Creepy Crawlspace: A Major Source of Contamination In 9 out of 10 Homes

What can you expect to find in a typical crawlspace? It has been determined, after reviewing thousands of air samples collected from properties with occupants that suffer from poor indoor air quality, that the source of contamination in 9 out of 10 homes comes from a poorly ventilated crawlspace. Common environmental contaminants found in crawlspaces include mold contamination, radon gas, pathogenic bacteria, fiberglass, pesticides, foul odors, asbestos fibers, raw sewage, and/or rodent excretions. Although some of these contaminants are classified as allergens, some are classified as carcinogens, which is why evaluating these air contaminants is important and significant.

If it’s in your crawlspace, it’s in your home! Studies have shown that approximately 40%-50% of the air inside the home generates from the crawlspace. Contaminated crawlspace air will enter the home through pressurization differentials or a condition known as the “Stacking Effect.” Inside a house, warm air rises (especially in multi-story properties) which then reduces the pressure in the base of the house (i.e. crawlspace or basement). This reduction in pressure then forces cooler air from the crawlspace to infiltrate the home through plumbing and electrical penetrations, through cracks or seams in flooring, and up into wall cavities.

During property inspections, crawlspaces are often the most overlooked and under-inspected areas of a property, yet they continue to be the source of more damage than any other area of the house. Crawlspaces are a major source of indoor air quality (IAQ) problems and should be one of the first places you and/or your IAQ Specialist inspect when trying to determine any suspect indoor air quality issues.

The Surgeon General’s Call to Action Report Promotes Healthy Homes

The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to promote Healthy Homes Report looks at the many ways housing can affect health. The purpose of the report is to initiate a national dialogue about the importance of healthy homes. “The home is the centerpiece of American life,” said Steven K. Galson, then acting Surgeon General at the time of the report. “We can prevent many diseases and injuries that result from health hazards in the home by following the simple steps outlined in this Call to Action.” The report urges Americans to “improve air quality in their homes by installing radon and carbon monoxide detectors, eliminating smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke, and controlling allergens that contribute to asthma and mold growth.”

Follow the link here http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/bookshelf/br.fcgi?book=hssurggen&part=cta-home to view the entire Healthy Home Report from teh surgeon General’s office.

Interview: The Craig Fahle Show On WDET Public Radio | Topic: Avoiding An Unhealthy Money Pit

The Dirty Secret On Foreclosures: Avoiding An Unhealthy Money Pit. WDET Public Radio host, Craig Fahle, interviews me on the topic of hidden hazards when purchasing a foreclosed home. Learn what to look out for and and tips on protecting your potential investment.

They “Mite” Be Giants: 6 Helpful Tips To Do Battle With Dust Mite Allergies

Studies have shown that the dust mite lives in areas in our home that are moist and warm. Forty thousand dust mites account for one ounce of mattress dust. They descend on our bedding because when we sleep our bodies shed skin, this skin is nourishment to the dust mite. Dust Mites are not necessarily harmful, unless you are allergic to them. Symptoms for allergic reaction would be runny nose, itchy eyes, asthma, or a rash. If you are allergic to dust mites then you should follow these steps.

Step 1: Survey your home and interior and note areas where dust mites hide, bedding, cloth sofa, drapes, carpets. Determine if your budget will permit you to replace these soft surface items to hard surface items such as wood blinds, leather sofa, and wood or tile floors. Prioritize the rooms in your home by the time that you spend in each room,the bedroom would be the first room that would have a makeover, TV room second, kitchen, dining room and such would follow on the list.

Step 2: Cover the mattress, box springs and pillows with allergen protective covers. These protective covers prevent the dust mite from penetrating and hiding in your bedding. Wash bed linens and comforter once a week to remove dust mites from fabric.

Step 3: Depending on the severity of your dust mite allergies you may want to cover your floors with a thin textured fiber carpet and invest in a Hepa filter vacuum that removes mold, pet dander and dust mite allergens. All fiber floor coverings will need to be steamed cleaned once a month to remove the dust mites that hide in the fibers. If you suffer from severe allergic reaction to dust mite you need to remove the fiber floor coverings and replace with a hard surface.

Step 4: Remove fiber window coverings and replace with a hard surface blind or shutter. Replace your upholstered furniture with leather or vinyl. Leather is more durable and the dust mites will have no place to hide. If leather is not in your budget, invest in a vacuum with allergen filter and vacuum your upholstered furniture twice a week. For severe allergies steam clean the upholstered furniture seasonally.

Step 5: Cover your nose and mouth with a ventilator mask before you dust your home. Remove the dust from your hard surfaces with a dust and allergen product. Use it on your wood furniture, cabinets and other hard surfaces. By using a product that is effective in controlling dust mites, you will be preventing a dust build up and thus reducing an allergic reaction.

Step 6: Replace your air duct filters with allergen protective filters. Change air filters four times a year or as recommended. Remove dust and other air borne irritants with an air purifier. Place the air purifier in the bedroom and an additional unit in the living area of your home.

Insurance Claims, Contractors, Homeowners: Why Can’t We all Play Nice? Here Are Seven Steps That Can Help…

After a fire or water loss, which can result in mold contamination, the only goal of most homeowners is to have competent and timely restoration that will protect both the indoor air quality as well as the asset value of the property. Similarly, the goals of good contractors are to restore the home, be paid for the services, and have a happy customer. The goals of reputable insurance companies are to restore the home to pre-loss conditions and pay a fair market price for the services. Since these goals are not mutually exclusive, they all can be realized with little or no conflict, right?

Most people who have experienced such losses are probably raising their eyebrows as they whisper, “Yeah right,” to the question. Unfortunately, many factors, including policy exclusions for mold, poor documentation from homeowners, greedy contractors, and overburdened insurance adjustors, can cause conflicts, delays, disappointments, and antagonism during the restoration of a covered water or fire loss.

At times, little can be done by the homeowner to mitigate antagonism if an adjuster takes on a confrontational demeanor from the get go. However, in many cases, proactive measures that begin at the time an insurance policy is purchased empower homeowners to steer an unfortunate loss in a harmonious manner. The following “to do” list for the insured party will go a long way toward making sure that the insurance company, contractors, and homeowners play together in the same sandbox without throwing sand in each other’s eyes.

  1. Understand the insurance policy before purchase. Ask questions about mold riders, sump pump and drain coverage, covered water losses, water damage after fires, smoke and soot damage, odor mitigation, and deductibles.
  2. Research and retain a list of reputable water damage, fire, and mold inspection companies and restoration contractors so that you can be in control of who is hired to do the work.
  3. Have your home inspected by a qualified inspection company that can document conditions relative to water damage and mold before you ever have a loss. This step can prevent claim denials due to poor maintenance or historical damage.
  4. Retain records of prior losses and repairs.
  5. Retain photographs and receipts of furnishings and belongings.
  6. Have realistic expectations regarding repairs.
  7. All documents, including the insurance policy, should be stored in a fireproof safe at home or at another location.

Just like a group of kids in a sandbox, bullies exist on both sides of the fence with insurance losses.  Courtesy, common sense and commitments to doing the right thing are sometimes overshadowed by fear, greed, and hidden agendas. I still believe that it is wise to be prepared and try to play nice before calling in the troops.

Watch Out for Germs at Cosmetic Counters: You May Want to Think Twice Before Trying on That Lip Gloss!

The “Today” show decided to take a look at just how clean those cosmetic testers are at major retailers. With their hidden camera in tow, Today Show Consumer Correspondent, Janice Lieberman and I swabbed several makeup testers to look for germs. We chose a store where samples were readily available for anyone to try. But even before we tested the makeup, we were surprised to see just how many women dipped their fingers in the makeup pots, applying shadow to their eyes and gloss to their lips. Many did not even use applicators made available to them. Just imagine all those fingers, spreading germs to all the other customers. You can read the entire eye-opening transcript of our report at this link: Read more: http://today.msnbc.msn.com

Healthy Homes: Testing and Remediation of Mold and Water Damage are Essential to Good Indoor Air Quality

Whenever I leave a mold inspection project feeling like I have just been struck in the forehead with a baseball bat, I wonder if the time has come to retire to the healthy clean nest that my husband, Tom, and I have created in our own home. After nearly two decades and more than 6000 mold investigations, we not only gained empathy for our clients, but were forced to design an optimum indoor environment that could provide relief for the classic mold-related illnesses such as allergies, chronic sinusitis and asthma that were consequential to our profession.

Since the inception of our company Sanit-Air in 1994, our team of scientists, mold inspectors, remediators, and healthcare professionals have been recognized as the leaders in the field of indoor air quality by providing consultation and solutions to healthcare facilities, commercial buildings and industrial settings. Although controlling workplace exposures remains a significant focus for Sanit-Air, our experiences have demonstrated that mold related exposures are frequently more intense in residential dwellings. Keeping in mind that most people have little or no control over the biological and chemical toxins present in workplaces, shopping centers, schools, and other public venues, Sanit-Air has developed CleanliNEST™, a division that is dedicated to optimizing indoor air quality in residential buildings.

My deeply held values include:

  • Protection of human health takes precedent over financial and business relationships.
  • Finding answers is not always easy or popular, but we must do what is right.
  • “Green buildings” are not necessarily healthy buildings.
  • Preservation of natural resources without regard to the impact on air quality could be a very unhealthy trend.
  • Water damage and mold can make people very sick.
  • Tunnel vision can botch an investigation and lead to erroneous conclusions.
  • Egos have no place in scientific investigations.
  • Seeking answers becomes most effective with a team of experts from varying disciplines.
  • Similar to human bodies, buildings are a complex interaction of multiple systems that must operate in a synergistic, balanced matter to achieve optimum health.
  • Any job worth doing is worth doing right.

I hope you find my CleanliNEST™ blog of great interest and value. I’m eager to hear your stories and welcome your questions, thoughts and comments.

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