Environmental Issue & Sick Building Syndrome Blog

Though not part of the approved school curriculum, mold that is found in the school is really a science experiment. Anywhere on earth that there is food and water, something will grow.  It can be the deepest ocean or highest mountain. It can be the north pole or south pole or anywhere in between. That scientific fact is that books, paper, wood floors, drywall, dust, or any other material or any other substrate that can grow mold will grow mold within 48 hours of leaks or high moisture occurring.  

The most common sources of mold problems in a school are:

  • Roof, wall foundation or other leaks from the exterior
  • Plumbing leaks
  • Malfunctioning or poorly designed HVAC Systems
  • Condensation issues caused by improper temperatures and humidity being maintained
  • Floods 

The first step in preventing recurrence of mold is determining the conditions that were mold conducive. If mold grew in a school over the summer because the air conditioning was not run, or there are roof leaks, or any other reason, it will return if the cause of mold is not corrected.

Failure to correct the underlying cause of environmental hazards as well as the hazard itself, is a waste of money, and serves to mislead parents, administration and faculty into believing that the school mold environment is safe. In school we learned to consider both cause and effect. The same applies in the process of creating healthy indoor air quality.          

Schools Can Get Help to Keep our Children Safe from Mold

The EPA provides great online tools available to learn the issues and solutions to mold problems.  These are great general guidelines, but can’t address individual conditions. Mold problems are often complicated by being the result of several underlying conditions that require expertise in multiple construction fields. 

 Unfortunately, learning to use and to then implement these tools is often much tougher than obtaining them.  Professional assistance is a good option to get an environmental awareness and mold prevention program up and running properly. Once established, existing staff can usually keep the program running.

Usually an indoor air quality (IAQ) program process starts with an initial site assessment, or information gathering session. The environmental risks are evaluated and appropriate tests then conducted. These could include mold and allergen testing. If there was flooding or sewage backups, testing for a number of common infectious diseases should be added.

An educational staff can’t be expected to have the full knowledge to implement a program, but often, once in place, the good health of school occupants can be maintained through the corrections and adjustments made in the facility. There are several companies that have assessment and monitoring programs that include a yearly Indoor Air Quality Certificate for posting after the assessment and completion of any appropriate testing and corrections.

School district participation in an environmental awareness and preventive care program can pay for itself in lower medical costs, lower property repair costs and better long term health of students and staff. The other benefit is “peace of mind” for parents, particularly in schools that have had prior mold problems. 
Posted in:Mold in Schools and tagged: Moldschools
Posted by Dan Howard on October 7th, 2018 9:23 PM

            In thousands of homes and on social media posts across the land, you saw the annual notice heralding the end of summer vacation: “Summer is over and the kids are back in school”. Some will cry, some will cheer, some will only shrug their shoulders. No matter what we do or say, every school year, the emotion, and the back to school sales come to an end and attention shifts to the students actually being in school.   

That is “all as it should be” with each new school year. The sad news is that the “welcome back student” message has been accompanied with too many news stories about mold being found in our nation’s schools. It is not an accident that “National Mold Awareness Month” is September.

The bottom line on this is that parents DO NOT want their child sick because they go to school. Our schools that have mold are like the “Jaws” movies. Just when you think it is safe to return, we find out that it is “not so safe.”

When we experience any school environmental issue such as mold, it can be front page headlines, TV, talk show fodder and Facebook news feed material.

Environmental issues in schools are not “just another student health issue”. These problems are a public relations nightmare, a staff human relations mine field, a facility management challenge, a budget buster, a political fiasco and a liability time bomb.

Signs of Mold in School

If a school is flooded or has leaks that are not quickly cleaned up, there will be mold. Whether it is a roof leak, plumbing leak or any other area of wet surfaces, you can count on mold growing. 

Parents should take a look around their child’s school. Water stains are the target to look for. Fuzzy or splotchy areas are the bullseye in the search for suspected mold. These can be in almost any area of a building anywhere from the highest ceiling to the lowest floor. 
Mold in Schools

In addition to the visual indicators of mold presence, odor can be indicator. When the odor of mold is in the school or on a child’s clothes, books, papers or possessions, mold should be investigated as a source of the offensive smell.  

Sewage backups, leaks and all floods also have a host of water borne diseases and contaminants. When these occur, a professionally conducted disinfection must be conducted even when mold is not visible. Even a little dust left in an obscure corner after the flood is gone can enter through a cut in a student’s hand or their lungs long after the water is gone if the areas has not been disinfected.   

                 
Posted by Dan Howard on September 8th, 2018 9:17 PM

Limited Sampling

Purpose:  The purpose of Limited Mold Sampling is to detect the presence of mold in Client chosen areas of the Subject Property.

Scope of Limited Mold Sampling. Limited Mold Sampling consists of a visual assessment for mold problems in area(s) designated by the client to test and the collection/analysis of sample(s) in these designated area(s).  Further, the objective of Limited Mold Sampling is to determine whether mold problems exist in the designated area(s) sampled at the time the Limited Mold Sampling is performed.  As such, the results of Limited Mold Sampling are not a guarantee that mold does or does not exist in the Subject Property. The results are indicative only of the presence or absence of mold in the areas sampled at the time of the Limited Mold Sampling is performed.  Limited Mold Sampling is narrower in scope than other mold inspections and testing strategies that area available. Mold inspections will be conducted only in these Client-defined areas and is NOT a complete assessment of the Subject Property.

Mold Screening

Purpose: The purpose of the Mold Screen is to test areas of suspect mold contamination base upon a visual inspection. This is done to detect the presence of a microbial problem in the inspected areas of the Subject Property and is not a comprehensive testing of all areas.

Scope of Mold Screen:  Mold Screen consists of a visual inspection in readily accessible area for mold and/or conditions that may indicate the presence of mold. For example, musty odor and/or evidence of water penetration. 

Posted in:Mold Testing and tagged: MoldLimitedScreening
Posted by Dan Howard on July 15th, 2018 9:00 PM

Announcing Tick Hunting Season

This particular “Tick Hunting Season” announcement is probably not going to go the way you first thought. The reality is that ticks are doing the hunting for humans and their pets to burrow into the nice, warm victim bodies. We don’t hunt them, they hunt us.

 

The CDC estimates there are more than 300,000 cases of Lyme infection in the U.S. each year – which is roughly 10 times as many as what is reported. That group of undiagnosed Lyme Disease victims can suffer for years with the disease. You or someone you care about could be one of those victims

There have been countless news stories explaining that the weather this year has been great for the tick population.  It’s no wonder that readers and viewers care about ticks. A human taking a pleasant walk in the woods or petting of a dog is all that a bloodsucking tick needs to spread disease and misery.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease

Early signs and symptoms of Lyme Disease include chills, headache, muscle and joint pain, fever and swollen lymph nodes. The sneaky part is that these symptoms can be mistaken as flu symptoms.

When Lyme Disease goes undiagnosed and untreated, the symptoms can progress. They can be debilitating. Each of the symptoms can also be indicative of other diseases and health problems. This is another reason that Lyme Disease can be misdiagnosed for years.

Some of Chronic Lyme Disease symptoms are:

  • Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS)
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
  • Headaches and neck stiffness
  • Arthritis type of joint pain
  • Muscle and heart symptoms
  • Rashes

Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS)

CIRS happens in response to repeated exposure to toxins. This causes the immune system to go haywire. CIRS can be triggered by the combination of mycotoxins, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and other inflammatory toxins found in water-damaged environments. Lyme Disease is often one of the exposures that underlies CIRS

The Role of Mold and Other Toxins in Lyme Disease and CIRS

Only some individuals are at risk for reacting to Lyme Disease or any mold and biotoxin related diseases.

Genetic factors, individual health histories, weakened immune systems, viral, parasitic, bacterial, or other co-infections play a role in CIRS. Auto-immune diseases and exposure to mold and toxic VOCs can also be triggers to those diseases. This is complicated. 


Posted by Dan Howard on July 14th, 2018 10:41 PM

Imagine you are a professional mold remediator. You know that the goal you are pursuing is to correct the nasty mold levels. You should also make corrections so that the mold doesn’t return. The customer is paying you thousands of dollars to achieve those goals. Hanging in the balance is the health of the family living in the home.

                Now that you have a vivid picture of the importance of a proper mold remediation in your mind, let me tell you about my experience as an environmental consultant earlier today. Today is the fourth time this professionally remediated home has failed clearance. Each previous time it failed, I have spoken with the remediator about ways that his company can properly remediate the home. Each time, he has ignored the advice. I truly want this job done correctly and the family living in the home o enjoy a healthy home forever more.   

Mold After Remediation

Mold Remediation 101

Choosing Remediation Systems and Reliable Professionals: There are many mold treatment systems available that encompass a wide range of chemicals of varying toxicity. Some of the chemicals that have superb effectiveness are very dangerous to health and safety. Others require precise attention to detail. The goal is to select best treatment system for a project that will fully remove or kill mold in a safe environment for workers and occupants of a building.  

 

Treatment Systems for Chemically Sensitive Individuals: In the case of mold or chemically sensitive individuals, we highly recommend exposure to a sample of treatment products before a system or chemicals are used in their property. This can easily be accomplished by provision of a sample cloth treated with a product and given to the sensitive occupant prior to remediation treatment. They should also have “test” exposure to any building material or product brought into a building. Even reaction to a common product such as caulking can create problems for chemically sensitive individuals.   

 

Preparation for Remediation: Remediation systems require proper preparation and conditions for the treatment system to be effective. One example is that the building should be less than 40% to 50 % relative humidity. Another example is that mold and biological debris should be removed before treatment. Moldy contents need addressed with treatment or removal from the site.  All water leaks and events need corrected and promptly addressed and resolved. We need to avoid the types of surfaces and materials that may be a substrate for mold growth.


Protecting the Occupants and Workers:  Depending upon the level, location, use and extent of remediation required, the remediation needs to be done with appropriate levels of protection for the premises, occupants and workers. Persons handling building materials, contents and debris contaminated by mold are exposed to elevated mold levels. This is because the disturbed mold spreads in the same way as when you blew on the dandelion that turned white.  As kids, we were amazed as the tiny seeds went everywhere. If you are like me, you never gave a thought to the fact we were spreading dandelion seeds. We know better now. PPE or “Personal Protective Equipment” needs to be worn by those exposed to airborne mold during work.

 

At a minimum, workers need protected with masks. In higher mold conditions or closed areas, gloves and suits may also be crucial and necessary protective equipment.

 

Stopping the Spread of Mold During Remediation:  If an area of remediation has disturbed materials, the area being cleaned needs first contained from spreading disturbed mold through other areas of the building envelope. Contaminated materials need to be wrapped and carried out of the building while enclosed or wrapped so as not to allow the mold contaminated materials to harm others.

In areas of significant disturbed mold contaminated materials, the area of work may need protected with an airlock, usually simple, overlapping plastic doors that appear like the scene you may remember from the movie "ET the Extraterrestrial. This is called containment. 

Exhausting Mold Spores Outdoors: In situations where there is concern and risk that disturbed mold may be drawn from the disturbed area into the other areas of the building, the work area needs placed under a negative pressure. That means the air is drawn from that area and sent to the exterior. Furnace ductwork may need sealed within work areas to avoid the furnace or AC blower pushing mold through the building while the unit is operating. The process of establishment of a negative air flow away from the non-contaminated areas is called negative air.

Filtering the Mold Floating in the Air: Another aspect of the professional mold remediation job is air scrubbing.  Disturbed mold spores go into the air. The mold floating in the work area can be collected onto a filter in the piece of equipment called and air scrubber. This is a highly efficient air filter designed to capture the small particles such as mold.

Drying out the Building: Dehumidification to a low moisture level is required for effective mold remediation. Portable commercial dehumidifiers are often used for that purpose.

Posted by Dan Howard on May 26th, 2018 10:45 AM

Lawsuits Filed In Cases of Death in Mold Outbreak at UPMC Hospitals

Paris Healthcare Linen Services has been discovered to be the original source of the mold.

A deadly mold outbreak at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center hospital campuses Montefiore, Presbyterian and Shadyside in Western Pennsylvania has been linked to contaminated bed linens from Paris Healthcare Linen Services. The contaminated sheets and linens were distributed by Paris Linen’s DuBois facility in Clearfield County; the same location which provides linens to all UPMC hospital campuses.

The attorneys of Meyers Evans Lupetin & Unatin are currently (as of October 31, 2017) representing four families in cases against the UPMC hospital system and Paris Companies in which multiple transplant patients have died as a result of a fungal infection. More such lawsuits are expected to be filed in the coming weeks.

About The Mold Outbreak

This mold outbreak started with sheets that were contaminated with the fungi including Rhizopus, Rhizomucor, Mucor, Lichtheimia, and Zygomycetes.

These common fungi are considered harmless for most people – but for immune compromised patients or those suffering from auto-immune diseases they can result in a deadly infection such as Mucormycosis or Zygomycosis.

The sheets delivered by Paris Companies to the UPMC hospital system were found to be damp and contaminated with the mold spores. Upon delivery they were distributed throughout the hospitals, including to the transplant wards, where immune suppressed transplant patients were exposed to the fungi both through skin contact and more dangerously, through respiratory contact.

As of February 2017, the UPMC hospital system continues to use Paris Companies as their hospital linen distributor, and Paris Companies continues to use the same laundry service.

Any patient suffering from an auto-immune disorder or a compromised immune system needs to be aware that UPMC hospitals may not taking proper precautions to protect patients from exposure do potentially deadly mold and fungal infections.

Contact our experienced medical malpractice lawyers if you have questions about any patient treated at UPMC hospitals that experienced a fungal infection during hospitalization.

Additional Articles About The UPMC Mold Outbreak From Other Sources:

Trib Live: Family disturbed by UPMC statements on mold death
CNN: Lawsuit alleges sixth death linked to Pittsburgh hospital mold outbreak
Post Gazette: Lawsuit says mold killed patient at third UPMC hospital
CBS: Attorneys: 6th Patient Died Due To UPMC Mold Outbreak
WPXI: Lawsuit blames death of 6th patient on UPMC mold
WTAE : New lawsuit alleges wrongful death of UPMC Shadyside patient due to mold infection
CNN: Mold at two Pittsburgh hospitals linked to 5 deaths

Posted by Dan Howard on May 14th, 2018 9:26 PM

Prevent Lyme Disease

Family of four outdoors

Before gardening, camping, hiking, or just playing outdoors, make preventing tick bites part of your plans.

Lyme disease is spread by the bite of an infected tick. In the United States, an estimated 300,000 infections occur each year. If you camp, hike, work, or play in wooded or grassy places, you could be bitten by an infected tick.

People living in or visiting New England, the mid-Atlantic states, and the upper Midwest are at greatest risk. Infected ticks can also be found in neighboring states and in some areas of Northern California, Oregon and Washington. But you and your family can prevent tick bites and reduce your risk of Lyme disease.

Protect Yourself from Tick Bites

Know where to expect ticks. Blacklegged ticks (the ticks that cause Lyme disease) live in moist and humid environments, particularly in and near wooded or grassy areas. You may get a tick on you during outdoor activities around your home or when walking through leaves and bushes. To avoid ticks, walk in the center of trails and avoid walking through tall bushes or other vegetation.

Map: Report cases of Lyme Diseasae, United States 2009

Though Lyme disease cases have been reported in nearly every state, cases are reported from the infected person’s county of residence, not the place where they were infected. More Lyme disease data >

Repel ticks on skin and clothing. Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone. EPA’s helpful search tool can help you find the product that best suits your needs. Always follow product instructions. Parents should apply this product to their children, avoiding hands, eyes, and mouth. Use products that contain permethrin on clothing. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents with products containing 0.5% permethrin. It remains protective through several washings. Pre-treated clothing is available and may be protective longer.

Perform Daily Tick Checks

Check your body for ticks after being outdoors, even in your own yard. Search your entire body for ticks when you return from an area that may have ticks. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body and remove any tick you find. Take special care to check these parts of your body and your child’s body for ticks:

Graphic: Tick sizes
  • Under the arms
  • In and around the ears
  • Inside the belly button
  • Back of the knees
  • In and around all head and body hair
  • Between the legs
  • Around the waist

Check your clothing and pets for ticks because they may carry ticks into the house. Check clothes and pets carefully and remove any ticks that are found. Place clothes into a dryer on high heat to kill ticks.

Remove Attached Ticks Quickly and Correctly

Photo of Sign: Prevent lyme disease tips

Remove an attached tick with fine-tipped tweezers as soon as you notice it. If a tick is attached to your skin for less than 24 hours, your chance of getting Lyme disease is extremely small; however, other diseases may be transmitted more quickly.

Over the next few weeks, watch for signs or symptoms of Lyme disease such as rash or fever. See a healthcare provider if you have signs or symptoms. For more information, see tick removal.

Be Alert for Fever or Rash

Even if you don’t remember being bitten by a tick, an unexpected summer fever or odd rash may be the first signs of Lyme disease, particularly if you’ve been in tick habitat. See your healthcare provider if you have symptoms.

Prevent Ticks on Animals

Prevent family pets from bringing ticks into the home by limiting their access to tick-infested areas and by using veterinarian-prescribed tick prevention products on your dog.

Create Tick-safe Zones in Your Yard

Modify your landscaping to create “Tick-Safe Zones.” It’s pretty simple. Keep patios, play areas, and playground equipment away from shrubs, bushes, and other vegetation. Regularly remove leaves, clear tall grasses and brush around your home, and place wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to keep ticks away from recreational areas (and away from you).

  • Use a chemical control agent. Use acaricides (tick pesticides) to reduce the number of ticks in treated areas of your yard.  However, you should not rely on spraying to reduce your risk of infection.
  • Discourage deer. Deer are the main food source of adult ticks. Keep deer away from your home by removing plants that attract deer and by constructing barriers (like a fence) to discourage deer from entering your yard and bringing ticks with them. ?
Posted in:mold, lyme, and tagged: MolddiseaseLymeCIRS
Posted by Dan Howard on May 4th, 2018 9:35 PM


The door in the picture is the entry door of a building having a mold assessment. SURPRISE! Termites inside the metal door. Yes, the door has metal on the outside, but these doors have wood between the metal faces to allow for installation of hinges and locks using carpenter tools for wood.

Termites and other wood destroying insects occupy the same place in the eco-system or "universal plan" as does mold. They recycle dead wood and turn it into top soil so that new plants and trees can grow.

It’s not that one causes the other. Think of it as they have the same needs to survive and thrive. As an example, we find both desert plants and animals in the same place.

In a damp location with wood fiber, we can find both mold and termites. Now I am not trying to be "Little Miss Mary Sunshine" here........there is a point to this observation.

When you have had a termite or other wood destroying insect infestation that requires damp wood, you should have the building also checked for mold. That advice goes the other way too. If you have mold, be on the look-out for wood destroying insects. The earlier you find either a mold or wood destroying insect infestation the less damage and expense will occur.

By the way, the door in the picture is hanging and swinging on only the top hinge. When I opened the door, the termites were scurrying to get out of the exposed air and light. 

This was an Interesting observation of nature at work. .........and as a science experiment, This was not as delightful as a science experiment for the building owner.

Posted in:Mold, termites and tagged: Moldtermitesdoor
Posted by Dan Howard on April 28th, 2018 9:54 PM

The crazy cold weather sweeping the nation is making mold a problem from top to bottom in many homes that have never had a mold problem before. Your home may be one of those homes, and you may not know it…..yet. This is especially true in homes with high efficiency construction and improvements.               

             The mold in attics and crawlspaces is the sneaky mold that comes from cold weather. Warm air in the living areas of the home holds a lot of moisture. When that warm, moist air hits the attic or crawlspace, it condenses on the surfaces. That moisture freezes into layers of ice. The colder the weather and the longer the time of cold weather, the more ice builds up.

You would be amazed to look in a cold attic or crawlspace and see layers of ice on the nails and wood surfaces. When that ice melts, it can soak the wood creating the ideal conditions for the growth of mold that could go unnoticed for months. Black fuzzy mold could meet you when you finally poke you head into those areas. You could save heartache and expense by taking the time to check on those areas sooner than later.

What You Need to Know if You Have A Winter Ice Buildup in Your Attic or Crawlspace

                The rapid thawing of the built-up ice can result is severe damage to a home. Use of evaporation techniques and equipment by a professional is the best way to minimize damage to a property from ice buildup. In cold temperature areas, commercial dehumidification equipment will not be effective.  Adding heat too quickly can result in materials getting damaged from the ice becoming water. The secret trick of the professionals is that air movement causing evaporation from the iced area to the exterior is the best solution to minimize damage to the home.       

 

Posted in:Mold, ice, winter. attic and tagged: Moldattics
Posted by Dan Howard on January 26th, 2018 8:27 PM

This story starts with a second story window, split open window sill and spaces between the brick openings. These had gone unnoticed before we arrived.

It appeared that the dining room window was the source of a leak. The actual leak was in a second story window above the dining room. The people who first looked at the dining room mold problem had wrongly assumed that the leak was caused by the dining room window. It is experience and proper training that teaches us to look at all of the possible sources of leakage above a leak.


(Rule #27: Water goes down-hill and always consider additional possible

sources/causes above a leak).

 

The homeowner said that water poured through the dining room wall in driving rains. He had he water stains, wet drywall and mold to prove the point. The paper face that is part of the drywall in the room was great food for mold, as was the wood framing inside of the wall.

 

By the way, there was visible mold. It was that fuzzy green mold that is typical of bread that has spent about a week too long in the bread drawer. The call was about the mold and remediation.

 

There is a very important part of this story that I have not told you yet. One of the homeowners is an organ transplant recipient. What most people don’t know is that patients on immunosuppression therapy (anti organ rejection drugs) are very susceptible to potentially fatal mold health complications.

 

Mold exposure is a big deal in hospitals, but many people are just not aware of the issue. If you think back, you probably remember that mold deaths from hospital mold exposure in organ transplant patients has made the national news. In fact, some of those deaths have recently resulted in multi-million dollar settlements from hospitals to families of patients who have died from hospital acquired mold exposures.

Here is What We Know So Far:

  • Mold is very bad for organ transplant patients
  • Water leaks cause mold
  • Even if you clean the mold, it can (will) return if the leak is not resolved
  • It would have been the typical procedure of some remediators to clean the mold. Then they would get to another job down the road to come clean the mold again.

This is What Needs Done:

  • Test for the amount and type of mold (it is critical to know the risk to transplant patient and others in the home)
  • Locate the cause of the water intrusion
  • Clean the mold
  • Test to make sure the mold is clean. (Mold can be in hidden areas)

When it is important……Especially, when it is “life or death” important… (but from our perspective the health of all of our clients is important) …………..you need to call experts trained in the science of environmental exposures who know the right path forward. You need and deserve and to have professionals that understand the issues and can get you to a healthy environment.

Go to our website   www.Envirospect.com for more information or to arrange an assessment of your home.

Posted by Dan Howard on October 26th, 2017 9:44 PM

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