Environmental Issue & Sick Building Syndrome Blog

The following article recognizes that the emphasis on energy savings without factoring healthy indoor air is a health problem. There are many days that my work is dealing with homes and businesses that were make too tight in the name of energy savings. Many of those times the savings on energy were spent on additional health care costs from too tight construction

Data from Danish window and rooflight manufacturer, Velux, suggests people living in damp or mouldy homes were 40 percent more likely to suffer from asthma. (Photo: 

BRUSSELS, 5. OCT, 18:19

MEPs will debate amendments to new EU building regulations next week (11 October), which could see indoor air quality become a mandatory criteria for the first time - a boon for workers and residents.

The plans come as part of a larger rethink on future building standards in the wake of the Paris Agreement on climate change, and are intended as part of improving the overall energy performance of the built environment.

And they come after several pieces of recent research showing the potential health and economic costs to EU citizens of poorly-ventilated or damp homes and workplaces.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) warned in a report this month that healthier homes and workplaces could prevent around 1 million deaths, globally, a year, and explicitly singled out indoor air quality as a factor.

The WHO said "globally, 29 percent of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) deaths are attributable to household air pollution, 8 percent ambient and 11 percent in workplaces."

Data from Danish window and rooflight manufacturer Velux, in their Health Homes Barometer report, also suggests people living in damp or mouldy homes were 40 percent more likely to suffer from asthma.

And according to current healthcare spending reports by Fraunhofer, a German research organisation, it costs the EU €82 billion euros annually to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma.

Crunch time at Parliament committee

Under the microscope next week in the European Parliament are amendments to the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). A series of proposed amendments to the EPBD will be going before the committee on industry, research, and energy (ITRE) on 11 October.

The proposed policy changes are intended to ensure all EU citizens will have access to the best indoor air quality and seeks to set high minimum standards at the member state level, along with ambitious renovation strategies.

"My main point is to ensure our buildings are helping to keep us healthy", says Anneli Jaatteenmaki, a Finnish MEP, former prime minister and member of the environment committee.

With most people spending some 90 percent of their time indoors, the stakes could hardly be higher - both for tenants, home owners, office workers, and the construction and renovation sectors.

"Energy efficiency and indoor air quality must go hand in hand. The consequences poor indoor air quality has on Europeans' health and quality of life, as well as on our economies, cannot be underestimated," according to Roberta Savli, director of strategy and policy at the European Federation of Allergies and Airways Diseases Patients' Associations (EFA).

"Europeans have the right to breathe clean and safe air everywhere," she said and adds, "the European Parliament has the opportunity to introduce an indoor air quality certificate to protect us."

Interchanging air

But potential conflicts between the energy efficiency measures and proposed indoor air quality standards are already becoming apparent. Attempts to increase the energy efficiency of buildings generally mean "we are not opening windows; we are interchanging incoming and outgoing air" according to Jaromir Kohlicek, a Czech MEP and vice-chair of the ITRE committee.

Whilst not necessarily disagreeing, the construction industry is keen to point to the problem with maintaining and repairing existing air systems in the current building stock.

Eugenio Quintieri, secretary general of the European Builders Confederation (EBC) stresses "we need a European legislative framework able to ensure heating and air-conditioning systems are not only functioning safely, but remain in good repair, because they have a huge influence on indoor air quality".

The general feeling towards the legislation amongst special interest groups and politicians is positive.

Adrian Joyce, secretary general of the European Alliance of Companies for Energy Efficiency in Buildings (EuroACE), admits that to "live up to the Paris Accords we have to change."

He points out that buildings consume 40 percent of all energy and produce 36 percent of carbon dioxide emissions and 70 percent of all buildings were constructed before there were energy regulations.

The amendments must set a "strong vision for the building stock for 2050", but he highlighted the "need to strengthen renovation strategies at the member state level".

Achieving the balance between a high level legislative framework and member state commitment for ambitious renovation strategies and action plans will be essential to see significant progress on the issue.

The amendments sets a framework that, "defines responsibilities and allows member states to create their path to the overall 2050 goal," according to EuroACE, "this is positive for the member states". "If these amendments are adopted it means we will see much lower energy demand and much lower carbon dioxide emissions from buildings by 2050."

"What we hope to establish is good practice concepts", Kohlicek states, for renovating and preserving the current building stock and for new builds.

Heat or eat

Affordability will continue to be an issue. Financial support packages at the EU and member state level must be encouraged, according to Jaatteenmaki.

Kohlicek said that the intent of the changes, with respect to energy poverty and health outcomes, were such that "the declaration is quite clear, we must help the impoverished".

"When you are living in better homes the heating costs are lower," Kohlicek said.

Properly renovated and insulated buildings lose less heat and use less energy overall, meaning fewer decisions about 'whether to heat or eat'. "We hope with these directives, we can push the entrepreneurs who own these buildings to fix the issues," he comments.

Velux, the major Danish window and rooflight manufacturer, has pointed out that individuals living in more affluent European countries are able to afford staged projects over several years whereas those living in the central Eastern European region are in the opposite situation. Twice as many people experience poor health when they are not able to adequately heat their homes, according to Velux.

"Policy with a long view"

But Kohlicek offers a word of caution, stating "the direct impact of indoor air quality will not be readily apparent". It could take as long as ten years to see a statistical change, he warns, as these directives are for new buildings and future renovations. "This is a policy with a long view".

Posted in:General and tagged: energystarIndoor air
Posted by Dan Howard on October 13th, 2017 10:05 PM

(HealthDay News) -- A dip in a pool, stream or lake on a hot summer day is refreshing, but take some precautions to avoid bacteria and parasites that might lurk in the water.

"One of the worst offenders is the kiddie wading pool," said Dr. Christopher Ohl, a professor of infectious diseases at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C.

"Warm, shallow water and kids in swim diapers -- which don't do a good job of containing feces -- can create a perfect breeding ground for water-borne infections even though the water is chlorinated," he said. "The best way to prevent young children from getting sick is to keep them from swallowing that water."

Ohl offered some other tips:

  • For starters, keep children who have had any type of gastrointestinal illness away from pools or water parks for several days to prevent contamination of the water.
  • Don't swallow the water when you're in freshwater lakes or streams. It can contain threats such asleptospirosis, a bacterium excreted in the urine of mammals that drink from the water. Infection can causefeverwithheadacheor muscle aches, but it's usually treatable, Ohl said.
  • Another potential threat is Naegleria, a rare but deadlybrain-eating amoebathat is almost impossible to treat. To avoid it, don't jump feet first into a warm, stagnant pond, especially during a very dry summer. Doing so can push water up into the top of the nose where the amoeba can crawl through to get into the brain, Ohl explained.
  • Salt water poses a lower risk from bacteria and parasites, but swimmers should stay out of the water if they have a cut orwoundthat could become infected.
  • Also, stay away from jellyfish floating on top of the water in the ocean.

"Most people don't realize that the tentacles of some jellyfish, especially Portuguese man-of-war, can be 10 to 15 feet long, so keep a safe distance to keep from being stung," Ohl said.

-- Robert Preidt

Posted in:General
Posted by Dan Howard on July 8th, 2017 10:02 PM

Get a quick glimpse of some of the most important ways to protect your home from mold by touring the Mold House. Room-by-room, you'll learn about the key problem areas and how to address them.

Take the interactive house tour or view the Text Version below.

On this page:

Living Room

Livingroom Wall growing mold

Living Room Wall

Hidden leaks can cause condensation or wet spots on walls and can also lead to mold growth in many places, such as behind walls. A professional can help you find the cause of a hidden leak and fix the problem.

Livingroom Window growing mold

Living Room Window

Condensation on windows can be a sign of high indoor humidity, which has many possible causes and should be investigated.

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Shower growing mold


Excessive moisture can cause mold to grow in the bathroom. Run the bathroom exhaust fan or open the window when showering.

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Inside roof showing signs of leaks


Don't ignore wet spots or water stains. Consult with a professional to fix leaks or water damage quickly, or the problem will get worse.

Bedroom Corner growing mold

Bedroom Corner

Water from a roof leak has seeped into a wall, causing the paint to buckle and peel. Do not paint over wet or moldy walls. First, fix the water problem, and then paint.

Bedroom Closet growing mold

Bedroom Closet

High room humidity can cause mold to grow on many items indoors, including furnishings or clothing. To help prevent mold growth, try to keep the indoor humidity below 60%, ideally between 30 and 50%. If it isn't humid outside, open windows or doors to allow fresh air in.

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Kitchen Wall growing mold

Kitchen Wall

Cooking and washing dishes can increase humidity. Use a stove's exhaust hood to draw heat, moisture and other contaminants out of the kitchen. Exhaust hoods should be vented to the outdoors.

Mold growing inside a kitchen cabinet

Kitchen Cabinets

Leaking pipes under the kitchen sink can lead to mold growth in areas such as walls or cabinets. Leaking pipes should be fixed by a plumber or other qualified professional.

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Dehumidifier being used to keep moisture levels low in a basement


If a room such as a basement is too humid, use a dehumidifier to help prevent mold growth. Be sure to clean the dehumidifier regularly and follow the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions.

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Laundry Room

Mold growing on a laundry room ceiling

Dryer Venting

Improperly vented clothes dryers will increase the humidity in the room and may lead to mold growth. Clothes dryers must be vented to the outdoors.

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Front Door

Drawing of the Mold House front door

Mold Prevention and Cleanup

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Drain Pipe/Yard

Photo of a poorly installed drain pipe

Drain Pipe

Drain gutters are great for getting water away from the foundation of a house. Make sure drain gutters are long enough to drain rain water at least 5 feet away from the foundation.

Photo of foundation regrading to move water awar from the house


Water pooling around the foundation of a house can lead to indoor moisture problems. The ground near a house should be sloped downward away from the house to drain water away from the foundation.

Posted in:General and tagged: Healthy Home Month
Posted by Dan Howard on June 2nd, 2017 10:12 PM

This story starts with a second story window, split open window sill and spaces between the brick openings. These had gone unnoticed before we arrived.  

It appeared that the dining room window was the source of a leak. The actual leak was in a second story window above the dining room. The people who first looked at the dining room mold problem had wrongly assumed that the leak was caused by the dining room window.  It is experience and proper training that teaches us to look at all of the possible sources of leakage above a leak.

(Rule #27: Water goes down-hill and always consider additional possible sources/causes above a leak).   

The homeowner said that water poured through the dining room wall in driving rains. He had he water stains, wet drywall and mold to prove the point. The paper face that is part of the drywall in the room was great food for mold, as was the wood framing inside of the wall.  

By the way, there was visible mold. It was that fuzzy green mold that is typical of bread that has spent about a week too long in the bread drawer. The call was about the mold and remediation. 

There is a very important part of this story that I have not told you yet. One of the homeowners is an organ transplant recipient. What most people don’t know is that patients on immunosuppression therapy (anti organ rejection drugs) are very susceptible to potentially fatal mold health complications.


Mold exposure is a big deal in hospitals, but many people are just not aware of the issue. If you think back, you probably remember that mold deaths from hospital mold exposure in organ transplant patients has made the national news. In fact, some of those deaths have recently resulted in  multi-million dollar settlements from hospitals to families of patients who have died from hospital acquired mold exposures.  

Here is What We Know So Far:

·         Mold is very bad for organ transplant patients

·         Water leaks cause mold

·         Even if you clean the mold, it can (will) return if the leak is not resolved  

It would have been the typical procedure of some remediators to clean the mold. Then they would get to another job down the road to come clean the mold again.

This is What Needs Done:

                Test for the amount and type of mold (it is critical to know the risk to transplant patient and others in the home)

                Locate the cause of the water intrusion

                Clean the mold

                Test to make sure the mold is clean. (Mold can be in hidden areas)    

When it is important……Especially, when it is “life or death” important… (but from our perspective the health of all of our clients is important) …………..you need to call experts trained in the science of environmental exposures who know the right path forward. You need and deserve and to have professionals that understand the issues and can get you to a healthy environment.     

Posted in:General and tagged: Moldorgan transplant
Posted by Dan Howard on May 15th, 2017 1:07 PM

Every so often I walk in and see that something that is done right that as an environmental professional you usually need to explain and in some instances maybe even beg people to do.

That “done right” is the case in this picture.

Most people will not jump out of bed in the morning and empty their dehumidifier and do the same again right before they go to bed a night. Might I go a little further and say, most people will not go to a dehumidifier and empty at any time most days.

To get past that barrier, we suggest that when a dehumidifier is placed, it should have the “hose to a drain” option hooked up. One end of the hose gets connected at the fitting at the dehumidifier and the other end to a floor drain.
  The floor drain needs to be located lower than the hose connection so that the water runs down the hose. (that old “water runs down-hill” thing)

  when a basement needs a dehumidifier and there is not a floor drain to run the hose into, there is a problem.  The unique solution here is that a “condensate pump”, commonly used to pump condensate from a furnace or air conditioner up hill to a laundry tray drain or some other proper drain is being used here to pup the water from the dehumidifier to the laundry tray.

What you are seeing in the picture is the top rack is holding the dehumidifier. The bottom rack has the pump.  The pumps cost between $40.00 and $100.00

Click here to view Home Depot Selection of Condensate Pumps

For an explanation how these work:

Or go to:


Posted in:General
Posted by Dan Howard on March 25th, 2017 12:52 AM

           The hot water tank starts dripping from the overflow pipe. Could be a problem with the TPR valve, maybe it is too much pressure in the water system and a "pressure reducing valve" is required where the water comes into the home. The thought “plumbers can be expensive, and it is a small leak” creeps up to the very edge of your consciousness.  (a dangerous place for ideas about expense versus maintenance to exist)   

          Then the furnace condensate pump leaks out of the top when it pumps water out of the pump. It starts as a few drops here and then a couple more there. Then it turns into a pencil lead size stream type of leak.  

            There is not any noise, or fanfare or sudden burst of water…..There is not any event that is noticeable.

           The water leak slowly creeps and then stretches to the cardboard boxes and wooden shelves. Then it smells a little musty.  Again, just a little musty.…. Nothing big happened to catch your attention.

           Now you have mold! It is time to call someone who can clean the mold. You do not want your family and pets sick from the mold. You also probably do not want the damage that the mold and water leaks are doing to your home and stored possessions.  

         Many people do not know this, but the elevated humidity and moisture need corrected first to properly remediate mold. Most mold treatment systems are not effective at a high humidity.

            Now you fix the dripping condensate line in the hot water tank and the leaking condensate pump for the furnace. It would be less expensive and less trouble to catch and repair the little leaks when they are little. If that doesn’t happen, we can deal with the mold too.  We will help people with this problem today, and tomorrow and the next day from one end of the country to the other. It is better for you to fix the leaks when they happen. 

            On the other hand, human nature is funny.  I don't change the oil in my car often enough....and land up wishing I had.     

Posted in:General and tagged: MoldLeaks
Posted by Dan Howard on March 8th, 2017 1:00 PM

       As we turn the calendar from 2016 to 2017, it is a time of reflection, thanks, renewal and new beginnings all at the same time.

       We reflect upon the good fortune we have to make our living giving people a healthy environment. We are thankful for the clients allowing us to earn their trust. We are in the process of planning our training sessions and researching and adding additional techniques, products and services as we renew ourselves for an even better year of serving our customers in 2017.

       A new year is a time for new beginnings of more focused habits and better health improvements for all Americans. 

       It struck a cord of revelation and some introspection when reading the USDA email blast with a pitch and link to: https://www.choosemyplate.gov/make-small-changes

       We tend to focus our resolve to new beginnings in the areas of exercise and diet.  The point the USDA made to the readers was to make small continuous changes, not just the big change which may not stick long enough to help us.

       The gym memberships, exercise equipment and resolution to lose 25 pounds sometimes doesn’t happen. Small, incremental changes and small steps stand a better chance of making it through to accomplishment.

       We only eat a few times a day. We breathe every minute of every day all year. Indoor air quality matters!

       Let’s resolve to take small, but regular and meaningful steps toward a healthier home environment. It might be that you fix the pesky roof or plumbing leak.  Maybe put a better filter in the furnace. You could remove the bags, bottles and spray cans of pesticide from the shelves of your basement where you exercise or your kids play. A little bit here and there can make an immense difference.

      And…if you need the advice and help we provide as professionals, give us a call. We take pride in helping making environments better one home, office, school, hotel, medical facility or factory at a time.    

Happy New Year!

Posted in:General
Posted by Dan Howard on December 30th, 2016 5:00 PM
       We usually pick a subject for this column that is topical for the season and events. The problem this time is that there are a bunch of choices. The news has been filled with home health and safety stories ranging from “After the Flood” to Zika.

         Instead of describing why something is an issue, how to recognize the issue and then solve the problem, we are just going to jump to what to do to fix the problems. By the way, if you go to www.PittsburghMoldTesting.com, you will find a full story for each of the topics we will mention here. That site is where House to Home articles are posted.

After the Flood or Other Water Has Leaked into the Home
          This can be gutter ice dam leaks, roof leaks or foundation leaks. The quicker the home is dried, the less damage occurs to the materials and contents. Drying the home quickly can avoid mold. Avoiding mold growth with a quick dry down can save thousands of dollars and lots of grief. There are restoration companies that specialize in drying out homes with the proper equipment. If this is not an option, go to the website at the end of this article for tips on how a homeowner can start the drying process.

Posted in:General
Posted by Dan Howard on March 28th, 2016 10:53 PM

                With winter knocking at the door, trouble is the only thing warming up to come into our homes. Seniors and their caregivers face more winter weather challenges than most people.

                If you have never had the experience of being in the shoes of an older person,  imagine the time you had a very nasty ( featuring  fluids streaming out of your body ) flu bug. Then remember the lack of ability to plan and accomplish your normal activities. That feeling of inability to cope with problems is what can happen to a senior, acutely ill or physically challenged person.

                When it feels like life is coming at you like a train out of control, planning goes out the door along with good judgment.

                Pride on the other hand .... you know what I mean..... old fashioned, overwhelming stubborn pride........ sticks to us  like a leech on the back of our necks sucking out the ability to ask for help, especially when we need help the most . 

                The combination of financial demands, inability to work through problems and difficulty in asking for help can make winter a serious challenge. Caregivers who understand these facts can make the difference  in quality of life and possibly even life and death.                     

                Consider both the physical and financial aspects of dealing with winter.  The basic needs include food, water, heat, clothing, sanitation, communication and medical needs.  When time, energy or money run out,  even the most important need can be ignored.

Help The Person Get Ready for Winter

                There are basic chores than need done for winter.  Help put away summer items. Get out stored winter clothes. coats, boots, gloves and other cold weather essentials.  Tasks that may seem simple, can be daunting to someone aging or in ill health.  

                Get emergency supplies in place. Taking away the fear of being trapped without the essentials can be tough on a person.  Pick a closet to cabinet and gather emergency supplies.  Stocking a place with LED flashlights, a backup battery radio, bottled water, food that can be eaten out of the package when utilities are off are the types of things that take the fear out of winter storm entrapment. 

                If they do not have a cell phone, consider a TracPhone or other emergency phone. It doesn't need to be an expensive phone, but supply a simple phone available if the regular phone system goes down or the person needs to leave a home.

                The isolation of winter is one of cold weather's biggest and meanest challenges. Set a time to talk. Anticipating a call can be as exciting as a phone call itself during dreary weather.  There are many ways to make these talks interesting and meaningful.  Asking about a story or experience from the past can be a great thing for everyone. You may even want to take notes about "the way things were"  for a family history.   

                Talk money. This is a tough one. People do not like to talk about the subject of if  there is not enough money for utilities, medicine  and food. They may be embarrassed, or too confused to apply for programs that can help with expenses like LIHEAP for heating assistance.  A few hours of effort  sorting out these issues could take a lot of stress from a person you care about.     

                Find out about essential medicines and put in place a plan that makes sure there is always a sufficient supply of these on hand. Whether the difficulty is delivery or payment, there are programs and options that are available. Making those arrangements could take some time, but will be worth the effort.  

                Send a "thinking of you” basket when a storm or other event is coming. That provides a supply of food, but more importantly lets people know that you care. It can relieve the stress of not rushing to the store before the storm.  

                Do not forget the pet. This is one of the most important things in many homes.  Food, water and a place to go if evacuating the home is very important.

Posted by Dan Howard on November 7th, 2015 10:16 PM

Prepare a Plan for Disaster

            A natural disaster or serious world event could leave us unable to pick up our cell phone and find our families.  Massive power or communication failures are no longer only a possibility in science fiction. These failures have become a possible means of terrorism.   


            It takes moments to plan locations for a family to meet if communication systems fail. There should be a local place and one outside of the area. It could be a landmark or the home of a relative. It takes moments to discuss and decide where to meet if things go terribly awry.     


            Create an Emergency Kit.  Food, fuel and light are critical for survival. Take a moment and consider all of the items that will not work without power and create an alternate plan. The best resource for creating emergency kits is www.Ready.gov.  They have many sample lists designed for a wide range of needs such as families, seniors, businesses and many other groups.


            Without electricity, the Automatic Teller Machine will not spit out money into your hand no matter how much money is in your account or how many times you ask. Keep some cash on hand in a safe place.  


            Take a pictures or a video  of your home's furnishings and its contents.  It is a reality  that disasters can occur in any home, even yours. It could be a fire, flood or major theft, but each of these disasters require documentation of the home and its contents for insurance recovery.       

            Once you have the pictures or video of your home, store a copy of that information "off site." You can upload them to a cloud service or simply hand a digital copy to a close friend or relative. The object here is to avoid is losing your backup pictures in the disaster they were taken for recovery.
Posted by Dan Howard on January 4th, 2015 11:01 PM



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