Why It’s Important to Check For Mold in the Spring
Here’s How Mold Can Affect Allergies, Health, and Your Home
April showers may very well bring May flowers, but spring’s warmer temperatures and wet weather can certainly dampen one’s health.
April showers may very well bring May flowers, but spring’s warmer temperatures and wet weather can certainly dampen one’s health.
It’s mold weather. Hmm? Yes, mold weather. The combination of heat, high humidity, and storms will invite mold to rear its ugly head. It may seem innocent, but it can cause major damage to your health and home. Here’s why you need to pay attention to mold:
All mold—whether it is toxic or not — causes health issues, including allergic reactions, sneezing, runny, itchy eyes, red nose, and skin rashes. Mold can also cause asthma attacks and can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs.
Mold can destroy the things it grows on – including your home’s walls, floors, carpeting, and furnishings. Often times, mold grows behind drywall, under carpets, and under floorboards. This is dangerous because by the time you find out it’s there; you usually have a major problem. In extreme cases, mold can grow to the extent that the home cannot be remediated, and needs to be knocked down. The key is to control moisture in your home and eliminate mold growth before it takes over.
The most important thing you can do is to control moisture levels in your home. If water enters your home, take immediate steps to get rid of it. Remove anything that gets wet. Use vacuums and fans to rid surfaces of any residual moisture.
Another preventative measure is managing the water runoff from your house. If the water pouring off your roof has nowhere to drain, it can and will find its way into your home. Keep your gutters and downspouts debris-free. Also, make sure that your downspouts are adequately angled away from the house. Otherwise, water will collect at the edge of the house and leak into the foundation and basement.
Once an area is dry, test for mold, especially if you smell a musty odor. Since do-it-yourself mold tests are often inaccurate, your best bet is to call in an independent, certified microbial mold inspector.
Make sure the company you hire to test does not also do remediation. An independent, certified testing-only service has no incentive to magnify the problem and increase profits through remediation services. They won’t bait you with “free testing”, and have nothing to gain financially by inventing problems in your home or business, therefore can potentially save you thousands on unnecessary repairs. Click here for more information.
The Environmental Protection Agency offers a free download, Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture and Your Home. Check it out HERE.
Q. I have black mold growing up the walls in my basement. Can I remove mold myself? – Nancy K., White Plains, NY
A. First, it’s important to keep in mind that mold — in any form — can be harmful to your health.
So all of your mold must be removed. There lies the problem: The mold growing on your walls is easy to see, but most of the mold growing in homes is hidden. The only way to pinpoint where it is lurking is with mold testing. (In our next blog post, we will discuss do-it-yourself mold testing kits vs. professional mold testing.) So yes, may be able to remove visible mold, but without professional testing, you won’t know how serious the problem really is.
You failed to mention whether your basement walls are cement or Sheetrock. If the mold is on Sheetrock, it is impossible to remove it. The moldy areas must be cut out, removed, and the walls must be replaced. And, if the moldy area is more than about 10 square feet (less than roughly a 3 ft. by 3 ft. patch), the EPA recommends professional mold remediation.
Before removing black mold from a cement wall, dampen the moldy area well with a rag and plain water. This will keep the mold spores from disbursing through the air. Then scrub the area thoroughly with a scrub brush and non-ammonia soap or detergent to remove as much of the mold as possible.
Next comes the all-important bleach wash, which will remove any leftover mold, in addition to stopping future mold growth. In a pail, add 1½ cups bleach to 1 gallon of water. Wet the surface well with this mixture, letting it soak in for about 15 minutes. Scrub the area with the scrub brush. Then rinse well with clean, clear water. Repeat these two steps until all visible mold is gone. Next, use a fan and/or dehumidifier to dry the area well. If you leave any moisture behind, you are leaving your wall open to mold growth.
And finally, remove your work clothes in the basement, place them in a plastic bag, and head to your washing machine. The clothes will be coated with mold spores, and the last thing you want to do is track those spores throughout your house. Add ¾ cup white vinegar to your wash water to kill the mold on your clothes.
If you suspect you have mold in your home, call RTK Environmental Group at 800.392.6468 for information about mold testing or to schedule a test of your home.
So, you’re heading to the beach as summer season begins. The thought is delicious! But don’t be surprised if you’re greeted by a musty odor after you walk into what you had hoped would be your home away from home. Mildew! Mold! Whether you are at the Jersey Shore or the Hamptons, there’s an excellent chance that the home you’re renting or own has been flooded during a hurricane, been exposed to excess moisture and humidity, or has had a leak. Now, your nose is getting a strong whiff of the result. So what can you do?
“The first thing to do is open the windows and get air to circulate,” advises Robert Weitz, Certified Microbial Investigator and principal of RTK Environmental Group. Weitz says this is a common problem, as many vacation homes sit empty and closed up over the winter months, collecting moisture, especially since 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. The house next door may be fine, and yours may be a serious health hazard.” The important thing is to have your home tested right away so the problem can be fixed, your health is not compromised, and your summer is not ruined.
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.
– Keep the windows open as much as possible if the weather is dry;
– Use a dehumidifier to reduce moisture;
– Change the filter in the air conditioner before you turn it on;
– Wipe off any visible mold on walls, floors and tiles with a bleach/water mixture;
– Use allergy medication to help lessen symptoms;
– Let the landlord know there’s a mold problem.
– Get an independent mold inspection to identify the source;
– Ask that the inspector pinpoint if the mold is toxic or not;
– Have the mold properly remediated.
Remember, if you own the house 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. In New York, it is illegal for the same company to test and remediate on the same job. Whatever the case, mold can become a big issue quickly, so don’t ignore it!
Ever wonder why you may get ice dams in the winter, which lead to leaks, flooding and mold?
Probably because you didn’t take the time to properly clean your gutters and downspouts from leaves and debris in the fall.
Robert Weitz, certified microbial investigator and principal of RTK Environmental Group, explains what you can do now to prevent ice dams and mold later.
This is the time of year many of us DIYers are eager to get moving on home improvements. But before you start sanding and swinging that hammer, there are a few important things to think about:
What type of surfaces and materials will you be disturbing? Is there chipping paint? Crumbling pipe insulation? Smell of mildew?
If any or all of the above, you’ll need to take some precautions. Why? You may be subjecting yourself and your family to possible health risks, caused by the very particles you’ve disturbed. So, renovate the right way. Here’s how:
Mold that you cannot see may be lurking behind your walls. Pipe insulation may contain asbestos fibers. Layers of old paint beneath more recent paint may contain lead. When you disturb these materials, dust and spores from these toxic materials may be released in the air. Then, they may travel through your home’s HVAC system. Once that happens, you’ve contaminated your indoor environment. So, BEFORE you start the project, have a certified microbial inspector do some tests. If you wait until after you’ve disturbed these materials and discover that you have released toxins in the process, the clean up can be very expensive. Worst of all, you may have subjected yourself and your family to real health hazards.
So, Step One: call in an environmental testing company to have your home tested, especially if you live in a pre-1978 built home. If the test reveals toxic lead remnants, be sure you follow lead safe work practices, or hire a contractor certified in lead-safe work practices under the Renovation, Repair, and Paint rule (RRP).
If a test confirms environmental hazards, take appropriate steps to keep yourself and your family safe. Follow these precautions:
– Evacuate vulnerable family members. While you are working, be sure children, pregnantwomen, and pets leave the premises for the day. They can return to the house after the work has stopped and the area is thoroughly cleaned. Even a speck of lead dust can cause irreversible damage to one’s health.
– Contain the offending area. Close doors leading to the work area. Then use 4-6 mil plastic sheeting and painter’s tape to seal off the work area. Seal all duct work, doors leading out, and windows with the sheeting. Your goal is to prevent toxins from contaminating the rest of the house.
– Dress for the occasion. Look for a mask or respirator with an N95 rating or higher, whichfilters out very fine particles. And be sure you wear it for the entire time you are working and cleaning. Also, buy a Tyvek suit to protect your clothes. If the work takes more than a day, leave the Tyvek suit in the contained area. Be sure to cover your feet with booties, which also should never leave the contained area. Once you remove the Tyvek suit and the booties, head to your washing machine, strip, and wash your clothes.
– Avoid sanding. Lead dust accounts for most of the 500,000 pediatric lead-poisoning cases a year. Sanding releases fine lead dust particles, which fly through your air, infiltrating the entire house. Unfortunately, these particles remain in the home for a long time. Therefore, sand as little as possible.
– Clean up well. First, sweep up as much of the dust and debris as you can and put it into a plastic bag, which you then should seal with painter’s tape. Use a HEPA vacuum to remove any remaining lead dust particles. Then use warm water and clean rags to wash all surfaces. Every exposed surface must be cleaned well.
When the work is done, be sure to have a second environmental inspection performed by a certified testing company to be sure your home has been properly cleaned from lead, asbestos, mold, and other toxins. Otherwise, the health affects can be devastating.
Lead poisoning is shown to cause autism-like symptoms, ADHD, brain damage, lower IQ, and a host of other physical and mental issues. Mold causes asthma, allergies, and other serious respiratory ailments. Asbestos is a carcinogen that can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis and other serious respiratory ailments. Most asbestos-related diseases don’t arise until years after exposure.
Make sure your home is safe for you and your family. Test today.
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.
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.
That’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.
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.
Is it ok to use a do-it-yourself mold testing kit? Are home testing kits for mold reliable? Will a home testing kit ensure the health of my family? We get questions like these all the time. The answer is simple – no.
There are offers for home mold testing kits everywhere, from your hardware store to the internet. Each guarantees you will be able to determine if there is mold in your home. But before you invest in one of these kits, there are some important facts to keep in mind.
Mold is everywhere, and actually plays an important part in our ecological system. For example, if it weren’t for mold, fallen leaves would not break down, with the result being mountainous piles of leaves everywhere.
Home mold kits are basically science experiments that tell you if your home has mold. All homes have some level of mold. What you need to know is:
– The type of mold present in your home;
– Where the mold is located;
– The source of the moisture in your home; and
– What can be done to rid your home of mold.
DIY-mold testing kits do not reveal this information. You need a professional mold test, conducted by a certified microbial investigator (CMI), to accurately report these important facts.
Home mold testing kits use “settle plate applications.” You set the provided dish out for a specific period of time, usually 24 to 48 hours, and the spores are supposed to fall into the dish. Unfortunately, false negatives and false positives are common with home mold tests. Additionally, even if the test discovers you have mold, it does not identify the type of mold, and whether it is toxic or not. To find out this important information, you have to send the dish of collected samples back to the company who distributes the testing kit, of course at an additional cost.
The results come back, and in most cases, they are unreadable. Instead of saying you have black mold or that you need black mold remediation, it will, for example, give the scientific term, “stachybotrys.” It’s up to you to find out what type of mold this is, and whether you need mold removal or remediation.
Sometimes you can see mold growing. In most cases, you cannot. It’s hiding behind your walls, in your ceiling, or under your carpets. Home test kits will not tell you where it is, so without your knowledge, mold is still spreading out of sight.
A CMI’s report is accurate and precise. The investigators test for mold with sophisticated tools, including infra-red equipment, borescopes (to view inaccessible areas), moisture meters and hygrometers (to measure moisture content).
It’s important to hire a professional environmental testing company that only conducts testing, not mold remediation or mold removal, so you are assured of an accurate and unbiased assessment. A CMI’s inspection will:
Click here or call 800.392.6468 to contact RTK Environmental Group and set up a mold inspection.
Infants who live in homes with mold are three times more likely to develop asthma by age 7. Horrid news, especially since most homes in the Northeast contain some type of mold.
The alarming statistic about infants comes from a study conducted at the University of Cincinnati published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Researchers analyzed seven years of data gathered on 176 children enrolled in the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study (CCAAPS).
Eighteen percent of children in CCAAPS were asthmatic by age 7, a staggering statistic since current estimates say only 9 percent of school-age children in the United States will develop asthma.
In light of the study, if expectant or new parents suspect there is mold in their homes, it would be prudent to have their home tested immediately. In addition, there are some actions we can all take to make our homes healthier places.