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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.

 

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Asbestos Healthy Home Lead

Renovate Right: Top 3 Tips for DIYers

Renovation Advice: Top 3 Tips for DIYers

Eager to get moving on home improvements? 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:

Tip #1: Know what potential toxins you will disturb before you begin. Test.

pre-renovation testingMold 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 an independent inspector test for lead and asbestos. 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 – the year lead paint was banned. 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).

Tip #2: Take proper precautions.

asbestos hazard

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, pregnant women, 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, which filters 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.

asbestos demolitionClean 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.

Tip #3: Protect your family from unnecessary health risks.

asbestos testing near meWhen 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.

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Asbestos

What You Need to Know about Renovation Work and Asbestos

What You Need to Know about Renovation Work and Asbestos

Do-it-yourself renovations have become commonplace. Unfortunately, many DIYers are unaware of the danger that lurks if asbestos is present and disturbed. Asbestos has been used in the construction of walls, ceilings and floors (mostly for fireproofing), and often serves as insulation for pipes.

test-before -you-renovate-asbestos

If asbestos is left undisturbed, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that it is generally safe. But when it is disturbed during renovation or if it is crumbling from age, dangerous particles are released into the air, breathed in, and can settle into your respiratory system. Exposure to this dangerous material can cause serious respiratory diseases and cancer, including mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.

Because of these health risks, federal and state agencies have developed very strict rules for asbestos removal. Construction workers must receive specialized training to learn safe asbestos removal techniques. If they find deteriorating asbestos that needs to be removed, then you’ll need to hire a reputable contractor who has the appropriate qualifications and licensing for asbestos removal.  So your first step, when considering renovation work, should be to hire an independent testing company to test for asbestos.

Categories
Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Lead

Do-it-yourself renovations: Handle with care

In our last post, we discussed steps homeowners should take when hiring a contractor to remodel their pre-1978 built home. But what if you are doing the work yourself, even a simple painting job in an older home?

Don’t risk your family’s health. Have your home tested for lead by an environmental testing company. You need to know if you’ll be disturbing old layers of lead paint so you can take appropriate steps to keep your family safe.

If remnants of lead paint are found, follow these precautions:

Evacute vulnerable family members. While you are working, be sure children younger than seven, pregnant women and pets leave for the day. Even a speck of lead dust can cause irreversible damage to them. They can return to the house after the work has stopped and the area is thoroughly cleaned.

Contain the area. Close the doors leading to the work area. Then use 4-6 mil plastic sheeting and painter’s tape to seal off the area, even over the doors. Seal all duct work in the area with the plastic sheeting and painter’s tape. Your goal is to prevent lead dust from contaminating the rest of your house.

Dress for success. Look for a mask or respirator with a N95 rating or higher, which filters 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. And 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 250,000 pediatric lead poisoning cases a year. Sanding releases fine lead dust particles, which fly through your air, infiltrating your house. Unfortunately, they stay in the air for a long time. Therefore, sand as little as possible.

Time to clean. First, sweep up as much of the dust and debris as you can and put it into a plastic bag, which you then 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, have another lead test performed by a professional testing company. Click here for more information or to schedule a lead test.

 

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Lead

DANGER! What’s Coming In Your Open Windows?

As the weather gets warmer, we like to open our windows to let in the fresh air. Problem is, that air is not as fresh as you think. What you may not realize is if you live in a house constructed before 1978, simply opening a window could result in the release of toxic lead dust. Where does the dust come from? Paint that’s cracking. And the simple act of opening or closing the window grinds the paint (we’re talking about lead-based paint that was prevalent pre-1978) into powder, thus releasing lead dust in and around the window.

How is this harmful? Duke University researchers studying Connecticut school children discovered that those who had ingested even the smallest amounts of lead or lead dust years earlier did worse on fourth grade reading and math tests than children who had never been exposed at all. Furthermore, the study demonstrated that even levels of lead below the legal limit could have a detrimental effect on child development. Children with low-level exposure (below what has been established as “dangerous”) had lower scores than those with no exposure at all.

Lead paint was banned by the federal government in 1978, effectively lowering the percentage of children with high levels of lead in their blood from 88% in the 1970’s to 1.6% in 2005. Even so, it only takes a speck of lead dust the size of a grain of sand to poison a child, or a pet, or a pregnant woman, according to the Center for Disease Control.

What Can I Do?

1. Replace the old, original, lead painted windows in your house, which will eliminate a main source of lead dust, and in turn limit exposure to lead dust, thus significantly lowering the risk of lead poisoning.

2. If you suspect your house might contain lead paint, have your house tested for lead. If it is determined that your house is, in fact, contaminated, be sure to eradicate the source of lead dust.

3. Have your family tested for lead poisoning. A simple blood test can determine your level of exposure and indicate the level of treatment necessary.

These few easy steps can ensure that your home is a safe environment.