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Clean Dryer Vents Save Money–and Lives!

In-home laundry equipment has come a long way. It was not so long ago that having a wringer was being high-tech! But even as washers and dryers have progressed, some aspects of doing laundry remain the same and one of those is: lint. Clean dryer vents and ducts are important because ducts can get clogged with lint and cause quite a few potential problems. Here are some:

Clogged Vents Increase Energy Costs

Without good airflow, your dryer has to work harder and any appliance that works harder is using more energy to do its job. More energy = more money.

Decreased Lifespan of Your Appliances

Nothing seems to last as long as it used to, but your washer and dryer should have good long lives, but they won’t if they are working harder than they should. Motors and heating elements wear out over time and if they are working too hard, they will use up their working lifetimes more quickly.

Shorter Lifespan of Your Clothes

It’s bad enough when the kids outgrow their clothes quickly, but clothes wearing out quickly is really annoying. Heat over long periods does more damage to clothes and you really want them going around the dryer for as short a time as possible. When your vents and ducts are clogged with lint, the dryer takes a long time–maybe even more than one cycle–to dry your clothes, keeping them in the heat for too long.

Increased Fire Danger

Our biggest reason for wanting you to keep your vents and ducts clean, however, is safety. Thousands of home fires start every year because of clogged dryer vents and ducts building up flammable lint to a high temperature and then catching fire. Fire safety isn’t just for the kitchen!

When was the last time you cleaned out your lint trap? Go do it! And if you haven’t had your vents and ducts cleaned for a few years, the time has come!

Mold and Pets: Health Issues for our Furry Friends

What about mold and pets? We know that mold carries health risks for humans. Ordinary mold in ordinary amounts can cause problems like:

  • Lung infections that can lead to pneumonia
  • Allergic reactions
  • Irritated eyes, ears, nose or throat
  • Chronic cough
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rashes
  • Tiredness

But you are probably not the only living creatures in your home. No, not bed bugs or dust mites today–we are talking about pets.

Here is a list of symptoms–anything sound familiar?

    • Lots of scratching, but no fleas
    • Sores and/or bleeding from scratching
    • Excessive licking
    • Hair loss from licking and/or scratching
    • Coughing and sneezing
    • Runny nose and eyes
    • Difficulty breathing or wheezing
    • Loss of appetite
    • Lethargy

Our pets are members of our family and their health is a high priority. Just like our human family, pets can get sick from mold–and not just black or “toxic” mold, but the typical mold found in any home. Mold spores are everywhere and are just looking for the right conditions to grow: moisture, food and warmth. Especially during damp and rainy weather like that in the winter here in Southern California and spring elsewhere, keeping mold in check has to be a conscious activity.

How can you prevent mold from harming your pet? Prevent mold growth:

  • Run the fan in the bathroom during and after showering
  • Use a dehumidifier to keep humidity in your home at levels which do not promote mold growth
  • Inspect your home for leaks often
  • Repair leaks promptly
  • Replace water damaged materials like drywall and flooring
  • Remember if you see mold, there is more you can’t see–take it seriously!

If you are aware of a mold problem in your home and have pets, it’s a good idea to take them to the vet. And if they are exhibiting the symptoms listed above, have them checked out even if you don’t know about a mold issue. Maybe you will find out you have a problem you didn’t know you had!

Asbestos Materials All Over

Think asbestos is a problem of the past, but not today? Unfortunately, although asbestos materials have been banned for some uses for many years, it is still in use for some things and can be found in many older buildings, both residential and commercial.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s chart of asbestos materials is much longer than even we thought. We work with people to safely clean up and remove asbestos products every day, but it’s been a while since we thought about just how many there are!

Potentially Lethal Asbestos Materials:

  • Cement Pipes
  • Elevator Brake Shoes
  • Cement Wallboard
  • HVAC Duct Insulation
  • Cement Siding
  • Boiler Insulation
  • Asphalt Floor Tile
  • Breaching Insulation
  • Vinyl Floor Tile Ductwork
  • Flexible Fabric Connections
  • Vinyl Sheet Flooring
  • Cooling Towers
  • Flooring Backing
  • Pipe Insulation (corrugated air-cell, block, etc.)
  • Construction Mastics (floor tile, carpet, ceiling tile, etc.) Heating and Electrical Ducts
  • Acoustical Plaster
  • Electrical Panel Partitions
  • Decorative Plaster
  • Electrical Cloth
  • Textured Paints/Coatings
  • Electric Wiring Insulation
  • Ceiling Tiles and Lay-in Panels
  • Chalkboards
  • Spray-Applied Insulation
  • Roofing Shingles
  • Blown-in Insulation
  • Roofing Felt
  • Fireproofing Materials
  • Base Flashing
  • Taping Compounds (thermal)
  • Thermal Paper Products
  • Packing Materials (for wall/floor penetrations)
  • Fire Doors
  • High Temperature Gaskets
  • Caulking/Putties
  • Laboratory Hoods/Table Tops
  • Adhesives
  • Laboratory Gloves
  • Wallboard
  • Fire Blankets
  • Joint Compounds
  • Fire Curtains
  • Vinyl Wall Coverings
  • Elevator Equipment Panels
  • Spackling Compounds

Great thanks to the EPA for the list, but even that list is only a selection of asbestos materials.

After a natural or man-made disaster or during a renovation project, you may be removing or replacing these products or materials. It is not safe for you to work with or near asbestos materials without proper training and equipment. Even one exposure can be dangerous to your health and the health of your family or community.

There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos. If you think you might be dealing with something which contains asbestos, call in a professional asbestos abatement company to remove it completely and safely. Asbestos removal is NOT a DIY project!

Are Nanomaterials the Solution for Particle Pollution?

A Stanford University scientist has developed an air filtering material that experts believe may solve the problem of particulate pollution.

What is Particle Pollution?

Let’s ask the Environmental Protection Agency:

“Particle pollution (also called particulate matter or PM) is the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke, are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye. Others are so small they can only be detected using an electron microscope.”

Those very tiny particles are not only hard to see, they are hard to filter out. That is where the new nanomaterials come in.

How could Nanomaterials help?

The Stanford scientists used a material called Polyacrylonitrile (PAN), commonly used to make non-latex gloves for the healthcare industry. PAN is a very strong material which has the added advantage of actually attracting the particles that are so harmful.

“A process called electrospinning was used to convert the liquid PAN into a bundle of solid fibers like a spiderweb. The individual fibers are about one thousandth the width of a human hair, but when integrated into a crisscrossing network with other fibers, it effectively filters particulate matter out of the air. The filters made from electrospun PAN are still 70% transparent to visible light, but can capture more than 99% of particles blown through it. Perhaps most importantly, they don’t impede air flow.”

Strong, translucent, breathable, and filter out dangerous particle pollution? Sounds like great stuff!

How long will we have to wait to improve Particle Pollution?

Lots of testing still needs to be done, so it will take a while before PAN filters will make it to the consumer market, but there are many potential uses for them, in cars, power plants, factories, medical facilities, homes and schools.

It only takes a “gentle breeze” to make these particle pollution filters work. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that gentle breeze didn’t carry any air pollution into our indoor or outdoor environments? Ahhh.

 

Bed Bug Tips for Renters

When you move into a new apartment or rental house, you start all over–new paint, new appliances, maybe even new carpets.  Everything looks beautiful and pristine, almost like no one has ever lived there before.

But it is possible that someone is still living there and you just don’t know it.

Bed bugs are difficult to eradicate on your own or with pesticides, and easy to overlook when you’re excited about finding the perfect new place.  Here are some bed bug tips for renters to help you avoid having a bed bug problem in your new residence:

Ask the Landlord about Bed Bugs

Bring someone with you when you meet with your landlord so that there is a witness to the fact that you asked and what his or her answer was in case of a problem later. And don’t be shy. It’s a question every potential tenant should be asking: have there ever been bed bugs in this building?

Get a Bed Bug Inspection

This might sound like an extra expense when you are spending a lot on moving, but it could save you a lot of trouble later on.  If you don’t want to tell your landlord you are having the place inspected, bring your inspector along as a friend when you are doing a final look around before you sign the lease.

If you don’t want to bring in an inspector, be sure to do a thorough inspection yourself before you sign on the dotted line. Check baseboards, inside drawers, behind anything hanging on the walls.

Don’t Keep the News to Yourself

In multifamily housing, if one apartment has bed bugs, they all could have them–now or in the future. Bed bugs are not your fault, so don’t be embarrassed. Do make sure that the landlord and the other tenants have been informed in writing. Having bed bugs doesn’t mean you’re dirty or a bad housekeeper.  It’s just something that happens.  A lot.  But your landlord is responsible for treating the infestation.  Nip them in the bud! Communication is essential.

Tell the Health or Housing Department

And file a claim. Authorities need to know, too!

Take Pictures of the Bed Bugs and Your Bites

As much as you want to forget all about it, you need to have a record of your infestation and its effects. Also make sure your doctor puts the incident in your medical records.

We sincerely hope that you never encounter a bed bug, at home or anywhere else!

And best wishes in your new home!

New Mold Rules in New York: Will California Follow?

As of July 31, 2015, New York State will be instituting new mold rules for licensing and work standards. The stricter mold rules are, the better off we all are when we have mold issues in our homes and commercial buildings. Here are some of the highlights:

Mold Rules for Licensing

When the new rules take effect, it will be illegal for anyone to do mold assessments or advertise as an assessment contractor without a Mold Assessment License from the New York State Department of Labor. These licenses will have to be renewed every two years.

The license will have to be posted at the work site.

Mold assessors will have to be at least 18 years old and have taken required courses, including training in the use of personal protective gear.

Mold Rules: Work Standards

Any licensed mold assessor has to prepare and give to the client a work analysis before work starts. A mold remediator has to present a work plan.

Mold Rules: Conflict of Interest

No one will be able to be both a mold assessor and a mold remediator on the same project, nor can they be even a part owner in each other’s companies.

Mold Rules: Mold Remediation Plan

The mold remediation plan must include (from Healthy Indoors):

      • Rooms or areas where the work will be performed
      • Estimated quantities of materials to be cleaned or removed
      • Methods to be used for each type of remediation in each type of area
      • Personal protection equipment (PPE) to be supplied to workers
      • Proposed clearance procedures and criteria for each type of remediation in each type of area
      • How to properly notify occupants of such projects, taking into consideration proper health concerns
      • Recommendations for notice and posting requirements that are appropriate for the project size, duration and points of entry
      • Estimate of cost and an estimated time frame for completion
      • Underlying sources of moisture that may be causing the mold and a recommendation as to the type of contractor who would remedy the source of such moisture, if possible

The above are just some of the new rules being put into place by the State of New York. What kind of rules does your state have?

Seacliff Environmental

Seacliff Environmental is a licensed mold removal and remediation contractor, and is experienced in removing mold from basements, bathrooms, ceilings, residential and commercial buildings, crawlspaces, and attics. We can remove all wet materials from the site and provide the necessary air circulation to deter dampness before bacteria can multiply. Seacliff will then develop a remediation plan detailing method, scope, time and controls to be used. We would have no trouble following the new mold rules in New York State–we already do.

Asbestos Misconceptions

We came across a story in The Star Phoenix, a newspaper published in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada that was so full of asbestos misconceptions, we could hardly believe they had done any research at all.

Workers in a Civic Center in Saskatoon were exposed to Chrysotile asbestos, one of the family of asbestos-related minerals. In fact, Chrysotile is the most common form of asbestos found in the US. The asbestos was exposed during a renovation project and as many as 50 city and contract workers may have been exposed. Those are the facts.

Let’s look at the asbestos misconceptions in the article one by one:

Asbestos Misconception #1: Chrysotile is not as dangerous as asbestos

“the city discovered remnants of chrysotile, a material that contains asbestos…”

FALSE: Chrysotile does not contain asbestos, it IS asbestos.

“Of the two types of asbestos material used in construction, chrysotile is considered to be less potent.”

FALSE: All types of asbestos are known carcinogens.

Asbestos Misconception #2: It takes a lot of asbestos to cause disease.

“Asbestos is not considered dangerous unless there is a significant amount in the air…”

FALSE: There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos and it doesn’t take a lot to cause a problem. In fact, one fiber of inhaled asbestos can cause cancer years or decades down the road.

Asbestos Misconception #3: Asbestos stays put

“Members of the public attending the facility were never in danger…”

Perhaps. But since the majority of workers were exposed by walking through the room which contained the asbestos, they were obviously traveling from one location to another in the facility. If asbestos was in the air (it was), it could have been transported into other parts of the facility including public areas by these workers. It remains to be seen whether members of the public were exposed.

The city officials in Saskatoon appear to have taken a rather casual attitude toward this incident involving chrysotile asbestos. Perhaps their attitude was informed by the misconceptions often found in media reports, but we recommend that anyone in charge of facilities which could contain asbestos do their research before a small incident turns into a large liability.

Heat vs. DIY: Bed Bug Remedies

No one wants bed bugs and once a infestation is discovered, it’s hard not to panic and do the first thing you think of. But you may be doing more harm than good. Let’s talk about the options.

DIY Bed Bug Remedies

  1. Sprays–Late-night infomercials advertise them all the time. Order this amazing spray and you will kill every bed bug and keep them away forever! The small print says they kill bed bugs “on contact” and they do, but what they don’t tell you is most of the bed bugs in your infestation won’t have direct contact with the spray because they are hiding in cracks and crevices, in upholstery, behind pictures and in seams of mattresses. And their eggs are hidden even better. If that spray doesn’t touch the bug, it won’t kill the bug.
  2. Bombs–A fog of killer chemicals while you go out sounds like it will reach everywhere. Unfortunately Ohio University researchers have found that the pesticides in foggers don’t even kill bed bugs out in the open, let alone the ones hiding in cracks or upholstery. They also leave nasty chemical residue all over the surfaces in your home. Bug bombs can also scatter insects rather than kill them. They cause bed bugs to find new locations, spreading an infestation. Frequent use can also lead to pesticide resistance. The bugs that survive a fogger will lay resistant eggs. 
  3. Essential Oils–We come across articles quite often about using essential oils to kill bed bugs. A recent study took a look at the efficacy of essential oils and found that few killed even 50% of bed bugs after direct exposure for days and none of them had any repellent effect.

Best Bed Bug Remedy

Heat is the best remedy for bed bugs, without question. Why?

  • Heat works in a few hours, not a few days.
  • Heat reaches everywhere bugs and their eggs can hide, even inside walls.
  • Heat leaves no chemical residue.
  • Heat does not require you to move out of your home while it dissipates.
  • Heat does not destroy food, textiles, or personal property.
  • Heat kills bugs at every stage of development, even eggs.

You cannot do an effective heat treatment for bed bugs yourself, but you can call Alliance for quick, professional bed bug eradication. Don’t panic and make the wrong choice. You’ll just end up with more bugs–and bites!–later.

crawlspace encapsulation

The Advantages of Encapsulating Your Crawl Space

The crawl space is an area in a home that is sometimes forgotten and if not maintained can cause many issues like development of moisture, mold growth and become very dirty. It can then become a very difficult task to control the moisture and monitor the humidity and temperature. A solution that many homeowners do is encapsulate their crawl space.

Crawl space encapsulation works as an envelope of protection between the crawl space and the outdoors. It is an extra barrier that can help you save on your heating bills and ensure your home is energy efficient.

The purpose of the encapsulated crawl space is to create an environment that can be controlled  by using a vapor barrier on the floor and walls.

Benefits Of Encapsulating Your Crawl Space

  • Crawl space Encapsulation prolongs the life your crawlspace
  • Reduces Temperatures to limit humidity levels
  • Reduce costly floor repairs in your home (moisture rots wood)
  • Increase the lifespan of your HVAC equipments and ducts (air handler and air ducts may be in crawlspace)
  • Lower energy bills
  • If planning on selling your home, encapsulated crawl space may be an attractive selling feature for buyers.

You may rarely visit your crawl space but it is important to maintain your crawl space clean to avoid problems that can be costly in the future. Encapsulating your crawl space can greatly improve the overall air quality in the crawlspace and inside the home. We see it as a one time fix for a long term solution.

If you have a crawl space you should think about having it cleaned, treated and encapsulated. If you have any more questions regarding the process of encapsulating your crawl space contact us and we can be of assistance.

Download a free copy of our Asbestos, Lead Paint & Mold eBook to learn how to mitigate the liability risks associated with common environmental threats found in residential properties.

 

 

Mold and Health Problems

We are familiar with stories about mold and health issues like respiratory symptoms and headaches, but did you know that mold can also cause more serious health problems?

Allergy and Asthma Attacks

Meningitis

Sick Building Syndrome

And evidence has been found that mold can even cause cancer.

A theory propounded by Italian oncologist Dr. T Simoncini in his book “Cancer is a Fungus,” claims that it may indeed.

Dr. Simoncini’s hypothesis:

“A fungus infection always forms the basis of every abnormal growth of tissue, i.e. tumor, and this formation tries to spread within the whole organism, unimpeded. The growth of fungus colonies, together with the reaction of the tissue that tries to defend itself against the invasion, causes the tumor…Therefore, there must be only one cause of cancer: fungal infection…”

There is an established connection between the mycotoxins produced by aspergillus mold and the development of liver cancer. Aspergillus is found mostly on crops like grains, corn and peanuts but if we eat enough of it, it can contribute to not only cancer of the liver, but breast, testicular and lung cancers as well. A study in Sweden found that “toxic” or “black” mold, also known as stachybotrys, contributed to a 40% cancer incidence in the employees who had worked in a school there for 5 years or more. That is a high degree of correlation, if not definite causality.

We cannot get away from mold entirely–it is everywhere–but we can take mold and health more seriously when we encounter more than a little mildew in the shower. Be sure to:

  • Fix leaks promptly
  • Dry or replace any wet or damaged material as quickly as possible
  • Inspect your home twice yearly for mold outside and in
  • Have mold problems dealt with by professionals before you get sick

Everyone gets a little mold in the bathroom every once in a while, but any mold you see is accompanied by a lot more you can’t, under flooring, inside drywall, in eaves or gutters. After a leak or a flood, be sure to be vigilant about drying and replacing porous materials that got wet. All takes for mold to grow is a little damp. Don’t let that little damp cause big problems! Contact Seacliff Environmental for mold removal services before it can make you sick!