Testing Scams

Sticking with the theme from yesterday, I want to again leave out anything technical, and focus in on one type of scam that is becoming more and more used in the restoration business, the Post Remediation Test.  Now is this test a scam, absolutely not, but it’s the way that some companies are utilizing it which is concerning.  Two quick examples of this will be in an attic, and in a basement.  The attic had mold and you’re remediation contractor says they’ll take a surface swab after the remediation is completed to insure there isn’t any mold.  Sounds good right?  Wrong.  It appears that these companies are being honest, but they’re actually being quite the contrary.  After they’re finished and the attic has been encapsulated or painted, (read yesterday’s entry), then they’re taking this test. Well of course it is going to pass because they’re swabbing a new surface.  To do this correctly, the surfaces should be sampled prior to any encapsulate so you can assure that the surface in question is clean.  Hence, another reason we always insist, not successfully with every customer, to apply clear.  Next is the basement and this is the most common type of scam.  I compete against a company who is famous for this type of procedure.  They set up containment and air control, remove the mold, then allow their equipment to run for three days and then take the test.  Or, they take the test when they’re done while the air machines are running.  Now some may think this is what you’re supposed to do to exchange the air, but how can a test be valid while machines are running specifically designed to clean or exchange the air?  Even if you do want these machines to run for an additional amount of time after the remediation, then the test should be done 3 to 7 days later so the natural air in the home resettles and you’re truly testing the home’s air quality.  If I run our air machines while mold is still in the basement and let it run for a day and take the test, I may get negative results with visible mold because the air machine is doing it’s job.  That’s why in post remediation testing, we always instruct every one of our customers that it should be done a week after the remediation is finished.  So, when you’re pricing out a job in your home, ask questions, do your due diligence and understand how some cheat their way into jobs by looking to be honest when they’re really not.

Kilz vs. Encapsulates

Without getting into the technical side of this debate, I just want to bring up a few points to help some understand the differences between each, which can also answer why some mold companies price higher than others when this type of coating is applied after the cleaning is done.  Kilz, is basically a primer, a stain blocker and sometimes an odor blocker as well.  An Encapsulate, is a fungicidal based coating applied to a surface to prevent further mold growth while reducing moisture intake and having the ability to provide a colorless clear option.  First, why chose a clear option versus a nice clean and bright white, which is how most sell the colored option.  Because when you use clear, you are giving an inspector, the home owner, whomever, the option to fully see the surface after the remediation to do a full inspection and to insure that the surface is clean. Secondly by choosing clear, you are assuring the customer that they are getting a true encapsulate versus a basic paint.  Painting the surface, let’s say wood in an attic, will give you some benefits, such as resistance to moisture, some suffocation of residual mold in unable to reach crevices and it aesthetically looks appealing, but that’s about it.  Paint is paint.  It’s thin, cheap and isn’t capable of resisting mold growth in the same fashion as an encapsulate.  Hence the reason that a five gallon bucket of Kilz costs about $80, while encapsulates run close to $300 for the same sized unit. Encapsulates are designed to resist high levels of moisture and humidity, which promote mold growth.  Some are three times as thick as regular primers, which gives you maximum protection while also having additives specifically formulated to resist further growth.  Now there are some customers who insist on white because they want the colored option and this is fine, but inspect the product when it’s brought into your home to insure it’s a true encapsulate and not just a paint. So remember not to compare apples to oranges when getting prices from mold remediation companies, because there’s a reason that some prices are very different.

-Joe Fiorilli

High Temps & Attics

There’s not many people who are complaining about this weather. Seventy degrees plus on Christmas and now today we may see seventy again.  But with this warm weather comes the chance of humidity spikes and temperatures issues in your attic.  Many homeowners make the mistake of the turning their attic fans off in the winter forgetting that there is more grains per pound in cold air than in warm air, thus increasing your chances for humidity issues in your attic due to the cold airs ability to retain moisture.  With dense fog and high temperatures now, an attic without circulation can build up moisture on the joist, trusses, and sheathing causing the potential of mold growth.  Attic fans should be turned on, especially now with the constant fluxuation in temperature.  They should also be monitored to assure the humidity levels aren’t that high and the moisture content is under control.  Failure to do so can lead to mold growth which will end up costing you thousands of dollars in remediation.  Remember, just because you can’t see your attic doesn’t mean it isn’t apart of your home.  It too needs maintenance and upkeep to prevent very costly issues.

Norovirus

Norovirus infection can cause the sudden onset of severe vomiting and diarrhea. The virus is highly contagious and commonly spread through food or water that is contaminated by fecal matter during preparation. You can also be infected through close contact with an infected person. Diarrhea, abdominal pain and vomiting typically begin 24 to 48 hours after exposure. Norovirus symptoms last one to three days, and most people recover completely without treatment. However, for some people — especially infants, older adults and people with underlying disease — vomiting and diarrhea can be severely dehydrating and require medical attention. Norovirus infection occurs most frequently in closed and crowded environments such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools and cruise ships.

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of norovirus infection include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain or cramps
  • Watery or loose diarrhea
  • Malaise
  • Low-grade fever
  • Muscle pain
  • Signs and symptoms usually begin 24 to 48 hours after first exposure to the virus, and last one to three days. You may continue to shed virus in your feces for up to three days after recovery.

Some people with norovirus infection may show no signs or symptoms. However, they are still contagious and can spread the virus to others.

Causes

Noroviruses are highly contagious and are shed in the feces of infected humans and animals. Methods of transmission include:

  • Eating contaminated food
  • Drinking contaminated water
  • Touching your hand to your mouth after your hand has been in contact with a contaminated surface or object
  • Being in close contact with a person who has a norovirus infection
  • Noroviruses are difficult to wipe out because they can withstand hot and cold temperatures as well as most disinfectants.

Resolutions

This is a very different blog than I usually write, since most of our blogs are about mold, water damage, fire, safety and many other types of health and home improvement issues.  With New Years approaching, I wanted to discuss something I see every year at the gym.  Usually around this time and especially after January 1st, there is an influx of new people crowding the gym trying to stick to their New Year’s Resolution by getting into shape.  We’ve all done it.  We’ve all looked into the future and seen ourselves on a beach or by a pool in chiseled shape making everyone around us gawk and bathe in jealousy.  But come February, about 50% of the newbies stop coming or come very sporadically, and by March 80% are gone and the gym is empty again.  Now there’s a brief return of those people in late April and early May who are still trying to have that big dream stuffed into a very small window, but come Memorial Day, they’re all gone and the gym is empty again till Christmas.

You hear the same excuses about having no time or being too busy, and how hard their work schedule is, but I really don’t believe it.  Why? Because I personally work 100 to 120 hours a week and rarely have a day off.  So how am I able to stay in shape?  Because I sacrifice some sleep and and wake up each day at 5 in the morning, at the gym by no later than 5:45 am, and am finished by 6:30 to 6:45 at the latest.  I’m back home by about 7, answering emails, writing blogs, finishing estimates, drafting contracts, communicating with my employees, jumping in the shower and then heading out the door by 8:30 to 9 to start my rounds of estimates.  I then check on all jobs in progress, get back to the office to answer calls and schedule appointments, and do a slew of other things that aren’t that interesting or would take another blog to detail.  The main sacrifice is that I don’t stay up late, so I can still get some sleep in order to wake up early to get to the gym, and do this 4 to 5 times a week.

What’s the point of all of this?  It’s an attempt to urge you to find time, get in shape, eat healthier and stick to your resolution which has probably repeated itself for many years.  By getting into shape and eating healthier it is a fact that you will not only feel better and benefit from it physically, but it does amazing things to you mentally.  You become happier, more energetic, more confident and the list goes on.  So if this serves as a little encouragement, then I did my job.  Let’s all live a happier and healthier life and start in 2016.  Oh, and one last thing, be kind to animals!!!

-Joe Fiorilli

The Dangers of Ozone

There is a growing amount of written material regarding the use of ozone generators to improve indoor air quality. Unfortunately, much of the material makes claims and draws conclusions without substantiation or sound science. There are even some vendors which suggest that their devices have been approved by the federal government, despite the fact that there is not one agency within the federal government which has approved ozone generators for use in occupied spaces. The EPA published several documents which highlight the risks and dangers of ozone and why ozone generators should be avoided.

Ozone is a tiny molecule which is composed of three oxygen atoms. It is highly reactive which makes it an unstable and potentially toxic gas. Ground-level ozone is considered to be a major component of smog which plagues larger cities during the summertime and has been tied to a variety of potential health risks.

Not only is ozone potentially dangerous to your health, it may not even work at all. Below are four reasons why you should never use an air purifier that produces ozone.

  1. Ozone Generators May Not Work at All
    Some manufacturers suggest that ozone will render nearly every chemical contaminant in the home harmless by producing a chemical reaction. This is incredibly misleading because a thorough review of scientific research has shown that in order for many of the dangerous chemicals found indoors to be eliminated the chemical reaction process may take months or even years. Other studies have also (PDF) noted that ozone cannot effectively remove carbon monoxide or from outside. If used at concentrations that do not exceed public health standards, ozone applied to indoor air pollution does not effectively remove viruses, mold, bacteria, or other biological pollutants.
  2. The Chemical Reaction Can Be Dangerous
    Even if ozone generators were proven to be effective at eliminating these chemicals, there are certain side effects everyone must be aware of. Many of the chemicals ozone reacts to results in a variety of harmful by-products. For example, when ozone was mixed with chemicals from new carpet in a laboratory setting, the ozone reduced many of the chemicals but created a variety of dangerous organic chemicals in the air. While the target chemicals were reduced, the dangerous byproducts rendered the process moved.
  3. Ozone Generators Do Not Remove Particulates
    A third factor to consider when looking at ozone generators is that they do not remove particulates such as dust or pollen from the air. This includes the particles which are primarily responsible for allergic reactions. To combat this, some ozone generators include an ionizer which disperses negatively charged ions into the air. In recent analysis’s, this process was found to be less competent in the removal of air-borne molecules of dust, smoke, pollen, and mold spores than HEPA filters and electrostatic precipitators.
  4. It Is Impossible to Predict Exposure Levels
    The EPA notes that it is increasingly difficult to determine the actual concentration of ozone produced by an ozone generator because so many different factors come into play. Concentrations will be higher if more powerful devices used in smaller spaces. Whether or not the interior doors are closed rather than open will affect concentrations as well. Additional factors which affect concentration levels include how many materials and furnishings are in the room to react with ozone, the level of outdoor air ventilation, and the proximity of a person to the ozone generating device.