remain today.

Effects of Toxic Soil:

The damaging effects of ingesting these toxins – chromium, lead, petroleum, solvents, and many pesticide and herbicide formulations, among others – are extensive. According to Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF), these contaminants can be carcinogenic, and cause disease or other chronic health conditions.

What Can You Do?

The first line of protection for you and your family is to have your soil tested. A certified environmental testing company, like RTK, can tell you if your soil is safe. If the test reveals the levels of lead or other toxins in your soil are too high, several options exist to fix the problem – including soil removal, raising pH levels and adding organic matter, or mixing in new soil. A certified inspector can tell you which may be the best option for your situation.

Click here for more information or to schedule a soil test today.

Gardening Health Lead

Prevent Lead Poisoning: Get Your Home Tested, Get Your Child Tested

Protect Your Children By Following These Preventive Do’s and Don’ts

Spread the Word – National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is October 25th – 31th

lead poisoning prevention week 2020Although lead poisoning is the #1 preventable disease in U.S. children, every year, over 500,000 children between the ages of 1 -5 are diagnosed with lead poisoning. Incredibly, this figure does not include the number of children between the ages of six and eighteen that already suffer from lead poisoning. In addition, many other children have not yet been diagnosed. About 3.6 million American households have children under 6
years of age who live in homes with lead exposure hazards.

Health Lead

Does Your Pediatrician Screen for Lead Poisoning?

Does Your Pediatrician Screen for Lead Poisoning?

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.


Toxins In Toys

Toxins In Toys

’Tis the season to be careful about toy safety — or risk buying toys containing lead contaminants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a holiday alert about the potential lead hazards in toys and products used by children.

Healthy Home Lead

Is Your Artificial Christmas Tree Toxic?

Is Your Artificial Christmas Tree Toxic?

Many people buy artificial Christmas trees to avoid the mess of dropped needles spread throughout their homes. Unfortunately, that pristine artificial tree could be spreading something you can’t see: toxic lead dust.

Most artificial trees are manufactured in China and made from two items: PVC, a petroleum-based plastic, and lead, used to stabilize PVC. The lead in the “greens” breaks down into lead dust, which is released into the air, poisoning everyone, but especially children younger than six.

Many people are unaware of a 2002 study conducted at the University of North Carolina at Asheville that found three out of four artificial trees tested contained lead – that translates to 50 million American households with a PVC-based artificial tree. Most Americans have no idea that there is lead in artificial trees; only California mandates a lead warning label on every box containing an artificial tree. This applies to ornaments and decorations as well.

If you or a loved one has an artificial tree, follow the advice of the researchers at UNC Asheville:

  • Keep children and pets away from the tree; do not allow them to touch it.
  • If you touch the tree, wash your hands thoroughly before touching your face or handling food.
  • Do not vacuum dust from under the tree. Vacuuming could spread invisible, poisonous lead dust through the air. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that a speck of lead dust, as small as a grain of sand, can poison a child.
  • Keep gifts away from the tree, to keep lead dust from coating the wrapping.

What else can you do? Buy a tree Made in America. Check out this article for tips on artificial tree buying.

Lead poisoning can cause irreversible brain and nervous system damage in children, as well as autism-like symptoms, ADD/ADHD, lower IQ scores, violent behavior, and seizures, among other things. If there’s a possibility lead dust is released in your home or on your property, you should have your home tested for lead by an environmental testing company.

Click here  for more information or to schedule an appointment to have your home tested for lead.

Healthy Home Lead

Lead Hazards Surround Us: It Ain’t Just Paint

Lead-based paint is the main reason why 500,000 children under the age of six are still being poisoned by lead annually, but is not the only source of lead that we may be exposed to every day.

lead-testing-new-yorkThe most common source of lead poisoning is lead-based paint, which is still found in most homes built before 1978, the year lead paint was banned. Any renovation or simple wear-and-tear of the paint around windows and doors and on stair treads disturbs the paint, sending lead dust flying through the air. The only way to really protect your children from lead paint poisoning is to have your home tested by a professional environmental testing firm.

That said, there are several other sources of lead in the home and your everyday environment which you need to be aware of:

dangerous plumbingOlder plumbing fixtures

Faucets, lead pipes, and pipes connected with lead solder, in addition to well pumps made with brass or bronze parts that contain lead, can contaminate drinking water. Lead can leach into water at any temperature, but the amount is much greater when the water is warm or hot.


Lead-glazed ceramic ware, pottery and leaded crystal can contaminate food and lead poisoning liquids stored in them, especially for long periods of time.

Artificial turf

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that recent tests by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior toxic artificial turfServices revealed that artificial turf playing fields contain potentially unhealthy levels of lead dust. Artificial turf made of nylon or nylon/polyethylene blend fibers contain potentially dangerous levels of lead. Artificial turf made with only polyethylene fibers contain low levels of lead. This information is important if you have an outdoor carpet made of artificial turf or plan on buying one.

It is also important to keep in mind that even low levels of lead can poison children, pregnant women and their unborn babies, and pets.

Hobbieslead paint warning furniture

Pottery making, working with stained glass, or refinishing furniture can expose you to lead hazards. Try not to work on these hobbies when children are present or if you are pregnant.

Folk medicine

Lead has been found in some traditional folk medicines used by East Indian, Indian, lead poisoningMiddle Eastern, West Asian and Hispanic cultures. Lead is added to these remedies to treat certain ailments, including arthritis, infertility, upset stomach, menstrual cramps and colic. For example, greta and azarcon (also known as alarcon, coral, luiga, maria luisa or ruedo) are traditional Hispanic remedies used to treat upset stomach, constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, and used on the gums of teething babies. Both are fine orange powders that have a lead content as high as 90 percent.

To schedule a home lead test, click here.

Health Lead

Angry? Restless? The cause may surprise you…

lead=poisoning-new-yorkThis may be hard to believe, but bad drivers, holiday returns, and annoying co-workers that get on your last nerve may not be the final straw in pushing you over the edge – it may be that you have lead poisoning.

Adults often downplay the harmful effect of exposing children to lead in the home, especially those adults who grew up in a home or apartment built before 1978, the year lead paint was banned from residential use in the United States. They say: “Look at me. I’m fine. And I grew up when paint always contained lead.”

lead-testingWe hope they are fine, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of lead poisoning often occur with no obvious symptoms, which means lead poisoning frequently goes unrecognized and undiagnosed.

Researchers say that lead, when ingested, attacks every system in the body, with the brain and nervous system the most susceptible. lead-poisoningThe child suffers from loss of IQ, learning disabilities, ADD, ADHA, tendency toward violence, hearing loss, slowed growth, poor muscle coordination, decreased muscle and bone growth, speech and language problems. So consider the kids who grew up in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, who not only lived in a leaded paint world but breathed in fumes from leaded gas.

lead-testAsk yourself: Do you know any adults who can’t sit still or have problems focusing? Do any of your friends or co-workers anger easily? Remember, lead poisoning often is unrecognized and undiagnosed. According to Sherlita Amler, M.D., Commissioner of Health for Westchester County, N.Y.: “The affects of lead poisoning are irreparable and irreversible.” The damage lead poisoning does early in life stays with you forever.

So if people tell you, “Lead paint didn’t hurt me,” look them in the eye and ask them, “Are you sure?



Holiday Toys May Contain Toxic Levels of Lead

Products contain lead

’Tis the season to be careful to avoid buying toys and gifts containing lead contaminants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a holiday alert about the potential lead hazards in toys and products used by children, including jewelry, handbags, makeup, clothing, and even candy.

Possible lead contaminants in toys, according to the CDC include:

  • Paint: Lead was banned in the United States in 1978, on products marketed to lead poisoningchildren (as well as in dishes, cookware, and house paint). Unfortunately, other countries still use lead, so it can be found on imported toys. (P.S.: Lead may also be found on toys made in the United States before the ban, a fact to keep in mind when buying antique toys or tag-sale finds, or when accepting older toys passed down in families.)
  • Plastic: While regulated, the use of lead in plastics has not been banned in the United States. Lead is used to soften and stabilize the plastic, but when the plastic is exposed to sunlight, air, and detergents, the plastic breaks down and may leech lead as dust.

Playing with lead-tainted toys might disturb lead dust, which can be released into the air and onto a child’s hands. Lead can also be lead in costumer jewelryfound in zippers, make-up items, jewelry, keys, wallets, and other products that are marketed to kids.  Since children often put toys – and their fingers– into their mouths, they could be actually eating toxic lead dust.

If you suspect your child has played with a toy or product that contains lead, have the child’s blood tested for lead levels. In addition, since lead dust safe toyscould be disturbed when the child plays with the toy, have your home tested for lead by an environmental testing company. According to the CDC, a speck of lead dust as small as a grain of sand can poison a child.

So remember, it’s buyer beware when you purchase toys and products for your youngsters. You can find a list of all recalled child products, including toys, on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Web site. And for more information on the the dangerous toys for 2013, click here to read the ‘Trouble in Toyland’ 2013 Report from Public Interest Research Group.

Lead Soil and Water

Dangers of Lead Dust Still Being Downplayed, Especially in Soil

Lead poisoning has become a hot topic once again after a new study was released by the journal Environmental Science & Technology showing that children’s levels of exposure outdoors to lead-contaminated airborne dust explains why there are seasonal changes in their blood lead levels. This is true even if lead found in the dust was deposited in the soil years ago.

According to the study, levels of lead in the bloodstream among children living in U.S. cities can rise by more than 10 percent during the summer months, and then decrease during winter and spring.


Additionally, wind, humidity and other weather-related factors increase the amount of lead-contaminated dust in the air during those three months, when children are also more likely to be outside, according to US News & World Report.

Every year, over 500,000 children, under the age of six, in the U.S.A. alone, are diagnosed with lead poisoning. Incredibly, this does not include the number of children between the ages of six and eighteen that already suffer from lead poisoning.

lead-testing-rtk-environmental-new-yorkLead poisoning causes autism-like symptoms, brain damage, lower IQ, ADD, reduced neonatal weight, damage to the nervous system, and behavior and learning problems. Yet the EPA still fails to revise key lead-poisoning hazard standards, according to a USA Today report, in which Howard Mielke, a soil contamination expert at Tulane University’s medical school said the soil standard is too high to protect kids from harm. “It’s outrageous we aren’t acting on what we know,” he said.

The EPA announced its standards for how much lead is dangerous in dust and soil in 2000. Since then, a growing body of research has shown children are significantly harmed when exposed to far lower levels of lead than previously realized, the article stated.


The only way to definitively protect yourself and your family is to have your home and property tested for lead dust. Once spring comes, your children and pets will be playing in that soil, and the effect on their health could be devastating. For more information on lead poisoning and soil contamination, click here. Call RTK today at (800) 392-6468 or click here to book an appointment.