Now is the Best time of year to test your home or office for Radon!

Saskatchewan & Alberta are known hotspots in Canada for radon gas, with pockets all over the place. Have your home or office tested now as it is the best time of year for this service.

Radon is a colourless, odourless, radioactive gas that occurs naturally in the environment. It comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soils and rocks. Once this radioactive gas becomes airborne, it attaches itself to particles in the air and can then be inhaled

Radon can enter your home or office building through foundation cracks and other unsealed openings in basement walls and floors. Radon levels are generally highest in cellars, crawl spaces and basements because these areas are nearest to the source and are typically poorly ventilated.

Although you will experience no immediate symptoms, the gas can damage lungs at the DNA level, potentially leading to cancer, when inhaled at high levels over many years. As a matter of fact Health Canada states that on average, 16% of lung cancer deaths are attributable to radon exposure in Canada. In 2006, an estimated 1,900 lung cancer deaths in Canada were due to radon exposure. Radon is the 2nd leading cause of lung cancer, after smoking. The Lung Association states the same facts and has been very active in promoting awareness.

Health Canada’s new guideline was developed in partnership with the provinces and territories. It is now 200 becquerels (“bec‐ krells”) per cubic metre, much reduced from 800 becquerels per cubic metre in recent years.

Health Canada’s guideline for radon has always been based on the best available scientific evidence of health risk and two recent, independent scientific studies in Europe and North America have shown that the lung cancer risks extend to levels of radon found in some homes.

The only way to determine the actual concentration levels of radon in a home is by a direct measurement. got mold?™ can assist in properly setting up a test for your building. The tests take three to six months to complete. The best time to test is between September and April, when your windows and doors are closed.

Radon can enter any home, new or old. However, remediation options available to you may differ, depending on the type of foundation you have. If building a new home, speak to your builder about construction options that may reduce your risk. Every new home should be tested for radon by the homeowner after occupancy.

What if I get an unacceptably high reading? Radon concentrations in a home can usually be lowered by: reducing the emission from the ground into the building (for example, sealing cracks in cement foundations), and increasing the ventilation in basements and other enclosed areas where radon accumulates. We provide full service radon mitigation and look forward to serving you.

Typically the cost to mitigate radon concerns range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on the amount and type of work required in order to effectively mitigate. Please note that radon ‐ reduction techniques may also result in energy savings and lower your utility bills.

Radon levels vary not only from one geographic area to another, but from house to house and building to building. A survey conducted by Health Canada in the 1970s showed that radon levels in certain Canadian cities were higher than in others. However, these same studies showed that it is impossible to predict whether any one house or building will have a high level of radon. Your home or office may have very little radon gas, while your neighbour’s house or office has significant levels.

Based on past experience, multi‐story apartment buildings are much less likely to have radon problems.

How safe are public facilities (hospitals and schools)? Government and Certain jurisdictions are currently testing for radon, for example they are testing school divisions that wish to have their facilities tested. Initial testing has been completed. In the case of health care facilities, officials from Saskatchewan Health will work with Regional Health Authorities and other stakeholder groups to ensure that owners/operators of these facilities have the necessary information to determine the safety of their facilities, and collectively determine if strategies to address radon need to be developed to maintain safe facilities.

Fill out the form to the right to test your home of office for Radon or call 1-888-909-6653

The Truth About Popcorn Ceilings & asbestos

Depending on the year of your home popcorn or acoustic spray are likely to contain asbestos, a known carcinogen. Popcorn Ceilings were very popular from 1950 until 1978, when the application was banned, because it allowed builders to obscure bad sheet rock installations. When considering doing home renovations you must have a sample taken as late as 1990 before you begin any removal to make sure you don’t have asbestos fibres to worry about.

Not all popcorn ceiling contains asbestos, even if the home was built or renovated during the times in which asbestos was most commonly used. Getting a professional to collect the sample is the safest route to take before you begin any removal. If the ceiling is not disrupted, you may wish to consider getting the professional to do the sampling.

You cannot be sure that a material contains asbestos by just looking at it with the naked eye. Therefore, treat all suspect materials as if they contain asbestos.

  • 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.
  • 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 possibility of releasing asbestos fibers.
  • Carefully cut/scrape a piece from the entire depth of the material using, for example, a small knife, corer, or other sharp object.
  • Collect Multiple samples from different areas of the ceiling preferably to the depth of the material and approximately 2-3 inches long. (This allows enough material for a proper sample to be analyzed)

Credible companies can get the results back in 24 hours or less if you request for a rush sample. It is recommended that the home owner or business owner get a professional to come and collect the sample to decrease the chances of exposure and the proper amount of material is collected.

 

Indoor Air Quality and health as the days get colder.

Indoor Air Quality and health as the days get colder.

September is already more than half gone, the leaves are changing colour, the cool fall nights are upon us.  We want to remind our followers of what to prepare for with the upcoming months ahead. As the leaves around your home or office building fall, they tend to land in the eaves troughs and clog up the flow. Once the leaves have all fallen, make sure to clean out your eaves to allow proper water flow for the fall rains and of course the snow melting during and after winter. Make sure that all downspouts are at least six feet away from the house, and that they are not clogged.

Now is a great time to have your attic inspected to make sure you have enough insulation and that it is spread evenly with adequate ventilation. Having proper insulation and air flow in your attic will help to prevent ice damming.

Our busiest time of year for mold inquiries is always the last quarter as people start spending more time in their home with the windows closed and the furnace blowing warm air around. All mold needs water to grow however, some mold is water loving and needs lots of water to stay healthy and some mold is non water loving and needs very little water to be healthy.

Some types of mold produce an odour typically described as musty, earthy, urine like and most commonly, like Grandmas old basement. As the rain stops falling and the basement or other affected area starts to dry out the water loving mold begins to starve and releases spores into the air in an effort to find better living conditions. When certain water loving mold types are starving they not only release spores into the air but also a microbial volatile organic compound (MVOC), which excretes an odour. This also works vice versa, when a non water loving mold is fed too much moisture, it will also produce MVOC’s along with an odour.

Having a fall mould inspection performed should be one of the first things to consider as the cold winter months will require you turn on your furnace and potentially cause cross contamination of blowing up mold spores that could be in the basement or other areas of the home.

Better Health

Unfortunately, when Fall and Winter arrive, many blame health issues on colds and the flu. However, what most people do not realize is that mold spores can cause many of the symptoms we experience when we think we have a cold or flu:

  1. The sudden onset of allergic symptoms involving the respiratory system such as cough, congestion, sinus infection, asthma, and bronchitis.
  2. Unexplained headaches, decrease in attention span or memory, difficulty concentrating, or dizziness.
  3. Other physical symptoms of mold could include skin rash, itchy eyes, fatigue, and a general unwell feeling that disappears when you have been out of the house for periods of time.

Many of the symptoms above would be diagnosed as cold or flu symptoms by a Doctor. As our toxic mold survivor interviews show, this is a common occurrence simply because most Doctors are not trained to identify sickness caused by mold.

In the 1990s the Mayo Clinic published findings from a study that suggests that NEARLY ALL chronic sinusitis (inflammation of the membranes of your nose and sinus cavities) is caused by mold, but blamed on bacteria—then mistreated using antibiotics. In fact, according to their study, 96% of the people who suffer from chronic sinusitis are “fungal sensitized,” which means that they have an immune response that is triggered by inhaling fungal organisms.

The incidence of chronic sinusitis has been increasing because most physicians still believe that bacteria and not mold is the cause. As a result, Doctors prescribe antibiotics which do not provide long term relief.

If you suffer from a chronic sinus infection, you may want to have your home inspected for mold, which is probably the root cause of the problem.

If you experience these symptoms soon after turning on your furnace, then you likely have mold spores circulating in your home.

Peace of Mind

Trained mold inspectors follow a step by step protocol to determine if there is a mold problem. They will do visual inspections; ask questions to get a better idea of the building history to find out about leaks, floods, etc. any indication of past moisture issues; measure the moisture levels; and may recommend that tape, swab, or air quality tests be done to determine the type of mold and the spore count in the home.

The relative cost of a mold inspection compared to the potential health issues and eventual structural issues that mold can cause in a property is minor and should give you a significant amount of peace of mind knowing that you have had a professional inspection performed.

Bottom line, if you suspect that you have any mold concerns, we strongly recommend that you have a professional examine the problem so that you can prevent the spread of the mold throughout your home when you turn on your furnace.

 

Fathers Day Reflections

With Father’s Day approaching, I have been reflecting on the last few years I had with my Father. I don’t typically share personal stories but this may hit home for some people that really need to hear it.
My Father passed away 6 years ago from a rare form of blood cancer called multiple myeloma. 15 years ago, the life expectancy of someone with myeloma was less than 6 months. Thanks to advances in medicine, we were able to get an extra 5 years with him. Those were not 5 cancer free years but we had 3 years quality time with him. I am going to talk about the last 2 years, and why I am writing this.
They call it a fight with cancer for a reason. Every day that someone with cancer is alive, their bodies are in a fight for survival. Dad had a stem cell transplant to try to kill off the cancer and regrow healthy bone marrow. This left him immune compromised and susceptible to many diseases that he would normally have fought off easily. Things that he had been vaccinated for as a child, he was no longer immune to. In the last 2 years of his life he came down with Chicken Pox, Shingles, Clostridium difficile(C-Diff), and several “fungal” infections. It wasn’t until I started working at gotmold, that I understood where the fungal infection came from. It’s called Aspergillosis. It comes from a very common source of mold; however, it is immune compromised and weakened people who are susceptible to the infections.
At the time, we were bewildered as to where he would have picked up a fungal infection. We certainly didn’t have a moldy house! Looking back now however, there were several water claims in my parent’s home that would have certainly left mold behind if not properly taken care of. Knowing what I know now, I would have had the restoration/insurance company working on my parent’s claim do air sampling to ensure that they had removed any and all affected materials, sprayed an anti-microbial agent and encapsulated any materials that could not be removed. These are the proper steps to ensure a safe, healthy living environment following a water loss, or mold abatement.
I understand that this wouldn’t have cured my father’s cancer, but anyone who has lost a loved one to cancer knows that the most important part about the time you have left with them is the quality of life. Every time my father had an infection, he spent a week or more in the hospital. He hated the hospital more than anything. If I could have given my father more quality time to spend with his kids and especially his grand kids, I would have done everything in my power to make it happen. Ensuring he lived in a healthy living environment should have been the easy first step, if only I had known there were people out there to test the air in their home.

My Father and I six months before he passed away. Happy Fathers Day Dad.

Do you work for a company that renovates buildings built prior to 1990?

Do you work for a company that renovates buildings built prior to 1990?

We had a successful first year at the Homestyle’s show with many contractors and home & building owners coming to our booth with questions about mold, asbestos and radon.

I was prompted to write this article after one particular visitor came to our trade show booth for some answers and explained his concerns of his employer not testing for asbestos on their job sites. This gentleman told me that since the downturn in the economy the well known Saskatoon company he works for has moved from constructing new buildings to demolition and renovation work, just as many other builders have done in an effort to keep their businesses afloat.

The story is that they are running into vermiculite and other questionable building materials that most likely contain asbestos and when it has been brought up by himself or other employees, they are told that the materials most likely don’t contain asbestos. They are also told that in order to have the materials tested and analyzed, it would take a couple weeks for results and that they would have no work for employees in this case. The truth is samples can be analyzed within 24 hours of testing. To me this is a very sad and scary situation to think that an employer is so desperate for work that they would be negligent and put their employees and customers life at risk just to keep busy. WorkSafe BC has stated in this youtube video that “Since the year 2000, more workers have died from asbestos disease than any other workplace injury”.

If you work for a contractor that does demolition and renovation work in buildings built prior to 1990 without first having a hazardous building materials survey/audit performed, you must speak to your OH&S committee and state your concerns. If the company does not have an OH&S committee, you may want to consider finding a different job or go directly to OH&S. Here is the Saskatchewan asbestos abatement manual & regulations, your employer and all employees should be familiar with this manual.

Key lessons to be learned from this story are as follows:

1. Before starting a renovation project, your employer must hire a professional consultant to determine whether the building has materials that contain asbestos.

2. Determine whether or not the project will potentially disturb the asbestos.

3. Determine if the materials are friable or non friable which will help determine if the project requires low, moderate or high risk abatement.

4. If the consultant finds that the renovation project could release asbestos fibres into the air, then your employer must have an abatement plan in place by working with a professional abatement contractor.