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Formaldehyde Testing

Formaldehyde Testing

[or – before you tear up that floor…!]

If you have concerns that you may have elevated levels of formaldehyde [especially due to new construction or flooring] in your home please consider the following before you take action:

First, some basic facts about formaldehyde:

What is formaldehyde?

At room temperature, formaldehyde is a colorless gas that sometimes has a noticeable odor. It is a chemical substance commonly used in the manufacture of building materials and numerous household products.

Although it has some similar traits [such as ‘off-gassing’], formaldehyde stands independent and is generally not classified as a volatile organic compound (VOC). Formaldehyde is classified as a Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP) by the EPA.

Why test first?

To start with, you need to know if a problem even exists! Obviously there are known, established concerns and health risks regarding elevated levels of formaldehyde. However, new ‘product’ or materials do not automatically mean you have a problem.  In addition, formaldehyde emissions are highest when products are new and diminish over time so the longer a product has been in place, the lower the levels of formaldehyde likely to be emitted.

So… before you tear out that new floor, test the air quality- either you will confirm a condition and proceed accordingly, or hopefully save the effort and expense of undoing what you’ve done!

How do you test for it?

We always recommend having trained professionals perform the sampling and laboratory analysis for accuracy both in measurement and interpreting the results.

There are “Do-it-yourself” measuring devices available, but please be aware that these can only provide a “ball park” estimate for the formaldehyde level in the area.

Where does it come from?

Again, Formaldehyde is a chemical. The most significant sources of formaldehyde in homes are:

  • Resins used in the manufacture of composite wood products (i.e., hardwood plywood, particle board and medium-density fiberboard)
  • Building materials and insulation
  • Household products [glues, permanent press fabrics, paints, coatings, lacquers & finishes, paper products]
  • Preservatives used in some medicines, cosmetics, other consumer products such as dishwashing liquids and fabric softeners
  • Fertilizers and pesticides
  • It is a byproduct of combustion and certain other natural processes, and so is also found in emissions from un-vented, fuel burning appliances, like gas stoves or kerosene space heaters. Automobile exhaust from cars without catalytic converters
  • Cigarettes and other tobacco products

 

For more info – contact us at info@homeairfacts.com.  We’re happy to help!

Ice Dams and roof leaks

Ice Dams and roof leaks from this winter weather are setting new records.

Five steps to minimize the damage from  Mold.

roof-ice-dam

1. locate the source of intrusion from the ice dam.

if it’s from ice hire a company to remove it safely.

2. After the leaking has stopped. Dry it out as soon

as possible. mold can start after 24 to 48 hours.

3. If you are concerned about mold, we can measure

the wetness with thermal imaging and moisture meters.

4. wet materials, especial fiberglass insulation should be removed.

5. Have a quality mold inspection done

“HOW CAN I TELL IF I HAVE A MOLD PROBLEM DEVELOPING?”

Here are some tips to identify potential problems:

–  Check your attic for visual mold. Use a good flashlight and be sure to look in joints, corners and undisturbed areas where spores may settle first.  Look for areas of inside moisture/wetness. And check for notable areas of ‘leakage’ [such as ducting, light fixtures, etc.] – a major source of warmth or condensation in the attic space is from kitchens and bathroom that are not vented effectively and attics that are not effectively insulated from the living space below.

As a follow up check your basement space as well – often if there is significant water intrusion it will work it’s way [inside walls, etc.] down to the basement.  There are also external concerns: excess water flow from the roof or down spouts can create similar issues at ground level that can cause water intrusion through the foundation.

– Keep your eyes open for visible stains on finished surfaces of the walls and ceiling.  For example: new or bigger wetness stains in a ceiling can indicate water / moisture accumulation.

–  Keep an eye on air moisture or high relative humidity. Humidity over 55% will support mold growth. It should be noted that even though low relative humidity [45% and lower] may not support growth but that does not mean a lack of mold presence. Remember – an area with ongoing wetness may simply be waiting for seasonal warmth to ‘kick in’…

– Odors. Smelling new or unusual musty or moldy odors especially when you can’t pinpoint the source is an indicator that you may have a problem [possibly something even inside a wall cavity.].

– [perhaps most importantly] Keep an eye on your ‘health’ and the health of your family members!  If someone in the household appears to have allergies, a ‘cold that won’t go away’ or similar ‘symptoms’ this may be an indication of a non-visible mold condition.  In other words: there could be mold, it is just hidden from view, or low relative humidity is arresting it in a dry particulate state [airborne spores].

“I THINK I HAVE A PROBLEM – HOW CAN I KNOW FOR SURE?”

There are a number of ways to inspect or test for mold. When you are in the position of reaching out to a testing professional consider the following:

Consider the severity of the problem.  This may determine what kind of professional you reach out to.  For instance: In general, an independent air quality/mold inspector is preferred.  They will be non-biased, impartial, not there to “upsell” any services. On the other hand, if you know you have water damage problem, and you think you may have mold, contacting a remediation company that also offers testing may be preferred.

When health is a potentially affected, or there are conditions that are non-visible to the occupants, then we recommend a complete indoor air quality inspection.  This will help determine if there are conditions or airborne substances to be concerned about, identify the sources of substances detected, and offer guidance on how to proceed to correct those conditions. In some cases moisture detections meters and thermal imaging may be implemented. This approach provides a complete picture of your homes air quality environment!

 

If you have any questions on this or other air quality related topics please reach out to us info@homeairfacts.com. We’re happy to help!

 

 

I Am Trying to Track An Odor But it Keeps Going Away!

I’ve been living in the same house for years and suddenly there is an odor I can’t identify… it was never there before…!

I’ve been living in a home for 6 months – I knew there were odors [such as fresh paint or building materials] but they should’ve ‘gone away by now’…

There is a musty odor from my basement that always seems to get worse [even unbearable] at certain times of the year…

When it comes to the topic of odors [especially hard to track or identify ones] a major condition that is not often considered seriously is the effect of humidity on our living space. It affects our personal health and comfort. It also has a significant, even dramatic, affect on household odor problems. And realistically, the ‘issue’ will increase rather than decrease as buildings continue to become ‘tighter’ and more ‘contaminants’ are introduced to and held in our living space.

This is not to imply that humidity itself is an odor source, but rather, that there are certain types of odors that seem to manifest themselves more readily as humidity increases. And there are a couple of reasons for this:

• The odor is caused from a gas substance [such as methane / sewer gas / VOC’s] that have a consistency that is lighter than air. These substances, while they may be present all along may be ‘above’ us. Humidity, making the air ‘heavy’ will draw those odors down into our breathing space.

• Some substances that are in a dust / particulate state [such as mold] tend to be ‘dormant’ or ‘inert’ in drier air, but become ‘active’ when moisture is added. Mold spores for instance can be a respiratory irritant while in a particulate state but once moisture starts to ‘feed’ it, will begin to show visible growth and off-gas mildew or musty odors [a great example is basement odors in the summer vs. winter]

• There are also odors that are bacterial in nature that appear to ‘reactivate’ when moisture is added! This is the case with animal related odors [such as a rodent nest in a wall, or pet urine].

Many of these intrusive odors can take an extremely long time to dissipate on their own. And because they manifest and subside with humidity changes they can be very frustrating to track down. Knowing how moisture and humidity can play a role in this problem can help you figure it out. Is there evidence of surface moisture? Wetness stains from condensation or wetness wicking in? Is the odor more prominent during or after rain? Or on a humid vs dry day? If you are using a dehumidifier does the odor return when it is not in use?

Remember: a dehumidifier does not remove odors, it simply removes the moisture that feeds them. Cleaning a carpet does not always treat or reach the padding or flooring beneath it. Odors that are related to gas substances [especially when lighter than air] are almost never ‘detected’ near the actual source of the odor.

Part of the trick to track down your mystery odor is not to just find what it is, but to also rule out what it isn’t. Take into account the environmental factors, and look for patterns in the ways and times the odor is most noticeable to you and that should help narrow down your search. If it continues to elude you, reach out to us at info@homeairfacts.com. We’d be happy to help!

“POLLEN VORTEX”?!?

What is this Pollen Vortex”?!?

A few weeks ago weather.com posted this:

“It is a term people are using to describe the [effects of the] polar vortex. We’ve had a real winter with the rain, snow, ice and cold temperatures.” Stanley Fineman, MD., practicing allergist with Atlanta Allergy & Asthma Clinic and a past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, told weather.com. “So it’s kind of overwhelmed us. The pollen has been waiting for the summer weather, and we’re just now seeing that, so we’re seeing extremely high pollen counts… We see high tree pollen counts this time of year. This year we’ve seen prolonged and higher counts of pollen…”

So what does that mean for us? Other than NO relief?

Well, because the winter held on so long, and we appear to have gone from winter to summer with next to no ‘spring’, the ‘typical’ release of pollen was hindered or delayed, then released all at once, and we got ‘slammed’ with all of it at once!

On a more positive thought – The theory [or hope!] is that in that release [although initially worst case conditions] it will be short lived in that the current ‘cycle’ of pollen release will be short.

We are in the midst of promoting our first “special” ever! Along with any “Home Air Facts” air quality inspection scheduled from now through June 2014 we are offering an expanded testing at no additional charge to include pollen measurement and identification! This testing is extremely helpful in [a] determining if these substances are accumulating in your home or environment and [b] identifying the specific types of pollen to isolate what we personally may be reacting to. If you or anyone you care for is experiencing discomforts or sensitivities while in the “safety of home”, let us know!

Who We Are

Welcome to Residential Air Quality, the premier air quality specialists throughout the Greater Boston area. We are a family business [based in Wellesley] serving communities across the region. We believe that looking after your family’s well-being is the most important thing in the world. Ensuring clean, breathable indoor air quality is more than simply providing peace of mind. No matter your concern or service requirement, we are experts on all aspects of residential indoor air quality. While this includes mold inspections, it encompasses so much more as we specialize in detecting, measuring and identifying allergens and other airborne contaminants.

We are proud of our family orientated work ethics and believe in dealing with people and not figures. If you would like our assistance, please reach out to us. Indoor air quality is our business but service is our priority.

“If it isn’t Mold, then what is it?”

It is this very question that sets us apart!

In the early days of our company growth it was anticipated that mold testing would be a primary focus for us. And for many it still is. Testing is performed, and mold is either going to be detected [and addressed] or not detected and the residence can ‘rule it out’ as a problem.

In our case, however, a significant number of calls we received were from clients who had greater concerns: perhaps a family member suffering from allergies… or an environment where they actually felt ‘better’ physically when away from their home… or an odor or physical ‘sensitivity’ they just couldn’t put their finger on… when we found that a residence did not have a mold condition we were often asked “Well if it isn’t mold, then what is it”? [and we really hated not having an answer…!]

As it became our determination to be known as “Air Quality Inspectors”, not just “mold testers”, we increased our training and knowledge base, widened our awareness of the industry and expanded our testing capabilities to address as many home air quality conditions and concerns as we found existed. And WOW! There certainly is no shortage of them!

This blog is dedicated to sharing some of the experiences, findings, updates, new discoveries and tips & tricks to successfully improve the quality of the atmospheres in your home. If you have any questions, concerns or even experiences where you successfully conquered an air quality issue, let us know!

And please keep checking back with us – you may be surprised at the variety of issues we come across!