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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.
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!
If we took a poll, probably a vast majority of
people would recognize asbestos as a hazard. We know that it gets ripped out of
schools and other public buildings. We recognize that people die from asbestos
and that there are big class action lawsuits about the mineral.
There is a lot more we should know about this
hazard previously thought of as a miracle product.
The use of asbestos dates back to the Greeks
and Romans who used it to make cloth. It is a natural mineral, which varies by
name and color depending upon where it is mined. There are 6 different minerals
all lumped into the category of asbestos.
Asbestos is resistant to heat and most
chemicals. The tough fibers were used as reinforcement and for heat resistance
in many products for industry, homes and commercial buildings. It is a sneaky
carcinogen because it was easy to add the mineral to a host of products that
can disguise its presence to the naked eye. The reason for its widespread use
is that it saved lives from fire hazards and improved the characteristics of
Asbestos is Real
Personal for Millions of Workers
You might scratch your head on how this
happened. There was evidence of the medical risks of asbestos as early as 1920,
but workers were not told of the dangers until the mid 1970’s.
Millions of workers including my father have died
of asbestos related cancer. As a young man, I was exposed to asbestos in
everything from joint compound to insulation and ceiling tiles while working in
the family construction company.
With that said, my work as an asbestos testing
professional is highly personal. Asbestos exposure still occurs today in many
products and when it is removed by unsuspecting workers. Asbestos is still
heavily mined in Russia and does find its way into products being manufactured
Asbestos in the News
and on TV
Within the last two months, asbestos made the
news when the WTDV reporters found that samples of a highlighter makeup called “Just
Shine Shimmer Powder” that is sold in Justice stores contained asbestos.
By the way, this product targeted for young people also contained a handful of
toxic heavy metals.
Another example of possible asbestos that
appears regularly on HGTV is popcorn or stipple ceiling finish material. Up
until 1999, some manufacturers were adding asbestos to that material. Aspiring
homeowners love to remove texture from ceilings which in turn contaminates a
building with asbestos fibers.
In older homes, asbestos can be found in a many areas of the home, from roof tiles and decorative ceilings to wall insulation and vinyl floors. Below is a list of some of the most common asbestos containing materials.
Craft Supplies and Dark Colored Plastics and Toys Even the products labeled “nontoxic” can contain solvents that are dangerous when inhaled. Many glues, paints, markers and other craft supplies contain solvents that can be dangerous particularly to children. Many imported products such as jewelry kits, makeup, plastic parts that can be chewed and paints contain lead which can do serious damage to children’s health. When the author purchased a “Thomas the Tank” wooden train set (an expensive gift) the wooden pieces that my grandson was likely to put in his mouth at that age tested positive for lead. Dust from an artificial Christmas tree is another example of high lead content when tested by this professional.Common Household Chemicals Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are chemicals released by many common products that you use in your home. Cleaners containing Pinene as the cleaner would be one example. Cleaning chemicals that contain ammonia or chlorine can also be a problem. These can cause headaches, nausea, sore throats or runny eyes. Babies are often most at risk as these chemicals are usually more concentrated near the ground.
Craft Supplies and Dark Colored Plastics and Toys Even the products labeled “nontoxic” can contain solvents that are dangerous when inhaled. Many glues, paints, markers and other craft supplies contain solvents that can be dangerous particularly to children. Many imported products such as jewelry kits, makeup, plastic parts that can be chewed and paints contain lead which can do serious damage to children’s health. When the author purchased a “Thomas the Tank” wooden train set (an expensive gift) the wooden pieces that my grandson was likely to put in his mouth at that age tested positive for lead. Dust from an artificial Christmas tree is another example of high lead content when tested by this professional.
Formaldehyde and Furniture, Cabinets and Other Construction ProductsCabinets, furnishings, flooring products, construction components, draperies and many other examples can contain formaldehyde. This is one of the simplest organic chemicals and off gasses as the solvent used in production and as a byproduct of more complex chemicals breaking down. It is an irritant that children are especially a risk from serious health problems due to exposure.
New CarpetWe all know about “new carpet smell”. Padding and adhesives can give off harmful gasses. One solution is the purchase of low VOC carpet and padding. Another solution is to have the carpet rolled out in another well-ventilated location for several weeks before installation. Install the carpet at a time of year that windows can be kept open to air out the carpet and pad.
Paint, Paint Thinners and StrippersUse only low VOC paints and paint at time that windows can be left open. Do not store solvents in the home, These can off-gas from sealed cans.
Yard Chemicals and Gas Cans Pesticides, fertilizers, gasoline and other yard chemicals can off gas through the containers. Even when stored in a basement or attached garage those fumes can be pulled into the living space of the home,
Second Hand and Third Hand Smoke Second hand smoke refers to the exposure to smoke by the non-smoker in the home. Third hand is exposure to the many toxic chemicals from smoking that are absorbed by carpets, furniture, clothing and other objects that children and other people can absorb as they come in contact with these materials. As with so many exposures, children are most at risk from this hazard
Improperly Installed or Operating Gas Appliances Let me count the ways for exposure to from problem gas appliances. Stoves emit combustion gases. Misuse or dirty burners can be toxic. Poorly or improperly vented clothes dryers and hot water tanks can create a toxic environment. Improper heating systems can result in combustion fumes throughout a building.
Air FreshenersIn one study, one third of people with Asthma reported that they had breathing problems when exposed to air fresheners. Google the MSDS list of chemicals in some of these common products and you will be amazed at home many chemicals are found in each.
The scientists use the phrase “mold is ubiquitous”, meaning it is everywhere. Mold occurs naturally everywhere on earth where there is food and water for it. As an example, some molds are Mother Nature’s recycling plant. There are molds that grow on the dead trees in the woods and turns them into topsoil so that new trees and plants can grow. Mold has many uses essential to the grand plan of the universe.
Some types of mold can be very beneficial. Without mold we would not have cheese, antibiotics, wine and many other important products of everyday life. On the other hand we have some potentially toxic molds such as Stacybotrys also known as "toxic black mold"
Mold travels through a number of methods. It can be carried by moving air or water. Mold can hitch a ride on an object, person or animal. Furniture, firewood or clothing can each carry mold from one location to another.
If a spore lands on an object that is food for that mold and there is sufficient water for it to grow, it will create Colony Forming Units (CFUs). These CFUs are the fuzzy splotches that you recognize as typical of mold growth.
In our homes, if mold spores find a suitable food source such as drywall paper, wood or dirt, they will grow. This is no different than when Johnny Appleseed (whose real name was John Chapman) traveled through Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana with apple seeds. He dropped apple seeds in the soil and left a legacy of apple trees.
The lesson learned from how mold starts to grow is that the underlying conditions of high moisture and a mold food source need changed after treatment for mold is complete. If the old conditions continue, new spores will land and the mold problem will return.
The use of enzyme treatment systems such as Oceanic is an effective way to eliminate mold with a treatment system that is safe and healthy for building occupants. Enzymes differ from most mold treatments by digesting the mold rendering it inert. This differs from the bulk of treatment products that poison the mold and can harm pets and family members if exposed.
Moisture control can be achieved by dehumidification, correction of leaks or changes in the heating systems and vapor barriers. There are times that building materials can be changed to materials less favorable to mold growth. Changing how contents are stored can be the difference that keeps a healthy home free from mold.
Understanding mold is building science. Solutions to mold problems require professionals that understand the science behind mold problems. Your Envirospect professional is trained and dedicated to making your home, business, school or office a healthy environment. Envirospect is a Testall approved company
HGTV stages homes to sell to get the best price in the least time. So should you. Even if you need to move out of the home quickly, get listing pictures with the furnishings in the home.
My suggestion is to use a bugler alarm system. Empty homes are a commonly broken into by thieves and vandals to steal pipes and appliances. SimpliSafe has an alarm system that can be moved when the sale is over and offers a month to month monitoring service.
There is a subliminal psychological component to most home sales. Rid of the home of odor and clutter. A smelly home can cost you $10,000 or more in sales price. A dirty or cluttered home can do the same. By the way, removing clutter does not mean removing tasteful personal stuff. Buyers need to picture themselves in the home. You can provide emotional props such as family pictures as reminders of a happy life in that home.
Remove pets and distractions at showings. A barking dog does not leave potential buyers with a positive experience in the home.
Time the sale for the season that best shows your home. For instance, if you have a steep driveway avoid winter. If you live five miles from a ski resort, embrace winter.
No matter how you slice it, the Real Estate process is difficult, and as we started this discussion, “not entertainment”. Preparation and research takes time and effort, but can reduce the chance of problems. You will probably find yourself wishing for a time machine that can jump you through the waiting times. That’s not happening.
Giving heavy duty electrical extension cords and checking that they are plugged into outlets designed to carry the load can save lives. Too many people fall victim to the logic that the cord that did not burn the last time they used it, will be safe the next time. That’s just not how that works. Go to a quality hardware store and purchase cords that are rated at 14-2 for 15 amp circuits or 12-2 for 20 amp circuits.
If there is a fireplace or wood burner in use, have the chimney checked. The high temperatures of burning wood and then cooling off damages chimney. Wood leaves a flammable creosote coating that can ignite that creosote and start a house fire. The cost of cleaning and checking a chimney is typically between $150.00 and $200.00. That is a wonderful gift for a family you care about. Check with the National Chimney Sweep Guild ( http://www.ncsg.org/) to find a qualified technician.
The issues of home health and safety can become more complicated than the examples above. Just as parents, family and friends can help with the other important issues above, a significant portion of Sick Building Syndrome work is arranged by caring family members rather than the residents of the sick or moldy building.
Picture the family with asthmatic children, or the senior that has pneumonia four times in a year. These and hundreds of other health issues are often the result of environmental problems that need corrected. Caring relatives or friends can arrange for the needed assessment and testing.
The big problem with this issue is finding qualified professionals working with accurate laboratories. A recent development is helping bring dependable environmental testing across the country. Testall.com is a source to find the right person serving where your family member lives.
Christmas is a wondrous and joyous time of year. It’s a time of giving, caring and sharing. That time of beauty is also a time of fires, carbon monoxide poisonings, falls and other tragedies in homes.
These stories are sad any time of year, but particularly during the time that is supposed to be a celebration of joy. Many times a few timely gifts like smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, proper extension cords or a service call for a furnace could make the difference between life and death, or inconvenience and homelessness.
Sometimes it’s a senior, sometimes a financially struggling family, other times it is a person with health challenges. It is those people who have the toughest time recognizing what they need to do or buy to keep themselves and their homes safe. What better gift to give than one that could save the life of someone you love?
Writing this article reminds me about what my dad did during winter weather. When all of the kids came over for dinner on Sundays, he would disappear for about 15 minutes. He would sneak outside with rags and a bucket of windshield washer liquid. He cleaned all of our windshields and headlights. He quietly came back in when he was done. We usually didn’t even know a thing about it until we went to our cars. Never, ever did we ever talk about it. The message was simple, and we all knew that he loved us. That is exactly the kind of gift I am suggesting here.
Giving new smoke detectors, or even changing the batteries in existing smoke detectors is easy to do and inexpensive. Even 15 seconds of warning about a fire can be the difference in survival. If the “change the battery” idea sounds strange to you, imagine the senior that can’t climb a ladder or the young family that used all of their batteries for their children’s toys. Getting up to a smoke detector to change the battery could be as far as the moon for a senior that had a broken hip.
Carbon monoxide detectors are as important as smoke detectors. Purchase carbon monoxide detectors that have both a digital readout and a loud alarm. The “sound only” CO detectors have a delay that allows levels in some models as high
400 PPM (parts per million) without making a peep. The threshold level that is considered unsafe is 10 PPM. The digital readout allows earlier warnings and is well worth the difference in cost. Make sure the detectors are installed near gas appliances or warm air furnace vents and where the residents can see the reading.
There will be many tragic news stories over the holidays that have their start with a furnace that was defective or not working at all. People freezing or ill from a malfunctioning furnace is one set of problems. Carbon monoxide poisoning or fires can be another outcome.
Having a furnace serviced and the needed repairs completed for someone in need can be a very loving gift. A service call where the furnace operation and vent system are checked and adjusted usually costs between $75 and $150. It is a great idea to make sure that the gas lines or oil lines and tanks are checked at the same time.
Taking the time to help someone apply of LIHEAP fuel assistance could be a gift of an hour’s time that make winter bearable for someone in need. This can be done online at http://www.dhs.pa.gov
There are a number of things to check in a home when someone is using supplemental heaters to try to stay warm. Check the heaters themselves for evidence of wear, fraying or burning. If there is any damage to the heater, it needs replaced.
Check the area where the heater is located. Make sure there is a safe distance to combustible materials and surfaces. Oil filled heaters are generally safer than those with exposed elements.
Risks for Mold in Your Home
More Contaminates than Mold can Affect Home Health
All of the at high risk patient groups mentioned above can be affected by indoor contaminants. These include formaldehyde, chemicals used in hobbies, pesticides, previous drug activity, lead, radon and asbestos.
Keeping A Home Healthy When You Have "at Risk" Patients
The amazing fact is that most organ transplant patients, and other immunosuppressed patients do not have their homes checked for mold and other contaminants that could be deadly. It is time for that to change.