28 01, 2016

Test For Lead In Drinking Water

2016-10-19T19:20:36-05:00January 28th, 2016|

Test For Lead In Drinking Water

If you would like to purchase a Lead In Water Test Kit please contact me @ (804) 482-1590 and I will have one sent to your home.

Perry Lombard, CPI

NACHI15030710

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Link to Richmond VA Water Quality Report

If you are concerned about lead in your water, you may wish to have your water tested. Information on lead in drinking water, testing materials, and steps you can take to minimize exposure is available from the Drinking Water Hotline.

With the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan, at the forefront of national news, many people have been wondering how they can tell if their drinking water has been tainted with lead or any other contaminants and bacteria.

Flint’s water woes began in April 2014 when the city switched from using water from Lake Huron to pumping water from the Flint River to save money. But because the waters from the river had not been properly treated, health problems stemming from lead contamination began to afflict the people.. Now, the residents of Flint have been asked to use only bottled water and filtered water for the foreseeable future until the issues have been resolved.

Although most cities in the U.S. are not experiencing a water crisis to this degree, the possibility of water contamination is a very real threat. The average U.S. household of four people uses 350 gallons of water per day for drinking, bathing and washing dishes and clothes.

“It’s so important for people to get educated about their own water,” Brian Oram, a professional geologist and licensed soil scientist. ”It’s the obligation of the city or town you reside in to address any of your water concerns, but most likely you will get pushback, as it’s a bureaucracy, even if it’s a small one. Flint is a great example, because responsibility for the disaster is unclear, and that line in the sand easily shifts.”

But if a homeowner’s water pipes are off the main line, Oram noted that the homeowner must take responsibility for the water, saying, “its incumbent upon homeowners to get the water tested, know their pipe status, and take appropriate action,”.

The Environmental Protection Agency has stated that the corrosion of pipes and other plumbing materials in the home often lead to contaminated drinking water. If a house was built before 1980, it is often a good idea to check out the pipes and plumbing for excessive corrosion. Although most water systems do test for lead contamination, the larger test sometimes does not reflect accurately the condition of an individual home.

Because the contaminants that make people sick often are tasteless and colorless, the EPA recommends several different strategies for homeowners — one of which is to buy a do-it-yourself water analysis kit that can be obtained from a local water supplier or home improvement store. Oftentimes, county health departments may offer to come out and test a household’s water supply for bacteria and contaminants, if asked. But if people choose to test the water on their own with a personal kit, they do have the option to send the results to a nearby certified lab for testing.

When looking for a certified lab, the nearest one can be found by calling the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791.

28 01, 2016

Mold Inspection

2016-10-19T19:20:36-05:00January 28th, 2016|

Mold, Moisture and Your Home

 

Mold Basics Mold Inspection

  • The key to mold control is moisture control.
  • If mold is a problem in your home, you should clean up the mold promptly and fix the water problem.
  • It is important to dry water-damaged areas and items within 24 to 48 hours to prevent mold growth.

Why is mold growing in my home?

 

Molds are part of the natural environment.  Outdoors, molds play a part in nature by breaking down dead organic matter, such as fallen leaves and dead trees.  But indoors, mold growth should be avoided.  Molds reproduce by means of tiny spores; the spores are invisible to the naked eye and float through outdoor and indoor air.  Mold may begin growing indoors when mold spores land on surfaces that are wet.  There are many types of mold, and none of them will grow without water or moisture.

 

Can mold cause health problems?

 

Molds are usually not a problem indoors, unless mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing.  Molds have the potential to cause health problems.  Molds produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions), irritants and, in some cases, potentially toxic substances (mycotoxins).  Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.  Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis).  Allergic reactions to mold are common.  They can be immediate or delayed.  Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold.  In addition, mold exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people.  Symptoms other than the allergic and irritant types are not commonly reported as a result of inhaling mold.  Research on mold and health effects is ongoing.  This article provides a brief overview; it does not describe all potential health effects related to mold exposure.  For more detailed information, consult a health professional.  You may also wish to consult your state or local health department.

How do I get rid of mold?

 

moldsporesIt is impossible to get rid of all mold and mold spores indoors.  Some mold spores will be found floating through the air and in house dust. Mold spores will not grow if moisture is not present.  Indoor mold growth can and should be prevented or controlled by controlling moisture indoors. If there is mold growth in your home, you must clean up the mold and fix the water problem. If you clean up the mold but don’t fix the water problem, then, most likely, the mold problem will recur.

 

Who should do the cleanup?

 

This depends on a number of factors.  One consideration is the size of the mold problem.  If the moldy area is less than about 10 square feet (less than roughly a 3-foot by 3-foot patch), in most cases, you can handle the job yourself, following the guidelines below.  

  • If there has been a lot of water damage, and/or mold growth covers more than 10 square feet, consult with an InterNACHI inspector.
  • If you choose to hire a contractor (or other professional service provider) to do the cleanup, make sure the contractor has experience cleaning up mold.  Check references and ask the contractor to follow the recommendations of the EPA, the guidelines of the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygenists (ACGIH), or other guidelines from professional or government organizations.
  • Do not run the HVAC system if you know or suspect that it is contaminated with mold.  This could spread mold throughout the building. 
  • If the water and/or mold damage was caused by sewage or other contaminated water, then call in a professional who has experience cleaning and fixing buildings damaged by contaminated water. 
  • If you have health concerns, consult a health professional before starting cleanup.

Tips and Techniques 

 

The tips and techniques presented in this section will help you clean up your mold problem.  Professional cleaners or remediators may use methods not covered here.  Please note that mold may cause staining and cosmetic damage.  It may not be possible to clean an item so that its original appearance is restored.   

  • Fix plumbing leaks and other water problems as soon as possible. Dry all items completely.
  • Scrub mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water, and dry completely.
  • Absorbent or porous materials, such as ceiling tiles and carpet, may have to be thrown away if they become moldy. Mold can grow on or fill in the empty spaces and crevices of porous materials, so the mold may be difficult or impossible to remove completely.
  • Avoid exposing yourself or others to mold.
  • Do not paint or caulk moldy surfaces.
  • Clean up the mold and dry the surfaces before painting. Paint applied over moldy surfaces is likely to peel.  If you are unsure about how to clean an item, or if the item is expensive or of sentimental value, you may wish to consult a specialist. Specialists in furniture repair and restoration, painting and art restoration and conservation, carpet and rug cleaning, water damage, and fire or water restoration are commonly listed in phone books. Be sure to ask for and check references. Look for specialists who are affiliated with professional organizations. 
  •  

What to Wear When Cleaning Moldy Areas:  

  • Avoid breathing in mold or mold spores.cleaningmold  In order to limit your exposure to airborne mold, you may want to wear an N-95 respirator, available at many hardware stores and from
  • companies that advertise on the Internet. (They cost about $12 to $25.)  Some N-95 respirators resemble a paper dust mask with a nozzle on the front, and others are made primarily of plastic or rubber and have removable cartridges that trap and prevent most of the mold spores from entering.  In order to be effective, the respirator or mask must fit properly, so carefully follow the instructions supplied with the respirator. Please note that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that respirators fit properly (via fit testing) when used in an occupational setting.
  • Wear gloves. Long gloves that extend to the middle of the forearm are recommended.  When working with water and a mild detergent, ordinary household rubber gloves may be used.  If you are using a disinfectant, a biocide such as chlorine bleach, or a strong cleaning solution, you should select gloves made from natural rubber, neoprene, nitrile, polyurethane or PVC.  Avoid touching mold or moldy items with your bare hands.   
  • Wear goggles.  Goggles that do not have ventilation holes are recommended.  Avoid getting mold or mold spores in your eyes.

How do I know when the remediation or cleanup is finished?

You must have completely fixed the water or moisture problem before the cleanup or remediation can be considered finished, based on the following guidelines:  

  • You should have completed the mold removal.  Visible mold and moldy odors should not be present.  Please note that mold may cause staining and cosmetic damage.   
  • You should have revisited the site(s) shortly after cleanup, and it should show no signs of water damage or mold growth.  
  • People should have been able to occupy or re-occupy the area without health complaints or physical symptoms.  
  • Ultimately, this is a judgment call; there is no easy answer. If you have concerns or questions, be sure to ask your InterNACHI inspector during your next scheduled inspection.

 

 moisturecontrol

Moisture and Mold Prevention and Control Tips

  • Moisture control is the key to mold control, so when water leaks or spills occur indoors, ACT QUICKLY.  If wet or damp materials or areas are dried within 24 to 48 hours after a leak or spill happens, in most cases, mold will not grow.  
  • Clean and repair roof gutters regularly.  
  • Make sure the ground slopes away from the building’s foundation so that water does not enter or collect around the foundation.  
  • Keep air-conditioning drip pans clean and the drain lines unobstructed and flowing properly.
  • Keep indoor humidity low.  If possible, keep indoor humidity below 60% relative humidity (ideally, between 30% to 50%).  Relative humidity can be measured with a moisture or humidity meter, which is a small, inexpensive instrument (from $10 to $50) that is available at many hardware stores.  
  • If you see condensation or moisture collecting on windows, walls or pipes, ACT QUICKLY to dry the wet surface and reduce the moisture/water source.  Condensation can be a sign of high humidity.

Actions that will help to reduce humidity:

  • Vent appliances that produce moisture, such as clothes dryers, stoves, and kerosene heaters, to the outdoors, where possible.  (Combustion appliances, such as stoves and kerosene heaters, produce water vapor and will increase the humidity unless vented to the outside.)  
  • Use air conditioners and/or de-humidifiers when needed.  
  • Run the bathroom fan or open the window when showering.  Use exhaust fans or open windows whenever cooking, running the dishwasher or dishwashing, etc.

rentersActions that will help prevent condensation:

  • Reduce the humidity (see above).  
  • Increase ventilation and air movement by opening doors and/or windows, when practical.  Use fans as needed.  
  • Cover cold surfaces, such as cold water pipes, with insulation.  
  • Increase air temperature.

Testing or Sampling for Mold

 

Is sampling for mold needed?  In most cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary.  Since no EPA or other federal limits have been set for mold or mold spores, sampling cannot be used to check a building’s compliance with federal mold standards.  Surface sampling may be useful to determine if an area has been adequately cleaned or remediated.  Sampling for mold should be conducted by professionals who have specific experience in designing  mold sampling protocols, sampling methods, and interpreting results.  Sample analysis should follow analytical methods recommended by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), or other professional organizations.

 

Suspicion of Hidden Mold 

 

You may suspect hidden mold if a building smells moldy but you cannot see the source, or if you know there has been water damage and residents are reporting health problems. Mold may be hidden in places such as the backside of dry wall, wallpaper or paneling, the top-side of ceiling tiles, or the underside of carpets and pads, etc. Other possible locations of hidden mold include areas inside walls around pipes (with leaking or condensing pipes), the surface of walls behind furniture (where condensation forms), inside ductwork, and in roof materials above ceiling tiles (due to roof leaks or insufficient insulation).

 

Investigating Hidden Mold Problems 

 

Investigating hidden mold problems may be difficult and will require caution when the investigation involves disturbing potential sites of mold growth. For example, removal of wallpaper can lead to a massive release of spores if there is mold growing on the underside of the paper. If you believe that you may have a hidden mold problem, consider hiring an experienced professional.

 

Cleanup and Biocides 

 

Biocides are substances that can destroy living organisms. The use of a chemical or biocide that kills organisms such as mold (chlorine bleach, for example) is not recommended as a routine practice during mold cleanup. There may be instances, however, when professional judgment may indicate its use (for example, when immune-compromised individuals are present). In most cases, it is not possible or desirable to sterilize an area; a background level of mold spores will remain, and these spores will not grow if the moisture problem has been resolved. If you choose to use disinfectants or biocides, always ventilate the area and exhaust the air to the outdoors. Never mix chlorine bleach with other cleaning solutions or detergents that contain ammonia because toxic fumes could be produced.   

 

Please note: Dead mold may still cause allergic reactions in some people, so it is not enough to simply kill the mold; it must also be removed.

 

Ten Things You Should Know About Mold

 

 1.  Potential health effects and symptoms associated with mold exposure include allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory complaints. 

 

 2.  There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.

 

 3.  If mold is a problem in your home, you must clean up the mold and eliminate sources of moisture.

 

 4.  Fix the source of the water problem or leak to prevent mold growth.

 

 5.  Reduce indoor humidity (to 30% to 60%) to decrease mold growth by: 

a. venting bathrooms, dryers, and other moisture-generating sources to the outside;

b. using air conditioners and de-humidifiers;

c. increasing ventilation; and

d. using exhaust fans whenever cooking, dishwashing, and cleaning.  

 6.  Clean and dry any damp or wet building materials and furnishings within 24 to 48 hours to prevent mold growth.

 

 7.  Clean mold off hard surfaces with water and detergent, and dry completely. Absorbent materials that are moldy (such as carpeting and ceiling tiles) may need to be replaced. 

 

 8.  Prevent condensation.  Reduce the potential for condensation on cold surfaces (i.e., windows, piping, exterior walls, roof and floors) by adding insulation. 

 

 9.  In areas where there is a perpetual moisture problem, do not install carpeting.

 

10.  Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any substance, provided moisture is present. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, and foods.

28 01, 2016

RADON Inspection

2016-10-19T19:20:36-05:00January 28th, 2016|

Cause of Deaths in the U.S. (Virginia)

We are often asked by our clients if they should have their home tested for radon. Real-world loss-of-life comparisons help consumers decide about whether or not they should test. If you are worried about shark attacks, getting trampled by cows, or terrorism, you should be worried sick about radon. These statistics help put things in their proper perspective so that your clients can decide if they want a radon test or not.  Here is a downloadable PDF that inspectors can give to their clients onsite to help them decide if they should get a radon test:  https://www.nachi.org/documents2012/radon-deaths-chart.pdf

Radon Inspection
Call to schedule a Radon Inspection 

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 21,000 

 Lung Cancer from Radon Gas

 U.S. EPA

 DEATHS PER YEAR

Number

Cause

Source

 611,105 

 Heart Disease

 Centers for Disease Control (2015)

 584,881 

 All Cancers

 Centers for Disease Control (2015)

 160,000 

 Smoking

 American Cancer Society (2004)

 88,000 

 Alcohol Use

 Centers for Disease Control (2015)

 51,783 

 Colon Cancer

 Centers for Disease Control (2015)

 40,290 

 Breast Cancer

 National Cancer Institute (2015)

 41,149 

 Suicide

 Centers for Disease Control (2014)

 32,719 

 Motor Vehicle Accidents

 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (2013)

 29,500 

 Falls

 National Safety Council (2013)

 22,767 

 Prescription Drug  Overdoses

 National Institute on Drug Abuse (2013)

 21,840 

 Leukemia

 U.S. EPA (2010)

 21,530 

 Lymphoma

 U.S. EPA (2010)

 21,000 

 Lung Cancer from Radon Gas

 U.S. EPA

16,121 

 Homicides

 Centers for Disease Control (2013)

 14,775 

 Illegal Drug Overdoses

 National Institute on Drug Abuse (2013)

 13,712 

 AIDS

 Centers for Disease Control (2012)

11,208 

 Firearm Homicides

 Centers for Disease Control (2013)

 8,257 

 Heroin Overdoses

 National Institute on Drug Abuse (2013)

 4,944 

 Cocaine Overdoses

 National Institute on Drug Abuse (2013)

 3,880 

 Drowning

 Centers for Disease Control (avg. 2005-2009)

 3,005 

 Fires

 U.S. Fire Administration (2011)

 3,000 

 Secondhand Smoke

 U.S. EPA

 2,500 

 Choking

 National Safety Council (2009)

 1,690 

 Thyroid Cancer

 U.S. EPA (2010)

 630 

 Bicycle Accidents

 National Safety Council (2009)

 618 

 Excessive Heat

 Centers for Disease Control (avg. 1999-2010)

606 

 Firearm Accidents

 Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (2010)

 376 

 ATV Accidents

 National Safety Council (2009)

 300 

 Ladder Falls

 International Association of Certified Home  Inspectors

170 

 Carbon Monoxide

 Consumer Product Safety Commission

 104 

 Wind (including tornadoes)

 National Oceanic and Atmospheric  Administration  (2012)

 100 

 Scalding Tap Water

 Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public  Health  (2013)

 100 

 Bee Stings

 Boston Children’s Hospital

 72 

 Terrorist Attacks

 FBI (avg. 1970-2015)

 26 

 Lightning

 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration  (2014)

 20 

 Dangerous Cows

 Centers for Disease Control (2009)

 15 

 Falling Icicles

 Death in Society Research Foundation

 12 

 High School and College  Football Injuries

 National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury  Research (2013)

 2 

 Vending Machines Accidents

 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

 1 

 Shark Attacks

 Mother Nature Network (2012)

 0 

 Marijuana Overdoses

 Numerous sources

 0 

 Nuclear Power Plant Leaks

 Numerous sources

 

28 01, 2016

Lead Facts

2016-10-19T19:20:36-05:00January 28th, 2016|

Lead Facts

Did you know the following facts about lead?lead facts

 

FACT: Lead exposure can harm young children and babies even before they are born.

FACT: Even children who seem healthy can have high levels of lead in their bodies.

FACT: You can get lead in your body by breathing or swallowing lead dust, or by eating soil or paint chips containing lead.

FACT: You have many options for reducing lead hazards. In most cases, lead-based paint that is in good condition is not a hazard.

FACT: Removing lead-based paint improperly can increase the danger to your family.

 

If you think your home might have lead hazards, read on to learn about lead and some simple steps to protect your family.

 

Health Effects of Lead

  • Childhood lead poisoning remains a major environmental health problem in the U.S.
  • Even children who appear healthy can have dangerous levels of lead in their bodies.
  • People can get lead in their body if they:
    • put their hands or other objects covered with lead dust in their mouths;
    • eat paint chips or soil that contains lead; or
    • breathe in lead dust, especially during renovations that disturb painted surfaces.
  • Lead is even more dangerous to children than adults because:
    • babies and young children often put their hands and other objects in their mouths. These objects can have lead dust on them;
    • children’s growing bodies can absorb more lead; and 
    • children’s brains and central nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.
  • If not detected early, children with high levels of lead in their bodies can suffer from:
    • damage to the brain and nervous system;
    • behavioral and learning problems (such as hyperactivity);
    • slowed growth;
    • hearing problems; and 
    • headaches.
  • Lead is also harmful to adults. Adults can suffer from:
    • difficulties during pregnancy;
    • other reproductive problems (in both men and women);
    • high blood pressure;
    • digestive problems;
    • nerve disorders;
    • memory and concentration problems; and 
    • muscle and joint pain

 

Where is Lead Found?

In general, the older your home, the more likely it has lead-based paint. 

 

Paint

 

Many homes built before 1978 have lead-based paint. The federal government banned lead-based paint from housing in 1978. Some states stopped its use even earlier. Lead can be found:

  • in homes in the city, country and suburbs;
  • on apartments, single-family homes, and both private and public housing complexes;
  • on the interior and exterior of the house;
  • in the soil around a home.  Soil can pick up lead from exterior paint and other sources, such as past use of leaded gas in cars;
  • in household dust. Dust can pick up lead from deteriorating lead-based paint and from soil tracked into a home;
  • in drinking water. Your home might have plumbing that uses lead pipes or lead solder. Call your local health department or water supplier to find out about testing your water. You cannot see, smell or taste lead, and boiling your water will not get rid of lead. If you think your plumbing might have lead in it:
    • Use only cold water for drinking and cooking.
    • Run water for 15 to 30 seconds before drinking it, especially if you have not used your water for a few hours.
  • on the job. If you work with lead, you could bring it home on your hands or clothes. Shower and change clothes before coming home. Launder your work clothes separately from the rest of your family’s clothes;
  • in old (vintage or antique) painted toys and furniture;
  • in food and liquids stored in lead crystal, lead-glazed pottery and porcelain;
  • from lead smelters and other industries that release lead into the air;
  • with hobbies that use lead, such as making pottery or stained glass, or refinishing furniture.
  • in folk remedies that contain lead, such as “greta” and “azarcon” used to treat an upset stomach.

 

Where is Lead Likely to be a Hazard?

  • Lead from paint chips, which you can see, and lead dust, which you can’t always see, can be serious hazards.
  • Peeling, chipping, chalking and cracking lead-based paint is a hazard and needs immediate attention.
  • Lead-based paint may also be a hazard when found on surfaces that children can chew or that get a lot of wear-and-tear. These areas include:
    • windows and window sills;
    • doors and door frames;
    • stairs, railings and banisters; and 
    • porches and fences.

Note: Lead-based paint that is in good condition is usually not a hazard.

  • Lead dust can form when lead-based paint is dry-scraped, dry-sanded, or heated. Dust also forms when painted surfaces bump or rub together. Lead chips and dust can get on surfaces and objects that people touch. Settled lead dust can re-enter the air when people vacuum, sweep or walk through it.
  • Lead in soil can be a hazard when children play in bare soil, or when people bring soil into the house on their shoes.

 

Checking Your Family and Home for Lead

  • Have your children and home tested if you think your home has high levels of lead.
  • Just knowing that a home has lead-based paint may not tell you if there is a hazard.

To reduce your child’s exposure to lead, get your child checked, have your home tested (especially if your home has paint in poor condition and was built before 1978), and fix any hazards you may have.

 

Your Family

  • Children’s blood lead levels tend to increase rapidly from 6 to 12 months of age, and tend to peak at 18 to 24 months of age.
  • Consult your doctor for advice on testing your children. A simple blood test can detect high levels of lead. Blood tests are important for:
    • children at ages 1 to 2;
    • children and other family members who have been exposed to high levels of lead; and 
    • children who should be tested under your state or local health screening plan.

Your doctor can explain what the test results mean and if more testing will be needed.

 

Your Home

 

You can get your home checked in one of two ways (or both):

  • A paint inspection tells you the lead content of every different type of painted surface in your home. It won’t tell you whether the paint is a hazard or how you should deal with it.
  • A risk assessment tells you if there are any sources of serious lead exposure, such as peeling paint and lead dust. It also tells you what actions to take to address these hazards.

Have qualified professionals do the work. There are standards in place for certifying lead-based paint professionals to ensure that the work is done safely, reliably and effectively. Be sure to ask Central Virginia Home Inspections about lead paint during your next inspection. Trained professionals use a range of methods when checking your home, including:

  • a vsual inspection of paint condition and location;
  • a portable x-ray fluorescence (XRF) machine;
  • lab tests of paint samples; and 
  • surface-dust tests.

Note: Home test kits for lead are available, but studies suggest that they are not always accurate. Consumers should not rely on these tests before doing renovations or to assure safety.

 

What You Can Do to Protect Your Family

 

If you suspect that your house has lead hazards, you can take some immediate steps to reduce your family’s risk:

  • If you rent, notify your landlord of peeling or chipping paint.
  • Clean up paint chips immediately.
  • Clean floors, window frames, window sills, and other surfaces weekly. Use a mop, sponge or paper towel with warm water and a general all-purpose cleaner, or a cleaner made specifically for lead.
  • REMEMBER: NEVER MIX AMMONIA AND BLEACH PRODUCTS TOGETHER, SINCE THEY CAN FORM A DANGEROUS GAS.
  • Thoroughly rinse sponges and mop heads after cleaning dirty and dusty areas.
  • Wash children’s hands often, especially before they eat, and before nap time and bed time.
  • Keep play areas clean. Wash bottles, pacifiers, toys and stuffed animals regularly.
  • Keep children from chewing window sills and other painted surfaces.
  • Clean or remove shoes before entering your home to avoid tracking in lead from soil.
  • Make sure children eat nutritious, low-fat meals high in iron and calcium, such as spinach and dairy products. Children with good diets absorb less lead.

In addition to day-to-day cleaning and good nutrition, you can temporarily reduce lead hazards by taking actions such as repairing damaged amd painted surfaces, and by planting grass to cover soil with high lead levels. These actions, called “interim controls,” are not permanent solutions and will need ongoing attention. To permanently remove lead hazards, you must hire a certified lead-abatement contractor. Abatement (or permanent hazard elimination) methods include removing, sealing or enclosing lead-based paint with special materials. Just painting over the hazard with regular paint is not enough. Always hire a person with special training for correcting lead problems — someone who knows how to do this work safely and has the proper equipment to clean up thoroughly. Certified contractors will employ qualified workers and follow strict safety rules set by their state or the federal government. To be safe, hire Central Virginia Home Inspections for your next inspection.

 

Are You Planning to Buy or Rent a Home Built Before 1978?

 

Many houses and apartments built before 1978 have paint that contains lead (called lead-based paint). Lead from paint, chips and dust can pose serious health hazards if not taken care of properly. Federal law requires that individuals receive certain information before renting or buying pre-1978 housing.

  • Residential Lead-Based Paint Disclosure Program
    • LANDLORDS have to disclose known information on lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards before leases take effect. Leases must include a disclosure form about lead-based paint.
    • SELLERS have to disclose known information on lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards before selling a house. Sales contracts must include a disclosure form about lead-based paint. Buyers have up to 10 days to check for lead hazards.

If not conducted properly, certain types of renovations can release lead from paint and dust into the air.

  • Pre-Renovation Education Program (PRE)
    • RENOVATORS have to give you a pamphlet titled “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home” before starting work.
  • Take precautions before your contractor or you begin remodeling or renovations that disturb painted surfaces (such as scraping off paint or tearing out walls). 
    • Have the area tested for lead-based paint.
    • Do not use a belt-sander, propane torch, heat gun, dry scraper or dry sandpaper to remove lead-based paint. These actions create large amounts of lead dust and fumes.
    • Lead dust can remain in your home long after the work is done.
    • Temporarily move your family (especially children and pregnant women) out of the apartment or house until the work is done and the area is properly cleaned. If you can’t move your family, at least completely seal off the work area.
    • If you have already completed renovations or remodeling that could have released lead-based paint or dust, get your young children tested and follow the steps outlined to protect your family.
28 01, 2016

Lead Poisoning Symptoms

2016-10-19T19:20:37-05:00January 28th, 2016|

Symptoms

Initially, lead poisoning can be hard to detect, even people who seem to be healthy can have high blood levels of lead. Signs & symptoms usually don’t appear until dangerous amounts have accumulated..

Lead Poisoning SymptomsLead poisoning symptoms in adults

Although children are primarily at risk, lead poisoning is also dangerous for adults. Signs and symptoms in adults may include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Joint pains
  • Muscle pain
  • Declines in mental functioning
  • Pain, numbness or tingling of the extremities
  • Headache
  • Memory loss
  • Mood disorders
  • Reduced sperm count, abnormal sperm
  • Miscarriage or premature birth in pregnant women

Lead poisoning symptoms in children

The signs and symptoms of lead poisoning in children may include:

  • Developmental delay
  • Learning difficulties
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Sluggishness and fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Hearing loss

Lead poisoning symptoms in newborns

Babies who are exposed to lead before birth may experience:

  • Learning difficulties
  • Slowed growth

28 01, 2016

Home Generator Inspection

2016-10-19T19:20:37-05:00January 28th, 2016|

Generator Hazards and Inspection

     Homeowners may use a generator to supply electricity to their home in the case of a power outage, either out of necessity or convenience. Inspectors may want to know about generators and the potential hazards they present when improperly wired or utilized.   

Generator Types

Home Generator InspectionThere are two main types of generators:  permanently installed, standby generators; and gasoline-powered, portable generators. 

 

Standby Generators

 

Standby generators typically operate on natural gas or liquid propane. They remain fixed in place outside the home and are designed to supply on-site power to specified circuits through a home’s electrical wiring. These generators work in tandem with a manual or automatic transfer switch, which automatically detects an interruption in grid-powered electricity and subsequently transfers

over electrical input to the generator. The transfer switch suspends input from the generator once it senses that utility-powered electricity has resumed. Generators for small- to medium-size homes are typically air-cooled and employ fans to regulate the temperature inside the unit. Liquid-cooled units are used for the larger energy loads in larger homes.

 

Some advantages of standby generators are as follows:

  • They may be turned on manually, or they may be programmed to switch on automatically in the case of a power outage even when no one is home.
  • Power may be supplied for extended periods of time.
  • Hard-wired systems, such as a home’s furnace, well pump and air conditioner, may maintain continuous power.
  • Uninterrupted power can be supplied to systems that must remain on continuously, such as medical equipment used for breathing, etc.

Disadvantages of standby generators are as follows:

  • Installation may require a permit.
  • A qualified technician, such as an electrician, is required to install the ATS and to determine the electrical load requirements for the circuits in a home.
  • Routine maintenance is required.
  • Standby generators may be prohibitively expensive.

Portable Generators

 Home Generator Inspection

Gasoline-powered, portable generators are typically smaller in size and power capacity than permanently installed generators. They are designed so that corded electrical devices may be plugged directly into them. 

 

Advantages to portable generators are as follows:

  • Portable generators are versatile. They may be used at home or transported and utilized in remote locations, such as a campground or a construction site.
  • They do not require complicated installation.
  • They typically do not require permits.
  • Portable units are generally less expensive than standby generators.   

Disadvantages of portable generators:

  • Devices that are hard-wired into a home’s electrical system cannot be powered by a portable generator if no transfer switch is installed.     

Hazards

  • Portable and standby generators produce dangerous carbon monoxide (CO) gas, which can be deadly if inhaled.
  • Inexperienced installers are exposed to the risk of electrical shock. Only qualified electricians should attempt to install a generator.
  • Overloading a generator may result in reduced fuel efficiency, damage to appliances or fire.
  • Standby generators or their required transfer switches that are incorrectly wired (or missing) may result in “back-feed” — a hazardous condition in which an electrical current is fed back into the grid — which could potentially electrocute and kill homeowners, utility workers, and others who are using the same utility transformer. 
  • Connecting a portable generator directly into a home’s wall outlet can also cause dangerous back-feed.
  • Generators that are exposed to water or that are not properly grounded can cause electrocution.
  • Gasoline for portable generators is highly flammable and may cause a fire when exposed to an open flame or when spilled on the hot generator.
  • Over-taxed cords attached to a portable generator may cause a fire.

Inspection

  • Generators should never be used anywhere indoors, even if the area is ventilated.
  • Portable generators placed outside should not be near doors, vents or open windows leading into the home.
  • Carbon-monoxide detectors should be installed in case CO is accidentally released into the home.
  • Portable generators should not be plugged directly into a home’s electrical receptacles.
  • A standby generator hard-wired into a home should have a transfer switch installed to prevent backfeeding.  An inspector can locate this device situated between
  • the generator and the main electrical panel. 
  • Generators should be properly grounded.
  • Units should be dry and shielded from contact with liquid.
  • Only heavy-duty electrical cords that are rated for outdoor use should be plugged into portable generators.
  • Electrical cords should not have any punctures or exposed wiring.
  • Cords running from portable generators should be kept out of the way of foot traffic and should not run underneath rugs.
  • The total electrical capacity of the generator should exceed the power requirements of the devices that the unit is supplying.
  • Fuel for portable generators should be stored away from the home and children in clearly labeled and durable containers.

In summary, generators can be lifesavers during a power outage, but they present serious health and safety concerns if they are not installed and used properly. 

28 01, 2016

Foreclosure Inspections

2016-10-19T19:20:37-05:00January 28th, 2016|

So, you want to buy a house cheap, and you look to the foreclosure market. Considering the over-abundance of these properties and just how little many of them are going for, it’s tempting to jump on the bandwagon and buy up. And it may pay off as a long-term investment.  But, like any other major purchase, you should know as much as you can about a property before you buy it, which is why home inspections, performed by Central Virginia Home Inspections is necessary.

 Foreclosure Inspections

Unfortunately, many real estate agents, who don’t like bargaining with banks, are advising clients that home inspections are of no value as a bargaining tool, since banks don’t negotiate on “as is” properties. As an added disincentive, banks selling properties “as is” have no legal responsibility for any lurking defects. While the agent’s advice to forgo an inspection as a means to negotiate on the price may be logical, it is startlingly counter-intuitive, and possibly even negligent. Would you buy a car without knowing whether it has a transmission?  The same premise holds true for a house, regardless of whether you intend to live in it, or fix it and flip it. The Realtor may be trying to salvage a deal that could possibly be scrapped if an inspector uncovers damage that the bank is unwilling to pay for, and you, as the buyer, have to realize that the agent’s advice is not in your best interest. In this case, they’re putting you at risk in order to ensure they get their commission.

 

Any Realtor advising against an inspection on a foreclosure (or neglecting to recommend that one be performed) is ignoring the likelihood that, long before the previous owners stopped making mortgage payments, they deferred required maintenance tasks. Moisture intrusion leading to leaks and mold are just a few of the major problems commonly found by inspectors in foreclosed properties.  Tales abound of bizarre discoveries in abandoned properties, from wild boars to colossal bees nests. Former owners may loot their own properties, taking with them anything they can pry up or unscrew, and leave behind trash and junk that you have to pay for to have removed.

 

There are also stories of foreclosed properties that have been intentionally vandalized by their former owners in acts of retaliation against their banks. In one infamous case in early 2010, an Ohioan bulldozed his $250,000 home after the IRS placed liens on his carpet store, and then threatened to take his house. The damage done by the owner was apparent, but there are probably less extreme situations where the damage isn’t as obvious, making a home inspection of utmost priority.

 

You should always get a home inspection before buying a property, especially when you’re buying a bank-owned foreclosure.  In such cases, it may be impossible to find out how well the home was cared for, or whether major damage was done right before the past owners left the property. Ask the bank how much time you have after your initial offer to have an inspection performed, and schedule one immediately. If it goes well, you’ll enter into the deal with peace of mind and a better idea of what repairs you’ll have to deal with. That alone is worth the price of an inspection. If the inspection reveals a costly disaster, you can back out of the deal and save tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

28 01, 2016

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and Detectors

2016-10-19T19:20:37-05:00January 28th, 2016|

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and Detectors

by Nick Gromicko 

 

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that forms from incomplete combustion of fuels, such as natural or liquefied petroleum gas, oil, wood or coal.

 Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and Detectors

Facts and Figures

  • 480 U.S. residents died between 2001 and 2003 from non-fire-related carbon-monoxide poisoning.
  • Most CO exposures occur during the winter months, especially in December (including 56 deaths, and 2,157 non-fatal exposures), and in January (including 69 deaths and 2,511 non-fatal exposures). The peak time of day for CO exposure is between 6 and 10 p.m.
  • Many experts believe that CO poisoning statistics understate the problem. Because the symptoms of CO poisoning mimic a range of common health ailments, it is likely that a large number of mild to mid-level exposures are never identified, diagnosed, or accounted for in any way in carbon monoxide statistics.
  • Out of all reported non-fire carbon-monoxide incidents, 89% or almost nine out of 10 of them take place in a home.

Physiology of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

When CO is inhaled, it displaces the oxygen that would ordinarily bind with hemoglobin, a process the effectively suffocates the body. CO can poison slowly over a period of several hours, even in low concentrations. Sensitive organs, such as the brain, heart and lungs, suffer the most from a lack of oxygen.

High concentrations of carbon monoxide can kill in less than five minutes. At low concentrations, it will require a longer period of time to affect the body. Exceeding the EPA concentration of 9 parts per million (ppm) for more than eight hours may have adverse health affects. The limit of CO exposure for healthy workers, as prescribed by the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration, is 50 ppm.

 Carbon Monoxide

Potential Sources of Carbon Monoxide

Any fuel-burning appliances which are malfunctioning or improperly installed can be a source of CO, such as:

  • furnaces;
  • stoves and ovens;
  • water heaters;
  • dryers; 
  • room and space heaters; 
  • fireplaces and wood stoves;
  • charcoal grills;
  • automobiles;
  • clogged chimneys or flues;
  • space heaters;
  • power tools that run on fuel;
  • gas and charcoal grills;
  • certain types of swimming pool heaters; and 
  • boat engines.

 

 

 

 

PPM ?xml:namespace prefix = o?xml:namespace prefix = o

% CO

in air

Health Effects in Healthy Adults

Source/Comments

0

0%

no effects; this is the normal level in a properly operating heating appliance

 

35

0.0035%

maximum allowable workplace exposure limit for an eight-hour work shift

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

50

0.005%

maximum allowable workplace exposure limit for an eight-hour work shift

              OSHA

100

0.01%

slight headache, fatigue, shortness of breath,
errors in judgment

125

0.0125%

 

workplace alarm must sound (OSHA)

200

0.02%

headache, fatigue,
nausea, dizziness

400

0.04%

severe headache, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, confusion; can be life-threatening after three hours of exposure

evacuate area immediately

800

0.08%

convulsions, loss of consciousness;
death within three hours

evacuate area immediately

12,000

1.2%

nearly instant death

 

 

CO Detector Placement

CO detectors can monitor exposure levels, but do not place them:

  • directly above or beside fuel-burning appliances, as appliances may emit a small amount of carbon monoxide upon start-up;
  • within 15 feet of heating and cooking appliances, or in or near very humid areas, such as bathrooms;
  • within 5 feet of kitchen stoves and ovens, or near areas locations where household chemicals and bleach are stored (store such chemicals away from bathrooms and kitchens, whenever possible);
  • in garages, kitchens, furnace rooms, or in any extremely dusty, dirty, humid, or greasy areas;
  • in direct sunlight, or in areas subjected to temperature extremes. These include unconditioned crawlspaces, unfinished attics, un-insulated or poorly insulated ceilings, and porches;
  • in turbulent air near ceiling fans, heat vents, air conditioners, fresh-air returns, or open windows. Blowing air may prevent carbon monoxide from reaching the CO sensors.

Do place CO detectors:

  • within 10 feet of each bedroom door and near all sleeping areas, where it can wake sleepers. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) recommend that every home have at least one carbon monoxide detector for each floor of the home, and within hearing range of each sleeping area;
  • on every floor of your home, including the basement (source:  International Association of Fire Chiefs/IAFC);
  • near or over any attached garage. Carbon monoxide detectors are affected by excessive humidity and by close proximity to gas stoves (source:  City of New York);
  • near, but not directly above, combustion appliances, such as furnaces, water heaters, and fireplaces, and in the garage (source:  UL); and
  • on the ceiling in the same room as permanently installed fuel-burning appliances, and centrally located on every habitable level, and in every HVAC zone of the building (source:  National Fire Protection Association 720). This rule applies to commercial buildings.

In North America, some national, state and local municipalities require installation of CO detectors in new and existing homes, as well as commercial businesses, among them:  Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont and New York City, and the Canadian province of Ontario. Installers are encouraged to check with their local municipality to determine what specific requirements have been enacted in their jurisdiction.

How can I prevent CO poisoning?

  • Purchase and install carbon monoxide detectors with labels showing that they meet the requirements of the new UL standard 2034 or Comprehensive Safety Analysis 6.19 safety standards.
  • Make sure appliances are installed and operated according to the manufacturer’s instructions and local building codes. Have the heating system professionally inspected by an InterNACHI inspector and serviced annually to ensure proper operation. The inspector should also check chimneys and flues for blockages, corrosion, partial and complete disconnections, and loose connections.
  • Never service fuel-burning appliances without the proper knowledge, skill and tools. Always refer to the owner’s manual when performing minor adjustments and when servicing fuel-burning equipment.
  • Never operate a portable generator or any other gasoline engine-powered tool either in or near an enclosed space, such as a garage, house or other building. Even with open doors and windows, these spaces can trap CO and allow it to quickly build to lethal levels.
  • Never use portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent unless it is specifically designed for use in an enclosed space and provides instructions for safe use in an enclosed area.
  • Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent.
  • Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open.
  • Never use gas appliances, such as ranges, ovens or clothes dryers to heat your home.
  • Never operate un-vented fuel-burning appliances in any room where people are sleeping.
  • During home renovations, ensure that appliance vents and chimneys are not blocked by tarps or debris. Make sure appliances are in proper working order when renovations are complete.
  • Do not place generators in the garage or close to the home. People lose power in their homes and get so excited about using their gas-powered generator that they don’t pay attention to where it is placed. The owner’s manual should explain how far the generator should be from the home.
  • Clean the chimney. Open the hatch at the bottom of the chimney to remove the ashes.  Hire a chimney sweep annually.
  • Check vents. Regularly inspect your home’s external vents to ensure they are not obscured by debris, dirt or snow.

 

In summary, carbon monoxide is a dangerous poison that can be created by various household appliances. CO detectors must be placed strategically throughout the home or business in order to alert occupants of high levels of the gas.

28 01, 2016

Asbestos Inspection

2016-10-19T19:20:37-05:00January 28th, 2016|

Asbestos Inspection 

What is Asbestos?

 

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that can be positively identified only with a special type of microscope. There are several types of asbestos fibers. In the past, asbestos was added to a variety of products to strengthen them and to provide heat insulation and fire resistance. InterNACHI inspectors can supplement their knowledge with the information offered in this guide. 

 Asbestos Inspection

How Can Asbestos Affect My Health?

 

From studies of people who were exposed to asbestos in factories and shipyards, we know that breathing high levels of asbestos fibers can lead to an increased risk of lung cancer in the forms of mesothelioma, which is a cancer of the lining of the chest and the abdominal cavity, and asbestosis, in which the lungs become scarred with fibrous tissue.

 

The risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma increase with the number of fibers inhaled. The risk of lung cancer from inhaling asbestos fibers is also greater if you smoke. People who get asbestosis have usually been exposed to high levels of asbestos for a long time. The symptoms of these diseases do not usually appear until about 20 to 30 years after the first exposure to asbestos. 

Most people exposed to small amounts of asbestos, as we all are in our daily lives, do not develop these health problems. However, if disturbed, asbestos material may release asbestos fibers, which can be inhaled into the lungs. The fibers can remain there for a long time, increasing the risk of disease. Asbestos material that would crumble easily if handled, or that has been sawed, scraped, or sanded into a powder, is more likely to create a health hazard. 

Where Can I Find Asbestos and When Can it Be a Problem?

 

Most products made today do not contain asbestos. Those few products made which still contain asbestos that could be inhaled are required to be labeled as such. However, until the 1970s, many types of building products and insulation materials used in homes contained asbestos. Common products that might have contained asbestos in the past, and conditions which may release fibers, include: 

  • steam pipes, boilers and furnace ducts insulated with an asbestos blanket or asbestos paper tape. These materials may release asbestos fibers if damaged, repaired, or removed improperly;
  • resilient floor tiles (vinyl asbestos, asphalt and rubber), the backing on vinyl sheet flooring, and adhesives used for installing floor tile. Sanding tiles can release fibers, and so may scraping or sanding the backing of sheet flooring during removal;
  • cement sheet, millboard and paper used as insulation around furnaces and wood-burning stoves. Repairing or removing appliances may release asbestos fibers, and so may cutting, tearing, sanding, drilling, or sawing insulation;
  • door gaskets in furnaces, wood stoves and coal stoves. Worn seals can release asbestos fibers during use;
  • soundproofing or decorative material sprayed on walls and ceilings. Loose, crumbly or water-damaged material may release fibers, and so will sanding, drilling or scraping the material;
  • patching and joint compounds for walls and ceilings, and textured paints. Sanding, scraping, or drilling these surfaces may release asbestos fibers;
  • asbestos cement roofing, shingles and siding. These products are not likely to release asbestos fibers unless sawed, dilled or cut;
  • artificial ashes and embers sold for use in gas-fired fireplaces, and other older household products, such as fireproof gloves, stove-top pads, ironing board covers and certain hairdryers; and
  • automobile brake pads and linings, clutch facings and gaskets.

Where Asbestos Hazards May Be Found in the Home

  • Some roofing and siding shingles are made of asbestos cement.
  • Houses built between 1930 and 1950 may have asbestos as insulation.
  • Asbestos may be present in textured paint and in patching compounds used on wall and ceiling joints. Their use was banned in 1977.
  • Artificial ashes and embers sold for use in gas-fired fireplaces may contain asbestos.
  • Older products, such as stove-top pads, may have some asbestos compounds.
  • Walls and floors around wood-burning stoves may be protected with asbestos paper, millboard or cement sheets.
  • Asbestos is found in some vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives.
  • Hot water and steam pipes in older houses may be coated with an asbestos material or covered with an asbestos blanket or tape.
  • Oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets may have asbestos insulation.

What Should Be Done About Asbestos in the Home?

If you think asbestos may be in your home, don’t panic.  Usually, the best thing to do is to leave asbestos material that is in good condition alone. Generally, material in good condition will not release asbestos fibers. There is no danger unless the asbestos is disturbed and fibers are released and then inhaled into the lungs. Check material regularly if you suspect it may contain asbestos. Don’t touch it, but look for signs of wear or damage, such as tears, abrasions or water damage. Damaged material may release asbestos fibers. This is particularly true if you often disturb it by hitting, rubbing or handling it, or if it is exposed to extreme vibration or air flow. Sometimes, the best way to deal with slightly damaged material is to limit access to the area and not touch or disturb it. Discard damaged or worn asbestos gloves, stove-top pads and ironing board covers. Check with local health, environmental or other appropriate agencies to find out proper handling and disposal procedures. If asbestos material is more than slightly damaged, or if you are going to make changes in your home that might disturb it, repair or removal by a professional is needed. Before you have your house remodeled, find out whether asbestos materials are present. 

 

How to Identify Materials that Contain Asbestos

 

You can’t tell whether a material contains asbestos simply by looking at it, unless it is labeled. If in doubt, treat the material as if it contains asbestos, or have it sampled and analyzed by a qualified professional. A professional should take samples for analysis, since a professional knows what to look for, and because there may be an increased health risk if fibers are released. In fact, if done incorrectly, sampling can be more hazardous than leaving the material alone. Taking samples yourself is not recommended. If you nevertheless choose to take the samples yourself, take care not to release asbestos fibers into the air or onto yourself. Material that is in good condition and will not be disturbed (by remodeling, for example) should be left alone. Only material that is damaged or will be disturbed should be sampled. Anyone who samples asbestos-containing materials should have as much information as possible on the handling of asbestos before sampling and, at a minimum, should observe the following procedures: 

  • Make sure no one else is in the room when sampling is done.
  • Wear disposable gloves or wash hands after sampling.
  • Shut down any heating or cooling systems to minimize the spread of any released fibers.
  • Do not disturb the material any more than is needed to take a small sample.
  • Place a plastic sheet on the floor below the area to be sampled.
  • Wet the material using a fine mist of water containing a few drops of detergent before taking the sample. The water/detergent mist will reduce the release of asbestos fibers.
  • Carefully cut a piece from the entire depth of the material using a small knife, corer or other sharp object. Place the small piece into a clean container (a 35-mm film canister, small glass or plastic vial, or high-quality resealable plastic bag).
  • Tightly seal the container after the sample is in it. 
  • Carefully dispose of the plastic sheet. Use a damp paper towel to clean up any material on the outside of the container or around the area sampled. Dispose of asbestos materials according to state and local procedures.
  • Label the container with an identification number and clearly state when and where the sample was taken.
  • Patch the sampled area with the smallest possible piece of duct tape to prevent fiber release.
  • Send the sample to an asbestos analysis laboratory accredited by the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Your state or local health department may also be able to help.  

How to Manage an Asbestos Problem

 

If the asbestos material is in good shape and will not be disturbed, do nothing! If it is a problem, there are two types of corrections: repair and removal. Repair usually involves either sealing or covering asbestos material. Sealing (encapsulation) involves treating the material with a sealant that either binds the asbestos fibers together or coats the material so that fibers are not released. Pipe, furnace and boiler insulation can sometimes be repaired this way. This should be done only by a professional trained to handle asbestos safely. Covering (enclosure) involves placing something over or around the material that contains asbestos to prevent the release of fibers. Exposed insulated piping may be covered with a protective wrap or jacket. With any type of repair, the asbestos remains in place. Repair is usually cheaper than removal, but it may make removal of asbestos later (if found to be necessary) more difficult and costly. Repairs can either be major or minor. Major repairs must be done only by a professional trained in methods for safely handling asbestos. Minor repairs should also be done by professionals, since there is always a risk of exposure to fibers when asbestos is disturbed.

 

Repairs 

 

Doing minor repairs yourself is not recommended, since improper handling of asbestos materials can create a hazard where none existed. If you nevertheless choose to do minor repairs, you should have as much information as possible on the handling of asbestos before doing anything. Contact your state or local health department or regional EPA office for information about asbestos training programs in your area. Your local school district may also have information about asbestos professionals and training programs for school buildings. Even if you have completed a training program, do not try anything more than minor repairs. Before undertaking minor repairs, carefully examine the area around the damage to make sure it is stable. As a general rule, any damaged area which is bigger than the size of your hand is not considered a minor repair. 

 

Before undertaking minor repairs, be sure to follow all the precautions described previously for sampling asbestos material. Always wet the asbestos material using a fine mist of water containing a few drops of detergent. Commercial products designed to fill holes and seal damaged areas are available. Small areas of material, such as pipe insulation, can be covered by wrapping a special fabric, such as re-wettable glass cloth, around it. These products are available from stores (listed in the telephone directory under “Safety Equipment and Clothing”) which specialize in asbestos materials and safety items. 

Removal is usually the most expensive method and, unless required by state or local regulations, should be the last option considered in most situations. This is because removal poses the greatest risk of fiber release. However, removal may be required when remodeling or making major changes to your home that will disturb asbestos material. Also, removal may be called for if asbestos material is damaged extensively and cannot be otherwise repaired. Removal is complex and must be done only by a contractor with special training. Improper removal may actually increase the health risks to you and your family.

 

Asbestos Professionals: Who Are They and What Can They Do? 

 

Asbestos professionals are trained in handling asbestos material. The type of professional will depend on the type of product and what needs to be done to correct the problem. You may hire a general asbestos contractor or, in some cases, a professional trained to handle specific products containing asbestos. 

 

Asbestos professionals can conduct inspections, take samples of suspected material, assess its condition, and advise on the corrections that are needed, as well as who is qualified to make these corrections. Once again, material in good condition need not be sampled unless it is likely to be disturbed. Professional correction or abatement contractors repair and remove asbestos materials. 

 

Some firms offer combinations of testing, assessment and correction. A professional hired to assess the need for corrective action should not be connected with an asbestos-correction firm. It is better to use two different firms so that there is no conflict of interest. Services vary from one area to another around the country. 

 

The federal government offers training courses for asbestos professionals around the country. Some state and local governments also offer or require training or certification courses. Ask asbestos professionals to document their completion of federal or state-approved training. Each person performing work in your home should provide proof of training and licensing in asbestos work, such as completion of EPA-approved training. State and local health departments or EPA regional offices may have listings of licensed professionals in your area. 

 

If you have a problem that requires the services of asbestos professionals, check their credentials carefully. Hire professionals who are trained, experienced, reputable and accredited — especially if accreditation is required by state or local laws. Before hiring a professional, ask for references from previous clients. Find out if they were satisfied. Ask whether the professional has handled similar situations. Get cost estimates from several professionals, as the charges for these services can vary. 

Though private homes are usually not covered by the asbestos regulations that apply to schools and public buildings, professionals should still use procedures described in federal or state-approved training. Homeowners should be alert to the chance of misleading claims by asbestos consultants and contractors. There have been reports of firms incorrectly claiming that asbestos materials in homes must be replaced. In other cases, firms have encouraged unnecessary removal or performed it improperly. Unnecessary removal is a waste of money. Improper removal may actually increase the health risks to you and your family. To guard against this, know what services are available and what procedures and precautions are needed to do the job properly. 

In addition to general asbestos contractors, you may select a roofing, flooring or plumbing contractor trained to handle asbestos when it is necessary to remove and replace roofing, flooring, siding or asbestos-cement pipe that is part of a water system. Normally, roofing and flooring contractors are exempt from state and local licensing requirements because they do not perform any other asbestos-correction work.

Asbestos-containing automobile brake pads and linings, clutch facings and gaskets should be repaired and replaced only by a professional using special protective equipment. Many of these products are now available without asbestos.

 

If you hire an InterNACHI inspector who is trained in asbestos inspection:

  • Make sure that the inspection will include a complete visual examination, and the careful collection and lab analysis of samples. If asbestos is present, the inspector should provide a written evaluation describing its location and extent of damage, and give recommendations for correction or prevention.
  • Make sure an inspecting firm makes frequent site visits if it is hired to assure that a contractor follows proper procedures and requirements. The inspector may recommend and perform checks after the correction to assure that the area has been properly cleaned.

If you hire a corrective-action contractor:

  • Check with your local air pollution control board, the local agency responsible for worker safety, and the Better Business Bureau. Ask if the firm has had any safety violations. Find out if there are legal actions filed against it.
  • Insist that the contractor use the proper equipment to do the job. The workers must wear approved respirators, gloves and other protective clothing.
  • Before work begins, get a written contract specifying the work plan, cleanup, and the applicable federal, state and local regulations which the contractor must follow (such as notification requirements and asbestos disposal procedures). Contact your state and local health departments, EPA regional office, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s regional office to find out what the regulations are. Be sure the contractor follows local asbestos removal and disposal laws. At the end of the job, get written assurance from the contractor that all procedures have been followed.
  • Assure that the contractor avoids spreading or tracking asbestos dust into other areas of your home. They should seal off the work area from the rest of the house using plastic sheeting and duct tape, and also turn off the heating and air conditioning system. For some repairs, such as pipe insulation removal, plastic bags may be adequate. They must be sealed with tape and properly disposed of when the job is complete.
  • Make sure the work site is clearly marked as a hazardous area. Do not allow household members or pets into the area until work is completed.
  • Insist that the contractor apply a wetting agent to the asbestos material with a hand sprayer that creates a fine mist before removal. Wet fibers do not float in the air as easily as dry fibers and will be easier to clean up.
  • Make sure the contractor does not break removed material into smaller pieces. This could release asbestos fibers into the air. Pipe insulation was usually installed in pre-formed blocks and should be removed in complete pieces.
  • Upon completion, assure that the contractor cleans the area well with wet mops, wet rags, sponges and/or HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) vacuum cleaners. A regular vacuum cleaner must never be used. Wetting helps reduce the chance of spreading asbestos fibers in the air. All asbestos materials and disposable equipment and clothing used in the job must be placed in sealed, leakproof, and labeled plastic bags. The work site should be visually free of dust and debris. Air monitoring (to make sure there is no increase of asbestos fibers in the air) may be necessary to assure that the contractor’s job is done properly. This should be done by someone not connected with the contractor. 

Caution! 

Do not dust, sweep or vacuum debris that may contain asbestos. These actions will disturb tiny asbestos fibers and may release them into the air. Remove dust by wet-mopping or with a special HEPA vacuum cleaner used by trained asbestos contractors.

28 01, 2016

Chinese Drywall

2016-10-19T19:20:37-05:00January 28th, 2016|

Chinese Drywall

by Nick Gromicko and Kenton Shepard

 

 Amidst a wave of Chinese import scares, ranging from toxic toys to tainted pet food, reports of contaminated drywall from that country have been popping up across the American Southeast. Chinese companies use unrefined “fly ash,” a coal residue found in smokestacks in coal-fired power plants in their manufacturing process. Chinese Drywall Fly ash contains strontium sulfide, a toxic substance commonly found in fireworks. In hot and wet environments, this substance can offgas into hydrogen sulfide, carbon disulfide, and carbonyl sulfide and contaminate a home’s air supply. 

The bulk of these incidents have been reported in Florida and other southern states, likely due to the high levels of heat and humidity in that region. Most of the affected homes were built during the housing boom between 2004 and 2007, especially in the wake of Hurricane Katrina when domestic building materials were in short supply. An estimated 250,000 tons of drywall were imported from China during that time period because it was cheap and plentiful. This material was used in the construction of approximately 100,000 homes in the United States, and many believe this has lead to serious health and property damage.

Although not believed to be life- threatening, exposure to high levels of airborne hydrogen sulfide and other sulfur compounds from contaminated drywall can result in the following physical ailments:

  • sore throat;
  • sinus irritation;
  • coughing;
  • wheezing;
  • headache;
  • dry or burning eyes; and/or 
  • respiratory infections.

Due to this problem’s recent nature, there are currently no government or industry standards for inspecting contaminated drywall in homes. Professionals who have handled contaminated drywall in the past may know how to inspect for sulfur compounds but there are no agencies that offer certification in this form of inspection. Homeowners should beware of con artists attempting to make quick money off of this widespread scare by claiming to be licensed or certified drywall inspectors. InterNACHI has assembled the following tips that inspectors can use to identify if a home’s drywall is contaminated:

  • The house has a strong sulfur smell reminiscent of rotten eggs.
  • Exposed copper wiring appears dark and corroded. Silver jewelry and silverware can become similarly corroded and discolored after several months of exposure.
  • A manufacturer’s label on the back of the drywall can be used to link it with manufacturers that are known to have used contaminated materials. One way to look for this is to enter the attic and remove some of the insulation. 
  • Drywall samples can be sent to a lab to be tested for dangerous levels of sulfur. This is the best testing method but also the most expensive.

Contaminated Chinese drywall cannot be repaired. Affected homeowners are being forced to either suffer bad health and failing appliances due to wire corrosion or replace the drywall entirely, a procedure which can cost tens of thousands of dollars. This contamination further reduces home values in a real estate environment already plagued by crisis. Some insurance companies are refusing to pay for drywall replacement and many of their clients are facing financial ruin. Class-action lawsuits have been filed against homebuilders, suppliers, and importers of contaminated Chinese drywall. Some large manufacturers named in these lawsuits are Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin, Knauf Gips, and Taishan Gypsum.

 

The Florida Department of Health recently tested drywall from three Chinese manufacturers and a domestic sample and published their findings. They found “a distinct difference in drywall that was manufactured in the United States and those that were manufactured in China.” The Chinese samples contained traces of strontium sulfide and emitted a sulfur odor when exposed to moisture and intense heat, while the American sample did not. The U.S. Consumer Safety Commission is currently performing similar tests. Other tests performed by Lennar, a builder that used Chinese drywall in 80 Florida homes, and Knauf Plasterboard, a manufacturer of the drywall, came to different conclusions than the Florida Department of Health. Both found safe levels of sulfur compounds in the samples that they tested. There is currently no scientific proof that Chinese drywall is responsible for the allegations against it.  

 

Regardless of its source, contamination of some sort is damaging property and health in the southern U.S. The media, who have publicized the issue, almost unanimously report that the blame lies with imported Chinese drywall that contains corrosive sulfur compounds originating from ash produced by Chinese coal-fired power plants. Homes affected by this contamination can suffer serious damage to the metal parts of appliances and piping and lead, potentially leading to considerable health issues. While no governing body has issued regulations regarding contaminated drywall, it is advisable that home inspectors be aware of the danger it poses and learn how to identify it.