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”.
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 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 www.InspectorLab.com to find a qualified home inspector near you.
Did you ever think that exposure to the environmental problems that make us sick is like hitting your thumb with a hammer……..but nobody can tell you what the hammer is?
Reacting to Did you ever think that exposure to the environmental problems that make us sick is like hitting your thumb with a hammer……..but nobody can tell you what the hammer is?
We go and do so many different things and go so many places each day that it is often difficult to pinpoint what “is” or just as importantly what “is not” making us ill.
Making all of this figuring out whether something in our environment is making us ill more of a puzzle is the fact that we react to environmental stresses in “time delay”. The difficulty is “time delay” is not how our brain usually works.
Please let me explain: If we touch a burner on the stove, we feel pain. If we hit our thumb with hammer, we immediately feel the consequences of that action. Based upon that reaction, we each learn not to do those things. We learn in real time that for those actions there is a predictable, consistent and unpleasant reaction. We also figure out to not do those things again. However, I must admit that when I worked as a carpenter to get through college, that hitting fingers with a hammer happened a couple of times past the first. Before you judge that fact, I assure you that IT WAS NOT ON PURPOSE. Ouch.
Environmental exposures are more complicated because they not only happen in time delay, but they also often occur in combinations of events. Our minds do not do well at processing the complex conditions and events that trigger environmental reactions.
Keeping a diary of how you feel, where you are what you are doing and what you eat is probably the best tool for establishing health patterns that may predict sources of environmental reaction.
As an example, a diary could show that you become ill 6 to 10 hours after a visit to a particular building, riding in and automobile, eating a particular food or a host of other events occurs. This can be a life changing tool.
Based on that information, an assessment by a environmental specialist and testing of the area that appears to be the source of illness is the next step on the path to a return to good health
Mold is one of the most common triggers for health issues. Allergens are another very common trigger. Testing for these issues is a prudent first step in the process of narrowing sources of environmental stressors. Sending the tests to www.InspectorLab.com for quality evaluation and an easy to read report is the next step.
Calling your InspectorLab testing and inspection professional can be your first step on the path to good health. You can find the contact information at http://www.InspectorLab.com They can help identify the source that causes the contamination and test to identify the molds that can be the source of health problems for you or the ones you love.
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.
This may be the time for you to contact InspectorLab and find a professional to test your home or workplace environment For more information, www.InspectorLab.com
We often get asked about the petri dish mold test kits you find in hardware stores, grocery stores and the like. You’ve seen these hanging on racks at the end of aisles. They are the colorful packages showing gross mold pictures calling your name to come purchase. Just to add insult to injury, the plastic packs they come in will require a machete and crowbar to open.
They are inexpensive. Actually, let’s call it as it is, as compared to a professional mold assessment they are downright cheap.
The problem is that they provide as little useful information as they cost.
There are a bunch of reasons why they are useless (except to the people selling them as this is a multimillion dollar business).
Only about 10% of all molds will grow on any single culture medium in a petri dish. Many molds will only grow on specific cultures. There are literally hundreds of culture media mycologists have developed to try to coax mold to grow in the laboratory. When we order cultures, we are offered have pages of choices for use in hundreds of situations. What this means is that you are potentially missing 90% of the molds that could be growing in the area being tested. You’ve heard the old saying, “you don’t know what you don’t know” and that may be essential information to correct the mold issue in your property.
The rate and area that mold spores fall is irregular and not representative of the area being tested. When a Petri dish culture is set out, the character of the air currents and ability of different size and shape spores to travel is not predicable or certain. Think of it like the spore population gets on an airplane, but you do not know where they are going to land and can’t predict what gate in which city they are going to land. In that case, you can’t place the Petri dish where it needs to be to meet the spore traps “at the gate”
The Petri Dish sample does not tell you how much of a mold is in the area. Last year I sowed zinnias in 3 separate pots, side by side. They were sitting on the patio with the same amount of light, water and temperature. The Zinnias grew at different rates in each pot. The variable was the soil in each. One had fresh soil and the others I had not changed the soil in the pots from the previous year. The amount of time that the Petri dish spends in the store and your home before use, and the temperature can affect the growth rate. The suitability of the agar for each mold growing in the Petri dish will also affect growth rate.
Simply put: How much and what type of mold is present is critical to understanding if there is a problem in a building that requires remediation and to determine the type of appropriate remediation scope and products. The mold professional also needs to understand the materials and methods of construction and location of the underlying causes of the mold contamination to make sure that the mold does not come back.
Conclusion: Contact InspectorLab to find a mold professional to properly test your home, school or business http://www.InspectorLab.com
Don’t waste the $10.00 for the test kit and $30.00 and up lab fee.
A site assessment and air testing are critical to resolving mold issues so that they do not return. The “Do-It-Yourself” kit does not reliably offer you any of that information. We want your home to be healthy and stay that way.
This story is serious and true. There are mold dogs in many part of the country served by InspectorLab. In fact, “Cody the Mold Dog” was quite the competition for mold professionals in this author’s Pittsburgh PA market, at least it seemed at first consideration. Other InspectorLab customers across the country have had similar experiences. Let me start with a little background. Then I will tell you my personal story of competing with “Cody, The Mold Dog”.
Background Story on Mold Dogs and Mold Dog College
Mold dogs are specifically trained to detect up to 18 types of mold. This should not surprise you. We have dogs to search for drugs, bombs, money, weapons, accelerants, and termites. Makes sense that dogs can be trained to detect mold too. According to the website http://www.mold-dog.com/about_us_detail.htm, hunting type dogs are best suited for this use. That would include Labs, Border Collies, Jack Russell Terriers, Aussies, Beagles and combinations of these breeds.
“Buddy the Sheltie” Would Not Go to Doggy Mold College
Sadly, our dog, Buddy the Sheltie (Border Collie), never expressed the desire to be a mold dog and join me in the environmental profession. But then again, neither did any of our 6 children. It’s not for a lack of effort on my part. I did mention to Buddy the Sheltie that he was a breed that was well suited to being a mold dog, but that suggestion fell on deaf ears. The training for mold dogs is rigorous and a little mean, and Buddy is a lover, not a workaholic or gluten for punishment.
“Cody the Mold Dog” earned his Mold Dog Degree and Went into the Mold Business
Let’s get back to my personal story about “Cody, the Mold Dog”. I am sure you have had an occasion that during dealing with someone, you have gotten to a point where they sheepishly admit to having dealt with someone else other than you. That would be “kind a, sort a…umm” like explaining to your friend from grade school why you are trading in a Chevy to purchase a Subaru from them, after calling upon them to give you a good deal because you ?go way back together”. (AWKWARD)
Picture this: I am working with a client with some serious health issues.
As is the practice with good environmental professionals, I explain the test results, why the mold is present and what needs to happen to make sure the mold goes away and does not come back again. All important information for the long-term health of the client and their family. They had serious health problems, and I had his full attention.
Then came the sheepish admission by the client that is the root of this story
Client: “Ummm, ahhhh, I need to admit, I had “Cody, The Mold Dog” here before I called you.
Me: “OK, how did that work out? I have not personally met Cody”
Client: “Well, I’m very glad I called you. Cody charged me more than you did, and he didn’t talk to me.”
Moral of the Story
Detecting mold is not enough! The how, why, what, and pathway to a resolution are all important. Remediators who view their job and telling a client: “Yep, ya got mold and for $xxx. xx I will make it go away” are the real competitors to “Cody the Mold Dog”, not competitors to InspectorLab mold professionals. You need to have a healthy home and deserve the help and advice they can give you.
Another Morsel of Wisdom in This Story
By the way, in the long run, the “Cody the Mold Dog” type of mold remediators may even cost you more than the real professionals. That is especially true when the mold comes back and you need face the health risks of mold exposure and then pay to have the job done again.
The professionals InspectorLab recommends for mold testing are trained to investigate the type and source of mold and then its solution. They are also good at explaining the issues, listening to client concerns and TALKING with our clients and addressing their concerns. We believe that you deserve more than Cody the Mold Dog or a salesman only interested in making a sale, not helping and educating you.
For more information, go to www.InspectorLab.com
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. That oversight put an Organ Transplant patient at risk from mold/
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.
(Mold Inspector Rule #27: Water goes down-hill and always consider additional possible water 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:
This is What Needs Done:
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.
Call the Professionals at www.InspectorLab.com for the name of a professional inspector to test your home to avoid the health risks of mold exposure,
There is great irony in this tearful saga. Mold is needed to make the cheese that made the dip that stained the shirt, that needs anti-stain treatment………in the flooded house that Dan did not build. (unlike the story about The house that Jack built)
It started with a wonderful Sunday dinner out with the kids and grandson. It was a good meal, pleasant restaurant, great time. The appetizer was a very tasty, yet gooey cheese and spinach sauce with chunks of bread for dipping into that delightful cheese mixture. One of my “dips” turned into a “drop” between the plate and my mouth. Oops!
On the way home from dinner, my wife and I discuss what she thought I should write about tonight. She usually has the inside story on what readers would be thinking about. I am thinking about today’s blog post. She has a couple of greatly appreciated suggestions.
We pull into our driveway and realize that we had missed a heavy rain storm. The newly planted flowers were laying on their sides in exhaustion from the drenching. Great! They will stand up again and I get out of watering them today.
Please let me explain in my own defense. This is a new “home to us” and I have not yet learned everything about the place. On this glorious evening, I learn that when there is a very hard storm, water comes under the basement door and spreads across the basement.
What Does a Mold Expert Do When It is His House That Floods?
Back to the stain on my shirt. I walk downstairs into the basement while taking my shirt off. (Multi-tasking). I realize that as I step onto the concrete floor, there was a “slosh” noise, not the leather shoe on concrete shuffle appropriate for a multitasking senior with his shirt halfway over his head.
Recognizing that multi-tasking was not getting me where I want to go, I complete the easiest task at hand and finish taking the shirt off and the spot stain treated. Check
I start a new “to do” list based upon my discovery of why the shoes made a slosh instead of a shuffle. The next step is to consult a mold or disaster recovery professional
Oh, that’s me. Check
I look around to see why there is water on the floor and if whatever that cause is, whether it has stopped. I know that if the source of water has not ended, stopping the water leak is the next step.
The water leaked under the basement door. The rain has stopped and therefore the cause of the water event is ended. That is good news. Check
Triple check that there is not an electrical potential hazard relating to the abundant pool of water in the area affected by water. Triple Check, Check Check
If there is a potential electrical hazard such as wet walls with outlets or an extension cord lying in the water I must exercise great caution. The choice is to safely turn off the electricity or think of the Jaws movie and stay out of the water.
I remove anything that is still absorbing water and is being damaged because of standing water. That would include the cardboard box of decorations that was moved downstairs two days ago because the kitchen cabinets are being delivered tomorrow. Check
Next step is to get out the “wet and dry shop vac” and begin to sucking up the standing water. Check
I sadly observe that the shop vac first had water moving toward the wand, and then running back onto the floor from the end of the wand. Note that water went up the hose at first and then……when about a cup of water was drawn up, that water was running back out of the wand. It was like watching someone going up the first section of a two-level escalator and then turning around and going back down the escalator rather than to the top section of the upper floor.
I remind myself, to not panic when realizing that the nice easy to carry shop vac that was purchased because it was small and light is not strong enough to suck a pool of water in a basement. Check
Go to “Plan B” and take the top off of the floor drain. Grab a broom and sweep water into the floor drain. Check
It is time to take photos of the current condition and be grateful that your wife does not upload a YouTube viral video of your panic and frantic efforts to this point. Check
Next step? Throw out the very few wet cardboard boxes. Be grateful that you are a mold aware person who knows that basement storage should be plastic bins and not cardboard. Cardboard is the “Breakfast of Champions” for mold. odor and wood destroying insects. Check
Without standing in any water, set up the dehumidifier placing the water drain hose into the floor drain. Check
Find a shirt that does not have an appetizer stain front and center. Put on the clean shirt realizing that you sadly are not a good sight to see when bare chested. Check
Be grateful that you have caught the water problem before it did any damage. Consult with your environmental person. In this particular case, this is accomplished by inward reflection: “self…..have you followed the proper procedures?” if not, go do what you should have done.
After the panic and work, go write this post that is due in the morning.
In summary, when faced with and unexpected and unwanted water event:
Use the checklist above to make sure everything is done as it should be. Check
Oh, one last thing on my list …..Install an exterior drain or concrete curb so that this doesn’t ever happen again!
One thing for your list…………. Contact InspectorLab to locate a mold professional in your area to test your home and provide the solutions to keep your home mold free. Visit www.InspectorLab.com for contact information
In older homes, asbestos can be found in a many areas of the home, from roof tiles and decorative ceilings to wall insulation and vinyl floors. Below is a list of some of the most common asbestos containing materials.
Vinyl Floor Tiles
Asbestos Cement Sheets & Garage Roof Panels
Textured Decorative Coatings (eg. Artex)
Airing Cupboard Walls
Cement Fireplace Surrounds
Gutters and Drainage Pipes
Central Heating Flues
Cement Water Tanks
Rope Seals and Gaskets
Asbestos Insulating Board (AIB) Ceiling Tiles
AIB Bath Panels
Sprayed Insulation Coating