Slow Leaks

Many home owners who have slow leaks from a plumbing issue sometimes think that because the leak isn’t severe, there will be no damage.  Pictured below is a slow leak in a sink and once it was removed the damage was extensive.  Any plumbing leak, big or small, should be dealt with immediately to avoid further water damage and mold.

Fingerprint Dust Cleaning

In criminal investigations fingerprints are one of the oldest and most common types of physical evidence found at a crime scene. One of the primary goals of the investigation deals with identification. Whether the identification is that of an unknown victim (body found at the side of the road) or that of the perpetrator of a crime. The ridge detail developed and recovered at a crime scene and later identified by a fingerprint examiner becomes an investigative lead (starting point) for the detectives assigned to the investigation. A fingerprint is simply defined as friction ridge detail of the hands and the feet.

Conventional powders, applied with a fiber or hair brush, are the most common type of powders used at crime scenes. They are generally inexpensive, cover a large area when applied with a brush and readily develop prints on most non-porous surfaces. The main drawback is that conventional powders are generally very light and airy and can become airborne at the slightest flick of the brush, creating a mess.

After the scene has been processed, home and business owners can be left with the clean up.  Laws and policies differ from one jurisdiction to the next. Sometimes, the home or business owner can get estimates and file a claim for reimbursement with the law enforcement agency who made the mess. Homeowners, renters or business interruption insurance policies may cover the amount that exceeds the deductible. In other cases, the entire cleaning and resulting financial burden falls to the occupant of the property who may become even more-so the victim of the crime.

The key to cleaning this mess is to remove all loose particles without introducing water into the equation, and to complete the process as quickly as possible.  Specific chemicals and graphite removing agents are used to lift the surface in a fashion as not to spread the powder while also protecting the surface from discoloration.  Tackling this type of cleanup without the help of professionals can certainly lead to more damage by deeply embedding it into the surface and/or spreading airborne.  Individuals partaking in this type of remediation should be trained, certified and have vast experience to limit damage and clean the surface in a timely and cost effective manner.

Dryer Vents & Fire

According to the National Fire Protection Association, this common household appliance was the cause of more than 15,500 U.S. home fires in 2010.  Lint and other debris can build up in your dryer hose and vent duct, reducing air flow, backing up exhaust gases and eventually creating a fire. These hazards can be avoided by thoroughly inspecting and cleaning your dryer vent every year. (This is particularly true if your dryer vent duct was not designed or installed properly.) Not only are you reducing the risk of fire, you’re also putting money back into your wallet by improving the dryer’s efficiency.

Here’s a checklist which may help you know if your dryer vent needs cleaning or replacing:

1. Drying time for clothes takes longer and longer.
When a dryer vent is clogged, the drying cycle can double or triple in time. You’ll notice that clothes are not completely dry at the end of a regular cycle. A dryer is designed to push out the hot moist air for clothing to dry. If your vent is blocked by lint, the air will stay in your dryer keeping your clothes hot and moist. And when it takes twice as long to dry clothes, your dryer runs longer, putting more wear and tear on it and therefore cutting the machine’s life in half.

2. Your clothing and the outside of the dryer are very hot.
Do you notice that your clothing is very hot at the end of a cycle or the dryer is hot to touch? This warning sign means the vent is not exhausting properly. If your system is clogged, it not only wastes energy, but can cause the heating element and blower in the dryer to wear out faster.

3. You notice a burning smell.
When you run your dryer do you smell a burning odor? Lint, which is very flammable, can build up in the exhaust tube, lint trap and even in the drum casing. If it gets too hot, it can catch on fire, causing a burning smell. (Remember to empty the lint trap often). Discontinue use of your dryer and have it inspected as soon as possible.

4. The vent hood flap doesn’t open properly.
Another visual red flag that you’re due for a cleaning: You can see lint or debris around the dryer hose or outside vent opening: or the duct hood flap does not open as it is designed to do. An outside vent that doesn’t open when the dryer is running means air flow has been restricted due to lint buildup.

5. It’s been longer than a year since your last inspection.
Dryer vent ducts should be inspected at least once a year to reduce the risk of fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. If you hire a professional to clean your vent, expect to pay between $75 to $150, depending on the length and location of the vent. If the exterior exhaust vent is easily accessible, you can try cleaning it yourself with a brush kit.

Preventing MRSA Infections

MRSA, also known as “The Super Bug,” is a form of staph infection that is resistant common antibiotics, making it exceptionally difficult to treat. Staph infections, including MRSA, used to be almost exclusively hospital-borne infections. But in the 1990s, however, a type of MRSA began showing up in the wider community known as Community-Associated MRSA (CA-MRSA).  Both MRSA and CA-MRSA cause skin and soft tissue infections and can lead to pneumonia or even death. The virus can progress substantially in as little as 24-48 hours after initial topical symptoms are detected. After just 72 hours, MRSA can take significant hold in human tissues and resist treatment.

Like other staph infections, MRSA is passed from person to person through direct contact with skin or through contact with contaminated items. The bacteria may live in people’s noses and on their skin, and usually don’t cause any problems. However, young children, the elderly, and individuals with immune deficiencies are at particular risk.  Building service contractors and janitorial crews should use a high-quality, EPA-registered disinfectant/cleaner/sanitizer to clean any surfaces that may potentially be contaminated with MRSA. Areas of the facility where people share close quarters (such as locker rooms, athletic areas, or community showers) or areas that people touch frequently (such as handrails, light switches, drinking fountains, tables, and desks) should be thoroughly disinfected on a daily basis.

Preventing MRSA Infections

Using commonsense personal hygiene practices and limiting contact with other persons, you can help prevent the spread of MRSA. The following are suggestions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Personal Hygiene Tips

  • Wash hands using liquid soap and water frequently, especially after using the toilet and after any hands-on contact with other persons. Alternatively, an alcohol-based hand rub can be used according to label instructions. Visibly soiled hands should be washed with soap and water rather than an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Dry hands with disposable paper towels or air blowers. Avoid sharing towels.
  • Limit sharing of personal items (e.g., towels clothing and soap).
  • Keep skin lesions (e.g., boils, insect bites, open sores or cuts) covered with a clean, dry dressing.
  • Use a barrier (e.g., a towel or a layer of clothing) between the skin and shared equipment
  • Shower if there has been substantial skin-on-skin contact with another person.
  • Athletes with active skin and soft tissue infections should not participate in wrestling until wounds are completely healed. Consider using this rule for all contact sports.

Furniture & Upholstery Cleaning

Here’s a quick look at how to clean furniture and upholstery if something should get spilled or stained.  Remember, contacting a professional is always recommended, but if its a small stain or you decide to handle the issue yourself, follow the steps below.

Cleaning tips for fabric upholstery, leather, and wood furniture:

  1. Clean spills right away. -The longer a spot or spill goes untreated, the more difficult it is to remove. It can also lead to permanent color loss or, in the case of wood furniture, warping of the wood.
  2. Keep items out of the sun. -Exposure to direct sunlight for long periods can alter the color of the furniture. Keep windows covered when rooms are not in use.
  3. Pay close attention to fabric cleanability codes. -These codes can be found on the tag or label and indicate which type of cleaning agent can be used on the piece.
  4. If the piece is wet cleanable (indicated with a “W” on the care tag), use as little water as possible -Excessive moisture can cause permanent damage to furniture – even if it is wet cleanable. Use a hand tool specifically rated for upholstery.
  5. Apply a protector once the piece is clean. -Fabric protectors create an invisible, protective layer on upholstery fabric, preventing soils and liquids from sticking to the fibers, and giving the owner more time to clean the mess.

Memory Loss & Mold – Part 3

The fungus Stachybotrys chartarum is the type species of the genus Stachybotrys. Certain strains of the species are known to produce trichothecene mycotoxins. It is a cellulolytic saprophyte with a worldwide distribution and frequently recovered in water-damaged buildings. Evidences of the detrimental effects on human health due to respiratory exposure to this fungus have been reported. Stachybotrys chartarum isolated from the lung of a child diagnosed with pulmonary hemosiderosis was reported in Texas for the first time in 1999. However, morphological and mycotoxin profile studies showed that this species is not well delineated.

The trichothecene mycotoxins produced by toxic black mold are neurotoxic. This means they can kill neurons in the brain and impair a person’s mental ability. They also cause nervous disorders such as tremors and can cause personality changes such as mood swings and irritability.


  • Confusion
  • Brain fog
  • Shortened attention span
  • Difficulty concentrating and paying attention
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Disorientation
  • Dizziness
  • Memory loss and memory problems
  • Impaired learning ability
  • Hallucinations
  • Shock
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Aggression and other personality changes
  • Tingling
  • Trembling
  • Shaking
  • Seizure
  • Numbness

If mold growth exists in your home, proper mold remediation by a certified and licensed professional is needed.  The source of growth, either through water damage or humidity issues needs to be corrected to quell further growth.

Memory Loss & Mold – Part 2

Mild cognitive impairment is a notable change in thinking skills that’s limited, for the most part, to a narrow set of problems, such as impairment only in memory. Changes in concentration, attention or mental quickness may also be observed. Mild cognitive impairment generally doesn’t prevent a person from carrying out everyday tasks and being socially engaged. Researchers and physicians are still learning much about mild cognitive impairment. For many people, the condition eventually progresses to Alzheimer’s disease or another disorder causing dementia. Other people experience little progression in memory loss, and they don’t develop the whole spectrum of symptoms associated with dementia.

Many medical problems can cause memory loss or other dementia-like symptoms. Most of these conditions can be successfully treated, and your doctor can screen you for conditions that cause reversible memory impairment.

Possible causes of reversible memory loss include:

  • Medications. A single medication or a certain combination of medications may result in forgetfulness or confusion.
  • Minor head trauma or injury. A head injury from a fall or accident — even an injury that doesn’t result in a loss of consciousness — may cause memory problems.
  • Depression or other mental health disorders. Stress, anxiety or depression can cause forgetfulness, confusion, difficulty concentrating and other problems that disrupt daily activities.
  • Alcoholism. Chronic alcoholism can seriously impair mental abilities. Alcohol can also cause memory loss by interacting with medications.
  • Vitamin B-12 deficiency. Vitamin B-12 helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells. A vitamin B-12 deficiency — common in older adults — can cause memory problems.
  • Hypothyroidism. An underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) slows the processing of nutrients to create energy for cells (metabolism). Hypothyroidism can result in forgetfulness and other thinking problems.
  • Tumors. A tumor in the brain may cause memory problems or other dementia-like symptoms.

Check out Part 3

Memory Loss & Mold – Part 1

Normal age-related memory loss doesn’t prevent you from living a full and productive life. For example, you may forget a person’s name, but recall it later in the day. You might misplace your glasses occasionally. Or maybe you find that you need to make lists more often than in the past in order to remember appointments or tasks. These changes in memory are generally manageable and don’t disrupt your ability to work, live independently or maintain a social life.

The word “dementia” is an umbrella term used to describe a set of symptoms, including impairment in memory, reasoning, judgment, language and other thinking skills. Dementia begins gradually in most cases, worsens over time and significantly impairs a person’s abilities in work, social interactions and relationships.

Often, memory loss is one of the first or more-recognizable signs of dementia. Other early signs may include:

  • Asking the same questions repeatedly
  • Forgetting common words when speaking
  • Mixing words up — saying “bed” instead of “table,” for example
  • Taking longer to complete familiar tasks, such as following a recipe
  • Misplacing items in inappropriate places, such as putting a wallet in a kitchen drawer
  • Getting lost while walking or driving around a familiar neighborhood
  • Undergoing sudden changes in mood or behavior for no apparent reason
  • Becoming less able to follow directions

Diseases that cause progressive damage to the brain — and consequently result in dementia — include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia
  • Vascular dementia (multi-infarct dementia)
  • Frontotemporal dementia
  • Lewy body dementia

Each of these conditions has a somewhat different disease process (pathology). Memory impairment isn’t always the first sign of disease, and the type of memory problems may vary.


Air Sampling vs Surface Sampling

A lot of questions are fielded on which form of testing would be more suited for an individuals needs for their home.  But there is many factors that go into answering this question.  First let’s take a look into each form of mold testing.

Air Sampling’s function is to capture and quantify a broad spectrum of fungal spores (both culturable and non-culturable) present in the air. To assess whether the levels present suggest a fungal problem in the indoor locations. Spore trap samplers are capable of capturing a majority of spores and particulate matter in the air. Consequently, it is possible to accurately characterize problem environments where spores are present but either are no longer viable or are species that do not culture well.

Surface Sampling is taken by tape lift imprint, by swabbing the suspect surface with a culturette swab, or by submitting a bulk sample of the suspect surface. While culturing a surface sample may help resolve a specific identification problem, used alone such a culture may result in an inaccurate characterization of the surface sampled. A direct microscopic examination of a surface shows exactly what is there, without being affected by an organism’s ability to compete and grow on sampling media.

So without getting technical and making it too confusing, here’s some basic principles:

If you suspect mold but cannot see it, or are having respiratory issues in your home without the presence of mold, Air Sampling is beneficial.  If you see something on a surface that looks like mold but are unsure or want to know if your attic/basement joists have any growth, then Surface Sampling is the better choice.

Obviously choosing both is the ultimate option as it will better your chances of getting the most accurate test for any surface or situation.