What is mold?

Mold is a type of fungus that grows on plants and fibers and materials manufactured from these items and is most often associated with damp, musty locations such as bathrooms, basements and attics. Mold travels through the air as tiny spores (much like seeds); which like to make their home in wet areas, where they will breed.

What are resultant health effects from exposure to mold?

In addition to its unsightly appearance, mold can present a hazard to one’s health. It’s an allergen and an irritant. Someone who suffers from household allergies or asthma will no doubt have trouble breathing in homes with mold infestations. Eyes, ears, noses and throats can become irritated as well. If you are ever in doubt as to what effects exposure to mold may have, consult a medical doctor, not an industrial hygienist.

Why does mold grow?

Mold is ever-present in the atmosphere. The amount of spore content will vary based upon temperature, wind, humidity and even time of day; however, rest assured it is there. Spores are constantly landing on all surfaces in your home. If conditions are dry and clean there is no problem. The problem occurs when mold finds a nice wet nutrient source (carpets, sheetrock, clothing, etc.) to act as a breeding ground.

What does a mold test mean?

There are different ways to test for mold. Like everything else, you get what you pay for. Spore trap analysis is both quicker and cheaper that culturing samples, but you compromise accuracy. Regardless of what test is chosen, a test is only partially complete if it is not accompanied by a visual inspection.

How do I prevent mold growth?

Your house is filled with nutrient (food) sources. The sure fire method to keep mold growth in control is to control humidity. If a water loss occurs, the quicker you respond and dry the area, the less likely you will have elevated mold growth.

How do I know if my underground storage tank is leaking?

This can be a sticky situation. Most homes that have underground oil storage tanks have tanks that do not need to be inspected and did not have a lot of requirements when first installed. A small hole can allow a leak to go undetected for years. The sad truth is that most leaks are discovered only when they become catastrophic, in other words, an entire tank full of oil is lost in a very short period. Standard tank tests on homeowner tanks can easily result in false failures. Once a tank fails a test, the tester is bound by law to notify the DEC within two hours of discovery. There is a less invasive test of advancing soil borings within the vicinity of the tank to see if there is oil in the sub-surface, but this method is not 100% accurate either. My advice is when in doubt, take it out. The maximum life expectancy for a UST is 35 to 40 years. There are many tanks currently in use well exceeding that life expectancy.

What are my responsibilities of my oil tank is leaking?

The owner of the property is responsible for the clean up. It sounds harsh, but it is the simplest way the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation can deal with these issues. If there is another party responsible for the loss, that is fine, but the homeowner is still required to make arrangements to get the property back to compliance.

What do I do if there is oil in my basement?

There is nothing more invasive than an oil tank failure in your basement. A significant loss of oil will destroy carpets and walls and could possibly penetrate below the slab. The odors will very quickly penetrate throughout the house. These odors are difficult and tedious to eliminate. This is definitely not a do it yourself project. Your best bet is to get a professional involved quickly. Most oil losses also have to be reported to the DEC. This is not done to add another headache to an already disastrous situation, but it is done to ensure compliance and safety for the homeowner.

How do I dispose of chemicals?

As a homeowner, never toss chemicals in the trash. Most towns will have some type of system in place to accept small quantities of waste chemicals from homeowners. It is safe to dispose of an empty, dry container in your household trash. As far as businesses, schools, labs, doctor offices, etc. are concerned; these waste chemicals have to be disposed of properly. This will include sorting chemicals to ensure we are loading compatible chemicals together in a drum. There is nothing more dangerous than loading two reactive chemicals into the same drum. Many waste chemicals can be used in fuels blending, so they are essentially recycled. Not only is improper disposal illegal, but also it is a pathway for chemicals to get into our ecosystem and eventually into our bodies.

What is a traumatic injury clean up?

This is a clean up which is often the result of a tragedy. It often involves the clean up of blood borne pathogens. It may involve homicide or suicide. The clean up should be discretionary and include proper sanitizing, disinfecting and disposal of impacted items.

What is a Phase I site assessment?

The Phase I ESA is a visual commercial property condition assessment designed as a cost effective overview of a site, which should identify potential environmental hazards, and/or past practices that may prove to be a potential liability. A typical Phase I ESA involves no collection of samples or testing and is limited to information available through public sources, interview or first hand observation.

What is a Phase II site assessment?

A Phase II essentially proves or disproves allegations arrived at during the Phase I. Simply put, a Phase I raises red flags and a Phase II reviews those red flags. A Phase II typically involves collection of soil and/or groundwater samples for analytical testing in accordance with EPA regulations. Each Phase II is developed based upon the specific site conditions and includes only applicable tests and investigations. Phase II assessment qualitatively confirms environmental impairments and liabilities resulting from the Phase I and yields basic projections of remediation costs.

What is radon?

Radon is a radioactive gas emitted as a byproduct of bedrock breakdown. It is typically more intense where bedrock is closest to the surface. A simple test can determine if radon is present in a basement and to what extent. There are various remedial methodologies based largely on the amount of radon present. It may be something as simple as a good coat of paint on the floor or ensuring that fractures are filled and it may be as complex as a vapor extraction system located beneath the slab. For the most part, people on Long Island do not have any radon issues to be concerned about.

What are airborne VOC’s and Semi-VOC’s?

Indoor air quality is much more than concerns with mold and bacterial levels. There are a wide variety of chemicals that can be emitted from furniture, carpeting, stored cleaning supplies, etc. that can impact ambient conditions. There are long lists of common chemicals such as volatile organic compounds and semi-volatile organic compounds that are common. There is the possibility of carbon monoxide, dusts, airborne metals and even insect particles that can also impact air quality. A good industrial hygienist can review an area and recommend the right tests to gather keeping costs under control.