Questions about Asbestos?

Asbestos
What is it? Asbestos is mined into fibers from naturally occurring serpentine rocks (Serpentine is actually the California state rock), and it is used in multiple building applications for its strength, temperature resistance, chemical neutrality, and relatively low cost. Up until the late 1970s, asbestos was installed in countless buildings from floor to ceiling, and despite being extensively cut back in its allowable production and use in the 1980s, is still found in many building products today.

Where is it found? Because it was used so widely (over 3,000 building products), asbestos can be found in the following places in your home/office: acoustic ceiling finishes (“popcorn” ceiling), insulation, carpet/flooring glues, flooring materials such as vinyl sheet flooring or linoleum, HVAC ducting and duct covering, drywall material, drywall joint compound, hardwood floor felts, clutch and brake materials, plaster, roofing materials (tar, shingles, mastics), stucco, thermal system insulation, window putty, and many more.

What regulations exist to control Asbestos? Asbestos regulations exist on three levels; federal, state, and local. On a Federal level, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) mandates that any material containing more than 1% asbestos by weight is considered an asbestos containing material (ACM) and as applicable shall be disposed of as hazardous waste. On a State level and particularly in California where it is stricter than Federal, the California Code of Regulations (CCR, Title 8) has specific laws and regulations that mandate the proper handling, removal, maintenance and work related to asbestos. Specifically, Cal-OSHA (California Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requires that any material containing only a tenth of one percent or more (>0.1%) must be removed and handled by trained and licensed asbestos workers only. Locally, South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) regulates all asbestos related activity (e.g. demolition, renovation, abatement) through Rule 1403, which outlines the proper and accepted methods of removal; such as Procedure 1 (HEPA filtration), Procedure 2 (Glove bag), Procedure 3 (Adequate wetting), Procedure 4 (Dry removal), and Procedure 5 (Approved Alternative).

What kinds of health effects do Asbestos cause? When asbestos is undisturbed, it poses little danger. However, when asbestos is disturbed (by grinding, sanding, cutting, scraping, etc.) it releases millions of microscopic fibers into the air. These fibers, much smaller than the width of a human hair, can become easily inhaled by people around them. Once inhaled, asbestos fibers can lodge themselves inside the respiratory tract and can cause serious health issues later on. Asbestos-related diseases such as lung cancer and mesothelioma (a rare, but always fatal disease of the lung lining) have a latency period and usually do not appear until 10 to 40 years after exposure. Smoking often amplifies the negative effects of asbestos, and increases the probability of contracting asbestos related health issues by a large factor.

How does Envirocheck, Inc. test for Asbestos? Envirocheck, Inc. can perform many asbestos tests for different needs. Envirocheck, Inc. can collect bulk samples of building materials to determine the presence of asbestos, air samples for clearance after completed abatement and/or for exposure assessments, and dust samples to assess potential contamination. Envirocheck, Inc. has a NVLAP accredited laboratory on-site for the analysis of these various samples.

What should I do if Asbestos is suspected or detected in my home or work? The mere presence of asbestos in the home should not be a cause for concern, as asbestos is dangerous only when it is disturbed. Certain types of asbestos, such as spray applied asbestos ceilings, are “friable” and can be reduced to powder with only hand pressure. Friable asbestos-containing materials are more dangerous. Non-friable asbestos containing materials, such as roofing materials, flooring materials, and asbestos cement pipes should not be cause for immediate concern. Disturbing asbestos-containing materials by scraping, sanding, removing, drilling, etc. could create a health problem that never existed before. Should you have any questions about the possible presence of asbestos in your home or work, please call Envirocheck, Inc. at (800) 665-7586.

Mold

What is it? Molds are tiny organisms that are found everywhere in nature, and hundreds of thousands of individual species of molds naturally exist in the environment. Molds come from the Fungi Kingdom (Fungi is one of the five Kingdoms in the classification of living things on Earth) and therefore the terms “mold” and “fungi” are used interchangeably. Fungi exist in many different forms but two of which are most commonly encountered; there are funguses (macro-fungi) that appear as fruiting bodies such as mushrooms or wood decay fungi, and there are molds (micro-fungi) that appear as fuzzy patches of discoloration such as moldy bread/oranges or visible growth on building materials like drywall. Molds and fungi release tiny seed-like particles called “spores” for germination and therefore become airborne.

Where is it found? Mold spores occur naturally in practically every environment on earth. Ideally, mold should be less prevalent inside one’s home or workplace than it is outdoors. However, in buildings where issues such as water damage, sick building syndrome, or other conditions conducive to mold growth exist, mold can grow in many different areas of a building. To grow in a building, mold needs a food source to grow on and moisture to feed it. Food sources conducive to mold growth can be drywall, wood, insulation, carpet, and many more.

What regulations exist to control Mold? Currently, there are no Federal or State laws or regulations that regulate the presence, exposure levels, or removal of mold. However, in the mold testing and removal industry, there are recognized standards and guidelines that exist that provide a “standard of care”. Some laws are in effect that mandate full disclosure in real estate transactions with regards to water damage and/or the presence of mold in a home or office to potential new buyers.

What kinds of health effects does Mold cause? Due to differing strengths of immune systems in humans, the effects of mold exposure can vary from person to person. Initial reactions to mold exposure can range from allergies, headaches, sneezing, itching, runny noses, upper respiratory problems, and skin irritations. However, long term exposure can cause much greater health problems, especially to those with compromised immune systems, such as young children and the elderly. Some mold spores are allergenic and can be harmful to people with allergies or weak immune systems, and still other molds can release potentially dangerous mycotoxins, which can cause a host of health problems in certain individuals. The primary pathway for exposure to molds and fungi is through inhalation.

How does Envirocheck, Inc. test for Mold? Envirocheck, Inc. offers many services to test for mold presence in a home or office. Envirocheck, Inc. can test for the presence of mold in the air, take surface samples of suspected mold growth areas for identification, and collect intrusive samples (e.g. wall or ceiling cavity samples) in an attempt to determine the source of mold infestation in a home/office. If mold is detected, Envirocheck, Inc. offers consulting services aimed at eliminating mold problems in the affected areas. Lastly, Envirocheck, Inc. can test for air quality and determine whether or not an area previously affected by mold has been properly cleaned. Envirocheck, Inc. has an AIHA accredited laboratory on-site for the analysis of these various samples.

What should I do if Mold is detected in my home or work? The best way to prevent mold in the home or workplace is to keep moisture at bay. If a moisture issue, such as a water leak, becomes problem, it is essential to dry the affected areas as soon as possible. Mold can begin to grow in as little as 48 hours after moisture is introduced into an environment. If mold already has started growing in one’s home or office, it is often times necessary to ensure that the original source of moisture is no longer an issue and the affected areas is dried. Afterwards, the building materials in the affected area(s) may need to be cleaned, scrubbed, or removed and replaced. Additionally, it is beneficial to employ professional remediation methods such as detail cleaning, HEPA vacuuming, machine-drying, air scrubbing or filtration, and dehumidifying to ensure a more complete mold remediation. Lastly, a re-inspection and re-test of the affected area(s) and a proper maintenance plan aimed at keeping moisture out should be implemented.

Bacteria

What is it? “Bacteria” refers to any one of millions of microscopic organisms, and there are many types of bacteria that occur naturally and can even be beneficial in the human body. Bacteria normally exist in the form of tiny “cells” or “spores”. Bacteria can be found in almost every corner of the earth in the air or on surfaces, and are essential for life; however some forms of bacteria (such as sewage related bacteria like E. coli or Enterococcus) can cause a host of health problems when introduced to the human body in high levels.

Where is it Bacteria found? Bacteria can be found in a multitude of places around a home or office. The highest concentration of bacteria can usually be found in a toilet bowl, however other areas that usually have high concentrations of bacteria include desks, kitchen sinks, bathtub drains, computer keyboards, and any place where fingers and hands can come in contact with a surface. Water and moisture is essential for the survival of bacteria, therefore, in indoor environments, bacteria do not normally exist in the arid air, although there are certain special cases and exceptions. In the event of a black water loss; a water leak or incursion in a building containing un-clean water and/or fecal matter, the presence of sewage related bacteria can be present and introduced into the indoor environment and can contaminate surfaces and substrates such as flooring materials, cabinetry, walls, and etc. Sewage related bacteria can carry the risk of disease and pathogens. Because of the prevalence of bacteria everywhere around us, it is essential to practice good hygiene as well as to maintain a clean living and working environment to protect from potentially harmful buildups of bacteria.

What regulations exist to control Bacteria? Currently, there are no Federal or State laws or regulations that regulate the presence, exposure levels, or removal of bacteria. However, in the water damage and restoration industry, there are recognized standards and guidelines that exist (e.g. IICRC S520 Standard for Water Damage Restoration) that provide a “standard of care”. Certain levels and federally mandated health standards are in place to ensure that bacteria presence does not reach dangerous levels in both drinking water and food that is consumed, and in public places, such as beaches.

What kinds of health effects do Bacteria cause? Different types of bacteria are present all around any home and office, so the mere presence of bacteria should not cause alarm. However, certain types of bacteria, notably E. Coli, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and other relatives – have gained widespread notoriety for being hazardous to one’s health. Symptoms vary among different individuals but can include nausea, vomiting, allergies, headaches, and various infections. The primary pathway for exposure to bacteria is through ingestion and/or “hand to mouth” contamination.

How does Envirocheck, Inc. test for Bacteria? Envirocheck, Inc. can provide air and surface testing for bacteria. However, since the primary pathway of exposure in indoor environments is through ingestion and surface contamination, surface sampling is the preferred method of testing. In the water damage and restoration industry, the most common type of surface sampling is sewage screen bacteria sampling, which is achieved by using surface swabs. Surfaces and/or substrates suspected of contamination and infection are swabbed and are analyzed in the laboratory for sewage indicating bacteria such as total coliform, E. coli, and Enterococcus. Envirocheck, Inc. has an AIHA accredited laboratory on-site for the analysis of these samples.

What should I do if Bacteria are detected in my home or work? As previously stated, the mere presence of bacteria in one’s home or office should not raise alarm. All surfaces contain bacteria, and bacteria is naturally occurring in the human body and shed from the human body. While some bacteria can be harmful and require cleaning and sterilization, a simple regimen of hand-washing and cleaning should be enough to keep bacteria from becoming a problem on surfaces that humans touch. However, in the event of sewage related bacteria contamination originating from a black water loss containing un-clean or fecal contaminated water, the affected areas should be isolated, the immediately affected building materials (e.g. drywall, carpet, porous items, etc.) should be removed and discarded, and the infected surfaces and substrates should be properly cleaned and disinfected.

Lead

What is it? Lead is a heavy metal that was heavily used in construction materials, but the most overwhelmingly prevalent use of lead was in paint. Lead-based paint was used up until 1978, and can still be found in many residential and commercial buildings today. Lead was used in plumbing applications as well. In addition, lead was also used in motor vehicle gasoline until it was gradually phased out in the 1970s and 1980s.

Where is it found? Lead is most commonly found on painted surfaces on either the interior or exterior of a building. Common substrates that may contain lead based paint are on windows, window sills, door jambs, doors, baseboards and moldings, exterior eves, etc. Because paint can deteriorate, dry and become brittle over time, lead paint chips can break off painted surfaces and fall into the surrounding areas of interior floors or exterior dirt. In locations where lead painted surfaces are subjected to high friction, such as a door and door jamb, lead dust can be created due to the constant amount of friction produced when opening and closing the door. Sanding or abrading of lead painted surfaces can also create lead dust. Lead can also be found in old toys, and can sometimes even leach into drinking water.

What regulations exist to control Lead? Lead is heavily controlled and regulated, due to it being well known as an industrial hazard. Lead is regulated by the California Code of Regulations (CCR), particularly Title 8 that deals with the proper handling, removal, maintenance, and worker protection, Title 10 that deals with the appropriate disclosure of the presence of lead within a building in real estate transactions and rental contracts, and Department of Public Health regulates exposure levels in housing. The Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulations deal with the proper methods of testing and removal of lead based paint in residential buildings. The use of lead paint was banned in 1978 in residential buildings, but large amounts of older buildings still exist that are covered in lead paint. It is much easier to prevent lead exposure altogether rather than have to deal with the effects of it after exposure has occurred.

What kinds of health effects does Lead cause? Lead is most potentially harmful to infants and children under six years old, whose rapidly developing (and therefore, fragile) immune systems are more susceptible to harm from lead ingestion. Children exposed to dangerous levels of lead can suffer from learning disabilities and lowered I.Q. scores, hearing loss, behavioral problems, and even death. Furthermore, adults can also be victims of the dangerous effects of lead; suffering from reproductive problems, high blood pressure, and nervous system damage. The primary pathways for lead exposure are through the ingestion or inhalation of lead dust particulates.

How does Envirocheck, Inc. test for Lead? Envirocheck, Inc. tests for lead in various ways depending on the project at hand. Envirocheck can test lead based paint be using a portable X-Ray Florescence (XRF) Machine to test paint on-site. Paint chips, dust wipe, soil, or water samples can be taken to determine and assess the risk at a property. Clearance testing and inspection can be performed after lead is removed to determine habitability. These tests are performed in accordance with Chapter 7 of the HUD Guidelines. Envirocheck has an in-house NLLAP accredited Lead Lab that uses Atomic Absorption Spectrometry (AAS) to service the lead testing needs.

What should I do if Lead is detected in my work or home? The mere presence of lead in one’s home does not automatically mean that it should be removed. In some cases, the best line of defense in dealing with lead-containing surfaces in the home is to maintain them in good condition, and to ensure that dust and lead-containing paint chips do not flake off. Lead paint can be enclosed and covered with a laminate or a wooden wall; it can also be encapsulated via spraying with a tough coating that will lock the lead paint in place. Should removal of the lead-containing materials be the best option, lead paint can be removed via wire brushing, wet hand scraping, wet hand sanding, power sanding, and heat stripping. It should be noted that HEPA vacuuming is essential to lessen the potential for spreading lead dust. Furthermore, only licensed and qualified contractors experienced in lead removal and abatement should perform these specific tasks. Envirocheck should perform a Risk Assessment if children are present and Envirocheck, Inc. should perform a clearance after any abatement of lead paint is performed.

What is Industrial Hygiene?
According to the American Board of Industrial Hygienists (A.B.I.H.) “Industrial hygiene” is the science and practice devoted to the anticipation, recognition, evaluation and control of those environmental factors and stresses arising in or from the workplace that may cause sickness, impaired health and well-being, or significant discomfort among workers and may also impact the general community.

What is an Industrial Hygienist?
“Industrial hygienist” is a professional qualified by education, training, and experience to anticipate, recognize, evaluate, and develop controls for occupational health hazards.

What services can ENVIROCHECK, INC. provide?
• Asbestos sampling and surveys
• Lead surveys
• Radon surveys
• Microbiological Investigations (Mold & Bacteria)
• Post Remediation Evaluations
• Indoor Air Quality Investigations (Sick Building Syndrome)
• Full laboratory services
• Project monitoring and/or management
• Training classes
• Awareness seminars

If I have an alleged mold problem at my house, what steps should I take to remedy it?
The first step and concern should be the health and safety of your family. Any irregular health symptoms that have not been noticed before should be addressed. The next step should be determining any potential sources of water or moisture that may be resulting in this alleged mold. The affected area should also be isolated and an attempt should be made to quantify either the water damage or suspect mold growth. If the problem is of low magnitude, it may be able to be rectified by the average homeowner. On our website you can visit links for good resources and tips to clean-up mold. If the alleged mold problem at hand appears to be larger or if there is any ambiguity, a qualified Industrial Hygienist or mold consultant should be contacted. However, it is always a good measure to consult with an Industrial Hygienist or mold consultant.

What are the standard turn-around-times for mold samples?
For non-viable samples such as surface tape lifts and non-viable airs with Zefon cassettes the standard turn-around-time is 5 to 7 working days. Viables or culturable samples require 10 to 14 working days for results.

Can I rush my samples?
Only non-viable samples can be rushed and have a 24 to 48 hour turn-around-time. Viables cannot be rushed because they have to culture in the laboratory.

What is included in an initial investigation report?
In general, most initial investigation reports include a short introduction, background information, a description of the sampling methods, investigation data and visual observations, a summary of findings, general recommendations, and a detailed scope of work for remediation as necessary.

What is the role of the remediation/abatement contractor?
Typically, prior to commencing with any remediation or abatement activity, a qualified mold remediation contractor will require some type of protocol or scope of work written by an Industrial Hygienist or mold consultant. The contractor will follow the protocol. When the protocol is completed, the contractor will notify the Industrial Hygienist or mold consultant to conduct a post remediation evaluation inspection and sampling to determine if the remediation efforts have been successful.

Are there any laws or regulations regarding mold?
Currently, there are no state or federal laws or regulations that exist for molds and fungi in regards to the assessment, removal or exposure. However, there is the SB 732 (Toxic Mold Protection Act of 2001). This new statute charges Department of Health Services (DHS), assisted by a task force of volunteer stakeholders, to undertake a series of complex tasks. These include the development of new standards or guidelines to:
• assess the health threat posed by the presence of indoor molds,
• determine valid methods for fungal sampling and identification,
• provide practical guidance for mold removal and abatement of water intrusion,
• disclose the presence of mold growth in real property at rental or sale, and
• assess the need for standards for mold assessment and remediation professionals.

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