RELIANCE Health Hazard Evaluation
Health Hazard Evaluation and You
Reliance Home Inspection Services understands there are hidden threats in many situations. Urban conditions differ from Rural each with similar yet very different inspection requirements. Modern homes built since 1955 present different challenges compared to homes built prior to 1954.
Throughout history, invariably building materials and substances in common use during the ages were discontinued when understanding of related health risks presented itself or manufacturing materials continued to evolve with old methodology slowly disappearing in favour of modern techniques.
Many homeowners are concerned with possible findings and the resulting expenditure to correct an inconvenience should one be discovered. RELIANCE Inspection Services understands the dilemma and offers solutions to remedy the situation cost-effectively.
You owe it to yourself to consult with RELIANCE Inspection Services to help identify potential health hazards or hidden problems patiently waiting to appear to the unsuspecting homeowner, armature DIY and contractor alike. An ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure.
With Pre Renovation Inspections costly mistakes can be avoided along with unnecessary expenditures and any potential health risk present.
Call before any renovation for peace of mind. Beyond The Obvious™
ASBESTOS: The Potent Carcinogen
According to some estimates, approximately 400,000 miles of asbestos-cement water pipe was laid in the US. and a proportionate amount for Canada.¹
By the mid-20th century, asbestos uses included fire-retardant coatings, concrete, bricks, pipes and fireplace cement, heat, fire, and acid resistant gaskets, pipe insulation, ceiling insulation, fireproof drywall, flooring, roofing, lawn furniture, and drywall joint compound.
Asbestos is one of the most potent carcinogens known to man.
When encountered asbestos, every precaution must be taken to avoid inhaling asbestosis inducing fibres or particles. Wear appropriate safety apparel and asbestos-rated face mask.
¹Barbara Robson, Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press. Barbara is an award-winning journalist for her work on asbestos. A related topic is Asbestos in Municipal Drinking Water. 1987
Dry Rot: What Lays Hidden
The creak in the floor, foundation settling or I think the basement is damp or leaks sometimes may be indications another form of fungal growth referred to as dry rot may be present.
What looks solid can be deceiving and left unchecked can be disastrous to the homeowner, new home purchaser or the DIY handyman.
Dry rot refers to wood decay caused by certain species of fungi, also known as True Dry Rot, that digests parts of the wood which gives the wood strength and stiffness. It was previously used to describe any decay of cured wood in ships and buildings by a fungus which resulted in a darkly coloured deteriorated and cracked condition.
What looks solid may not be and that stained-looking wood beam may be more than an innocent stain.
Galvanized Pip: Waiting To Burst Onto The Scene
Galvanized pipe in the early 20th century replaced cast iron and lead pipe used as plumbing materials. Commonly used in homes constructed 50 years ago, steel pipes underwent plating with zinc to prevent corrosion of the exterior surface. According to some sources, the life expectancy of galvanized pipe is approximately 70 years varying from location to location depending upon the water sources.
The pipe corrodes from the inside with the telltale appearance of brown-coloured water whenever the waterline has not been in use or is disturbed with renovation projects. Rust forms scale and plaguing building up on the interior creating water pressure and flow issues.
LEAD: Lead Pipes | Lead in Drinking Water | Galvanic Corrosion
Heavy metals are one of the most common industrial poisons found in the home. Pregnant women and young children are more susceptible to the effects of these toxins, which can range from developmental delays to serious illnesses.
Inhaling smoke while soldering pipe can result in lead inhalation. Your body doesn’t know the difference between lead and calcium absorption.
In pre-1986 copper pipe installations, lead solder was in use. In installations where the copper pipe has been fitted to replace a section of corroded galvanized pipe, a special dielectric fitting called a “union” must be used to join the two types of pipes; otherwise, the flow of water over differing metals creates an electrical pulse that can catalyze a chemical reaction.
In some amateur installations, the failure to use this special fitting has caused the lead in the solder to leach into the drinking water. A common location occurs where a home’s copper piping connects to a galvanized steel municipal supply line.
Dissimilar metals and alloys have different electrode potentials and when two or more come into contact in an electrolyte a galvanic couple is set up, one metal acting as anode and the other as the cathode. The potential difference between the dissimilar metals is the driving force for the accelerated attack on the anode member of the galvanic couple. The anode metal dissolves into the electrolyte, and deposition is formed on the cathodic metal.
The spool of solder laying around unused for years or the too-good-to-be-true bargain at the flea market may not be a good idea. For your next project purchase safe, modern solder.
LEAD: Lead Paint | Toxic Lead Paint Dust | Lead Environmental Contamination
Our bodies can’t tell the difference between lead and calcium, which is a mineral that strengthens bones.
A majority of homes built before 1978 (especially homes built throughout the 1940s to 1960s) contain lead-based paint, which can have a dangerous effect on the health of young children (under the age of six) and pregnant women.
Lead-based paint is unsafe if it peels, chips, or cracks. Harmful lead dust is created when windows, doors, edges of stairs, rails, or other lead-based painted surfaces wear away over time. You or your landlord can get your home checked for the lead by hiring a trained, professional.
Many young children put their hands or other objects covered with lead dust in their mouths, which can cause serious damage to their health. Wash children’s hands, bottles, pacifiers, and toys often.
The soil around homes with lead-based paint may have lead chips, dust, or flakes in it. Children can accidentally swallow this soil while playing outdoors, or the soil may be tracked indoors from shoes onto carpet and floors where children can eventually come into contact with it. Teach children to wipe and remove their shoes, as well as to wash their hands, after playing outdoors.
Imported pottery and dishware may contain lead. To protect your family from lead poisoning, use imported pottery only for decoration, and keep food and drinks in other safe, storage containers. Look for a Lead-Free Label or purchase from a trusted source.
You may be exposed to lead on the job if you work as a painter, ironworker, construction worker, cable splicer, automobile radiator repair mechanic, firearms instructor, metal shop worker, stained glass artist, or battery maker. If you work in a lead-related industry, change your work clothes before entering the home, wash your work clothes separately from the clothes you wear around your family, and remove your shoes before entering your home, as lead can be tracked indoors onto carpets, floors, and furniture.
Renovations and related dust can carry airborne lead particulate that can enter unprotected respiratory tracts and contaminate surfaces affecting other family members and pets that may become exposed. Heating ducts and air circulation conducts can become coated with harmful lead-bearing dust.
Source EPA Lead Awareness Program and CHMC.
Lead Pipe: The Demise of The Roman Empire
Lead piping found in old domestic and other water distribution systems, no longer permitted for new potable water piping installations due to its toxicity needs replacement. Many building codes now require that lead piping in residential or institutional installations is removed and replaced with non-toxic piping or that the tubes’ interiors be treated with phosphoric acid. According to a senior researcher and lead expert with the Canadian Environmental Law Association, “…there is no safe level of lead [for human exposure]”.
Mould: The Enemy Within | Discoloration | Spores | Mycotoxins | Musty Odors
Mould and Indoor Air Quality Threats to Your Health
Health problems associated with high levels of airborne mould spores include allergic reactions, asthma episodes, irritations of the eye, nose and throat, sinus congestion, and other respiratory problems. For example, residents of homes with mould are at an elevated risk for both respiratory infections and bronchitis. When mould spores are inhaled by an immunocompromised individual, some mould spores may begin to grow on living tissue, attaching to cells along the respiratory tract and causing further problems. Generally, when this occurs, the illness is an epiphenomenon and not the primary pathology. Also, the mould may produce mycotoxins, either before or after exposure to humans, potentially causing toxicity.
Mycotoxins The Monster Within
With exposure, the mould may cause:
- itching or irritation of the nose, eyes, throat or skin
- mysterious skin rashes
- sinus infections or congestion/sinusitis (runny nose)
- respiratory problems (sneezing and coughing)
- upper or lower respiratory infections
- frequent headaches
- trouble concentrating, memory lapses, confusion
- mood swings, anxiety, depression
- chronic aches and pains
- digestive problems
Moulds can also exacerbate (make worse) the symptoms of allergies including wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath as well as nasal congestion and eye irritation. People who are immuno-suppressed, or recovering from surgery are usually more susceptible to health problems from moulds.
People diagnosed with allergies and asthma may be very sensitive to mould causing asthma attacks. Others at risk may include infants, children, the elderly, immune-compromised patients, pregnant women and individuals with existing respiratory conditions.
How can I reduce or eliminate MOLD inside my home?
It is impossible to completely eliminate all mould and mould spores indoors. Mould will always be found floating in the air and in house dust. Indoor mould growth can be prevented by controlling water and moisture indoors. The following may prevent or reduce indoor mould growth:
- repair any water leaks
- provide good air circulation
- all HVAC systems should have a good electrostatic filter on the return
- use bathroom, kitchen and laundry room exhaust fans
- insulate and ventilate attic and crawl space areas
- clean, dry or remove items that are damaged by water immediately
Real Estate Deals DO NOT Need To Be Broken!
If the home you are thinking about purchasing has mould, do not panic! You can remove unusual mould levels from the home, and bring it back to its original condition. To find out if mould is a problem in your home, you MUST have a mould inspection conducted by your inspector.
If there is mold growth in your home, you must clean up the mold and fix the water problem. If you clean the mold, but do not fix the water problem, the mold will grow back. If the contaminated area involved is very large, you may wish to consider hiring a professional. The health of everyone depends on the elimination of mold.
You should not buy a home with mould, sell a home with mould or live in a home with mould. MOULD inspection is your first line of defence! Call RELIANCE today.
A visual inspection is an initial step in identifying possible contamination problems. It will identify any visible water leaks or moisture stains on ceilings, walls, floors or under counters. The air conditioning and heating systems and the attic and crawl spaces under homes will receive a visual inspection as well. The use of equipment, such as a boroscope, to view spaces in duct-work or behind walls, and moisture meters are used to help identify hidden sources of mould growth and the extent of the water damage. Mould sampling will be recommended if there is any noticeable mould growth, musty odours, visible water damage or stains, poorly maintained HVAC systems or construction defects. By combining a visual inspection with air, tape or swab sampling I can help identify the hidden source of mould, allergens and indoor pollutants and the extent of any acute or chronic water or moisture damage.
The purpose of air sampling is to determine the type and amount of airborne contamination in a building. Air sampling may be necessary if the presence of mould, allergens or toxins is suspected (ie: musty odours, allergies) but cannot be identified by visual inspection. When air sampling is performed, both the indoor air and outdoor air are sampled, so the results can be compared to see if a problem exists. Typically, the indoor sample is taken while the heating and/or air conditioning unit is operating: this will ensure the interior air is effectively tested.
Tape/Swab samples are usually collected from visibly mouldy surfaces by wiping the area with a sterile swab. This type of sampling is used to identify specific mould types.
Recommendations and Laboratory Results
Once the home has a visual inspection and the mould circumstance is evaluated, action can be planned to clean it up and prevent future contamination. Based on-site evaluations and sampling lab analysis results, I can provide you with a detailed written report that can be used for disclosure and references. In all situations, if mould exists, the underlying cause of the water damage must be corrected.
Test for mould today! Call to book your inspection. You will receive a complete mould laboratory analysis regarding your inspection.
Pest Infestation: Insects| Animals
Insects present new challenges with climate warming, alien species and migrating populations from the USA such as fire ants. Many are camouflage specialists and others destructive to structural components such as termites and carpenter ants when unnoticed produce disastrous results and require major financial outlays to remedy the situation.
An ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure. Proactive attention to that creepy-crawly is your first line of defence. Call Reliance Home Inspection Services to assess any structural or unseen hazards.
Radon Gas: Radio Active Carcinogenic Gas
It is a radioactive, colourless, odourless, tasteless gas, occurring naturally from the decay of uranium or thorium. Radon is one of the densest substances remaining a gas under normal conditions. Radon is the only gas that is radioactive under normal conditions and a health hazard due to its radioactivity.
Radon gas from natural sources can accumulate in buildings, especially in confined areas such as attics and basements.
Its appearance varies from one geographic location to another.
Epidemiological studies have shown a clear link between breathing high concentrations of radon and incidence of lung cancer. Radon is a significant contaminant that affects indoor air quality worldwide.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, radon is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoking, causing 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the United States. Radon is the number one cause among non-smokers, according to EPA estimates.
Ask for your RELIANCE RADON GAS INSPECTION, more important now than ever with modern airtight and contained air exchangers.
Septic Systems and Your Well-being
Approximately twenty-five percent of Canadians use a septic system.
Unlike Urban Homeowners who are maintained by municipal systems and services, the Rural Homeowner maintains their own wastewater containment and disposal system.
The septic system contains wastewater from various sources within
the house such as sinks, showers, toilets, dishwasher, washing machine, treats the waste and gray water, returning the processed effluent back to the subterranean groundwater.
A conventional septic system is comprised of two components: a septic tank and a leaching bed.
For the health of your family it is vital to have your drinking water source checked regularly. It is important to conduct a detailed inspection of both the well and septic systems prior to purchasing.
Regular inspection is important for the safety of drinking water in the immediate vicinity and adjacent neighbours. See the Well Section.
Call for your RELIANCE SEPTIC SYSTEM INSPECTION today.
Urea-Formaldehyde Foam Insulation (UFFI)
UFFI looks like massive amounts of billowing yellow shaving cream. Banned in 1980 for toxic gas concerns during curing and subsequent breakdown as the material ages or is exposed to reactive environments. Emission rates of more than 0.1 parts per million (ppm) is considered toxic to humans.
It is dangerous when wet or exposed because this is when levels of formaldehyde can be released into the home. UFFI levels have a direct correlation to temperature. When the temperature rises, the levels of formaldehyde that leaks will also increase. To compound anticipated levels the wild card is sometimes extra formaldehyde was added to the mixture at installation to guarantee that the curing process would occur completely, thus an unknown variable.
Formaldehyde is commonly used to bond plywood, particleboard, carpets and fabrics, and contributes to “that new house smell.”
UFFI deterioration of any type should be removed by a specialist.
According to research, the health effects of Urea-Formaldehyde are exacerbated when the elevated level is reached. Urea-formaldehyde releases formaldehyde emissions into the air triggering watery eyes, nose irritations, wheezing and coughing, fatigue, skin rash, severe allergic reactions, burning sensations in the eyes and throat, nausea, and difficulty in breathing in some humans (usually 0.1 ppm). Studies have shown that exposure may cause cancer in humans and animals.
Occupants of UFFI insulated homes experienced systemic symptoms such as headache, malaise, insomnia, anorexia, and loss of libido. Irritation of the mucous membrane (specifically eyes, nose, and throat) is a common upper respiratory tract symptom to be found in both home and work environments containing enough UFFI- insulation concentration.
In new or other well-sealed houses, significant indoor formaldehyde levels may still occur when new carpets or wood composite materials, such as plywood, particleboard and wafer board, are used in home construction, cabinetry and furnishings. These are the most likely sources of high formaldehyde levels in the home today.
Some reports suggest the insulation is still being installed in Canadian homes, according to the Canadian organization Health Zone. Apparently, it is illegally imported from other countries under the brand name RetroFoam™, although the government has taken action against the perpetrators.
UFFI was never banned in Europe, and it’s still used there today. Any formaldehyde detected in a home is likely to be from other sources, such as pressed-wood products (plywood wall panelling, particleboard, fiberboard), un-vented, fuel-burning appliances, carpet padding, or tobacco smoke.
A Declaration of the Presence of UFFI may be required as part of a Real Estate transaction.
RELIANCE UFFI INSPECTION will provide you with a detailed report to help make a determination of any risks that may be present.
Source CHMC, EPA, InterNACHI
Vermiculite: The Asbestos Carcinogen Contained Within
Homes or structures containing vermiculite or vermiculite insulation dating from before the mid-1990s—and especially those known to contain the “Zonolite” brand—may contain asbestos, and therefore may be a health concern.
Water Well Types: | Dug | Bored | Drilled
Obtaining water from a well has been with us since the beginning of time, permitting ancient man to live away from freshwater lakes, rivers and streams.
Water is a precious resource and necessary for our well-being. Homeowners rely upon their own or communal wells for their potable drinking water source.
Home owners must ensure that their well water is safe to drink, and that their well and septic systems are properly maintained. It is important to conduct a detailed inspection of both the well and septic systems prior to purchasing.
A malfunctioning well or septic system can pose a health risk to your family and neighbours and can be expensive to repair or replace.
RELIANCE WELL INSPECTION is an important process for homeowners as part of their regular maintenance inspections and for those considering selling or purchasing rural properties reliant on septic or well systems.
¹The list identifies some of the major materials posing health risks and is not intended to be a comprehensive, authoritative report on all material hazards in the market place.
Beyond The Obvious™