Monday, March 30, 2009

Deciding Whether or Not to Have Your Air Ducts Cleaned

As per the USEPA - Knowledge about the potential benefits and possible problems of air duct cleaning is limited. Since conditions in every home are different, it is impossible to generalize about whether or not air duct cleaning in your home would be beneficial.

If no one in your household suffers from allergies or unexplained symptoms or illnesses and if, after a visual inspection of the inside of the ducts, you see no indication that your air ducts are contaminated with large deposits of dust or mold (no musty odor or visible mold growth), having your air ducts cleaned is probably unnecessary. It is normal for the return registers to get dusty as dust-laden air is pulled through the grate. This does not indicate that your air ducts are contaminated with heavy deposits of dust or debris; the registers can be easily vacuumed or removed and cleaned.

On the other hand, if family members are experiencing unusual or unexplained symptoms or illnesses that you think might be related to your home environment, you should discuss the situation with your doctor. EPA has published Indoor Air Quality: An Introduction for Health Professionals and The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality for guidance on identifying possible indoor air quality problems and ways to prevent or fix them.

You may consider having your air ducts cleaned simply because it seems logical that air ducts will get dirty over time and should occasionally be cleaned. While the debate about the value of periodic duct cleaning continues, no evidence suggests that such cleaning would be detrimental, provided that it is done properly.

On the other hand, if a service provider fails to follow proper duct cleaning procedures, duct cleaning can cause indoor air problems. For example, an inadequate vacuum collection system can release more dust, dirt, and other contaminants than if you had left the ducts alone. A careless or inadequately trained service provider can damage your ducts or heating and cooling system, possibly increasing your heating and air conditioning costs or forcing you to undertake difficult and costly repairs or replacements.

You should consider having the air ducts in your home cleaned if:

There is substantial visible mold growth inside hard surface (e.g., sheet metal) ducts or on other components of your heating and cooling system. There are several important points to understand concerning mold detection in heating and cooling systems:

  • Many sections of your heating and cooling system may not be accessible for a visible inspection, so ask the service provider to show you any mold they say exists.
  • You should be aware that although a substance may look like mold, a positive determination of whether it is mold or not can be made only by an expert and may require laboratory analysis for final confirmation. For about $50, some microbiology laboratories can tell you whether a sample sent to them on a clear strip of sticky household tape is mold or simply a substance that resembles it.
  • If you have insulated air ducts and the insulation gets wet or moldy it cannot be effectively cleaned and should be removed and replaced.
  • If the conditions causing the mold growth in the first place are not corrected, mold growth will recur.

Ducts are infested with vermin, e.g. (rodents or insects); or

Ducts are clogged with excessive amounts of dust and debris and/or particles are actually released into the home from your supply registers.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

What is Air Duct Cleaning?

As per the USEPA, if you decide to have your heating and cooling system cleaned, it important to make sure the service provider agrees to clean all components of the system and is qualified to do so.

Most people are now aware that indoor air pollution is an issue of growing concern and increased visibility. Many companies are marketing products and services intended to improve the quality of your indoor air. You have probably seen an advertisement, received a coupon in the mail, or been approached directly by a company offering to clean your air ducts as a means of improving your home's indoor air quality. These services typically -- but not always -- range in cost from $450 to $1,000 per heating and cooling system, depending on the services offered, the size of the system to be cleaned, system accessibility, climatic region, and level of contamination.

Duct cleaning generally refers to the cleaning of various heating and cooling system components of forced air systems, including the supply and return air ducts and registers, grilles and diffusers, heat exchangers heating and cooling coils, condensate drain pans (drip pans), fan motor and fan housing, and the air handling unit housing.

If not properly installed, maintained, and operated, these components may become contaminated with particles of dust, pollen or other debris. If moisture is present, the potential for microbiological growth (e.g., mold) is increased and spores from such growth may be released into the home's living space. Some of these contaminants may cause allergic reactions or other symptoms in people if they are exposed to them. If you decide to have your heating and cooling system cleaned, it is important to make sure the service provider agrees to clean all components of the system and is qualified to do so. Failure to clean a component of a contaminated system can result in re-contamination of the entire system, thus negating any potential benefits. Methods of duct cleaning vary, although standards have been established by industry associations concerned with air duct cleaning. Typically, a service provider will use specialized tools to dislodge dirt and other debris in ducts, then vacuum them out with a high-powered vacuum cleaner.

In addition, the service provider may propose applying chemical biocides, designed to kill microbiological contaminants, to the inside of the duct work and to other system components. Some service providers may also suggest applying chemical treatments (sealants or other encapsulants) to encapsulate or cover the inside surfaces of the air ducts and equipment housings because they believe it will control mold growth or prevent the release of dirt particles or fibers from ducts. These practices have yet to be fully researched and you should be fully informed before deciding to permit the use of biocides or chemical treatments in your air ducts. They should only be applied, if at all, after the system has been properly cleaned of all visible dust or debris.

Note: Use of sealants to encapsulate the inside surfaces of ducts is a different practice than sealing duct air leaks. Sealing duct air leaks can help save energy on heating and cooling bills. For more information, see EPA's


Air Duct Cleaning and Ventilation System Cleaning Information

As per the USEPA, knowledge about air duct cleaning is in its early stages, so a blanket recommendation cannot be offered as to whether you should have your air ducts in your home cleaned. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urges you to read this document in it entirety as it provides important information on the subject.

Duct cleaning has never been shown to actually prevent health problems. Neither do studies conclusively demonstrate that particle (e.g., dust) levels in homes increase because of dirty air ducts. This is because much of the dirt in air ducts adheres to duct surfaces and does not necessarily enter the living space. It is important to keep in mind that dirty air ducts are only one of many possible sources of particles that are present in homes. Pollutants that enter the home both from outdoors and indoor activities such as cooking, cleaning, smoking, or just moving around can cause greater exposure to contaminants than dirty air ducts. Moreover, there is no evidence that a light amount of household dust or other particulate mater in air ducts poses any risk to your health.

You should consider having the air ducts in your home cleaned if:

There is substantial visible mold growth inside hard surface (e.g., sheet metal) ducts or on other components of your heating and cooling system. There are several important points to understand concerning mold detection in heating and cooling systems:

  1. Many sections of your heating and cooling system may not be accessible for a visible inspection, so ask the service provider to show you any mold they say exists.
  2. You should be aware that although a substance may look like mold, a positive determination of whether it is mold or not can be made only by an expert and may require laboratory analysis for final confirmation. For about $50, some microbiology laboratories can tell you whether a sample sent to them on a clear strip of sticky household tape is mold or simply a substance that resembles it.
  3. If you have insulated air ducts and the insulation gets wet or moldy it cannot be effectively cleaned and should be removed and replaced.
  4. If the conditions causing the mold growth in the first place are not corrected, mold growth will recur.

Ducts are infested with vermin, e.g. (rodents or insects); or

Ducts are clogged with excessive amounts of dust and debris and/or particles are actually released into the home from your supply registers.

If any of the conditions identified above exists, it usually suggests one or more underlying causes. Prior to any cleaning, retrofitting, or replacing of your ducts, the cause or causes must be corrected or else the problem will likely recur.

Some research suggests that cleaning heating and cooling system components (e.g., cooling coils, fans and heat exchangers) may improve the efficiency of your system, resulting in a longer operating life, as well as some energy and maintenance cost savings. However, little evidence exists that cleaning only the ducts will improve the efficiency of the system.

You may consider having your air ducts cleaned simply because it seems logical that air ducts will get dirty over time and should be occasionally cleaned. Provided that the cleaning is done properly, no evidence suggests that such cleaning would be detrimental. EPA does not recommend that the air ducts be cleaned routinely, but only as needed. If a service provider or advertiser asserts that EPA recommends routine duct cleaning or makes claims about its health benefits, you should write EPA. EPA does, however, recommend that if you have a fuel burning furnace, stove or fireplace, they be inspected for proper functioning and serviced before each heating season to protect against carbon monoxide poisoning.

If you do decide to have your air ducts cleaned, take the same consumer precautions you normally would in assessing the service provider's competence and reliability.

Air duct cleaning service providers may tell you that they need to apply chemical biocide to the inside of your ducts as a means to kill bacteria (germs) and fungi (mold) and prevent future biological growth. They may also propose the application of a "sealant" to prevent dust and dirt particles from being released into the air or to seal air leaks. You should fully understand the pros and cons of permitting application of chemical biocides or sealants. While the targeted use of chemical biocides and sealants may be appropriate under specific circumstances, research has not demonstrated their effectiveness in duct cleaning or their potential adverse health effects. No chemical biocides are currently registered by EPA for use in internally-insulated air duct systems (see Should chemical biocides be applied to the inside of air ducts?).

Whether or not you decide to have the air ducts in your home cleaned, preventing water and dirt from entering the system is the most effective way to prevent contamination (see How to Prevent Duct Contamination).


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Toxic and Health Effects of Mold - Stachybotrys

Very large doses of certain molds, whether inhaled or ingested, can result in poisoning caused by toxins, called mycotoxins, in the mold cells. It is not clear whether an individual can receive a high enough exposure to mold growing indoors to experience these toxic effects.One particular type of mold that has been recently highlighted in the media is Stachybotrys chartarum (also known as Stachybotrys atra). Stachybotrys is a greenish-black mold that grows on materials with high cellulose content (drywall, wood, paper, ceiling tiles) that are chronically wet or moist. It is one of several molds that can produce mycotoxins under certain environmental conditions. The health effects of breathing mycotoxins are not well understood, but we do know that most molds can present some health risks, such as allergic reactions. Therefore, any mold growth in a building should be cleaned up, regardless of the type of mold.

For additional information on this issue see Questions and Answers on Stachybotrys chartarum and other molds on the National Center for Environmental Health website.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mold Preventive Strategies as Per the NIEHS

The NIEHS (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) website provides useful information on what mold is and preventative strategies to avoid this allergen and irritant.


Several molds that grow both indoors and outdoors, produce allergenic substances. These allergens can be found in mold spores and other fungal structures (e.g. hyphae). There is no definite seasonal pattern to molds that grow indoors. However outdoor molds are seasonal, first appearing in early spring and thriving until the first frost.

Indoor molds are found in dark, warm, humid and musty environments such as damp basements, cellars, attics, bathrooms and laundry rooms. They are also found where fresh food is stored, in refrigerator drip trays, garbage pails, air conditioners and humidifiers.

Outdoor molds grow in moist shady areas. They are common in soil, decaying vegetation, compost piles, rotting wood and fallen leaves.

Preventive Strategies
  • Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to maintain relative humidity below 50% and keep temperatures cool.
  • Vent bathrooms and clothes dryers to the outside, and run bathroom and kitchen vents while bathing and cooking.
  • Regularly check faucets, pipes and ductwork for leaks.
  • When first turning on home or car air conditioners, leave the room or drive with the windows open for several minutes to allow mold spores to disperse.
  • Remove decaying debris from the yard, roof and gutters.
  • Avoid raking leaves, mowing lawns or working with peat, mulch, hay or dead wood. If you must do yard work, wear a mask and avoid working on hot, humid days.


Monday, March 23, 2009

How To Get Rid of Mold and Prevent Mold Growth

Old House Journal recently posted a good article on mold in the home. It discusses what mold is, how it grows and spreads, factors that contribute to mold growth and ideas on how to inhibit or removal mold. Ventilation and dehumidification are very important in preventing mold growth in your home. To read the compete article go to:

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Mold: A Health Hazard - Info From FEMA

One of the worst effects of water damage comes in the form of mold. Following a hurricane or severe floods, mold may develop, causing serious health problems. The state and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are working to inform the public as to the health hazards associated with mold, what can be done to minimize mold, and what ways can be effective in cleaning up mold.

If your home has water damage, mold could develop in as short of a time as 24 - 48 hours of water exposure. Even worse, it may continue to grow until steps are taken to thoroughly dry out the premises and eliminate the source of moisture. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that you may recognize mold by the sight-wall and ceiling discoloration, and smell-a musty, earthy odor.

Although mold is a naturally existing substance, it can be harmful to humans. When airborne mold spores are present in large quantities, they can cause allergic reactions, asthma episodes, infections, and other respiratory problems. Continued exposure to mold may result in nasal or sinus congestion, eye, nose, or throat irritations, and adverse effects to the nervous system.
Individuals who are at the greatest risk are infants and children, the elderly, those with immune-compromised related diseases, pregnant women, and those with existing respiratory conditions. Anyone falling into these categories should consult a physician if they are experiencing health problems. Follow these five steps to dry your home and combat health problems associated with mold:
  • Open up the house-if the humidity outside is lower than indoors, and if the weather permits, open all the doors and windows to exchange the moist indoor air for drier outdoor air. If you have a thermometer with a humidity gauge, you can monitor the indoor and outdoor humidity. On the other hand, when temperatures drop at night, an open home is warmer and will draw moisture indoors. At night and other times when the humidity is higher outdoors, close up the house.
  • Open closet and cabinet doors-remove drawers to allow air circulation. Drawers may stick because of swelling. Don't try to force them. Speed up the drying process by opening the back of the cabinet to let the air circulate. You will probably be able to remove the drawers as the cabinet dries out.
  • Use fans-fans help move the air and dry out the home. They will blow out dirty air that might contain contaminants from sediment in the duct work; clean or hose out any ducts.
  • Do not use central air conditioning or the furnace blower if the ducts were under water.
  • Run dehumidifiers-dehumidifiers and window air conditioners will reduce the moisture, especially in closed up areas.
  • Use desiccants-desiccants (materials that absorb moisture) such as silica gel are very useful in drying closets or other enclosed areas where air cannot move through. These types of materials may be purchased at hardware stores or home and garden stores.

If mold becomes an issue in your household, here are some of the ways to clean it out:

  • Most household cleaners will be good enough to cleanse walls and wood furniture.
  • Be aware that wallpaper paste can harbor mold, and therefore wall coverings may have to be removed and replaced.
  • After cleaning a room or item, go over it again with a disinfectant to kill the germs and odors left by the floodwaters.
  • Be careful of fumes; wear rubber gloves and a dust mask. Read any safety instructions in order to properly handle cleaning materials.

Drying your home could take several weeks. While it may seem that your house is safe from mold, your health may still be at risk because of the lingering effects of mold. When water damage infiltrates a structure, the long lasting effects can be detrimental to the composition of the building. If you believe that your health has been affected by exposure to mold, you should contact your physician and have your house checked.

If you have further questions concerning mold and your health, you may call the FEMA helpline at 800-621-FEMA (3362) or 800-462-7585 for the speech or hearing impaired. You can also call the American Red Cross at 866-GET-INFO or the CDC at 800-CDC-INFO.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

What to Wear When Cleaning Moldy Areas

It is important to take precautions to limit your exposure to mold and mold spores as per The State of Missouri, Dept of Health and Senior Services

  • Avoid breathing in mold or mold spores 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; others are made primarily of plastic or rubber and have removable cartridges that trap 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 (fit testing) when used in an occupational setting; consult OSHA for more information (800-321-OSHA or

  • 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.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What Steps Can Be Taken To Reduce Exposure to Fiberglass

What Steps Can I Take to Reduce Exposure? - As per the American Lung Association Website

There are several ways you can minimize exposure to fiberglass material. Be sure to "work smart” when insta- lling fiberglass insulation in your home. Follow similar safety steps any time you remove fiberglass insulation or undertake a home improvement project that involves working with or around fiberglass insulation.

During installation follow the directions on the package as well as these safety steps:

  • Wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved clothing and long pants.
  • Do not tape sleeves or pants at wrists or ankles.
  • Wear gloves.
  • Do not scratch or rub your skin if fiberglass particles accumulate on your skin.
  • When you finish, wash skin or shower with mild soap and warm, running water.


  • Wear safety glasses with side shields.
    Wear a hat.
  • Do not rub your eyes while you are working with fiberglass. Be sure to complete clean up before rubbing your eyes or scratching your skin.

Nose, Mouth, and Throat

If you experience irritation of the nose, mouth, or throat you should consider wearing an "N 95" particulate respirator approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. If you are working in a dusty environ- ment, or are working with fiberglass insulation overhead, a disposable dust respirator may be a good idea. Be sure to read and follow the respirator manufacturer's instructions regarding selection and proper use of respirators. Most home improvement stores sell these types of disposable respirators.

Installation and Clean-Up

Follow these steps and be sure to read and follow manufacturer's instructions carefully.

  • Keep your workspace clean.
  • Do not handle fiberglass scrap more than necessary. Have a waste bin or plastic trash bag close by at all times.
    Use correct cutting tools such as a sharp utility knife and a straight edge.
  • When cleaning your work area, be orga- nized in your approach so that you do not spread fibers back into an area you have cleaned previously.
  • Make sure all installed insulation is never left exposed in an occupied area. If the insulation does not have any protective covering or facing, it may cause irritation to anyone coming into direct contact with the glass fibers. If the insulation has a paper or foil covering it presents a potential fire hazard.
  • Change work clothes after you finish your fiberglass insulation project.
  • Wash work clothes separately and wipe out washer after cycle is complete.
  • As with any other building material the fiberglass insulation has to be clean and dry. If insulation is wet, it can become contaminated with mold.
  • If a remodeling project involves removal of fiberglass insulation, follow the installa- tion safety steps listed above.


Monday, March 9, 2009

How can Fiberglass Affect My health?

How can fiberglass affect my health?

The Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Environmental Health has created a very useful website at

As per the site - Health effects from exposure to fiberglass can be different depending on the fiber size and type of exposure. Larger fibers have been found to cause skin, eye and upper respiratory tract irritation. There are other possible health effects:

  • A rash can appear when the fibers become embedded in the outer layer of the skin. No long-term health effects should occur from touching fiberglass.
  • Eyes may become red and irritated after exposure to fiberglass.
  • Soreness in the nose and throat can result when fibers are inhaled. Asthma and bronchitis can be aggravated by exposure to fiberglass.
  • Temporary stomach irritation may occur if fibers are swallowed.

Little information is known about the health effects caused by small fibers. Smaller fibers have the ability to reach the lower part of the lungs increasing the chance of adverse health effects.

People who work with fiberglass or who have worn-out duct work lined with fiberglass in their homes or workplace may have long-term exposure to fiberglass. There is no evidence that fiberglass causes cancer in people. Animal studies have shown an increased risk of cancer when fiberglass fibers were implanted in the lung tissue of rats, but these studies are controversial because of how the fibers were implanted. Based on these animal studies, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified some fibers used in fiberglass as possible human carcinogens (cancer causing agents).


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Asbestos Monitoring at the the World Trade Centers (WTC) Site

Asbestos Monitoring at the WTC Site - (September 13 - 27, 2001)

Financial District

OSHA has taken approximately 40 air and bulk samples in the Financial District (the location east of Broadway and south of John Street). Results ranged from "non-detected" to 0.041 fibers per cubic centimeter (f/cc). Further analysis showed all fibers to be non-asbestos. Results showed levels consistent with safe and acceptable standards. OSHA ceased sampling in the Financial District on Sept. 21.

Warm Zone

A 90-square block surrounding the World Trade Center complex and plaza has been designated a secure area with controlled access. It extends south of Chambers Street, west to Broadway, south to Rector Street and east to near the Hudson River. OSHA continues to collect samples; more than 150 bulk and air samples were taken in the "Warm Zone" through Sept. 24. Asbestos levels remain safe and consistent, ranging from non-detected to 0.086 f/cc.

Hot Zone/Rubble Pile

What has come to be known as "ground zero", the hot zone is the World Trade Center complex area itself. It includes the remains of both WTC towers, 7 WTC, and other partially collapsed buildings.

During this time period, OSHA took 65 air samples and seven bulk samples in the hot zone. Results showed levels ranging from 0.004 to 0.140 f/cc. The level of 0.140 revealed 90 -95% mineral wool fibers and is below safe levels.

All sampling has resulted in what OSHA considers safe levels of exposure; still, the agency is recommending workers in the immediate area of the rubble pile wear respirators. OSHA continues to conduct monitoring for asbestos throughout the warm and hot zones. Results will be posted periodically on this page.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Potential Asbestos Hazards Found in The Home

Examples of 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.

Attic and wall insulation produced using vermiculite ore, particularly ore that originated from a Libby, Montana mine, may contain asbestos fibers. Vermiculite was mined in Libby, Montana between 1923 and 1990. Prior to its close in 1990, much of the world's supply of vermiculite came from the Libby mine. This mine had a natural deposit of asbestos which resulted in the vermiculite being contaminated with asbestos. (See EPA's 2003 brochure on Current Best Practices for Vermiculite Attic 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 woodburning 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.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

World Trade Center - Dust Sampling by the ATSDR

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) website provides a World Trade Center (WTC) Asbestos Exposure Fact Sheet on their website.

The ATSDR, a public health service agency in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was created to protect America's health from toxic exposures in the environment.

The mission of ATSDR is to serve the public by using the best science, taking responsive public health actions, and providing trusted health information to prevent harmful exposures and diseases related to toxic substances.

Lower Manhattan Air and Dust Sampling

After the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and ATSDR collected air and dust samples from 30 residential buildings in November and December 2001 in lower Manhattan. Four buildings in upper Manhattan above 59th Street were also sampled, as a comparison.

The sampling was conducted to find out what hazardous substances were in the air and settled surface dust in those residential areas.

This information was used to find out if hazardous materials in the air and dust were present at levels that could cause harmful health effects and what actions might be needed to protect public health.

The levels of materials detected in the air and dust samples do not pose potential health hazards provided that recommended cleaning measures are followed.

Air Sampling Results

  • Airborne levels of total fibers were similar in lower and upper Manhattan.
  • Airborne levels of mineral components of concrete and mineral components of building wallboard were higher in lower Manhattan than in the upper Manhattan comparison area.

Settled Surface Dust Sampling Results

  • Low levels of asbestos were found in some settled surface dust in lower Manhattan, primarily below Chambers Street.
  • No asbestos was found in the upper Manhattan comparison area.
  • Lower Manhattan had higher percentages of fiberglass, mineral components of concrete, and mineral components of building wallboard in settled surface dust than the upper Manhattan comparison area.

Public Health Recommendations

  • Continue to clean residences with HEPA vacuums and damp cloths/ mops to reduce the potential for exposure, and/or
  • Participate in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cleaning/sampling program

Health Implications

Exposure to fiberglass can cause rashes and upper respiratory irritation. However, these health effects diminish and then disappear when the exposure goes away.

Exposure to high levels of asbestos for a long time can cause serious illness. However, the low levels of asbestos detected and the short length of exposure make it very unlikely that people will become ill from that exposure.

Because asbestos and fiberglass particles are in settled dust and can easily become airborne if disturbed, residents should continue to frequently clean their apartments with HEPA vacuums and damp cloths/mops to reduce the potential for exposure.

Understanding the Sampling Results

The levels of particulate matter, airborne irritants, and settled surface dust were likely lower when sampling was conducted (November-December 2001) than they were in the immediate days and weeks after the World Trade Center collapse.

By November, outdoor dust contamination was likely reduced by wind, rain, and cleaning (city workers vacuumed the streets and sidewalks with HEPA trucks). Indoor settled surface dust may have been reduced if areas were cleaned before being sampled.

Therefore, these results probably underestimate the levels of World Trade Center-related materials that were in lower Manhattan immediately after September 11.

Materials Analyzed

We focused on materials that we expected to be present in the original dust cloud and in dust generated by ongoing activities at the World Trade Center, as well as materials that have irritant properties and that are associated with long-term health effects (for example, asbestos and quartz).
The samples were analyzed for the following materials:

Mineral components of concrete (quartz, calcite, and portlandite)
Mineral components of building wallboard (gypsum, mica, and halite)

For more information visit the source

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Questions That May Assist in Determining Whether a Mold Problem Currently Exists

Do you think you have mold, mildew or a moisture issue? As per OSHA, some Questions That May Assist in Determining Whether a Mold Problem Currently Exists are:
  • Are building materials or furnishings visibly moisture damaged?
  • Have building materials been wet more than 48 hours?
  • Are there existing moisture problems in the building?
  • Are building occupants reporting musty or moldy odors?
  • Are building occupants reporting health problems that they think are related to mold in the indoor environment?
  • Has the building been recently remodeled or has the building use changed?
  • Has routine maintenance been delayed or the maintenance plan been altered?

Always consider consulting a health professional to address any employee health concerns.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mold Remediation Plan Basics

The U. S. Department of Labor - Occupational Safety and Health Administration, provides guidelines on developing a mold remediation plan. Remediation includes both the identification and correction of the conditions that permit mold growth, as well as the steps to safely and effectively remove mold damaged materials.

Before planning the remediation assess the extent of the mold or moisture problem and the type of damaged materials. If you choose to hire outside assistance to do the cleanup, make sure the contractor has experience with mold remediation. Check references and ask the contractor to follow the recommendations in EPA’s publication, “Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings,” or other guidelines developed by professional or governmental organizations.

The remediation plan should include steps to permanently correct the water or moisture problem. The plan should cover the use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). It also should include steps to carefully contain and remove moldy building materials in a manner that will prevent further contamination. Remediation plans may vary greatly depending on the size and complexity of the job, and may require revision if circumstances change or new facts are discovered.

If you suspect that the HVAC system is contaminated with mold, or if mold is present near the intake to the system, contact the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA), or consult EPA’s guide, “Should You Have the Air Ducts in Your Home Cleaned?” before taking further action. Do not run the HVAC system if you know or suspect that it is contaminated with mold, as it could spread contamination throughout the building. If the water or mold damage was caused by sewage or other contaminated water, consult a professional who has experience cleaning and repairing buildings damaged by contaminated water.

The remediation manager’s highest priority must be to protect the health and safety of the building occupants and remediators. Remediators should avoid exposing themselves and others to mold-laden dusts as they conduct their cleanup activities. Caution should be used to prevent mold and mold spores from being dispersed throughout the air where they can be inhaled by building occupants. In some cases, especially those involving large areas of contamination, the remediation plan may include temporary relocation of some or all of the building occupants.

When deciding if relocating occupants is necessary, consideration should be given to the size and type of mold growth, the type and extent of health effects reported by the occupants, the potential health risks that could be associated with the remediation activity, and the amount of disruption this activity is likely to cause. In addition, before deciding to relocate occupants, one should also evaluate the remediator’s ability to contain/minimize possible aerosolization of mold spores given their expertise and the physical parameters of the workspace. When possible, remediation activities should be scheduled during off hours when building occupants are less likely to be affected.

Remediators, particularly those with health related concerns, may wish to check with their physicians or other health-care professionals before working on mold remediation or investigating potentially moldy areas. If any individual has health concerns, doubts, or questions before beginning a remediation/cleanup project, he or she should consult a health professional.


Monday, March 2, 2009

Mold After a Disaster: "Get Rid of Mold" Tips by CDC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has put out an educational flyer that describes their recommendations on how to get rid of mold after a disaster. The flyer can be obtained at