Environmental Issue & Sick Building Syndrome Blog

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:

  1. Particles – The human lungs cilia can trap particles down to about 10 microns in size. Smoke particles (0.1-4 microns) can penetrate deeply into delicate lung tissues where they can have a cumulative adverse effect over time. In our industry, particle contaminant also can include: asbestos (from deteriorating insulation or building materials during demolition), lead (lead-based paint), fire contaminants, biologicals (fungi and bacteria associated with aerosolized Category 3 water or prolonged drying), or just plain old household pollen, dust and dirt.
  2. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs or gases) – Anything from exhaust emissions, to dry-solvent vapors, to radon – all fall in this category. Interestingly, many restoration chemicals used to be significant contributors here because of their VOC content. But responsible product formulators have largely solved this problem.
  3. Microbiologicals (micro = microscopic, bio = life) – Here we’re talking about all those smelly substances resulting from living things growing and decomposing soils, and even building materials themselves. It includes the dreaded “black, toxic, killer molds” that are such a hot topic in the media today despite the fact that color is irrelevant; molds are “toxigenic” rather than toxic, and no normal person dies from household mold exposure. It includes water borne bacteria that are found everywhere and, given proper growth conditions, are waiting to amplify and decompose organic soils and materials.

“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.

  1. Provide for the safety of all human beings before, during and after cleaning. OSHA regulations lay out specific requirements for safety compliance. Problem is, too many cleaning firms ignore these requirements, and regulators seldom check.
  2. Clean for health first and for appearance second. Fortunately when you clean for health, you also get outstanding appearance. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that better appearance produces a healthy environment.
  3. Maximize the extraction of pollutants from the building. The World Health Organization’s definition of cleaning includes: “locating, identifying, containing, removing and properly disposing of soils and pollutants.” Professional restorers must concentrate on this important goal. Otherwise, dirt or contamination might be less visible, but still present, and have a potentially damaging effect on property and occupants.
  4. Minimize chemical, particle and moisture residue. Most agents used in restoration are safe, but some leave residues that cause resoiling and even potential health effects. Particles left behind can become airborne and result in respiratory irritation. Prolonged drying (moisture) can result in resoiling, and eventually, microbial growth that can trigger allergies or asthma attacks.
  5. Minimize human exposure to contaminants, cleaning chemicals and cleaning residues. Both during and after restoring, professionals should make sure that neither they, nor their customers are exposed to HAZMAT.
  6. Evaluate cleaning in relation to the total environmental system, not just part of the system. Fabric and surface cleaning is only part of the solution to unhealthy environments. Trained, certified restorers can advise property owners of other strategies to improve IEQ.
  7. Dispose of cleaning wastes properly. Finally, when soils are removed, or unsalvageable materials have been packaged during restoration, they must be disposed in an environmentally-responsible way.

OK. Specific to the restoration industry, what can restorers do to maintain IEQ?

1. Fire and smoke restorers should ensure that:

  • Fire damaged sites are adequately ventilated during initial inspection and restoration work;
  • Appropriate PPE is available for workers and occupants during inspection and evaluation, and inventorying and packing;
  • Engineering controls, along with managed airflow, are used to contain contaminated areas, or any area during deconstruction, to avoid aerosolizing contaminants, HAZMAT or debris;
  • HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaners are used for initial dry soot removal to avoid particle aerosolization and cross contamination;
  • HEPA-filtered air filtration devices (AFDs) are used to control particle aerosolization during structure and contents cleaning, particularly when occupants or workers are present in work areas, and all restoration products – cleaners, sealers, deodorants – are evaluated for the presence of VOCs, and products that have been evaluated and approved for use in indoor environments are substituted.

2. Water damage restorers, particularly on Category 3 losses, should ensure that:

  • Airmovers not only operate safely (properly grounded electrical cords, protective screens on inlets and outlets), but also that screens, fan blades, and squirrel cages are clean and free of dust, microbials and contaminants from previous jobs;
  • Dehumidifier filters, coils and drip pans are thoroughly cleaned and decontaminated after each job;
  • AFD components (fans, ducting) are clean and well maintained, with new filters before placing them on successive job sites;
  • Thorough cleaning takes precedence over antimicrobial application;
  • Low-VOC antimicrobials are selected and used properly, always following label directions, and recording dilution rates and the quantity of dilute product applied;
  • Recommendations are made for post-remediation evaluations, performed by qualified IEPs, and conducted after unsanitary water losses, and
  • Unsalvageable microbially contaminated materials are packaged and disposed properly.

3. Deodorization and decontamination restorers should ensure that:

Environmentally-friendly and approved products (cleaners, EPA-registered disinfectants) are used;

  • Appropriate PPE is available to workers;
  • OSHA regulations regarding bloodborne pathogens are followed;
  • Contaminants are properly packaged and disposed, and
  • Equipment is decontaminated thoroughly before loading for transport, and a second time before being returned to storage in the restoration facility.

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.


Posted by Dan Howard on April 24th, 2018 9:46 PM

National Primary Drinking Water Regulations

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

Posted by Dan Howard on April 20th, 2018 8:24 PM

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.

Posted in:Health and Safety and tagged: Hand Dryersfeces
Posted by Dan Howard on April 17th, 2018 8:58 PM

Two of the most significant impact items on environmental health today are new products and tighter building envelopes. 

             The bad news is that many of the building products and contents are made of oil processed in one way or another. Manufacturing complex chemicals is a complicated process. An improper mix, wrong temperature, impurities in a reagent, too long in a vat and the reactions can result is toxin production. In other cases, the produced materials and chemicals are not stable or break down chemically over time. Substitute materials can be used as solvents or as the products themselves and create indoor air toxins.

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 countless cleaners and pesticides that people and businesses will store that can spill or off-gas. A change of janitorial service in an adjacent office can introduce toxic chemical cleaners that are used to reduce labor costs that result in toxic fumes. In this scenario, unknowingly the improper mix of incompatible chemicals can create a toxic environment.      

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.     

                  Those considerations are considered, and a testing plan developed and implemented to identify and verify the type, location and quantity of a contaminant. The factors that may allow the recurrence of a contamination need identified and avoiding those factors incorporated in any remediation.     

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.    


Posted by Dan Howard on March 28th, 2018 11:36 PM


             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.

            There is a reason for all the descriptive qualifiers in front of the word “service professional”. Many service companies will only check if the furnace turns on. They often do not check each of the critical issues relating particularly fossil fueled furnaces
Heat exchangers will eventually fail, gas leaks occur as the pipe sealant dries, condensate lines can leak and damage a furnace. Many times, the vent system has deteriorated or more amazingly, never been installed properly in the first place. Over the years, I have found countless furnaces that have had undiagnosed defective heat exchangers. I have walked into a furnace room and without even pulling out a single tool, observed gas leaks, sewer odor from defective condensate lines, and blocked or damaged vent systems. None of these are healthy conditions for residents 

                 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. 

Posted by Dan Howard on November 22nd, 2017 9:44 PM

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:

  • Odor
  • Not feeling well
  • Burning eyes, nose throat
  • Sneezing, coughing, hacking
  • Skin irritation
  • Nasal or sinus congestion
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Memory issues
  • Mood changes
  • Asthma attacks

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

Posted by Dan Howard on November 4th, 2017 7:29 PM

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


  • Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • Install a battery-operated or battery back-up CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall.
  • Leave your home immediately and call 911 if your CO detector ever sounds. Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed, or nauseated.


  • Run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open.
  • Burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn’t vented.
  • Heat your house with a gas oven.
  • Use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement, or garage or outside less than 20 feet from a window, door, or vent.

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.


Posted by Dan Howard on November 3rd, 2017 8:42 PM

What Is Allergic Asthma?  Credit: WebMD

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.

Symptoms of Allergic Asthma

The symptoms of allergic asthma are generally the same as those of non-allergic asthma. They include:

What Are Some Common Allergens?

Allergens you inhale are some of the most likely to worsen your allergic asthma.

  • Pollen from trees and grass, such as ragweed
  • Mold
  • Animal dander (fromhair,skin, or feathers) andsaliva
  • Dust mites
  • Cockroaches

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.

  • Tobaccosmoke
  • Air pollution
  • Cold air
  • Strong chemical odors
  • Perfumes or other scented products
  • Intense emotions that cause you to laugh or cry

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.

Avoid Your Allergic Asthma Triggers

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.

Avoid Your Allergic Asthma Triggers continued...

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.

Medications for Allergic Asthma

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.


Posted by Dan Howard on October 5th, 2017 9:06 PM

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, Montana.

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.

That 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."

Courtesy of Deborah Rumberger

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 recurring nightmares.

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.

Sotereas 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.

Rumberger 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 spores.

"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.

Courtesy of Deborah Rumberger

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.

According 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 more dangerous.

Courtesy of Deborah Rumberger

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 again.

"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.

Courtesy of Deborah Rumberger

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."

Courtesy of Deborah Rumberger

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."


Posted in:Health and Safety and tagged: MoldToxicresident
Posted by Dan Howard on September 16th, 2017 9:19 AM
Here are three great ideas I have never seen to help survive a disaster like Hurricane Irma.

If you can not find bottles of water, and you still have city water...fill some zip lock bags with potable water for drinking water. You can also fill your bathtub for washing and flushing water.

Your dishwasher is waterproof (or the water would leak out when you wash dishes). That makes it the safest place to put valuable papers to keep dry in a flood or when worried about hurricane roof damage and water leaks

If you need a place to keep food and drinks cold, put ice in your washing machine. The water from ice will not leak across the floor and it is a closed container for storage 

Follow the direction of emergency management professionals. The life you save may be your own or someone in your family. Another thought worth considering is that it is not fair to ask emergency rescue professionals to risk their lives to save you if you take stupid chances.

Posted by Dan Howard on September 9th, 2017 8:01 PM



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