Category: Home Health

Winter is Here With its Sick Building 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”.

 

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Steps to a Healthy Home This Winter

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.

Have an Inspction for Peace of MInd and a Healthy Home

Checking a Furnace is One Step TO a Safe and Healthy Home This Winter 

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. 

The Indoor Environment Can Cause the 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 indoor environment can become a problem in winter.

Winter weather can cause environmental hazards

Winter weather can be the start of indoor air pollution as we tighten up homes

 

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.

The beauty of winter can bring environmental hazards

Winter can be the start of serious health problems as we close our homes up tight

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

 

 

Today’s Mold Lesson Started with the Yummy, Greasy Cheese Dip Stain on My Shirt

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)

Mold can be Good in Cheese but Bad in Your Home

Mold can be Good

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.

Flooded Basement and Mold Source

Flooded Basement and Mold Source

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:

  • Identify the source of the leak
  • Stop the source of the leak
  • If beyond what you can handle, call a professional
  • Document conditions for insurance
  • Verify that electricity isn’t a hazard
  • Remove anything that can be damaged by the water contact and dry it
  • Remove, sweep or suction standing water
  • Dehumidify
  • If you can’t dehumidify, open windows
  • Realize that you have 24 to 48 to dry out before mold is a problem
  • When appropriate, seek professional drying services
  • Focus on the fact that mold and odors can damage health and the value of a home

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

The Next Steps If You Think You Have Asbestos: Start With An InspectorLab Testing Professional

Next Steps If You Have Asbestos

If you think you have asbestos, the health and safety of your home depend on KNOWING if you have asbestos. Then you need to contact an InspectorLab Testing Professional to have it tested 

       When asbestos is found in a building, there are usually three possible options – removal, encapsulation or leaving the asbestos untouched.


Removal or abatement
is usually necessary if the asbestos materials are damaged. Removal is a great option if you want to completely remove the potentially hazardous materials once and for all. Removal is also often necessary during construction, demolition and refurbishment projects.


Encapsulation
is usually less expensive than removal, and involves covering the material to isolate it rather than removing it. An example would be installing a wood subfloor over an asbestos tile floor or covering asbestos containing insulation such as vermiculite insulation with a safe insulation.


Leaving asbestos in place
may not seem like the best option, but in some cases asbestos does not pose a threat to humans, and can be left in place. An example of this would be a chimney installed in a sealed chase. As long as asbestos fibers can’t reach the air we breathe, they are not a hazard

Asbestos Related Diseases

Asbestosis is scarring if the lungs. This damages tissues and hampers their ability to intake oxygen to the blood. This disease can take from 15 to 30 years to show itself.


Lung Cancer
is a malignant tumor of the bronchi covering. The tumor grows through surrounding tissue and obstructs the air passages. This disease can surface 20 to 30 years after asbestos exposure.


Mesothelioma
is cancer of the mesothelium which is the lining of the abdominal wall. Early stages of the disease have few symptoms. By the time it is found, it is almost always fatal. This disease can have a latency period of 30 to 40 years.

As a final word, let me take a shot at the question a lot of people ask: Can I remove asbestos myself? I vote “no” unless you are equipped and practiced at the process of containment, negative air and air scrubbing. Asbestos can take decades to kill you, but it will. Watching what my dad went through, I assure you that slowly suffocating to death over a stretch of about a year is not worth saving money on an asbestos removal project.

 

Asbestos is Still in Many of Our Homes Consider Testing

              If I took a poll, probably a vast majority of people would recognize asbestos as a hazard. We know that it gets ripped out of schools and other public buildings. We recognize that people die from asbestos and that there are big class action lawsuits about the mineral

There is a lot more we should know about this hazard previously thought of as a miracle product.

The use of asbestos dates back to the Greeks and Romans who used it to make cloth. It is a natural mineral, which varies by name and color depending upon where it is mined. There are 6 different minerals all lumped into the category of asbestos.

Asbestos is resistant to heat and most chemicals. The tough fibers were used as reinforcement and for heat resistance in many products for industry, homes and commercial buildings. It is a sneaky carcinogen because it was easy to add the mineral to a host of products that can disguise the presence to the naked eye. The reason for its widespread use is that where and when it was used, it saved lives from fire hazards and improved the characteristics of many products.

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)
Roof Tiles
Storage Heaters
Airing Cupboard Walls
Cement Fireplace Surrounds
Fuse Boxes
Gutters and Drainage Pipes
Pipe Lagging
Central Heating Flues
Cement Water Tanks
Rope Seals and Gaskets
Roofing Felt
Asbestos Insulating Board (AIB) Ceiling Tiles
AIB Bath Panels
Sprayed Insulation Coating

Asbestos is Real Personal for Millions of Workers

         You might scratch your head on how this happened. There was evidence of the medical risks of asbestos as early as 1920, but workers were not told of the dangers until the mid 1970’s.

Millions of workers including my father have died of asbestos related cancer. As a young man, I was exposed to asbestos in everything from joint compound to insulation and ceiling tiles while working in the family construction company.

With that said, my work as an asbestos testing professional is highly personal. Asbestos exposure still occurs today in some products and when it is removed by unsuspecting workers. Asbestos is still heavily mined in Russia and can find its way into products being manufactured today.

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