Healthy Home Blog

Share

Adventures in Ice Damming

Posted by on Feb 27, 2014 in ice damming, leaks, Mold, mold growth, polar vortex, water damage | Comments Off on Adventures in Ice Damming

Ice damming is no picnic. It came to us through our sun room and front entrance. On a sunny afternoon in late January we heard water dripping. Soon we had assembled buckets and bowls underneath the biggest leaks and even perched small pitchers and cups on a heavy wall mirror to catch every drop. It didn’t take long before fissures had opened down the walls and paint began bubbling from enough leaks to sink a yacht. We know for a fact that this hadn’t happened in our house since at least 1974! The deep freeze from the first polar vortex, then slight thawing and then refreeze created some great opportunities for water and gravity to make new inroads. Several of us worked on chopping away at the mass of ice on our roof with garden tools and shovels before it was finally dislodged.
We will be trying hard to ignore the new topo maps on our walls until warmth is here to stay. The good news? We live in a 1917 house with plaster walls. If the walls were made of drywall we would be dealing with a ticking time bomb of mold growth!

Keeping Your Home Healthy In Winter

Posted by on Dec 19, 2013 in Air Quality, air testing, Allergies, Environmental, Immunity, Mold, mold inspector, Respiratory health, Sinusitis | Comments Off on Keeping Your Home Healthy In Winter

We spend most of our time indoors during the winter months.  At the same time, many of us are suffering from colds, viruses, sinus infections and the flu. All of that stress on your upper respiratory system makes it that much more important to maintain a healthy home. Thankfully there’s a lot you can do on your own to improve indoor air quality.

Remove Shoes and Boots at the Door.  The dirt and moisture we track in on our shoes and boots brings a lot of debris into the indoor air mix.  This simple habit can reduce airborne contaminants dramatically.

Vacuum More Frequently.  Frequent vacuuming with a HEPA vacuum cleaner will help remove the dirt and dust as well as finer particulates.

Run HEPA Air Cleaners.  This is especially important at night in the bedroom.  If you don’t already have one, consult Consumer Reports for the best rated air cleaners.  Bussey Environmental recommends Austin Healthmate air cleaners.

Minimize Carbon Monoxide with Good Maintenance.  Keep gas appliances properly adjusted and install and use an exhaust fan that vents to the outside.

Use Environmentally-Friendly Cleaning Products.  The chemicals in many conventional cleaning products can create noxious fumes that pollute our indoor air significantly.

Bring in More Plants.  Plants are natural air cleaners that produce oxygen for us.  Please see our earlier blog entry for more details.  http://www.busseyenv.com/mold/how-houseplants-attack-indoor-air-pollution/

Halt Home Improvement Activities.  Postpone home improvement until you’re able to keep your windows open again.  So many home improvement projects introduce not only loads of dust and dirt but also an extra dose of VOCs into the indoor mix — remodeling, painting, refinishing, installing new carpet, purchasing new furniture – so it’s best to wait until you can bring in a regular exchange of outdoor air to flush out the contaminants.

Have Your Air Ducts Cleaned.  Dust, mold spores, pet dander, and other particulates tend to build up in air ducts over time and can contribute to the toxic load in the circulating indoor air.  If you haven’t had your air ducts cleaned in two years or more, you would probably benefit from a thoroughly cleaning of your air ducts.  The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) recommends air duct cleaners that follow stringent industry standards.

Make Sure Your Chimney Works Properly.  Cracks in the chimney, problems with the flue opening, and a buildup of creosote can all contribute to more smoke coming into the house.  If you suspect a problem, you may want to stop using your fireplace until you’ve had a chimney cleaner come in to take care of any problems.[ii]

Get Professional Help for Serious Contaminants.  If you think you have a mold, asbestos or radon problem, contact an industrial hygienist or inspector to give you the best information about your individual situation.  It may be a simple do-it-yourself problem or may require an inspection, testing, and remediation.  Consumer Tip:  It’s important to understand that inspectors and remediation firms need to be separate entities to avoid conflict of interest.  Beware of firms that offer to do both testing and remediation.  Some firms will tell you the problem is worse than it really is so they can charge you more for the cleanup and/or renovation work.

Bussey Environmental Inc. is an environmental consulting firm located in Evanston, Illinois.  Bussey Environmental has been serving the North Shore and Chicago Metro areas since 1998. Bussey Environmental Inc., 1604 Chicago Avenue, Suite 11, Evanston, IL 60201.  Ph:  847.492.1465   Fax:  847.492.1466

 

Heavy Rain and Flooding in Chicago Area

Posted by on Jul 6, 2013 in Air Quality, air testing, Chicago, Flooded Basement, Mold, mold growth, mold inspector, musty odor, rainfall, remediation, sewage, water damage | Comments Off on Heavy Rain and Flooding in Chicago Area

The record rainfall in the Chicago area this year caused flooding for thousands of homeowners.  Chicago’s north and south sides were both hard hit with flooded basements, roadways, and even sinkholes.  Some of the hardest hit areas include River Forest, Des Plaines, Oakbrook, Downers Grove, Lombard, and Lisle in the western suburbs and Barrington, Barrington Hills, North Barrington, Lake Zurich, Cary and Fox River Grove in the north and northwestern suburbs.  The highest rainfall recorded during the June 26th rain event was 8.05” in Barrington.

What do you do after the initial basement cleanup and dehumidification?  If the cleanup work has been meticulous and every damp item has been discarded or quickly dried out, chances are that all will be well going forward.  However, when any wood, drywall or cellulose-containing material becomes saturated with water, mold will most certainly grow unless it is dried out within a day or two.  If you see signs of mold growth or smell a damp, musty odor where you know water damage has occurred, feel free to call Bussey Environmental Inc.  We will answer all of your questions and give you the most accurate and detailed information based on decades of experience.   If you need microbial testing performed for mold or sewage, and/or a remediation protocol report, we can help with you that as well.

Bussey Environmental Inc. offers the full range of environmental services, including testing, investigations, inspections, audits, remediation protocols, and reoccupancy reports for mold, bacteria, viruses, toxic chemicals, asbestos, lead paint, heavy metals, fine particulates, and electromagnetic fields. Bussey Environmental Inc., 1604 Chicago Avenue, Suite 11, Evanston, Illinois 60201.  Ph: 847.492.1465  Fax: 847.492.1466  Website:  www.busseyenv.com    

Record Rain in Chicago Area for First Half of 2013

Posted by on Jul 3, 2013 in Air Quality, air testing, Asbestos, Damp walls, Environmental, Evanston, Mold, mold growth, mold inspector, Mold spores | Comments Off on Record Rain in Chicago Area for First Half of 2013

Fast Fact:  Does it feel like we’ve had a lot of rain this year?

That may be because we’ve had more than ever.  The first half of 2013 has been the wettest on record for the Chicago area.  Overflowing rivers, water-logged basements, and cars stalled in flooded underpasses have been a big part of the overall weather picture this past year.

By the end of June, total precipitation had reached 28.46 inches.  That’s more than all of 2012.  The next highest measurement on record is 26.19 inches in 1975.

Bussey Environmental Inc. offers the full range of environmental services, including testing, investigations, inspections, audits, remediation protocols, and reoccupancy reports for mold, bacteria, viruses, toxic chemicals, asbestos, lead paint, heavy metals, fine particulates, and electromagnetic fields. Bussey Environmental Inc., 1604 Chicago Avenue, Suite 11, Evanston, Illinois 60201.  Ph: 847.492.1465  Fax: 847.492.1466  Website:  www.busseyenv.com    

Winter and Indoor Air Pollution: What You Can Do

Posted by on Feb 5, 2013 in Air Quality, air testing, Allergies, Asbestos, Asthma, Immunity, Mold, Mold spores, Radon, remediation, VOCs | Comments Off on Winter and Indoor Air Pollution: What You Can Do

Air Pollution.  The term usually conjures the image of factory chimneys belching out toxic black smoke.  But most people don’t realize the biggest threat lurks inside their homes.  According to the EPA, indoor air levels of many pollutants may be 2 to 5 times and occasionally up to 100 times higher than outdoor levels.   Most people spend as much as 90% of their time indoors, which underscores the importance of indoor air quality as a factor in our overall health.[i]

Indoor air pollution becomes even more critical at this time of year since we don’t get frequent exchanges of outside air in the winter.  In fact, in the northern half of the country, our homes become closed environments in which airborne contaminants tend to accumulate.

So what are some of the common sources of indoor air pollution?

  • Dust, Mold, and Pet Dander.  Individuals who are allergic to these contaminants will tend to suffer exacerbated symptoms indoors in the winter when these allergens build up in stagnant air.  They aren’t the only ones affected by these irritants.  For example, there is also some evidence that concentrated exposure to particular species of mold spores can lower immunity in otherwise healthy children and adults.
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).  Organic chemicals come from many of the products we use on a daily basis, including cleaning, disinfecting, cosmetic, degreasing, and hobby products as well as paints, varnishes, and waxes. 
  • Wood Smoke.  Wood smoke is listed as one of the worst triggers for asthma on the EPA web site. 
  • Carbon Monoxide.  Leaks in the home heating system and lack of ventilation while cooking can increase carbon monoxide exposure.
  • Radon.  The EPA has declared that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S.  The more time spent in the basement level of your home the more likely it is that you are to be affected by this carcinogen.
  • Asbestos.  A well-known cause of lung disease, asbestos is usually only a threat if it is part of damaged flooring, wall or ceiling tiles or torn pipe covering. It can become airborne if it is exposed to moving air in a friable state.

Thankfully there’s a lot you can do on your own to improve indoor air quality in your home.

Remove Shoes and Boots at the Door.  The dirt and moisture we track in on our shoes and boots brings a lot of debris into the indoor air mix.  This simple habit can reduce airborne contaminants dramatically.

Vacuum More Frequently.  Frequent vacuuming with a HEPA vacuum cleaner will help remove the dirt and dust as well as finer particulates.

Run HEPA Air Cleaners.  This is especially important at night in the bedroom.  If you don’t already have one, consult Consumer Reports for the best rated air cleaners.  Bussey Environmental recommends Austin Healthmate air cleaners.

Minimize Carbon Monoxide with Good Maintenance.  Keep gas appliances properly adjusted and install and use an exhaust fan that vents to the outside.

Use Environmentally-Friendly Cleaning Products.  The chemicals in many conventional cleaning products can create noxious fumes that pollute our indoor air significantly.

Bring in More Plants.  Plants are natural air cleaners that produce oxygen for us.  Please see our earlier blog entry for more details.  http://www.busseyenv.com/mold/how-houseplants-attack-indoor-air-pollution/

Halt Home Improvement Activities.  Postpone home improvement until you’re able to keep your windows open again.  So many home improvement projects introduce not only loads of dust and dirt but also an extra dose of VOCs into the indoor mix — remodeling, painting, refinishing, installing new carpet, purchasing new furniture – so it’s best to wait until you can bring in a regular exchange of outdoor air to flush out the contaminants.

Have Your Air Ducts Cleaned.  Dust, mold spores, pet dander, and other particulates tend to build up in air ducts over time and can contribute to the toxic load in the circulating indoor air.  If you haven’t had your air ducts cleaned in two years or more, you would probably benefit from a thoroughly cleaning of your air ducts.  The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) recommends air duct cleaners that follow stringent industry standards.

Make Sure Your Chimney Works Properly.  Cracks in the chimney, problems with the flue opening, and a buildup of creosote can all contribute to more smoke coming into the house.  If you suspect a problem, you may want to stop using your fireplace until you’ve had a chimney cleaner come in to take care of any problems.[ii]

Get Professional Help for Serious Contaminants.  If you think you have a mold, asbestos or radon problem, contact an industrial hygienist or inspector to give you the best information about your individual situation.  It may be a simple do-it-yourself problem or may require an inspection, testing, and remediation.  Consumer Tip:  It’s important to understand that inspectors and remediation firms need to be separate entities to avoid conflict of interest.  Beware of firms that offer to do both testing and remediation.  Some firms will tell you the problem is worse than it really is so they can charge you more for the cleanup and/or renovation work.

Bussey Environmental Inc. is an environmental consulting firm located in Evanston, Illinois.  Bussey Environmental has been serving the North Shore and Chicago Metro areas since 1998. Bussey Environmental Inc., 1604 Chicago Avenue, Suite 11, Evanston, IL 60201.  Ph:  847.492.1465   Fax:  847.492.1466

 

How Houseplants Attack Indoor Air Pollution

Posted by on Jan 31, 2013 in Air filtering, Air Quality, Allergies, Mold, Respiratory health, Seasonal flu, Sinusitis | Comments Off on How Houseplants Attack Indoor Air Pollution

Winter poses new challenges to our indoor air quality.  We’re spending more time indoors at the same time as we’ve closed up our homes against fresh exchanges of outdoor air.  The build up of contaminants such as dust, pet dander, mold, and chemicals creates a greater threat to respiratory health at a time when many of us are battling sinusitis, seasonal flu, and colds.  Here’s a great article on how houseplants offer a natural air filtering system that cleans noxious chemicals from the air while providing oxygen.

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9502E1DE113CF937A3575AC0A9649D8B63&ref=airpollution

Brian Bussey is the Senior Industrial Hygienist of Bussey Environmental Inc., an environmental consulting firm located in Evanston, Illinois.  Bussey Environmental has been serving the North Shore and Chicago Metro area since 1998.  A native of the North Shore, Brian has 23 years of experience in the environmental industry.  Bussey Environmental Inc., 1604 Chicago Avenue, Suite 11, Evanston, IL 60201.  Ph:  847.492.1465   Fax:  847.492.1466

‘Tis the Season — Christmas Trees and Indoor Air Quality

Posted by on Dec 19, 2012 in Air Quality, Allergies, Asthma, Fatigue, Mold, Mold spores, Sinusitis, Wheezing | Comments Off on ‘Tis the Season — Christmas Trees and Indoor Air Quality

Can a Christmas tree bring on an asthma attack?

The answer is yes — a live one can.  Live Christmas trees can carry pathogenic mold spores that proliferate rapidly in the cozy warmth of your living room.  One study showed that indoor mold counts went from 800 to 5,000 spores per cubic meter by the fourteenth day a Christmas tree had been kept indoors.  In terms of indoor air quality, this amounts to an explosion of mold growth — especially when you consider that the average healthy home tests at 600 mold spores per cubic meter.

The study was initiated by researchers John Santilli, M.D. of St. Vincent Medical Center in Connecticut and Rebecca Gruchalla, M.D. of University of Texas.  According to Dr. Santilli, the study was prompted by the observation that his patients’ sinus and asthma complaints increased dramatically during the holiday season.

In another study,  Dr. Lawrence Kurlandsky of SUNY’s Upstate Medical University analyzed the needles and bark of 28 Christmas trees for the presence of mold and found 53 species on 70% of the trees.

We had our own dramatic experience with a live Christmas tree when our son was two years old.  One day shortly after Christmas he suddenly started wheezing and having difficulty breathing.  In a panic we brought him into an allergist and learned that he was allergic to the mold from our live Christmas tree.  When the tree came down, his asthmatic symptoms vanished.

People with sensitivity to certain molds may comprise up to 15% of the population, according to Dr. Santilli.  The symptoms can range from nasal, eye and throat irritation to nasal stuffiness to headaches, asthma attacks, and fatigue.  The most severe reactions occur among those with compromised immunity and can include invasive fungal disease.

Dr. Santilli recommended that anyone with mold allergies take down their Christmas tree after a few days or even sooner if symptoms have flared up.  Dr. Kurlandsky also suggested that people with mold sensitivity run an air purifier in the room with the tree.  Hosing down a live tree before bringing it into the house can eliminate some of the mold exposure as well.

The other solution, though not as popular, is extremely effective — use an artificial tree instead.

Source:  The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Annual Scientific Meeting, Dallas, Nov. 8-14, 2007. Rebecca Gruchalla, MD, Chief of Allergy Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas. John Santilli, MD, Chief, Division of Allergy and Immunology, St. Vincent Medical Center, Bridgeport, Conn.

Kurlandsky L.E. Identification of mold on seasonal indoor coniferous trees. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. 2011; 106: 543-544.

Brian Bussey is the Senior Industrial Hygienist of Bussey Environmental Inc., an environmental consulting firm located in Evanston, Illinois.  Bussey Environmental has been serving the North Shore and Chicago Metro area since 1998.  A native of the North Shore, Brian has 23 years of experience in the environmental industry.  Bussey Environmental Inc., 1604 Chicago Avenue, Suite 11, Evanston, IL 60201.  Ph:  847.492.1465   Fax:  847.492.1466

Share

Sinusitis — The Fungal Connection

Posted by on Dec 14, 2012 in Air Quality, Allergies, Mold, remediation, Sinusitis | Comments Off on Sinusitis — The Fungal Connection

Is chronic sinusitis caused by bacteria or mold?  Studies continue to show that mold is now the prime suspect.  The paradigm shift started in 1999 when the Mayo Clinic published a breakthrough study that indicated as many as 96% of sinusitis cases were caused by mold.  http://www.mayoclinic.org/ent-rst/chronicsinus.html.  The evidence has continued to gain ground with experts and researchers; however, as often happens with new evidence, acceptance of these findings by the medical community has been slow. A sinus expert in New York, W.S. Tichenor M.D. offers a detailed explanation of the controversy and corroborates and explains these findings on his web page.  http://www.sinuses.com/fungal.htm.

The fungal connection to sinusitis is also bourne out by my own experience in the field.  Over the years, in the course of residential environmental investigations, I have frequently seen findings of mold overgrowth in a home coupled with the homeowner’s complaints about chronic sinusitis (often among other health complaints).

So if chronic sinusitis is caused by mold in the environment, what can you do to improve your symptoms?  Anyone with chronic sinus problems who wants to address all possible causes should start by removing all sources of potential mold growth from their living space.  The first place to look will be any area in the home that has sustained water damage.  For these water damaged areas, a water damage assessment, inspection and air quality testing for fungal contamination followed by mold remediation may be necessary.  Other sources of mold contamination may include air ducts, carpeting, and any other surface where dust or dirt has been allowed to accumulate.  For this reason, we encourage our clients with health complaints to remove carpeting, hire a professional to clean the air ducts, HEPA vacuum frequently, and use a reputable HEPA air cleaner.

While the Mayo Clinic and others continue to research the mechanisms and treatment of fungal sinusitis, the medical community has not yet embraced these findings universally and effective medications are still under investigation.  However, based on our own anecdotal evidence through years of environmental testing, the fungal connection to chronic sinusitis makes perfect sense.

Brian Bussey is the Senior Industrial Hygienist of Bussey Environmental Inc., an environmental consulting firm located in Evanston, Illinois.  Bussey Environmental has been serving the North Shore and Chicago Metro area since 1998.  A native of the North Shore, Brian has 23 years of experience in the environmental industry.  Bussey Environmental Inc., 1604 Chicago Avenue, Suite 11, Evanston, IL 60201.  Ph:  847.492.1465   Fax:  847.492.1466

High Mold Counts – Outside and Inside

Posted by on Oct 20, 2012 in air testing, Allergies, industrial hygieniest, Mold, remediation | Comments Off on High Mold Counts – Outside and Inside

This year outside mold counts have been the highest on record in the Chicago area — on some days as much as fifteen times higher than normal. As a result, mold-allergic individuals suffer chronic upper respiratory irritation that feels like chronic cold symptoms.

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-08-08/news/ct-met-historic-mold-counts-20120808_1_national-allergy-bureau-allergen-counts-allergy-sufferers.

This would explain symptoms that worsen when you spend more time outside. But what does it mean if your allergy symptoms become worse when you spend more time inside? If you experience the worst symptoms when you awake in the morning, this could indicate you have a mold problem inside your home compromising indoor air quality. You can most effectively locate the source of the problem by engaging an industrial hygienist to perform a thorough inspection for mold along with testing for microbial contamination. Air and surface tests for mold will give you the specific mold species and concentrations that you need to know to pinpoint the type(s) of mold that causes an allergic response. Once the exact nature and extent of the mold contamination has been delineated, a protocol for mold remediation will provide a precise map for remediation contractors to follow in eradicating the problem most effectively. A follow up inspection with air tests will give you the assurance that the mold removal has been effective and the source has been eliminated for the long term.

 

Why Is Vacuuming Important? It’s All About Respiratory Health

Posted by on Oct 15, 2012 in Air Quality, Allergies | Comments Off on Why Is Vacuuming Important? It’s All About Respiratory Health

If you suffer from airborne allergies you may notice a huge improvement in allergic symptoms by the simple use of an effective HEPA vacuum cleaner. Why is an effective vacuum cleaner so important? Frequent vacuuming helps remove dust mites and mold spores that impact indoor air quality for allergy sufferers, the immune-compromised, the elderly and young children. Bussey Environmental Inc. recommends the Euroclean GD 930. We have been using this vacuum cleaner and recommending it to clients for the past 15 years.