If you are like many of us, the addition of another term in the medical
field can just be babble and one more thing in a confusing, but major part of
our lives. Over 20% of the US economy is dedicated to health care.
The place to start the discussion is to answer the question: Why does
Functional Medicine matter? The answer lies with the fact that chronic disease
(diseases that linger in our lives) has become more and more prevalent.
Auto-immune disease, Asthma, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, COPD are some
examples of chronic disease.
The traditional treatment of patients is geared for treating problems such
as infections, heart attacks, broken bones, and other afflictions that can be
corrected with a heroic swoop down and medical intervention (often a medical
miracle) to correct the specific problem.
Functional Medicine Practitioners address the whole person using systems to
work in partnership with the patient for the best long term health outcome.
If you are like me, your first reaction to that sentence would be of course,
isn’t that what everybody does? That is because it makes sense when we hear
that said. The traditional model is disease centered. In other words, if you
get sick, the isolated set of symptoms are treated as a single point of
The Functional Medicine Practitioners spend time with patients, consider
their histories and look at possible interactions and the influence of genetic,
lifestyle and environmental factors that affect the long-term health of the
patient. This is a much more personalized or holistic approach to medicine and
When the general health of a person is managed, the chronic conditions are
better managed and acute episodes are reduced and quality of life is improved.
Additionally, proactive and predictive management of health improves overall
quality of life. It gives patients the personal power to improve their own
We are fans of Functional Medicine for good reason. This type of practice
usually improves the health and well-being of patients. We have seen this
happen as we work on the environmental with many of these practitioners.
When the Functional Medicine Practitioner is concerned about the
environmental conditions affecting a patient’s health, we test and report the
finding to the practitioner. We are experienced at providing the proper testing
and results for the evaluation of the medical provider.
The role we play in the Functional Medicine puzzle is identifying and
solving the environmental issues that affect both long term and short term
Click Here for a .PDF copy of this article News Years Resolution for Your Home.pdf
We look to the New Year for a fresh start and better times. Why not include our homes in that time of renewal ?
What catches us off guard is that things often wear out a little at a
time. The extension cords rubs a little, moves a little and three years
later has bare exposed wires that can start a fire. That process happens
with every part of our home.
Make your Home a Safer Place
Everyone knows to install and regularly check the smoke and carbon
monoxide detectors. It is important enough that it needs said again.
through your home and check for water leaks and mold. These can sneak
up on any homeowner. That tiny leak can cause a big mold problem over
time. The earlier leaks are found , the less damage they cause and the
easier they are to correct.
Have the radon checked in your home. Radon is the second leading cause
of lung cancer and South Western PA area has over a 50% failure rate.
your clothes dryer vent for blockage. Blocked vents can also cause the
dryer heater component to overheat and fail. At best a lint blockage in
the dryer vent can cost you a couple of hundred dollars in appliance
repairs. On the hand, dryer vent pipe blockage is a leading cause of
fires and carbon monoxide in the home.
We live in a world of chemicals. Some to clean, some to make things
smell, some to make things work better and others to make our homes
look pretty. Many of the chemicals can make some of us very ill.
Check the bottles and cans in cleaning closets for leakage. Remove
chemicals such as pesticides, paint thinner and gasoline from inside of
your home and garage. Storage in an exterior yard shed is a safe
Have your furnace cleaned and serviced each year. Hire a furnace
company that also checks for carbon monoxide and natural gas leaks.
If you have and use a fireplace, have the chimney cleaned and checked
each year before use. Check every heating appliance for safety,
especially the portable heaters.
Consider having a home inspection. We usually only consider these when
purchasing a home, but having a home checked for safety by a
professional can be a good thing while you are still living there. It
also could be a great gift for a senior or other family member not able
to keep up with their home maintenance.
There are over 200 million appliances that have been recalled. Check
for recalls to avoid fires or save major appliance repair or
replacement. You can check www.CPSC.gov or use a fee based data base
entry service to list and automatically recheck your appliances each
month such as: http://www.appliancerecallcheck.com/
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
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
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
Improve Your Home's Environment
These suggestions will make you feel better in your home. It is your
castle and should be the very best it can be. Ironically, your castle
should be a lot more comfortable than a real castle.
Take a couple of weekends and pick from the list of chores that can make your home healthier and more pleasant.
As a final suggestion, walk through and look at what is inside of your
home. We are talking about your pictures, furnishings, clothes or even
paint colors. If what you see conjures up bad memories or feelings:
get rid of it ! If you notice something that is hidden away that makes
you feel good, get it out where you can see it. Now! That can be a
wonderful New Years gift to yourself.
Imagine that you want to clean up your kitchen. You see the food particles, grease and other remnants of meal preparation and know there are germs on the surfaces. Instead of first wiping up the food, you take out a can of Lysol Spray. The can label says, “Lysol Spray Cleans 99.9% of Viruses and Bacteria.” You spray all the surfaces and decide you now have a clean kitchen, despite the yucky stuff on your table and counter. That is a disgusting thought and ignores the fact that germs live inside of that biological soup you did not clean up. That is precisely what happens when you have a mold treatment that is a come and spray you home without first cleaning the surfaces by wiping surfaces, replacing damaged materials or HEPA vacuuming contaminated surfaces. There are MANY mold remediators that take such an approach.
Just as the song says, “Christmas is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” The season is full of bright lights, excited children and time with friends and relatives.
We love the sounds and smells of the holiday season as they bring back memories of past holidays. That is unless………. the smells are not fond memories, but more like: Merry Christmas and please pass the antihistamine or inhaler---‘tis the season for asthma and allergies.
Too soon the excitement of this Christmas will be over and we will be packing and tucking away all of those special decorations and treasures to wait for another year. How we do that packing and where we store those treasures can affect our health next year.
Why Allergies and Asthma Spike During HolidaysClick here to Download a copy of Bringing A Fresh Air to Christmas.pdf
Stored holiday items can be a source of mold growth. Fiberglass and other insulation particles, dust and mold from storage areas and other allergens can get on and into improperly stored items. Even tightly sealed boxes can attract mice and insects, each contributing to the allergen and germ categories.
There has been an increase in the number of people affected with asthma and allergies spiking during the holidays. Obviously, Christmas comes at a time of year when homes are most likely to be closed up to protect from winter weather. Adding to that factor, we have tighter constructed homes with better windows, caulking and insulation resulting in less fresh air. Many homes are built with wet crawl spaces and improper venting systems. With tighter construction practices, attic and basement storage areas are often full of mold.
Fortunately, the suffering from Christmas allergies can be avoided with a few tips on proper storage and care of holiday trees and decorations.
Storage and Allergen Prevention Tips
Tips for Taking Out Decorations Next Year
“Things happen” in the life of a house. When we change windows, furnaces, add insulation or have leaks from roofs, plumbing, floods and a host of other “events” mold can occur where it never was found before. It may seem a little early for us to consider what to do when we pull things out of storage next year...but…while we are on the subject…here are a few tips:
Other Healthy Indoor Air Tips
Given a choice, it is better to place trees and decorations over areas of hard surface floors as opposed to carpet. These floors are easier to clean and hold fewer allergens.
The use of a quality air cleaner such as a HEPA filter can provide immediate indoor air improvement by removing the circulating allergens. Sweeping with HEPA filter vacuum sweepers as opposed to bag sweepers and using Swiffer type mops are better than bristle brooms for avoiding putting allergens into the air.
We want our homes to smell like Christmas. Many of those “plug in” scents contain synthetic esters and formaldehyde. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology states that: “We know that asthmatics are clearly sensitive to odors and fumes; therefore, it would not be unexpected that air fresheners could trigger asthmatic episodes.” Bake a pie or use potpourri in a warming pot as an alternative to the artificial scents.
A healthy home is a wonderful gift. With a little planning and prevention, we can take a deep breath and enjoy the season.
Most of us have heard of “Duct Cleaning Services”. The goal of this service is to stop the spread of the dirt and debris from the ductwork into the air we breathe. By debris we include mold spores, dust mites, pollen, pet allergens. house dust, and a host of other particles. These “airborne chunks” can affect respiratory health, induce allergies and are disgusting to know that we are breathing. Cleaning ductwork is an essential part of a healthy indoor air environment that is recommended after most mold remediation jobs and for respiratory health patients.
There are many choices in the duct cleaning service industry and a wide range of price points and quality of workmanship. Most people do like to save money, but also want the job to be done correctly.
The typical cost of a quality duct cleaning job in a 3-bedroom average size home is usually in the $500 to $800 range depending upon the amount of ductwork and the way it is laid out. This is an important job that should be done correctly. A “once over and not look back” budget coupon job is not worth the money no matter how low the price.
So How is a Consumer to Know if They are Getting a Good Job?
Great question! Let’s talk about how the job should be properly preformed. My previous understanding of the process was through literature and technical videos. To get a better understanding of the process, I asked Mold Medics of Greater Pittsburgh to allow me to go on a job with them and watch the actual work being done.
The air duct registers should be removed and cleaned. The ductwork sections closest to the register is then swept out with a HEPA vacuum. There are usually large chunks of fallen dirt and debris from original construction and the regular sweeping of floors in the ductwork near registers.
It is best to vacuum out the dirt near the registers out of the ductwork rather than pushing it through the rest of the ductwork. After sweeping out the ductwork close to the registers, the openings in the registers are covered with a plastic film to create a seal. This is done to maximize the suction on the individual section of the ductwork lines as it is cleaned.
The Proper Equipment and Workmanship is Critical to Having the Duct Cleaning Job Done Right.
There should be a massive vacuum machine to suction dirt. By massive I mean about six feet tall and a couple of feet in diameter. It can set in a service truck or be wheeled into the home. Most technicians will bring the machine into the home for optimal suction. The 6” or larger suction hose is attached first to the return air system after cutting a hole in the ductwork. The is also a separate air compressor to push the dirt down the ductwork into the suction machine.
One by one, each duct has the temporary plastic cover removed from the opening where the register was removed. The surfaces of the ductwork are agitated with a spinning “whip” made of plastic ribbons mounted on a flexible pipe. That whip hose also supplies the compressed air to loosen the dirt. This compressed air is pushing the dirt down the length of the duct while the vacuum equipment is sucking in that dirt and debris from where the suction pipe is attached near the furnace.
Once all the individual ductwork runs to the rooms have been cleaned, it is time to clean the main horizontal runs. These main ducts are usually on the ceiling of the basement or along the joists of the attic depending on where the furnace is located.
Cleaning these longer horizontal runs requires cutting a one-inch round access holes every few feet. The combination whip and compressed air hose is inserted into the end of the ductwork most distant from the furnace. Each duct is cleaned, and the dirt pushed toward the furnace area section by section. The access holes in the ductwork are then filled with plastic caps once that process of pushing the dirt and debris toward the furnace is complete.
High quality suction and compressor equipment is needed to move the dirt from the ductwork to the massive collection bag in the suction machine. To the contrary, low quality equipment can loosen the debris in the ductwork and unfortunately result in increased levels of the dirt and debris in the air from the ductwork.
The cleaning ductwork process leaves us with dirt in the furnace main return air duct, plenum, furnace blower and air conditioner A-coil.
No job is done until the holes cut in ductwork are filled, the registers are back in place and the tools and equipment are out of the home.
Poor Quality Duct Cleaning Jobs are More Common than You Might Think
I often check the condition of the blower, return air and other components of the furnace during an environmental assessment. When I check these in a building where a duct cleaning job has already been completed, more that 50% of those cleaning jobs still have heavy levels of dirt and debris in these areas. Some of the A-coils have even been covered in mold growth after a “duct cleaning.” I have also removed registers and reached down the ductwork and been able to pick up pieces of dirt after a cleaning. This is disgusting for me and disheartening for the people who paid to have their ducts cleaned.
Lead dust or lead in drinking water can easily rob a child of 10 IQ points, or be the cause of behavior problems. These problems last a lifetime and there is no remedy or cure, only prevention. The damage done to a child is damage done to all of us. We need to be responsible to avoid lead hazards. For an article I wrote about what you can do about lead in the home, got to http://www.envirospect.com/Lead Health Effects of Lead in Children According to the EPA Damage to the brain and nervous system Behavior and hearing problems Lowering of IQ Slow physical growth Anemia Health Effects of Lead in Adults According to the EPA Nervous system effects Cardiovascular effects Decreased kidney function Reproductive problems Miscarriage and premature birth in women Keeping Your Home Lead Safe Keep all surfaces well painted. HUD suggests no more than 1 square inch of peeling paintRepair the causes of peeling paint such as leaks promptly Keep the home dust freeWet mop wood floors that may contain lead Wet wipe friction areas such as where windows and doors rub Do not use steel wool or friction pads on surfaces that may contain leadRun water for 30 seconds before using for drinking or food preparation to reduce lead in lines Use only cold water to prepare foodsTeach children to wash hands and remove shoes after playing outside Use lead safe procedures for hobbies that use lead such as ceramics, stained glass, fish lures. Do not use sweepers with beater bars of mops with scrubber strips on finishes that contain lead Do not shake or beat carpets in homes that may contain lead dust. Testing for lead Physicians can test for lead in blood. This is a simple test that should be conducted if there is any possibility that lead exposure could occur in the home, school, daycare or any other place a child may spend time. Surfaces can be tested for lead using 3M Lead Check Swabs. These EPA approved tests determine of lead is on the surface of tested finishes and are available from 3M directly or other retail outlets. Call 800-949-3552 or go to www.leadcheck.com/contactus to order Layers of paint can be tested using EPA approved D-Lead test systems. These tests use a punch tool and allow testing of all of the layers of paint at a location. These can be used for applying the EPA RRP rule. Locate a distributor at www.esca-tech.com or call 414-962-3006 XRF standing for X-Ray Fluorescence is a HUD approved methodology that would only be available from a highly trained and licensed lead assessment professional.
The damage done to a child is damage done to all of us. We need to be responsible to avoid lead hazards. For an article I wrote about what you can do about lead in the home, got to http://www.envirospect.com/Lead
Health Effects of Lead in Children According to the EPA
Damage to the brain and nervous system
Behavior and hearing problems
Lowering of IQ
Slow physical growth
Health Effects of Lead in Adults According to the EPA
Nervous system effects
Decreased kidney function
Miscarriage and premature birth in women
Keeping Your Home Lead Safe
Testing for lead
Physicians can test for lead in blood. This is a simple test that should be conducted if there is any possibility that lead exposure could occur in the home, school, daycare or any other place a child may spend time.
Surfaces can be tested for lead using 3M Lead Check Swabs. These EPA approved tests determine of lead is on the surface of tested finishes and are available from 3M directly or other retail outlets. Call 800-949-3552 or go to www.leadcheck.com/contactus to order
Layers of paint can be tested using EPA approved D-Lead test systems. These tests use a punch tool and allow testing of all of the layers of paint at a location. These can be used for applying the EPA RRP rule. Locate a distributor at www.esca-tech.com or call 414-962-3006
XRF standing for X-Ray Fluorescence is a HUD approved methodology that would only be available from a highly trained and licensed lead assessment professional.
We are only a few days into fall, but Mother Nature’s change of our environment is just around the corner. Fall is the time to get the winter preparation done. The sad news is that even if your personal preparation for cold weather is packing the car and heading south, your home still needs preparation for freezing weather.
The First Step is to Assemble Your “Cold Weather Team.”
One of the first members of the team should be a good furnace company that will service “no heat” calls for their regular customers. The most important part of that sentence is the “regular customer” part. You do not want your first contact with a furnace company to begin with the sentence: ”You don’t know me, but I don’t have any heat.” The story here is to call a reputable company, have them service the furnace for winter and become a part of their customer list. Your bonus is that with proper service and adjustment fuel costs go down and the safety and life expectancy of a furnace go up.
If you have a fireplace you plan to use, have it cleaned and checked with a camera system before you use it. There will be house fires started with fireplace use and you do not want the picture of your burning home to be on the 11:00 PM News.
Find a “house buddy” for your Cold Weather Team. This can be friend, relative or neighbor. This is a simple concept. You are away from home on a winter vacation, the power goes off. You want your house looked in on. You call your house buddy and they make sure everything is Okey dokey, or they call in the cavalry, whichever is appropriate. You do the same for them. With today’s digital doorknobs, you don’t even need to swap keys. The door combination is all that is needed.
Set Up a Winter Emergency Kit
You know the basics. Purchase enough bottled water to last a couple of days. At the same time pick up some non-perishable food. If it is canned, add a can opener to the kit.
Most of the old winter preparation lists suggest candles and matches. Modern technology has made that an unnecessary fire risk. We own a fair number of the LED lanterns and flashlights for emergencies. As a bonus, the LED lights last longer than candles.
Have a method ready to check what is going on in the world. A backup battery unit to recharge your cellphone in a power outage is essential. Facebook and other social media on your smart phone can be a life saver. The unit I use can recharge my cellphone 3 times. Even if I never need it in a natural disaster, it is great for a day at the airport.
Check Your Winter Weather Safety Early Warning System
Install smoke detectors in every level of your home and in each bedroom. If you have any fossil fuel appliances, have carbon monoxide detectors in the home. Test each device for operation and install fresh batteries before winter.
If you have crawl spaces or are away from home for vacation, consider a freeze alarm that can call your cell phone and warn you before your house freezes.
Take a Long Hard Look at Attachment Issues
I am not referring to any emotional ties. You are used to “cleaning gutters” being on the winter preparation list. What you need to add is checking that the gutters and downspouts are tightly secured to the home. Ice loaded gutters can cause injury or damage when they fall.
At the same time as you are checking your gutters to see if they are secure, check decks and porches for proper attachment to the house. In the course of inspecting homes, I can tell you that I often found loose gutters, porches and decks.
Check your trees near your house and power lines. A falling tree or even a tree limb can damage your home or leave you without power. Add snow and ice to a dead limb and it can be downright dangerous.
The Forgotten Winter Preparation Steps That May Surprise You
Check your clothes dryer vents. Lint packed vents can be a fire hazard. With the newer dryers, partially blocked vents can also cause damage to the dryer. Ask how do I know? Ooops, I forgot that one last year and it cost me a new heating element for our clothes dryer. You may want to learn from my $200.00 oversight.
The Common Winter Preparation Tips
Where to Seal and Where to Vent Your Home
There are some great ways to save energy and increase home comfort. Plastic to cover windows, foam gaskets for exterior outlets and switches, reducing heat to unused areas of a home are all great ideas.
There are some other commonly done items that are not so good to do. Do not block vents for the attic or crawl spaces. This traps moisture in the home which can start the growth of mold. High moisture also reduces the insulation properties of most insulation systems.
Energy savings where it makes sense is great. Creating moisture and mold problems is not a good idea.
Let’s hope for a month or two of beautiful fall days before the snow flies. There needs to be time to enjoy the trees sporting the beauty of fall colors and get the fall list done.
Though not part of the approved school curriculum, mold that is found in the school is really a science experiment. Anywhere on earth that there is food and water, something will grow. It can be the deepest ocean or highest mountain. It can be the north pole or south pole or anywhere in between. That scientific fact is that books, paper, wood floors, drywall, dust, or any other material or any other substrate that can grow mold will grow mold within 48 hours of leaks or high moisture occurring.
The most common sources of mold problems in a school are:
The first step in preventing recurrence of mold is determining the conditions that were mold conducive. If mold grew in a school over the summer because the air conditioning was not run, or there are roof leaks, or any other reason, it will return if the cause of mold is not corrected.
Failure to correct the underlying cause of environmental hazards as well as the hazard itself, is a waste of money, and serves to mislead parents, administration and faculty into believing that the school mold environment is safe. In school we learned to consider both cause and effect. The same applies in the process of creating healthy indoor air quality.
Schools Can Get Help to Keep our Children Safe from Mold
The EPA provides great online tools available to learn the issues and solutions to mold problems. These are great general guidelines, but can’t address individual conditions. Mold problems are often complicated by being the result of several underlying conditions that require expertise in multiple construction fields.
Unfortunately, learning to use and to then implement these tools is often much tougher than obtaining them. Professional assistance is a good option to get an environmental awareness and mold prevention program up and running properly. Once established, existing staff can usually keep the program running.
Usually an indoor air quality (IAQ) program process starts with an initial site assessment, or information gathering session. The environmental risks are evaluated and appropriate tests then conducted. These could include mold and allergen testing. If there was flooding or sewage backups, testing for a number of common infectious diseases should be added.
An educational staff can’t be expected to have the full knowledge to implement a program, but often, once in place, the good health of school occupants can be maintained through the corrections and adjustments made in the facility. There are several companies that have assessment and monitoring programs that include a yearly Indoor Air Quality Certificate for posting after the assessment and completion of any appropriate testing and corrections.
Fungi are everywhere. There are millions of different fungal species on Earth, but only about 300 of those are known to make people sick.1-3 Fungal diseases are often caused by fungi that are common in the environment. Fungi live outdoors in soil and on plants and trees as well as on many indoor surfaces and on human skin. Most fungi are not dangerous, but some types can be harmful to health.
In thousands of homes and on social media posts across the land, you saw the annual notice heralding the end of summer vacation: “Summer is over and the kids are back in school”. Some will cry, some will cheer, some will only shrug their shoulders. No matter what we do or say, every school year, the emotion, and the back to school sales come to an end and attention shifts to the students actually being in school.
That is “all as it should be” with each new school year. The sad news is that the “welcome back student” message has been accompanied with too many news stories about mold being found in our nation’s schools. It is not an accident that “National Mold Awareness Month” is September.
The bottom line on this is that parents DO NOT want their child sick because they go to school. Our schools that have mold are like the “Jaws” movies. Just when you think it is safe to return, we find out that it is “not so safe.”
When we experience any school environmental issue such as mold, it can be front page headlines, TV, talk show fodder and Facebook news feed material.
Environmental issues in schools are not “just another student health issue”. These problems are a public relations nightmare, a staff human relations mine field, a facility management challenge, a budget buster, a political fiasco and a liability time bomb.
Signs of Mold in School
If a school is flooded or has leaks that are not quickly cleaned up, there will be mold. Whether it is a roof leak, plumbing leak or any other area of wet surfaces, you can count on mold growing.
Parents should take a look around their child’s school. Water stains are the target to look for. Fuzzy or splotchy areas are the bullseye in the search for suspected mold. These can be in almost any area of a building anywhere from the highest ceiling to the lowest floor.
In addition to the visual indicators of mold presence, odor can be indicator. When the odor of mold is in the school or on a child’s clothes, books, papers or possessions, mold should be investigated as a source of the offensive smell.
Sewage backups, leaks and all floods also have a host of water borne diseases and contaminants. When these occur, a professionally conducted disinfection must be conducted even when mold is not visible. Even a little dust left in an obscure corner after the flood is gone can enter through a cut in a student’s hand or their lungs long after the water is gone if the areas has not been disinfected.