Environmental Issue & Sick Building Syndrome Blog

Posted in:flood, mold and tagged: Moldfloodcar
Posted by Dan Howard on October 16th, 2017 9:49 PM

The Germiest Places in Your Community

Cold and flu season means germs, and some places you go every day may be germier than others.

"The prime source of germs -- and in the winter season, we're mostly talking about viruses like the flu and the common cold -- is other people," says Neil Schachter, MD, author of The Good Doctor's Guide to Colds and Flu.

These five places are the germiest you're likely to visit, Schachter says.

  1. Public restrooms. Bacteria and viruses thrive in a moist place. So sinks, soap dispensers, and toilet seats can host germs.
  2. Your child's school or day care. In a school or day care, lots of kids are together. There will be lots of opportunities for germs to spread.
  3. Public transportation. "The closer you are packed together with other people, the more likely you are to spread germs to one another," Schachter says. So subways, buses, trains, and airplanes are likely spots to pick up germs.
  4. Your doctor's office. Some people in the waiting room may have a cold or the flu. Some pediatricians' offices have separate waiting rooms for "well" and "not so well" kids. But others don't, and you rarely see separate waiting rooms in doctors' offices for adults.
  5. Other public places. "Places like malls, food courts, museums, sporting events, and concerts -- anywhere big crowds of people gather -- are prime sources of germs, particularly if the space is limited and there are lots of people pushed together," Schachter says.

Of course, you should still be out and about, living your life. You can take steps to keep germs at bay, wherever you go.

5 Ways to Defend Yourself

  1. Wash your hands often. Use soap and water. It can dislodge germs and send them down the drain.
  2. Carry hand sanitizer. It's handy if you can't wash your hands, especially if you're touching surfaces that other people use, like keyboards, elevator buttons, and door handles.
  3. Let something else do the touching. If you're in a germy place, like a doctor's office or your child's day care, press elevator buttons with your elbow, and use a paper towel to open bathroom doors and flush toilets. Only use banisters or escalator handrails if you need to for balance. Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, mouth, and ears, so that germs on your hands don’t enter your body.
  4. Wipe down shared surfaces. Use your hand sanitizer or a package of sanitizing wipes to clean off spots such as food court tables (they're often just wiped down with a rag that only spreads germs around) or the desk or phones in shared office spaces.
  5. Leave the germs outside. When you come home, take off your shoes and wash your hands. That's a family rule for Bridget Boyd, MD, director of the newborn nursery at Chicago's Loyola University Health Center. "My husband and I are both in the health care field, and my son goes to day care, so who knows what's on our shoes?" she says. "But it makes sense for anyone. It's a good idea to wash off germs and dirt when you come home."
Posted in:Community Health and tagged: Cold Flu Season
Posted by Dan Howard on October 14th, 2017 7:17 PM

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: 
bartb_pt)

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

Lead pipes Damage Child Brains and Development. Replacement is Often More Expensive Than Homeowners Can Afford 


For Pittsburghers trying to guard their tap water from lead, the price can be steep.

Excavating and replacing a privately owned lead service line — the water connection into a house — can cost some $4,500, according to the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority. The price may vary by thousands from property to property.

But an emerging technology could coat the insides of those pipes instead, a process shown elsewhere to prevent lead contamination for much less expense and disruption, authority spokesman Will Pickering said Wednesday. Under a pilot agreement with PWSA, a West Coast company is employing the approach at six Hill District homes to show its effectiveness here.

Water tests should reveal the results next week. Santa Ana, Calif.-based Pipe Restoration Technologies is providing the pilot at no charge to raise awareness of its epoxy coating method known as ePIPE, which the company has used to treat thousands of service lines in the United Kingdom since 2011, CEO Larry Gillanders said.

“The less you dig, the more the savings,” Mr. Gillanders said, donning a hard hat on the 3300 block of Webster Avenue. He estimated the company spent $20,000 to $25,000 on the project coating lead service lines for five homes on Webster and another on nearby Milwaukee Street. Workers finished the process Wednesday.

Expenses for the work typically would be closer to $1,500 to $2,000 per home, Mr. Gillanders said.

At Virginia Tech, professor Marc A. Edwards said the concept is well proven. He said coating costs can be 40 percent to 75 percent less than those for line replacement.

“It’s our experience that if these coatings are installed properly, they last what’s considered the lifetime of a plumbing system, which is 50 or 60 years. I think it’s under-utilized,” said Mr. Edwards, an expert in environmental and water resources engineering.

The coating concept has been used for years to shore up indoor plumbing systems. It’s been used rarely in exterior service lines in the U.S., although it’s adopted more widely for such lines Britain and Europe, industry observers said.

In Pittsburgh, PWSA estimates as many as 17,750 of 71,000 residential service lines contain lead. The connections, which tie household plumbing into a water main beneath the street, have two sections: the public portion that taps into the main, and the privately owned portion that finishes the link into the building.

Elevated lead levels triggered a federal remediation rule in 2016, requiring that PWSA replace at least 7 percent of its lead service lines each year. Exposure to the metal is linked to developmental problems and other ailments.

Still, the replacement mandate applies only to the public portion of the lines. Removing that segment while leaving intact the private portion — which is the property owner’s responsibility -— is known as a partial replacement. PWSA has halted partial replacements amid concerns that they may raise lead levels, at least in the short term, by disrupting lead particles inside the remaining pipe segment.

That’s where the coating method could be helpful, Mr. Pickering said, by giving homeowners a cheaper option to address the private lines and subdue contamination risks.

“It opens up a lot more properties where we can do the [public-side replacement] work,” he said.

While PWSA has carried out some 460 public-side line replacements since last summer, Mr. Pickering estimated fewer than 10 percent of those property owners are known to have performed private-side replacements. Most service connections with lead on the public side also have the metal on the private side, according to the authority.

A federally funded study released this year found that epoxy coatings hold promise for lead service lines, spurring PWSA to look at the idea more seriously. If PWSA moves forward, Pittsburgh would be the first U.S. city to use the coatings on a large scale in service lines, Mr. Pickering said.

In the meantime, city and state officials are exploring other ways to encourage work on private lines, including through government aid. On Webster Avenue, Gerald R. Brown Jr., 68, said he’s relieved that his mother, Sarah Dickey, is part of the pipe-coating pilot.

It might even prolong her life, he said.

“Even though she’s 94 years old, you don’t know what lead will do to an older person over a longer period of time,” Mr. Brown said.

Posted by Dan Howard on October 6th, 2017 8:53 PM

What Is Allergic Asthma?  Credit: WebMD

Allergies are all about your immune system. The job of your immune system is to protect you from germs such as bacteria and viruses. But if you have an allergy, your immune system will also defend your body against a harmless substance -- such as cat dander or dust mites -- that you encounter.

When you come across an allergy trigger, your body makes molecules called IgE antibodies. These trigger a series of reactions that can cause swelling, runny nose, and sneezing.

In people with allergic asthma, the muscles around their airways begin to tighten. The airways themselves also become inflamed and flooded with mucus.

Symptoms of Allergic Asthma

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

What Are Some Common Allergens?

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

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

People may also have allergic reactions if they touch or eat allergens. This type of exposure rarely causes asthma symptoms, but it can cause a serious and even life-threatening reaction, such as anaphylactic shock, which makes it hard to breathe.

Irritants can also trigger an asthma attack, even though they don't cause an allergic reaction.

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

Your doctor might recommend allergy tests to figure out what allergens affect you. These tests usually involve pricking your skin with a tiny amount of the suspected allergen or injecting it under your skin. Your doctor then checks your skin for a reaction.

If a skin test isn't possible, you might get a blood test instead.

Avoid Your Allergic Asthma Triggers

When pollen counts are high, stay inside as much as possible. Keep the windows closed. If you have an air conditioner, use it to filter the air.

To keep dust mites out, wrap your pillows, mattress, and box springs in allergen-proof covers. Wash your sheets once a week in hot water.

Avoid Your Allergic Asthma Triggers continued...

Get rid of items where dust can gather, such as on heavy curtains or piles of clothing. If your child has allergic asthma, only buy washable stuffed animals. Remove wall-to-wall carpeting, if possible.

If moisture is a problem in your home, get a dehumidifier to cut down on mold. Repair any plumbing leaks.

If you have pets, keep them out of the bedroom.

Keep your kitchen and bathroom very clean to avoid mold and cockroaches.

Be careful doing outside work. Gardening and raking can stir up pollen and mold.

Medications for Allergic Asthma

Bronchodilators, which relax the muscles around the airways, allow you to breathe easier. These drugs are often used to stop asthma symptoms after they've started. Sometimes, you use them daily to help control your asthma.

Anti-inflammatory drugs, which ease swelling, are used for long-term control of asthma.

Other medications can prevent your airways from tightening or block the release of chemicals that trigger the allergic reaction.

Allergy shots or tablets can train your immune system to stop overreacting to specific allergens.

https://www.webmd.com/asthma/surviving-allergy-season-15/allergic-asthma-what-is-it

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

NLM Toxicology and Environmental Health Info
Environmental Health & Toxicology Update from the National Library of Medicine

Tox-App: An App to Search for Potential Environmental Health Hazards in your Community

Use Tox-App, a free mobile app for iOS users from the National Library of Medicine, to search for industrial facilities that reported releasing certain chemicals into the environment (based on data from the US EPA TRI program). Tox-App includes a subset of about 100 TRI chemicals for the most current TRI year. You can download Tox-App     Link to Toxix Chemical App Announcement

from the Apple App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tox-app/id1227471020?mt=8

Tox-App is based on the National Library of Medicine online tool TOXMAP and provides some of the basic TOXMAP functions, including:

Search for reporting facilities by name or state
Browse for facilities by chemical, state, or county
View locations of reporting facilities on an interactive map
Learn more about Tox-App here: https://go.usa.gov/xRhbY


Posted by Dan Howard on October 4th, 2017 10:16 PM

http://m.petmd.com/dog/slideshows/mold-poisoning-pets-causes-symptoms-and-treatment 

Mold and its potential effect on your pets is an important subject to our staff and many of the people we work with. Our dog, Buddy has Asthma, and a mold free environment is VERY important for him. 

Just as mold can affect the health of people, pets can have health problems caused by mold exposure.

If you think about it, most of our pets spend more time in the home than we do, giving them a higher level of exposure. No wonder they can get sick before we do! 

It’s a shame we cannot send them out to do the shopping, visit our relatives, attend events and in general make appearances in our behalf when we would rather be staying home….but…then we would have the higher exposure to any potential contaminants in the home.  

                This is a great slideshow from PetMD.com.  Rest assured we understand that the health of your pests is important, and as pet owners take the healthy home goal seriously for you and your family, including the 4 legged members of the household

In this picture, Left to Right  Noah the Assassin (You can  ask  how he earned his name) and Buddy Howard  (as sweet a dog as ever lived)

Noah wanted it mentioned that we care about mold for him too. He is 17 years old and though he has not had Asthma like Buddy has, his health is important to us too!

Posted in:pet health home and tagged: HomepetToxic
Posted by Dan Howard on September 30th, 2017 11:58 AM

The Benefits and Limits of ERMI Testing

There are several testing methods used for diagnosing mold issues. As in all things in the world, there are advantages and disadvantage to each type of testing.  That means that each type of testing is useful in its own way….and often not appropriate for other applications.

                 ERMI (Environmental Relative Moldiness Index) is one test that is not often used or understood. ERMI is the product of the modern miracle of DNA technology. The EPA owns the patent on the process and limits its use to approved labs.  The EPA also states that their approval of the technology is only “experimental.”

However, there are many studies and anecdotal evidence of the benefit of the test results for patients with CIRS (Chronic Inflammatory Respiratory Disease) There are also some very interesting, but limited studies that high ERMI scores correlate with high lactate in the brain. High lactate correlates with cognitive problems. It may be that identifying high ERMI score conditions may be useful in treating some diseases. These are still very preliminary studies and require more research. 

                    Let’s do the Pros and Cons before we talk about how this technology works.

Pro:

ERMI can give very targeted specific specialization for target molds that can have an influence on health

ERMI can give evidence of the historic (new or old mold contaminations) mold conditions in a building.

Historic evidence of long term exposure vs short term exposure can be useful for medical practitioners     

Con:

ERMI does not quantify mold, it only identifies the 36 species of targeted molds

ERMI requires old carpet that was not regularly cleaned to provide the source of dust to give that historic record

ERMI is still an evolving science in terms of correlation of ERMI results and health implications

ERMI does not help to isolate the source of the mold contamination to aid in any required remediation

Overview of the process

                A sample of dust is taken using a specialized dirt trap. The dirt/dust/debris is to be collected by using a vacuum cleaner hooked up to a specialized air filter. An alternative system is a smaller cassette and a standard air sampling pump. The sample is supposed to be drawn from a roughly 2 square yard carpet area in either a living room or bedroom.   

                The sample is sent to an EPA licensed lab. The lab takes the dust from the dirt trap and puts it through a filter to isolate the small, mold size particles.  (Think spaghetti in a strainer, only microscopic in size)

                Those particles are put into a tube with a known amount of Geotrichum candidum

and the DNA is beat out of the mold spores with microscopic beads called “bead pellets.” That mush is then filtered and the sifted genetic stuff is mixed with a buffer solution. It is then dumped into a solution called “Master Mix” and put through a series of temperature controlled reactions.

                If you are wondering the technical name for the magic chemistry we are doing, it is MSQPCR

Mold Specific Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction  

                Now remember that known quantity of Geotrichum candidum that was in the mix? That is the reference basis that can be used to compare the assays (checking process) for each of the target molds (molds that they are looking for).  The checking process is done with a “Sequence Detector” (which is identifying DNA sequences)

                 

               Once the 36 target molds are identified, the 26 in the WDB (Water Damage Building) group are measured and are compared to the common or outdoor group of 10 molds. 

              The reason for the look at the ratio of the two is that the exact quantity of each mold is not determined by this test. That is the result of several factors. Our size of sample could be small or big, based upon the amount of dirt we swept up.  We can’t figure out by counting pieces of DNA if there is a little or a lot of mold in the building. You get the point. We do not know how much mold is in the building from an ERMI test.

              What we do know is that if most of the mold DNA is the outdoor molds, then there is less mold growing in the house. If there is a whole bunch more of the indoor mold than the exterior, oops, there is a lot more mold growing IN the house than coming in from the OUTSIDE.

                Scoring is done on a scale of -10 to 20.  The higher the number, the more mold that is from growing inside the house in the tested building area.  That ERMI Score number is a “sort of number,” not an exact measure. It is based on a limited number of tests from a limited geographic area. Hence reference to it as a “Relative Score.”  

               That folks, is what this ERMI testing is about. It is amazing technology, but has a very limited application. It can’t quantify mold contaminations or the success of any remediation efforts. According to the EPA, ERMI is an “emerging technology”. They further state that ERMI is still in the experimental stages and is not approved for medical diagnostic use.   

Posted in:Mold Testing and tagged: MoldtestingSBSMCSERMI
Posted by Dan Howard on September 26th, 2017 7:53 PM

Accumulation of biological pollutants can result in hazardous health effects for occupants, as well as structural damage to the building.

·         By Jim Shelton

·         Sep 01, 2017


They say ignorance is bliss. But today, with mounting evidence showing the harmful health effects of poor indoor air quality (IAQ), consumers and businesses alike are making considerable changes to reduce their carbon footprint. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, each year, more than 7 million people across the globe die because of exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollution. Of those 7 million premature deaths, 3.8 million are caused by exposure to indoor air pollution.

In the 1970s, rising home energy costs led to tighter building construction. To obtain these airtight designs, builders used newly designed windows and doors, sealing caulks and other insulating materials to create better energy efficiency. The resulting benefit was fewer drafts and therefore, smaller heating and air-conditioning costs. However, a new problem emerged: the extra pollutants retained in airtight buildings showed to be hazardous to occupants due to the buildup of pollutants and uncirculated stale air.1

Today, the need for mechanical ventilation, allowing even the most tightly built home to "breathe" in fresh air and exhale any pollutants in a controlled and monitored way, while still maximizing energy efficiency, is at the forefront of modern building science discussions. As building codes require tighter, more energy-efficient homes, third-party certification programs like EPA's ENERGY STAR® enable and encourage builders to have a profound impact on the comfort and safety of residents (by improving IAQ), as well as the cost of construction and the cost of operating the home.

Mechanical Ventilation 
Think of mechanical ventilation as the lungs of the home. Without air systematically supporting the body with oxygen and exhausting the carbon monoxide, the human body would not function in a healthy manner. The same is true for ventilation in the home. As an industry, we have an obligation to consider home health and IAQ as a primary driver in any home ventilation plan. While exterior pollutants such as smog and carbon monoxide may receive more attention, IAQ within a home can have serious effects on our physical and mental health, as well. Unsettling as it may sound, your home could actually be making you sick, leaving builders and manufacturers vulnerable to damaging and costly reputational harm and possible litigation. Here are common unresolved issues that lead to IAQ problems and "sick homes."

  • Toxic molds. Biological pollutants, including mold, mildew, pollen, dust mites, pet dander, viruses, and bacteria, are found in all homes. In fact, 28 percent of American homes rated as unhealthy report problems with mold, mildew, and/or rot. Accumulation of these biological pollutants can result in hazardous health effects for occupants, as well as structural damage to the building.
  • Formaldehyde. Many airtight homes are built or remodeled using synthetic building materials that may release harmful chemicals into the air. These harmful gasses are known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), carbon-based compounds that easily evaporate. Formaldehyde and other types of gases can also be released from building materials, carpets, furniture, and many other household items as part of aging, decomposition, or curing, all of which are natural processes known as off-gassing; 98 percent of new homes have indoor formaldehyde levels ranging from 4ppb (parts per billion) to 120 ppb, with a median of 29 ppb for the first 2-5 years.
  • Carbon monoxide. Because it is impossible to see, taste, or smell the toxic fumes, CO can cause harmful effects before you are aware it is in your home. The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health, and the concentration and length of exposure. (Source: EPA)

Strategies for Whole-House Mechanical Ventilation 
A building's envelope is the foundation for a successful ventilation strategy. A tight enclosure that minimizes moisture and air leakage lays the groundwork for a good ventilation system and also provides better energy performance overall. This creates a healthy, durable, energy-conscious space. All energy-efficient homes—new and existing—require mechanical ventilation to maintain good IAQ. For mechanical whole-house ventilation, there are four basic systems.

  • Exhaust ventilation. Exhaust ventilation removes pollutants at the source. An inexpensive and simple approach to ventilating a home, exhaust-only ventilation works by forcing air out of the home to depressurize the interior and gain make-up air through passive vents. Because this ventilation system only actively exhausts air, it is not recommended in hot or humid climates. Since any make-up air is gained passively, that air may be very humid, contain pollutants, or be too cold, leading to energy penalties for the home. Powerful exhaust systems, such as commercial-capacity range hoods, should be used cautiously with combustion appliances, as they can cause back drafting. (Source: Panasonic Ventilation2)
  • Supply ventilation. Supply ventilation, another simple and inexpensive approach, uses a fan to pressurize a home, actively bringing outdoor air inside while squeezing out indoor air. Supply systems offer better control over pollutants in incoming air, as they only obtain outdoor air through specified vents. Pressurizing the house more readily forces out combustion gases and other pollutants. However, supply systems struggle with conditioning or removing moisture from incoming air, and can raise heating or cooling costs.
  • Balanced ventilation. Balanced ventilation works by both actively exhausting polluted indoor air and actively drawing in fresh, outdoor air in a balanced, controlled ratio. Because the system uses more fans and ducts than either the supply or exhaust approaches, it is more costly. However, balanced ventilation is appropriate for all climate zones.
  • Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERV). By coupling a balanced approach with an energy recovery or heat recovery ventilator (ERV or HRV), incoming air can be conditioned and dehumidified, saving on heating and cooling expenses for the home. A tight enclosure guards the interior of the home and guarantees that air is properly enclosed and controlled.

During the past several code cycles, mechanical ventilation requirements have been added to ensure adequate outside air is provided for ventilation whenever residences are occupied. Ideally, an airtight home designed with both continuous and intermittent ventilation will contribute to a healthy and comfortable living environment for the entire family.

Building Energy Codes and Standards (Residential & Commercial)
Yet another factor for builders and homeowners to consider when evaluating the indoor air quality in their homes are the applicable local and national building codes. The International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) currently address the energy efficiency requirements for the design, materials, and equipment used in nearly all new construction, additions, renovations, and construction techniques.

ASHRAE 62.2 is the standard most commonly referenced for home ventilation. The purpose of this standard is to specify minimum ventilation rates and other measures intended to provide IAQ that is acceptable to human occupants and that minimizes adverse health effects. However, complying with a building energy code is challenging for both builders and architects. If a code requires ASHRAE 62.2 compliance and a home fails to meet the ventilation standard, a builder is faced with expensive alterations to mechanical systems, fan capacities, and duct sizing.

Home Energy Ratings
The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index is the nationally recognized scoring system for measuring a home’s energy performance. Ratings are calculated at the end of the construction process by a certified Home Energy Rater using diagnostic equipment and performance modeling software. The rating takes into account variables such as a home’s airtightness, level of insulation, and type of heating and cooling system. The lower the number, the more energy efficient the home.

In fact, the goal is to have a Net Zero home, which means that your home’s energy consumption is equal to the energy it is able to produce. These energy-efficient homes are more affordable to maintain, more comfortable, and have a higher value compared to regular homes. Older homes often fall under the higher ratings due to issues such as old sagging insulation or tiny cracks and holes that have developed over time, compromising the performance and energy efficiency of the home.

The U.S. Department of Energy has determined that a typical resale home scores 130 on the HERS Index, while a standard new home is awarded a rating of 100.

  • A home with a HERS Index Score of 70 is 30 precent more energy efficient than a standard new home.
  • A home with a HERS Index Score of 130 is 30 percent less energy efficient than a standard new home.

However, balancing a low HERS score with a whole home ventilation approach is difficult. As a measure of how tightly built your home is, a HERS score will likely increase when ventilation strategies are employed. For manufacturers and builders, the challenge becomes how to meet air cycle requirements as cost effectively as possible. The best measure of this in ventilation is "cost per HERS point."

To find a whole-house system that not only meets stringent ASHRAE 62.2 and ENERGY STAR® Certified Homes 3.0 ventilation requirements, but also provides the lowest cost per HERS point, builders and manufacturers are beginning to partner with utilities and independent third-party service providers and organizations that offer programs and/or services that support customer efforts to reduce energy consumption and improve energy efficiency. Finding OEMs that design and engineer ventilation solutions with these complex variables in mind can help you navigate this cost/efficiency nexus.

Third-Party Certification
Popular voluntary performance programs such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)® for Homes, ENERGY STAR® Homes program, and the Zero Energy Ready Home, use IECC and ASHRAE as the foundation to create a healthy, high-performance home. LEED works for all buildings—from homes to corporate headquarters—at all phases of development. Projects pursuing LEED certification earn points across several areas that address sustainability issues. Based on the number of points achieved, a project then receives one of four LEED rating levels: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.
3

EPA also offers special recognition to builders who commit to building 100 percent of their homes to meet ENERGY STAR® program requirements. ENERGY STAR® is a voluntary government program administered through the EPA. Its goal is to help people and businesses save money and protect the climate through energy efficiency. Each year, EPA and DOE honor organizations and businesses that have made outstanding contributions to protecting the environment through energy efficiency with their annual ENERGY STAR® Awards event.

The blue ENERGY STAR label was established to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants caused by the inefficient use of energy and make it easy for consumers to identify and purchase energy-efficient products that offer savings on energy bills without sacrificing performance, features, and comfort.4 ENERGY STAR® partners agree to measure, track, and benchmark energy performance; develop and implement a plan to improve energy performance, adopt the ENERGY STAR® strategy; and educate staff and the public about their partnership and achievements with ENERGY STAR®.

Proper Installation
As more building codes call for whole house ventilation, a new ventilation system makes it easier to create supply or balanced ventilation system in a single-family or multifamily home. However, it’s important to note any mechanical ventilation system will not reach its performance potential if components are poorly manufactured or installed improperly. System imbalances occur when components of the HVAC system are improperly adjusted or installed and can create pressure differences (too much circulating air creating a draft or too little, circulating air creating stagnancy).

Unfortunately, most ventilation fans are not living up to their cfm claims, which can lead to costly compliance failure issues, expensive call-backs, IAQ problems, increased construction defects and warranty work, painful litigation, and angry, vengeful buyers.

A recent testing by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that of all the bathroom fans they evaluated, 48 percent failed the required airflow standards outlined in ASHRAE 62.2.2013. Many builders going for ENERGY STAR have learned that fans rated at 50 cfm generally don’t cut it and have turned to installing fans rated at 110 cfm in all their homes. One case study of Habitat for Humanity houses that were going for certification in the ENERGY STAR new homes program tested nine fans, all rated at 110 cfm. Only five of these 110 cfm rated fans beat the 51 cfm mark. They achieved between 51-85 cfm, none coming close to the 110 cfm rating. And the four fans that failed? Their exhaust flow rates were 30, 45, and 46 cfm.

So how does a ventilation fan help solve consumer desires? Home buyers want energy efficiency; 90 percent of home buyers list ENERGY STAR appliances as part of their most wanted features list, and 88 percent say the same about an ENERGY STAR rating for the whole home. Smart builders have listened. In 2015, 190,180 new homes in the United States were HERS rated, more than 38 percent of all new homes sold, which is a 30 percent increase over 2014. What's more, home buyers on average will pay an additional $10,732 up front to save $1,000 a year in utilities.

Conclusion
Whole-house mechanical ventilation is on the rise, driven by advances in building design, building codes, and an ever-more-discerning consumer base that recognize the importance of a healthy home environment. Since 2008, single-family detached homes with whole-house ventilation systems have grown from 9 percent to 27 percent of all new home construction, according to the 2015 Annual Builder Practices Survey conducted by Home Innovation Research Labs. Due to states' adoption of the 2012 International Building Code, more homes will be requiring mechanical ventilation, which will help alleviate moisture issues and maintain healthy indoor environmental quality for home owners.

Builders nationwide are seeking to lower their homes' HERS scores to meet ASHRAE 62.2 and ENERGY STAR® Certified Home 3.0 ventilation requirements. In an era with so many factors for builders and homeowners to consider, it's important to work with partners that understand all of these moving pieces and can help you find the best solution for your unique circumstance. Understanding how mechanical ventilation systems are evaluated and knowing their performance characteristics helps building and construction professionals find the right solution for their project needs. There are solutions that builders and contractors are working on that manufacturers haven't even seen yet. As new technologies arise and new public hazards are identified, working with manufacturers to come up with new products is a trend that will grow in the years to come. "Building tight and ventilating right" remains the recipe, both for a healthy home and a successful homebuilder.

References
1. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2017/05/prweb14298214.htm
2. http://business.panasonic.com/solutions-hvacsolutions-ventilationforthehomeowner-exhaustsupplybalancedventilation
3. http://www.usgbc.org/leed
4. https://www.energystar.gov/products/how-product-earns-energy-star-label

About the Author

Jim Shelton, Vice President, Panasonic Eco Solutions North America (PESNA), is driving the next generation of Panasonic solutions to meet builders’ ever-changing ventilation needs. For more than five years, he has led the Eco Products division of PESNA and in 2016, was promoted to vice president. He brings a wealth of industry experience to his role, where he is responsible for sales, marketing, and product development for the company's ventilation business, as well as the strategic planning, implementation, and management of key initiatives. He has been a standard bearer for ventilation products since 2001; prior to joining Panasonic Eco Solutions in 2001, he was the area sales manager for Thomas & Betts, a large, multinational manufacturer of electrical, electronic, mechanical and utility products. He is on the board of the Energy and Environmental Building Alliance. 

Copyright 1996-2016 1105 Media Inc. All rights reserved. 

 


Breathe Easy: Taking a 'Whole House Solution' Approach to Indoor Air Quality

Accumulation of biological pollutants can result in hazardous health effects for occupants, as well as structural damage to the building.

They say ignorance is bliss. But today, with mounting evidence showing the harmful health effects of poor indoor air quality (IAQ), consumers and businesses alike are making considerable changes to reduce their carbon footprint. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, each year, more than 7 million people across the globe die because of exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollution. Of those 7 million premature deaths, 3.8 million are caused by exposure to indoor air pollution.

In the 1970s, rising home energy costs led to tighter building construction. To obtain these airtight designs, builders used newly designed windows and doors, sealing caulks and other insulating materials to create better energy efficiency. The resulting benefit was fewer drafts and therefore, smaller heating and air-conditioning costs. However, a new problem emerged: the extra pollutants retained in airtight buildings showed to be hazardous to occupants due to the buildup of pollutants and uncirculated stale air.1

Today, the need for mechanical ventilation, allowing even the most tightly built home to "breathe" in fresh air and exhale any pollutants in a controlled and monitored way, while still maximizing energy efficiency, is at the forefront of modern building science discussions. As building codes require tighter, more energy-efficient homes, third-party certification programs like EPA's ENERGY STAR® enable and encourage builders to have a profound impact on the comfort and safety of residents (by improving IAQ), as well as the cost of construction and the cost of operating the home.

Mechanical Ventilation 
Think of mechanical ventilation as the lungs of the home. Without air systematically supporting the body with oxygen and exhausting the carbon monoxide, the human body would not function in a healthy manner. The same is true for ventilation in the home. As an industry, we have an obligation to consider home health and IAQ as a primary driver in any home ventilation plan. While exterior pollutants such as smog and carbon monoxide may receive more attention, IAQ within a home can have serious effects on our physical and mental health, as well. Unsettling as it may sound, your home could actually be making you sick, leaving builders and manufacturers vulnerable to damaging and costly reputational harm and possible litigation. Here are common unresolved issues that lead to IAQ problems and "sick homes."

  • Toxic molds. Biological pollutants, including mold, mildew, pollen, dust mites, pet dander, viruses, and bacteria, are found in all homes. In fact, 28 percent of American homes rated as unhealthy report problems with mold, mildew, and/or rot. Accumulation of these biological pollutants can result in hazardous health effects for occupants, as well as structural damage to the building.
  • Formaldehyde. Many airtight homes are built or remodeled using synthetic building materials that may release harmful chemicals into the air. These harmful gasses are known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), carbon-based compounds that easily evaporate. Formaldehyde and other types of gases can also be released from building materials, carpets, furniture, and many other household items as part of aging, decomposition, or curing, all of which are natural processes known as off-gassing; 98 percent of new homes have indoor formaldehyde levels ranging from 4ppb (parts per billion) to 120 ppb, with a median of 29 ppb for the first 2-5 years.
  • Carbon monoxide. Because it is impossible to see, taste, or smell the toxic fumes, CO can cause harmful effects before you are aware it is in your home. The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health, and the concentration and length of exposure. (Source: EPA)

Strategies for Whole-House Mechanical Ventilation 
A building's envelope is the foundation for a successful ventilation strategy. A tight enclosure that minimizes moisture and air leakage lays the groundwork for a good ventilation system and also provides better energy performance overall. This creates a healthy, durable, energy-conscious space. All energy-efficient homes—new and existing—require mechanical ventilation to maintain good IAQ. For mechanical whole-house ventilation, there are four basic systems.

  • Exhaust ventilation. Exhaust ventilation removes pollutants at the source. An inexpensive and simple approach to ventilating a home, exhaust-only ventilation works by forcing air out of the home to depressurize the interior and gain make-up air through passive vents. Because this ventilation system only actively exhausts air, it is not recommended in hot or humid climates. Since any make-up air is gained passively, that air may be very humid, contain pollutants, or be too cold, leading to energy penalties for the home. Powerful exhaust systems, such as commercial-capacity range hoods, should be used cautiously with combustion appliances, as they can cause back drafting. (Source: Panasonic Ventilation2)
  • Supply ventilation. Supply ventilation, another simple and inexpensive approach, uses a fan to pressurize a home, actively bringing outdoor air inside while squeezing out indoor air. Supply systems offer better control over pollutants in incoming air, as they only obtain outdoor air through specified vents. Pressurizing the house more readily forces out combustion gases and other pollutants. However, supply systems struggle with conditioning or removing moisture from incoming air, and can raise heating or cooling costs.
  • Balanced ventilation. Balanced ventilation works by both actively exhausting polluted indoor air and actively drawing in fresh, outdoor air in a balanced, controlled ratio. Because the system uses more fans and ducts than either the supply or exhaust approaches, it is more costly. However, balanced ventilation is appropriate for all climate zones.
  • Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERV). By coupling a balanced approach with an energy recovery or heat recovery ventilator (ERV or HRV), incoming air can be conditioned and dehumidified, saving on heating and cooling expenses for the home. A tight enclosure guards the interior of the home and guarantees that air is properly enclosed and controlled.

During the past several code cycles, mechanical ventilation requirements have been added to ensure adequate outside air is provided for ventilation whenever residences are occupied. Ideally, an airtight home designed with both continuous and intermittent ventilation will contribute to a healthy and comfortable living environment for the entire family.

Building Energy Codes and Standards (Residential & Commercial)
Yet another factor for builders and homeowners to consider when evaluating the indoor air quality in their homes are the applicable local and national building codes. The International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) currently address the energy efficiency requirements for the design, materials, and equipment used in nearly all new construction, additions, renovations, and construction techniques.

ASHRAE 62.2 is the standard most commonly referenced for home ventilation. The purpose of this standard is to specify minimum ventilation rates and other measures intended to provide IAQ that is acceptable to human occupants and that minimizes adverse health effects. However, complying with a building energy code is challenging for both builders and architects. If a code requires ASHRAE 62.2 compliance and a home fails to meet the ventilation standard, a builder is faced with expensive alterations to mechanical systems, fan capacities, and duct sizing.

Home Energy Ratings
The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index is the nationally recognized scoring system for measuring a home’s energy performance. Ratings are calculated at the end of the construction process by a certified Home Energy Rater using diagnostic equipment and performance modeling software. The rating takes into account variables such as a home’s airtightness, level of insulation, and type of heating and cooling system. The lower the number, the more energy efficient the home.

In fact, the goal is to have a Net Zero home, which means that your home’s energy consumption is equal to the energy it is able to produce. These energy-efficient homes are more affordable to maintain, more comfortable, and have a higher value compared to regular homes. Older homes often fall under the higher ratings due to issues such as old sagging insulation or tiny cracks and holes that have developed over time, compromising the performance and energy efficiency of the home.

The U.S. Department of Energy has determined that a typical resale home scores 130 on the HERS Index, while a standard new home is awarded a rating of 100.

  • A home with a HERS Index Score of 70 is 30 precent more energy efficient than a standard new home.
  • A home with a HERS Index Score of 130 is 30 percent less energy efficient than a standard new home.

However, balancing a low HERS score with a whole home ventilation approach is difficult. As a measure of how tightly built your home is, a HERS score will likely increase when ventilation strategies are employed. For manufacturers and builders, the challenge becomes how to meet air cycle requirements as cost effectively as possible. The best measure of this in ventilation is "cost per HERS point."

To find a whole-house system that not only meets stringent ASHRAE 62.2 and ENERGY STAR® Certified Homes 3.0 ventilation requirements, but also provides the lowest cost per HERS point, builders and manufacturers are beginning to partner with utilities and independent third-party service providers and organizations that offer programs and/or services that support customer efforts to reduce energy consumption and improve energy efficiency. Finding OEMs that design and engineer ventilation solutions with these complex variables in mind can help you navigate this cost/efficiency nexus.

Third-Party Certification
Popular voluntary performance programs such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)® for Homes, ENERGY STAR® Homes program, and the Zero Energy Ready Home, use IECC and ASHRAE as the foundation to create a healthy, high-performance home. LEED works for all buildings—from homes to corporate headquarters—at all phases of development. Projects pursuing LEED certification earn points across several areas that address sustainability issues. Based on the number of points achieved, a project then receives one of four LEED rating levels: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.3

EPA also offers special recognition to builders who commit to building 100 percent of their homes to meet ENERGY STAR® program requirements. ENERGY STAR® is a voluntary government program administered through the EPA. Its goal is to help people and businesses save money and protect the climate through energy efficiency. Each year, EPA and DOE honor organizations and businesses that have made outstanding contributions to protecting the environment through energy efficiency with their annual ENERGY STAR® Awards event.

The blue ENERGY STAR label was established to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants caused by the inefficient use of energy and make it easy for consumers to identify and purchase energy-efficient products that offer savings on energy bills without sacrificing performance, features, and comfort.4 ENERGY STAR® partners agree to measure, track, and benchmark energy performance; develop and implement a plan to improve energy performance, adopt the ENERGY STAR® strategy; and educate staff and the public about their partnership and achievements with ENERGY STAR®.

Proper Installation
As more building codes call for whole house ventilation, a new ventilation system makes it easier to create supply or balanced ventilation system in a single-family or multifamily home. However, it’s important to note any mechanical ventilation system will not reach its performance potential if components are poorly manufactured or installed improperly. System imbalances occur when components of the HVAC system are improperly adjusted or installed and can create pressure differences (too much circulating air creating a draft or too little, circulating air creating stagnancy).

Unfortunately, most ventilation fans are not living up to their cfm claims, which can lead to costly compliance failure issues, expensive call-backs, IAQ problems, increased construction defects and warranty work, painful litigation, and angry, vengeful buyers.

A recent testing by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that of all the bathroom fans they evaluated, 48 percent failed the required airflow standards outlined in ASHRAE 62.2.2013. Many builders going for ENERGY STAR have learned that fans rated at 50 cfm generally don’t cut it and have turned to installing fans rated at 110 cfm in all their homes. One case study of Habitat for Humanity houses that were going for certification in the ENERGY STAR new homes program tested nine fans, all rated at 110 cfm. Only five of these 110 cfm rated fans beat the 51 cfm mark. They achieved between 51-85 cfm, none coming close to the 110 cfm rating. And the four fans that failed? Their exhaust flow rates were 30, 45, and 46 cfm.

So how does a ventilation fan help solve consumer desires? Home buyers want energy efficiency; 90 percent of home buyers list ENERGY STAR appliances as part of their most wanted features list, and 88 percent say the same about an ENERGY STAR rating for the whole home. Smart builders have listened. In 2015, 190,180 new homes in the United States were HERS rated, more than 38 percent of all new homes sold, which is a 30 percent increase over 2014. What's more, home buyers on average will pay an additional $10,732 up front to save $1,000 a year in utilities.

Conclusion
Whole-house mechanical ventilation is on the rise, driven by advances in building design, building codes, and an ever-more-discerning consumer base that recognize the importance of a healthy home environment. Since 2008, single-family detached homes with whole-house ventilation systems have grown from 9 percent to 27 percent of all new home construction, according to the 2015 Annual Builder Practices Survey conducted by Home Innovation Research Labs. Due to states' adoption of the 2012 International Building Code, more homes will be requiring mechanical ventilation, which will help alleviate moisture issues and maintain healthy indoor environmental quality for home owners.

Builders nationwide are seeking to lower their homes' HERS scores to meet ASHRAE 62.2 and ENERGY STAR® Certified Home 3.0 ventilation requirements. In an era with so many factors for builders and homeowners to consider, it's important to work with partners that understand all of these moving pieces and can help you find the best solution for your unique circumstance. Understanding how mechanical ventilation systems are evaluated and knowing their performance characteristics helps building and construction professionals find the right solution for their project needs. There are solutions that builders and contractors are working on that manufacturers haven't even seen yet. As new technologies arise and new public hazards are identified, working with manufacturers to come up with new products is a trend that will grow in the years to come. "Building tight and ventilating right" remains the recipe, both for a healthy home and a successful homebuilder.

References
1. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2017/05/prweb14298214.htm
2. http://business.panasonic.com/solutions-hvacsolutions-ventilationforthehomeowner-exhaustsupplybalancedventilation
3. http://www.usgbc.org/leed
4. https://www.energystar.gov/products/how-product-earns-energy-star-label

About the Author

Jim Shelton, Vice President, Panasonic Eco Solutions North America (PESNA), is driving the next generation of Panasonic solutions to meet builders’ ever-changing ventilation needs. For more than five years, he has led the Eco Products division of PESNA and in 2016, was promoted to vice president. He brings a wealth of industry experience to his role, where he is responsible for sales, marketing, and product development for the company's ventilation business, as well as the strategic planning, implementation, and management of key initiatives. He has been a standard bearer for ventilation products since 2001; prior to joining Panasonic Eco Solutions in 2001, he was the area sales manager for Thomas & Betts, a large, multinational manufacturer of electrical, electronic, mechanical and utility products. He is on the board of the Energy and Environmental Building Alliance. 

Copyright 1996-2016 1105 Media Inc. All rights reserved. 


Posted by Dan Howard on September 22nd, 2017 8:17 PM

Our Note 

This is a sad story of mold exposure, ruined health and financial devastation and a dream of home ownership torn away for a family. The missing part of the story is that regular home inspections do not include environmental issues. Firms like Envirospect? do the kind of environmental assessments that can protect consumers from these problems.

STORY COURTESY OF WTAE TELEVISION 

Back in 2009, Deborah Rumberger saw homeownership as the key to providing stability for her two young daughters, then 13 and 7. A few days before Halloween that year, after months of house hunting, she found the one: a 100-year-old Victorian home in Helena, Montana.

It wasn't easy. For starters, her budget didn't allow for a ton of options within a safe neighborhood. "And I just wasn't interested in a lot of the homes I could afford," she says. It's why she initially thought the two-story property she would later purchase for $173,500 was too good to be true — but she pushed her doubts to the back of her mind and bought it anyway.

That first night, after an exhausting day of unpacking, she tucked her kids into bed and crawled under the sheets. Instead of sleep, however, "I got so sick I thought I was going to die," Rumberger recalls. Her heart started pounding and her mouth went dry. All night long, she kept wanting to get up, but she felt so stiff she was barely able to move.

The next morning, a thought made her go white: There's something wrong with this house.

WTAE-TV

That same day, Rumberger started calling everyone she could think of to try to get out of her mortgage: the realtors, the bank, the title company, everyone. "Nobody cared," she says. "They chalked it up to buyer's remorse or stress from moving."

WTAE-TV
Courtesy of Deborah Rumberger


By the end of November, after about 30 days in her new home, Rumberger was constantly exhausted — more than the usual fatigue that comes with working and raising two children. One night her chest hurt so badly that she went to the emergency room, convinced she was having a heart attack. Another time she rushed herself to the hospital when her limbs went completely numb. By January, she noticed troublesome changes in her daughters, too. Her eldest was acting depressed, complaining of an itchy scalp and had frequent nose bleeds. Her youngest had sinus problems for the first time in her life, along with acid reflux and recurring nightmares.

Terrified over what was happening to her family, and convinced her house was the problem, Rumberger continued contacting her realtor, her bank, her title company, her inspector and her doctors. Finally, that spring, she found help in a neighbor named Clara Holliday. Holliday introduced her to the homeowner who lived in the house before the family that sold it to Rumberger — and that's when she learned about the home's 20-year history with flooding and mold.

WTAE-TV

Rumberger learned through this previous homeowner that the second-floor plumbing had once been re-routed through the attic. The problem was the attic wasn't heated, which can lead to frozen pipes. Frozen pipes can crack and leak when they expand in warmer weather, which Rumberger suspects happened during a particularly bad winter in 1989, when no one was residing in the home.

Sotereas Pantazes, co-founder of EFynch, a handyman community in Baltimore, says he's seen basements result in mold just days after a significant flooding. Rumberger, however, was living in the home 20 years after unresolved flood damage.

The old homeowner urged Rumberger to search her home for mold, starting with the tub in her bathroom.

Rumberger didn't have to search long. "I peeled back the plastic lining and it was filled with mold," she says. Next, she pulled down nearby drywall and tore up part of the carpet. Everything was covered in toxic black spores.

"At first, I felt relief and thought 'aha!' I knew something was going on," she says. "But at the time, I still didn't understand how damaging and dangerous toxic mold is."

Dr. Ann Shippy, a Texas-based physician and author of Mold Toxicity Workbook: Assess Your Environment & Create a Recovery Plan, says every one of Rumberger's symptoms — fatigue, weakness, headaches, morning stiffness and joint pain — is textbook mold toxicity. "Mold produces chemicals, like microtoxins and microbial volatile organic compounds that have seriously dangerous side effects," she explains. "A lot of people think you're only affected by mold spores if you're allergic to them, but mold makes chemicals that build up in your body." This is why Rumberger's two daughters didn't feel sick until a couple of months after the move — it sometimes takes time to notice the symptoms of mold toxicity.

WTAE-TV
Courtesy of Deborah Rumberger

After discovering the mold in her bathroom, Rumberger convinced a home inspector to come over that very same day. A moisture mirror, which helps identify mold behind the walls, showed evidence of growth all over the house. Her homeowner's insurance didn't cover prior mold or water damage, so she was looking at an $80,000 price tag to remediate her home from top to bottom. "When I heard that, I knew it wasn't a possibility," she says.

She wasn't ready to give up on her dream house, so Rumberger decided to do the remediation on her own. She rented a negative air pressure machine (which draws the mold spores out of the house), along with suits, goggles and other supplies for a total of $500.

But once she got to work, stirring up the mold made the family's symptoms even worse. By June, they started camping in the backyard, only going inside to use the restroom. "By July I couldn't even go inside the house, because it felt like there were so many spores that they would attack anything moist, including us," she says.

According to Dr. Shippy, she's right: "When you open up a wall with mold, you send a lot of a very powerful chemicals into the air that you breathe into your lungs, so they go straight into circulation." Just like doctors have found one of the most effective ways to get medication into someone quickly is though the lungs (verses digestion, which filters through the liver first), this makes these chemicals in the air even more dangerous.

WTAE-TV
Courtesy of Deborah Rumberger

Camping lasted a month, until they got rained out. With no nearby family to turn to, they moved into the local YMCA. They'd spend the next year sleeping in cheap motels, at her co-worker's house and late, renting two bedrooms over a garage before finally ending up in the apartment where they live today.

WTAE-TV

In June 2010, around the same time Rumberger was forced to move her family into their backyard, she decided to take legal action. "I held off for a while, because I thought 'we don't want to do litigation, we can fix this,'" she remembers. But, financially, she didn't see any other way out.

Rumberger filed against four parties she believes knew about the mold before the sale. "It took almost six years, I had five or six lawyers during that time and it was almost as hard as the mold exposer," she says. Even though they settled to the mutual satisfaction of all parties, Rumberger doesn't think she'd do it again.

"We were able to get out of debt, but let's just say we're still tenants and our lifestyle didn't change much," she says. The only positives Rumberger saw from the settlement was being able to afford some much-needed medical treatment and finally being able to put this experience behind her once and for all.

WTAE-TV
Courtesy of Deborah Rumberger

Then, in December 2010, Rumberger also convinced her bank to suspend the mortgage payments she still owed and sold the house (with full disclosure about the mold), ultimately incurring an almost $80,000 loss — about the same amount as the initial remediation estimate, but with a lot more headaches.

The new owners finished remediating the mold, completely rebuilt the interior and turned it into a three-unit rental, which Rumberger still drives by today. "For the longest time, we'd just avoid that road and wouldn't drive down it," she says. But now, on occasion, she gets the urge to see the house in which she thought she'd grow old.

As for Rumberger and her daughters, they still live in the same apartment they moved into a year after fleeing their Victorian dream home. They've been renting it for more than five years and, even if it was financially feasible, Rumberger doesn't see herself buying again. "We lost a lot of years of our lives and still have some health issues," she says. "But it's just one of those things we have to come to terms with and move beyond."

WTAE-TV
Courtesy of Deborah Rumberger

Pantazes says if an inspector doesn't see mold with their own eyes, they don't have to disclose it. But that doesn't mean potential buyers can't look for their own clues, such as patches in the walls, discoloration, walls that bow and bend and just general poor home maintenance. "Little signs will show you if the owner is a person who took care of their home," he says.

Another thing Rumberger says shouldn't be underestimated: your gut. "My older daughter didn't have a great feeling about the house, but we just shook it off." Today, she wishes she listened to her daughter's instincts, which might have spared them the entire ordeal. "Our American Dream became a nightmare, but the biggest lesson I learned is when to hold up, when to fold up and when to run away."

WTAE-TV
http://www.wtae.com/article/toxic-mold-home-nightmare/12228663

Posted in:Health and Safety and tagged: MoldToxicresident
Posted by Dan Howard on September 16th, 2017 9:19 AM

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