5 Facts About Asbestos

asbestos chrysotile fibers that cause lung disease COPD lung cancer mesothelioma

(by guest blogger: Michelle Whitmer)  Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that’s been used to fireproof and strengthen commercial and industrial products since the 1800s.  It prevents fire and makes products safer to use around heat.  Controversy around the use of asbestos arose from the discovery that it is a carcinogen-it has been linked to cancer and other diseases. Mesothelioma

Asbestos exposure has no immediate effect. Asbestos-related diseases develop many years after exposure. For example, it takes at least 10 years for asbestosis to develop and several decades for cancer to develop.   As a result of the toxic effects of asbestos, strict regulatory controls have been implemented to protect the public from it’s harmful effects.
The following facts explain more about the risks of exposure, how to avoid asbestos products and what can be done for people who get sick.
Asbestos Not Banned in the US
The U.S. government passed regulations targeted at asbestos in the 1970s and 1980s.  The Clean Air Act of 1970 gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) power to regulate asbestos. It also effectively banned one of the most dangerous products: Spray-applied asbestos. The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 allowed the EPA to further regulate asbestos. In 1986, the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act forced the EPA to design protocols to manage asbestos in schools.
More than 50 countries have banned asbestos but the U.S. is not one of them. The EPA attempted to enact a ban in 1989, but the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned it in 1991.  Asbestos remains in products, including auto brake pads and clutches, gaskets, roofing materials and other construction products, fireproof clothing and friction materials.
Asbestos is Primarily Used as Insulation
Asbestos was most commonly used as an insulating material to protect products from heat damage and prevent fire. Different types of asbestos insulation include:

• Loose-fill or attic
• Wall
• Spray-applied
• Block
• Pipe
• Cement
• Valve jackets
• Textiles
• Paper products

It is impossible to identify whether a product contains asbestos through visual inspection alone. Laboratory testing is required to confirm presence of asbestos, which takes days to process. For safety, it is highly recommended to treat these insulation products as if they contain asbestos until testing demonstrates that it does not.
If you encounter insulating materials at home or on the job, make sure they’re in good condition and don’t do anything to damage or disturb them. If the insulation looks damaged or is deteriorating, call a licensed asbestos abatement company or a certified building inspector to assess the situation.
Asbestos Was Widely Used by US Military
Every branch of the U.S. military, including the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy, used asbestos-containing materials (ACM).   The Air Force used asbestos insulation on planes. The Army used asbestos parts in armored vehicles. The Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps used asbestos to make ships and shipyards fireproof.   All branches used asbestos insulation throughout their buildings, barracks and housing communities.
Because asbestos exposure was so prevalent in the military, around 30 percent of mesothelioma lawsuits are filed by veterans.
 Occupational Exposure Posed Greatest Health Risk
People who work with asbestos regularly on the job are the ones who face the greatest health risk.  It generally takes years of repeated exposure to become at risk for developing an asbestos-related disease. However, minimal exposure, such as a heavy one-time exposure or just a few months of exposure, has caused disease in some people.
About 20% of people who work with asbestos develop a related disease. The vast majority do not experience negative effects from exposure and it is speculated that those who do may have genetic predisposition.
There is Currently No Cure for Asbestos-Related Diseases
Unfortunately, there are no cures for asbestos-related diseases. Life Expectancy Only early-stage lung cancer and ovarian cancer have a chance of being cured with a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and immunotherapy.  Sadly, only a handful of mesothelioma cases have entered long-term remission, but most cases are incurable. If diagnosed early, aggressive treatment helps people outlive the 1-year average life expectancy. Some people are living more than three and five years with combined treatment using surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy.
Asbestosis is a progressive lung disease that is incurable, but treatments are available to ease symptoms. Oxygen therapy alleviates shortness of breath, medication thins lung secretions and reduce pain, and respiratory therapy helps to keep the lungs clear.

Asbestos exposures should be taking seriously.  Although most people exposed to asbestos do not get sick, those who do face serious illness. Avoiding asbestos materials throughout a lifetime is essential to reducing your risk of developing a related disease. Take necessary precautions and complete necessary testing if you encounter or suspect materials contain asbestos.
Author bio: Michelle Whitmer has been a medical writer and editor for The Mesothelioma Center since 2008. Focused on the benefits of integrative medicine for cancer patients, Michelle is a certified yoga instructor, member of the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine and graduated from Rollins College in Florida.  Edited by Julie Warren.

Proper Cleaning of Contaminated Flood Events in Your Home: Carpet Cleaning is not Enough

E Coli Bacteria

Sewer overflows and back-ups are common property water emergencies.   Proper remediation of your home is essential to restore a healthful and safe environment for occupants.  Restoration procedures for these types of events are often extensive and costly.  Understandably, consumers want to make sure they are getting the right service for their money and not getting taken for a ride.   What do you need to know to make sure the job is done right?

Understanding the Situation

The type of water introduced to your home environment during these events, in our industry, is labelled Category 3 water.  Each category of water (there are three) has its own remediation standards and risk ratings.  Category 3 water is defined as ” …grossly unsanitary, and could cause severe illness or death if ingested.  Sources for category 3 water include, but are not limited to, sewage; flooding from rivers or streams; wind-driven rain, water from beyond the toilet trap; water from the toilet bowl with feces [basement ejector pumps]; and standing water that has begun to support microbial growth.”

Often, this water may appear mostly clear, and homeowners might assume that is not actually “dirty water”.  Appearances can be deceiving.   According to one definition, sewage consists mostly of grey water (from sinks, tubs, showers, dishwashers, and clothes washers), black water (the water used to flush toilets, combined with the human waste that it flushes away); soaps and detergents; and toilet paper.  Even though this flood water may not contain obvious feces (although it can), the connection to your septic and home waste removal system, creates a pathway for the introduction of bacteria and contaminates none-the-less.  Ejector pumps for example, often clear waste water from lower level bathrooms where traditional plumbing in not available.  The basins for these pumps contain raw, untreated, sewage.

Is Carpet Cleaning Enough?

Depending upon the surface exposure to contaminated water and the nature of the material, it is recommended by industry experts, that “[Remediation Companies] remove and dispose of carpet and carpet pad from all affected areas and remove and discard all contaminated porous and semi-porous structural materials (e.g. wooden baseboard, saturated drywall and wall coverings)”.  Materials not removed, may remain impregnated with the contaminants from sewage (e.g. viruses, bacteria (including e-coli), and fungi) .  Beyond the obvious risk of exposure to these substances, a fertile ground for mold growth can be created.

Frequently, we will meet customers who have had category three water events in their home and have merely extracted the water and steam cleaned the carpets.   A remediation specialist who proposes that this is sufficient, in an attempt to save you money, is not really doing you any favors.  As industry experts, certified technicians, know that this falls short of the recommended steps for a safe and complete home restoration.  The cost of full restoration, may lead consumers to make decisions that can leave their homes and its inhabitants at risk.

According to the Carpet Buyers Handbook, “This type of flooding [unsanitary water] can produce serious health effects…All floor covering materials must be discarded and other surfaces should be carefully evaluated.”   In fact, only in instances of sanitary water leaks, is extraction of water sufficient if handled immediately.

What are the Recommended Steps?

Our industry standards of care are taken from the ANSI/IICRC S500 and S520 guidelines for professional water damage restoration (The American National Standards Institute/Institute of Inspection and Cleaning and Restoration Certification).  To properly address a Category 3 water event, your remediation specialist should:

  1. Locate the source of the water and stop any further intrusion. It may be required to contact a professional plumber or other contractor.
  2. Protect furniture and personal items.
  3. Extract water from carpet and/or pad using a sub-surface extraction tool.
  4. Apply a biocide to all affected surfaces to help prevent and retard the growth of microbials.
  5. Remove and dispose of carpet and carpet pad from all affected areas. Remove and discard all contaminated porous and semi-porous structural materials.
  6. Inspect all areas that water may have traveled. Document all moisture levels in affected areas.
  7. Install air movers (approx. every 10-15 linear feet) and dehumidifiers. All air movers should be blowing in the same direction.
  8. Monitor job daily. Record all drying data and keep accurate records.
  9. Reinstall carpet with new pad after drying is complete.
  10. Replace all structure materials that were removed.
  11. After drying is complete, all affected areas will need to be cleaned.

 

Because all water events are unique, Helpers will assess a home flood to determine the source and the extent of work that should be completed to insure full restoration.  These standards are well known within our industry and established by our certification body.  Carpet cleaning and extraction may be sufficient for clean water floods, such as with an over-filled tub or a burst pipe, however, if the source is more nefarious, make sure you know what the proper procedures are.  Helpers’ mission is to restore your home to pre-event health and safety.  We wouldn’t cut corners in our own homes and we won’t cut corners in yours.

 

What is Professional Mold Remediation: 6 Tips to Make Sure Your Mold Problem is Handled Properly

 

mold

As a home owner faced with the discovery of mold in your home, it can seem overwhelming to figure out what needs to be done.  Mold growth can have many negative impacts from significant health problems to the delay or failure of  the sale of your home.  Here are some tips to help you understand the process and make sure that your mold problem is being dealt with properly and no corners are being cut.

1  Why is Mold a big deal?  According to the EPA, molds are part of the natural environment, and can be found everywhere, indoors and outdoors (including dry climates). Mold is not usually a problem, unless it begins growing indoors.  Molds have the potential to cause health problems. Molds produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions) and irritants. Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash.  These reactions are common.

Indoor Air Quality specialists can assess your home for the presence of unhealthy levels of mold spores.  Mold can be hidden behind walls, in attics or rarely entered crawl spaces.  A home inspection during the sale of a home is often how mold is discovered which is why a thorough home inspection before buying a home is a good idea.  Mold remediation can cost thousands of dollars and often this cost becomes the responsibility of the home seller.

2  Indoor Mold Growth = A Water Problem.  If you have mold growing indoors, it means you have a water problem.  In order to eliminate mold and prevent grow-back your remediation company must identify and repair the water source.  This could be as simple as fixing a leaking pipe or more complex such as adding air circulation and venting to attics or crawl spaces, the lack of which is a very common cause of mold growth.

3  Don’t Skip Air Quality Tests.  Passing an air quality test following mold remediation is an essential step to make sure your mold issue has been properly addressed.  Some remediation companies will not include air quality tests in their services (this is a red flag).  Make sure that a post-mitigation, professional air quality test from a third party company is included in your mold remediation bid.  Without it you cannot know with certainty that the health risks of mold are gone and that it was mitigated properly.  If mold remediation is a condition of a home purchase, make sure you ask for a copy of the mold clearance test from the home seller.

4  How Should Your Mold Remediation Company Handle Your Mold?  There is a lot of mis-information about mold and how to best get rid of it.  Part of that comes from companies who do not follow industry standards or who are misrepresenting the use of certain mold remediation techniques.  This industry is pretty lucrative and many companies add-on mold remediation services without certification or proper training (we recommend using only Certified Mold Remediation companies).

Professional, certified companies will follow these steps:

  • Identify and repair the source of water leading to mold growth.
  • Dehumidify the area to return humidity to healthy levels.
  • Contain the mold BEFORE disturbing it to prevent it from spreading to other locations in your home.  A containment area will be constructed out of protective plastic sheeting and include negative air flow to suck mold spores out of the air so they don’t circulate throughout your home.
  • Contaminated, non-structural materials are bagged and removed e.g. drywall, floor coverings, insulation
  • Treat the mold with a biodegradable, “green” agent that will lift it off of the surface to allow for the removal of mold.  In larger or densely effected areas, wire brushing or high pressured baking soda-blasting, may be used (in our opinion, this is clearly the best option for removal).
  • The entire contained area will be HEPA Vacuumed (a specialized vacuum with a filter on it that captures the mold).
  • The area will then be wiped down with microfiber clothes using an anti-microbial agent.
  • An anti-microbial agent will then be sprayed on all surfaces as a final protective measure.
  • Bring in an Indoor Air Quality inspector from a third party company to test the surface and/or air.

If your remediation company skips these steps your mold problem may not have been handled as completely as is recommended by industry standards.

5  Why is it so Expensive?  Professional remediation companies will follow industry standards to insure that the job is done right.  Those standards not only dictate the processes that must be followed but also the number and type of machines necessary (eg. air scrubbers, air movers and dehumidifiers) and how long they run to achieve necessary air quality (IICRC S-520).  OSHA also regulates the types of protective equipment that must be used during mold remediation (e.g. respirators, suits, supplies).

Pricing, as a standard, is set by the insurance industry through a software program called Xactamate.  These costs are set by zip code.  If your remediation company uses Xactamate in the estimating process they have agreed to accept this pricing structure.

During mold remediation, every square inch of contaminated area will touched a minimum of three times.  This can be a significant amount of area to cover.  If for example, an attic and all of the support structures have mold growth, you can imagine how time consuming and involved touching the whole area that many times can be.  This degree of thoroughness is necessary to properly remove mold.

6  Beware the Low Bidder.  We have discussed this before in a separate blog post, but it is definitely worth repeating.  If the bid is low and all your remediation company is offering to do is spray the mold with a serum or fog the area with a chemical…that is an incomplete service (review the above steps).  Mold must be removed even with the use of these agents.  If you are buying a home and are requesting mold mitigation be completed before you buy the home, make sure it has been mitigated properly.

Sadly, we often see homeowners hiring companies that suggest that spraying or fogging mold with these chemicals or serums will “kill”it.  Even if a chemical agent could kill mold (most manufacturers of these products do not make these claims) the remaining “dead” mold is still toxic.  Leaving this material behind can leave health hazards behind.  Mold must be removed in all circumstances.  Period.

Low estimates, in the majority of cases, fail to include all of the recommended steps.  If you have any questions about your mold project, Helpers certified technicians are available.  Helpers is a Certified Mold Remediation Company and follows industry standards with all of our mold remediation projects.

Complete Mold Remediation: Fogging vs. Removal

big mold

The prospect of removing mold growth from your home can seem overwhelming and expensive. Different mitigation companies may offer different methods for mitigating mold, but which one is the most effective?

Some companies will suggest that fogging or spraying the mold with chemicals to “kill” it is sufficient for correcting your mold problem. Complicating matters further, these bids will seem attractive as they are usually significantly lower than a complete remediation estimate. This is understandable as often these bids do not include actual mold removal or air quality tests or guarantees upon completion of the work.

According to the IICRC (The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration), killing mold without removing it is not considered a complete solution to your mold problem. In their newly published guidelines  (2015 Guidelines), the IICRC states “Remediators should not mist or fog disinfectants or sanitizers in an attempt to kill mold in lieu of source removal”. The EPA is in agreement stating, “Dead mold may still cause allergic reactions in some people, so it is not enough to simply kill the mold, it must also be removed.”

Complete and effective mold remediation includes the removal of mold at the source such as drywall, insulation or other porous materials. Mold is resilient and covering it up is not a solution.

Helpers is a Certified Mold Remediation firm that follows the highest industry standards to insure that your home is safe and hazard free.‪#‎helpers‬ ‪#‎moldremediation‬ ‪#‎dontcutcorners‬

Beware the Lowest Bidder: 5 Questions to Ask

Low Bidder

Is the lowest bid the best bid?

When gathering bids for work around your home, whether it be construction or mold mitigation, it may be tempting to jump at the cheapest price provided. Homeowners be aware, all bids may not be created equal. If you have received several bids and one stands out as substantially lower than other bids, this could be an early warning sign of trouble down the road. Here are five tips to consider when deciding which proposal is best for your project.

1. How Low is the Lowest?: If you have more than one bid and there is a big difference in price proposal, that could be an early warning sign of potential problems or disputes down the road. Sometimes low bidders have made errors in their bidding or be using a “low ball” bid just to get their foot in the door (with expensive add-ons coming your way after you award the contract).

If you have two bids that are very different, it’s worth the effort to get a third bid to see which bidder might be the outlier.

2. Does Each Bid Cover the Same Amount of Work?: At first glance, a low bid may seem like a money saver, but be careful that you are comparing apples to apples. Check the scope of work outlined on each bid and make sure they match your expectations and the requirements of your project. Clauses in construction contracts that state the bid can be changed due to unforeseen circumstances could add up to surprise bills down the road.

3. Are Your Bidding Contractors Insured and Licensed?: Sometimes bids can be lower from companies that cut corners on industry requirements (such as liability and workers compensation insurance or license and certification requirements) unbeknownst to the homeowner. Make sure you vet your contractors before you hire them with reference checks or prior work review. Easy acceptance of a low bid without due diligence could lead to costly redo’s or shoddy workmanship.

4. Are Your Contractors Equally Qualified and Experienced?: Many contractors can claim to offer different services, however, they may not all be cut from the same cloth. Check into the special training or experience they might have related to your project. In the mitigation industry some companies follow higher quality standards based upon state certifications for example. This could mean the difference between a thorough job done properly versus an incomplete job.

5. Is the Bid too Good to be True?: If it seems like it, it probably is. There are countless stories about homeowner’s paying to re-repair poor workmanship that caused more trouble down the road. Don’t pay twice to get your project done correctly. Be willing to take the more realistic bid to make sure your work is done properly and that you get full value for your money. Trust your instincts. ‪#‎helpers‬ ‪#‎lowestbidder‬ ‪#‎rightthefirsttime‬

Helpers: Part of Your Community

Helpers Disaster Restoration is proud of its’ local heritage and ownership.  Red Cunningham, owner of Helpers, has lived with his family in the Roaring Fork Valley for nearly twenty years.  Like many of you, he is grateful to live in such an amazing place and to raise his family here.

For Red and all of us at Helpers, it is important to us that our community thrives.  That is why a big part of our mission is to support local organizations and events.  Helpers staff volunteer at a variety of events and are members of our local chambers.

In addition, Helpers will be a sponsor for the 2016 Carbondale Wild West Rodeo as well as The Roaring Fork Sports Foundation Annual Golf tournament.  They will also provide sponsorship to the Sopris Century Ride: Ride for the Child.

Helpers looks forward to many more years of partnering with our community.

Red Cunningham
Red Cunningham

Asbestos: When to Test

 

Asbestos-in-your-home
Homes built prior to the 1990s are more likely to contain materials containing asbestos.

The use of Asbestos has decreased over the years, however it is still used to manufacture products today. The use of Asbestos is strictly monitored, and products cannot be composed of more than 1% of Asbestos material.

Prior to the late 80’s, it was commonly used in construction materials including drywall joint compound. State Certified Building Inspectors are obligated to test building materials for the presence of Asbestos during demolition, beyond certain trigger limits. For example, if you are removing 32 square feet or more of drywall or wall board, Asbestos testing is mandated by the state of Colorado, even if your home is brand new.  So before you demo, call Helpers.

Helpers has State Certified Building Inspectors on staff who can complete this testing for you or answer any questions you might have to safely handle these materials.  Testing can be completed in as little as one business day.

Mold: 5 Tips to Prevent Mold in Your Home

When moisture is present, mold can grow in as little as 24-48 hours. Poor ventilation, water leaks, and high humidity can all contribute to mold growth.

Here are 5 tips to prevent mold in your home:

1. Inspect the grading around your home foundation to make sure it allows water to run away from the home and not pool around it.
2. Make sure attic and crawl spaces are properly ventilated. Poor ventilation in these areas either from blocked or closed vents is a common culprit in mold growth.
3. If water or condensation builds up around windows, clean up the water immediately.
4. Keep indoor humidity between 30-50%. Use bathroom vent fans when you shower.
5. Insulate pipes to prevent freezing and leaks.

Soda Blast #2_resized
Before and After: The fresh wood has been treated with soda blasting to remove the mold. The darker wood is the untreated wood.

Flood: Fast Water Shut-Off Reduces Loss

Do you know where your home or office water shut off valve is? In times of flood or water leak events, fast shut off of your main water supply can significantly reduce structure and property damage. Helpers recommends that you take time to locate your shut off valve and show others who might be the first to respond to a water emergency where it is and how to shut the water off.

water shut off

Sewer Back Ups: A Dirty Water Emergency!

sewer problems

Sewage back-ups are common causes of home and business property damage. Sewage is contaminated water that contains bacteria including E-coli and other toxic substances. It can cause illness or spread disease if it enters your living or work space and is not properly cleaned.

Here are 5 prevention tips:

1. Avoid flushing objects down the toilet that can clog your pipes.
2. Remove trees near septic and sewer lines to prevent pipe blockage or damage from invasive tree roots.
3. Have a sump pump installed in your basement to handle flooding.
4. Have back flow prevention devices installed.
5. Have your sewer lines cleaned if they are prone to blockage.