If you hired a restoration firm and paid them to restore your structure and contents, would you expect them to clean strictly for appearance, or should the safety and health of workers and your family be the primary concern?
Given a choice, which would it be: appearance or safety and health?
“Well, the answer’s obvious.” you say, “Of course I’d choose safety and health over appearance any day!”
Exactly; but don’t you think your restoration customers feel the same way?
To actually remove particles, gases and biologicals that create a potentially unhealthy environment, restorers must slow down, use well-maintained equipment and be trained and certified in multiple restoration disciplines.
“But Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) issues are far too complicated for me to grasp,” you say. “I barely can keep up with technical restoration issues.”
I used to feel exactly the same way. That’s until I came to understand that IEQ issues aren’t all that complicated – especially on the prevention side. Let’s summarize the three major categories of contaminants and see if that doesn’t clarify things somewhat for the average restorer.
Environmental contaminants fall into three basic categories:
“Good grief! This is getting a bit complicated,” you say. “Where and when did all this stuff become such a problem?”
Answer: only a few millennia ago when man began living on the face of the earth. Contaminants – really soils –have always been there. It was when man began enclosing himself, and the air he breathes, in increasingly sophisticated shelters (caves to condos) that pollutants became a problem. In fact, the energy conservation movement of the 1970s made the problem worse by eliminating air leaks (drafts) from our homes and businesses. By trapping conditioned air in structures and not exchanging it with fresh air from outside, we also trap contaminants, recirculate them time and again, and eventually, allow them to accumulate in the air we breathe. The result? IEQ problems.
So what do we do about all this IEQ stuff? Well, that’s where restoration professionals come in.
The following are seven guidelines for healthy restoration offered by the U.S. EPA. Look them over and see if they don’t make sense to you.
OK. Specific to the restoration industry, what can restorers do to maintain IEQ?
1. Fire and smoke restorers should ensure that:
2. Water damage restorers, particularly on Category 3 losses, should ensure that:
3. Deodorization and decontamination restorers should ensure that:
Environmentally-friendly and approved products (cleaners, EPA-registered disinfectants) are used;
Cleaning for health must become a priority for true professionals. Indeed, today’s informed consumer should demand more of restorers who service their homes or businesses. Appearance only is no longer an acceptable criterion for evaluating results. When customers call a restoration firm, they should be assured that the safety and health of workers and occupants is the company’s first priority.
After all, it’s not just occupant or worker health, but also the restorer’s reputation that is at stake.
The National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWR) are legally enforceable primary standards and treatment techniques that apply to public water systems. Primary standards and treatment techniques protect public health by limiting the levels of contaminants in drinking water.
Printable version: Complete NPDWR Table
CBS Local — A new study has found a dirty little secret about hand dryers found in many public restrooms. Researchers say the machines, which are designed to blow hot air on you, are actually sucking up feces particles and spraying them onto your hands.
The report, published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, found that air blasted out from the hand drying nozzles contains far more bacteria than normal bathroom air. As many as 60 different bacterial colonies can be blown out of the machines in just one 30-second drying.
“The more air ya move? The more bacteria stick,” the study’s author Peter Setlow told Business Insider. “And there are a lot of bacteria in bathrooms.”
The study examined 36 bathrooms at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, testing each machine during a single drying session. Several of the samples contained staphylococcus aureus, a common bacteria found in the body and sometimes linked to serious infections.
Researchers added that they weren’t sure if dryers are the actual source of bacteria after tests run on the machines found far fewer particles when they were not in use.
“Bacteria in bathrooms will come from feces, which can be aerosolized a bit when toilets, especially lidless toilets, are flushed,” Setlow said, via Yahoo.
Other bathroom studies have theorized that particles are originating from the “toilet plume,” which can spray feces and other germs up to 15 feet in the air during a flush. UConn’s School of Medicine has already begun to trade in the bacteria-spreading dryers for regular paper towels and scientists recommend always closing the lid before flushing any toilet.
Two of the most significant impact items on environmental health today are new products and tighter building envelopes.
For a great example of what can happen in every day indoor air, review the MSDS for your favorite air freshener. It will be a page long list of organic chemicals that are plugged into an outlet and heated. The heat breaks down those chemicals into more chemicals.
We also deal with leftover chemicals from prior occupants of a building. These can range from the accidental spill to left over contamination from drug activity in a home. The source of indoor pollution can be spills, burying of toxic materials or pesticide on farmland that happened decades before the building was constructed.
There are also a host of toxins produced from poorly vented or unvented furnaces, hot water tanks or other fossil fueled appliances.
Another major potential impact on indoor health is EMF (electromagnetic radiation). Cell phones, electronic devices and microwave devices in everything from cooking to communication systems may affect our heath.
The Bottom Line in Environmental Assessments
The solution to Sick Building Syndrome is a process. It begins with a history of the building, its occupants and the very ground the building sets on. The former site of an old dump or factory could be a plan of multi-million-dollar homes today.
The next step is evaluating the construction materials and methods of the building with consideration of materials that may have been brought into the building envelope.
In the case of possible communicable biological contagions in the building, those need identified and the exposure risks and methods of transmission evaluated and included in the testing and remediation plan.
All these steps are critical to developing a plan to correct the contamination if possible. In some cases, the best advice for an individual would be to avoid a building, but a medical practitioner needs the information provided n the assessment to make that recommendation.
The final steps in the process are to remediate when possible and test the building when work is complete to assure success of the process.
In summary, investigate, discover, verify by testing, remediate and confirm success of remediation or disinfection work to provide a healthy environment for building occupants.
The place to start on the path to a healthy home is looking at changes you may have recently made. How moisture and air move through your home can be affected by changes in furnace systems, windows, doors or insulation. Building additions and interior french drains can also change the nature of the indoor environment. If you had any of those changes to your home, you need to have a second look at the indoor environment.
Furnaces need checked by a qualified, expert furnace service professional or home inspector each heating season.
When a mid-range efficiency furnace is installed that uses interior air as combustion air, gas hot water tank and gas dryer vent gases can be pulled back into the home from those venting appliances.
Gas hot water tanks are another common source of indoor environmental issues.
This is particularly true in cold weather. Oversized chimneys will not properly vent when cold. When a high efficiency furnace is installed, the hot water tank usually needs to be connected to a flue liner, which is a smaller vent. In as many as 20% of the new furnace installations that I have inspected, that change was not made. The reason is that the liner needs installed from the roof and costs time and money. Not installing that system makes it possible to give a lower bid on a furnace installation job. The true cost of that omission of the liner is flue gases staying in the home and presenting a health risk to the occupants of the building.
Stored materials are often a hazard.
We often bring stored toxins into the home. The can of gasoline, the pesticide for your yard, the damp and moldy furniture cushions and the super-duper cleaners all make their way into the building envelope for storage in winter.
The simple recommendation is to not store any chemicals in the home, particularly when someone sensitive to these products lives there. An outside storage shed is one solution. Properly disposing of the products is another solution.
When cold weather comes, pests and other animals think of your home as a safe and warm place to live.
Mice, rats, birds, bats and squirrels are some of the animals found in homes. I have also found ground hogs and shrews in homes. When animals pick your home as there winter retreat, your home becomes their bathroom. If they pass away, it can also become their mausoleum. The result is odor and contaminants that can make a home smell bad and unhealthy.
The bottom line is that we are going to close our homes, schools and workplaces tight as a drum to save energy and stay warm. If you have the symptoms of sick building syndrome or notice an odor, look around for a problem. If you can’t find the cause, call a professional to help you. Good health is a precious gift that we do not want to squander.
Contact Envirospect.com to find a qualified home inspector near you.
Imagine that winter’s approach is just another country music song. The song goes like this: “The temperature drops, the windows close, doors slam shut and all I got were those yucky, wheezy winter blues”. The indoor environment can become a problem in winter.
There’s a very good reason that this happens. Closing up the house really is a big part of it all. The winter induced end of fresh air coming into your home is what concentrates the contaminants that can make you ill.
The old time environmental experts explained that “the solution to pollution is dilution”. Sounds hokey, but it is a simple principal. That process of dilution in summer is that if there is a contaminant or odor in the home, the fresh air will disperse and dilute it.
Another factor that effects indoor air quality in winter is that the operation of heating systems elevates and spreads airborne contaminants. Most people think of heating systems as spreading heat through the home. Today, we need to think about heating systems as distributing mold, allergens, formaldehyde, sewer gas and whatever else is in the building. Even hot water heat systems create convection to distribute the contaminants.
If you are wondering whether we are talking about your home, you will have hints that there is something wrong when you have environmental problems. Our bodies try to protect us by issuing those warnings. If something does not taste good, smell good or feel good, it is usually not good for us. Many times, our pets react to toxins before we do and give us the “heads up” that there is a problem. We should pay attention to the warnings.
Signs of an environmental problem in your home, school or workplace can include:
By the way, not everyone in a home may notice the symptoms. That does not mean that there is not a problem. What it means is we are each different in our genetic makeup, current health and health history and the sum of all the exposures you receive in each of the places you spend time. As an example, some children can have severe reactions to peanuts. Most kids could live on PB&J. That is just “how it is.” We are each different in how we react to exposures.
With a little knowledge and preparation, you can have a healthier and safer household this winter.
Give us a call to perform and environmental assessment and testing as needed. 724 443 6653 www.envirospect.com
Daylight Savings Time begins Sunday, November 5, 2017. As you prepare to set your clocks back one hour, remember to check the batteries in your carbon monoxide (CO) detector. If you don’t have a battery-powered or battery back-up CO alarm, now is a great time to buy one. More than 400 people die each year in the United States from unintentional, non-fire related CO poisoning.
CO is found in fumes produced by furnaces, vehicles, portable generators, stoves, lanterns, gas ranges, or burning charcoal or wood. CO from these sources can build up in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces. People and animals in these spaces can be poisoned and can die from breathing CO.
When power outages occur during emergencies such as hurricanes or winter storms, the use of alternative sources of power for heating, cooling, or cooking can cause CO to build up in a home, garage, or camper and to poison the people and animals inside.
Prepare for daylight savings time by installing a battery-operated or battery back-up CO detector in your home or by checking the batteries, if you already have one, as you set your clocks back one hour.
You Can Prevent Carbon Monoxide Exposure
CO poisoning is entirely preventable. You can protect yourself and your family by acting wisely in case of a power outage and learning the symptoms of CO poisoning.
Click here for important CO poisoning prevention tips in 16 additional languages.
For more information, please visit CDC’s CO Poisoning website.
Allergies are all about your immune system. The job of your immune system is to protect you from germs such as bacteria and viruses. But if you have an allergy, your immune system will also defend your body against a harmless substance -- such as cat dander or dust mites -- that you encounter.
When you come across an allergy trigger, your body makes molecules called IgE antibodies. These trigger a series of reactions that can cause swelling, runny nose, and sneezing.
In people with allergic asthma, the muscles around their airways begin to tighten. The airways themselves also become inflamed and flooded with mucus.
The symptoms of allergic asthma are generally the same as those of non-allergic asthma. They include:
Allergens you inhale are some of the most likely to worsen your allergic asthma.
People may also have allergic reactions if they touch or eat allergens. This type of exposure rarely causes asthma symptoms, but it can cause a serious and even life-threatening reaction, such as anaphylactic shock, which makes it hard to breathe.
Irritants can also trigger an asthma attack, even though they don't cause an allergic reaction.
Your doctor might recommend allergy tests to figure out what allergens affect you. These tests usually involve pricking your skin with a tiny amount of the suspected allergen or injecting it under your skin. Your doctor then checks your skin for a reaction.
If a skin test isn't possible, you might get a blood test instead.
When pollen counts are high, stay inside as much as possible. Keep the windows closed. If you have an air conditioner, use it to filter the air.
To keep dust mites out, wrap your pillows, mattress, and box springs in allergen-proof covers. Wash your sheets once a week in hot water.
Get rid of items where dust can gather, such as on heavy curtains or piles of clothing. If your child has allergic asthma, only buy washable stuffed animals. Remove wall-to-wall carpeting, if possible.
If moisture is a problem in your home, get a dehumidifier to cut down on mold. Repair any plumbing leaks.
If you have pets, keep them out of the bedroom.
Keep your kitchen and bathroom very clean to avoid mold and cockroaches.
Be careful doing outside work. Gardening and raking can stir up pollen and mold.
Bronchodilators, which relax the muscles around the airways, allow you to breathe easier. These drugs are often used to stop asthma symptoms after they've started. Sometimes, you use them daily to help control your asthma.
Anti-inflammatory drugs, which ease swelling, are used for long-term control of asthma.
Other medications can prevent your airways from tightening or block the release of chemicals that trigger the allergic reaction.
Allergy shots or tablets can train your immune system to stop overreacting to specific allergens.
Our Note This is a sad story of mold exposure, ruined health and financial devastation and a dream of home ownership torn away for a family. The missing part of the story is that regular home inspections do not include environmental issues. Firms like Envirospect? do the kind of environmental assessments that can protect consumers from these problems.
Back in 2009, Deborah Rumberger saw homeownership
as the key to providing stability for her two young daughters, then 13
and 7. A few days before Halloween that year, after months of house
hunting, she found the one: a 100-year-old Victorian home in Helena,
It wasn't easy. For starters, her budget didn't allow for
a ton of options within a safe neighborhood. "And I just wasn't
interested in a lot of the homes I could
afford," she says. It's why she initially thought the two-story
property she would later purchase for $173,500 was too good to be true —
but she pushed her doubts to the back of her mind and bought it anyway.
first night, after an exhausting day of unpacking, she tucked her kids
into bed and crawled under the sheets. Instead of sleep, however, "I got
so sick I thought I was going to die," Rumberger recalls. Her heart
started pounding and her mouth went dry. All night long, she kept
wanting to get up, but she felt so stiff she was barely able to move.
The next morning, a thought made her go white: There's something wrong with this house.
That same day, Rumberger started calling everyone she
could think of to try to get out of her mortgage: the realtors, the
bank, the title company, everyone. "Nobody cared," she says. "They
chalked it up to buyer's remorse or stress from moving."
By the end of November, after about 30 days in her new home,
Rumberger was constantly exhausted — more than the usual fatigue that
comes with working and raising two children. One night her chest hurt so
badly that she went to the emergency room, convinced she was having a
heart attack. Another time she rushed herself to the hospital when her
limbs went completely numb. By January, she noticed troublesome changes
in her daughters, too. Her eldest was acting depressed, complaining of
an itchy scalp and had frequent nose bleeds. Her youngest had sinus
problems for the first time in her life, along with acid reflux and
Terrified over what was happening to her
family, and convinced her house was the problem, Rumberger continued
contacting her realtor, her bank, her title company, her inspector and
her doctors. Finally, that spring, she found help in a neighbor named
Clara Holliday. Holliday introduced her to the homeowner who lived in
the house before the family that sold it to Rumberger — and that's when she learned about the home's 20-year history with flooding and mold.
Rumberger learned through this previous homeowner
that the second-floor plumbing had once been re-routed through the
attic. The problem was the attic wasn't heated, which can lead to frozen
pipes. Frozen pipes can crack and leak when they expand in warmer
weather, which Rumberger suspects happened during a particularly bad
winter in 1989, when no one was residing in the home.
Pantazes, co-founder of EFynch, a handyman community in Baltimore, says
he's seen basements result in mold just days after a significant
flooding. Rumberger, however, was living in the home 20 years after unresolved flood damage.
The old homeowner urged Rumberger to search her home for mold, starting with the tub in her bathroom.
didn't have to search long. "I peeled back the plastic lining and it
was filled with mold," she says. Next, she pulled down nearby drywall
and tore up part of the carpet. Everything was covered in toxic black
"At first, I felt relief and thought 'aha!' I knew
something was going on," she says. "But at the time, I still didn't
understand how damaging and dangerous toxic mold is."
Dr. Ann Shippy, a Texas-based physician and author of Mold Toxicity Workbook: Assess Your Environment & Create a Recovery Plan, says
every one of Rumberger's symptoms — fatigue, weakness, headaches,
morning stiffness and joint pain — is textbook mold toxicity. "Mold
produces chemicals, like microtoxins and microbial volatile organic
compounds that have seriously dangerous side effects," she explains. "A
lot of people think you're only affected by mold spores if you're
allergic to them, but mold makes chemicals that build up in your body."
This is why Rumberger's two daughters didn't feel sick until a couple of
months after the move — it sometimes takes time to notice the symptoms
of mold toxicity.
After discovering the mold in her bathroom, Rumberger
convinced a home inspector to come over that very same day. A moisture
mirror, which helps identify mold behind the walls, showed evidence of
growth all over the house. Her homeowner's insurance didn't cover prior
mold or water damage, so she was looking at an $80,000 price tag to
remediate her home from top to bottom. "When I heard that, I knew it
wasn't a possibility," she says.
She wasn't ready to give up on
her dream house, so Rumberger decided to do the remediation on her own.
She rented a negative air pressure machine (which draws the mold spores
out of the house), along with suits, goggles and other supplies for a
total of $500.
But once she got to work, stirring up the mold
made the family's symptoms even worse. By June, they started camping in
the backyard, only going inside to use the restroom. "By July I couldn't
even go inside the house, because it felt like there were so many
spores that they would attack anything moist, including us," she says.
to Dr. Shippy, she's right: "When you open up a wall with mold, you
send a lot of a very powerful chemicals into the air that you breathe
into your lungs, so they go straight into circulation." Just like
doctors have found one of the most effective ways to get medication into
someone quickly is though the lungs (verses digestion, which filters
through the liver first), this makes these chemicals in the air even
Camping lasted a month, until they got rained out. With no nearby
family to turn to, they moved into the local YMCA. They'd spend the next
year sleeping in cheap motels, at her co-worker's house and late,
renting two bedrooms over a garage before finally ending up in the
apartment where they live today.
In June 2010, around the same time Rumberger was
forced to move her family into their backyard, she decided to take legal
action. "I held off for a while, because I thought 'we don't want to do
litigation, we can fix this,'" she remembers. But, financially, she
didn't see any other way out.
Rumberger filed against four parties
she believes knew about the mold before the sale. "It took almost six
years, I had five or six lawyers during that time and it was almost as
hard as the mold exposer," she says. Even though they settled to the
mutual satisfaction of all parties, Rumberger doesn't think she'd do it
"We were able to get out of debt, but let's just say we're
still tenants and our lifestyle didn't change much," she says. The only
positives Rumberger saw from the settlement was being able to afford
some much-needed medical treatment and finally being able to put this
experience behind her once and for all.
Then, in December 2010, Rumberger also convinced her bank to suspend
the mortgage payments she still owed and sold the house (with full
disclosure about the mold), ultimately incurring an almost $80,000 loss —
about the same amount as the initial remediation estimate, but with a
lot more headaches.
The new owners finished
remediating the mold, completely rebuilt the interior and turned it into
a three-unit rental, which Rumberger still drives by today. "For the
longest time, we'd just avoid that road and wouldn't drive down it," she
says. But now, on occasion, she gets the urge to see the house in which
she thought she'd grow old.
As for Rumberger and her daughters,
they still live in the same apartment they moved into a year after
fleeing their Victorian dream home. They've been renting it for more
than five years and, even if it was financially feasible, Rumberger
doesn't see herself buying again. "We lost a lot of years of our lives
and still have some health issues," she says. "But it's just one of
those things we have to come to terms with and move beyond."
Pantazes says if an inspector doesn't see mold with their own eyes,
they don't have to disclose it. But that doesn't mean potential buyers
can't look for their own clues, such as patches in the walls,
discoloration, walls that bow and bend and just general poor home
maintenance. "Little signs will show you if the owner is a person who
took care of their home," he says.
Another thing Rumberger says
shouldn't be underestimated: your gut. "My older daughter didn't have a
great feeling about the house, but we just shook it off." Today, she
wishes she listened to her daughter's instincts, which might have spared
them the entire ordeal. "Our American Dream became a nightmare, but the
biggest lesson I learned is when to hold up, when to fold up and when
to run away."