Healthy Environmental Thu, 12 Jan 2017 15:12:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Mould Myths Exposed Fri, 28 Aug 2015 20:21:04 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

The Internet has provided us with large amounts of information on the health effects of mould inhalation.

Unfortunately, this means some of the information provided may not be accurate.

Below are the top 5 common myths regarding mould and your family.



Mould Myth #1:  Black mould is the only toxic mould.

The first issue with this statement is the fact that the term black mould is ambiguous. The term black mould usually refers to a specific mould spore (mould looks black in colour) called Stachybotrys, which does has toxic health effects. However, there are other species of mould that are not black but do cause health concerns. Regardless of the colour and/or type, all mould should be remediated to reduce your family’s risk of exposure.

 Mould Myth #2: Bleach will permanently kill mould.

Bleach is a relatively cheap chemical used to disinfect and does a great job at this. Bleach will kill mould spores that exist on non-porous surfaces. In other words, bleach will remove mould on bathtubs, tiles and countertops. However, bleach cannot fix the issue itself, which is usually caused by moisture entry. Without a solution, the mould will come back. Bleach also cannot disinfect porous surfaces and will not penetrate the spores on wood or drywall.

Mould Myth #3: Mould is always visible or smelt.

Although the majority of mould leaves physical traces, there are times when mould can remain hidden in structures. Hidden mould can lead to long-term exposure and ultimately create health issues for you and your family. It is best to call an expert in to perform a mould inspection to determine if hidden mould may be present.

Mould Myth #4: My new house won’t have any mould.

Mould occurs throughout the entire atmosphere; from outdoors on leafs to indoors on stale food. No house is immune to mould especially since no house is 100 per cent waterproof. Moisture is always searching for entry points throughout a home and the majority of homeowners will have moisture issues at some point and time. Typically moisture issues include roof leaks, basement floods, and poor ventilation systems.

Mould Myth #5: A home inspector will search all areas of the home for mould.

Most home inspectors are trained to inspect for mould within the property. However, home inspectors lack the proper training and equipment to perform detailed mould inspections. Home inspectors are looking at all visible faults within the home and may miss hidden mould or defects that may lead to future mould issues.

Now that you’ve read and understand the common myths in relation to mould, you can make an informed decision when it comes to the health and safety of your family.




When to Use an Industrial Hygienist Fri, 21 Aug 2015 16:25:31 +0000 Continue reading ]]> When renovations or maintenance is performed on a building, a designated substance survey should be performed. This assessment will inspect all suspected hazardous substances within the property including lead, asbestos, silica and mercury. When a building is occupied with workers, the property manager must take specific measures to ensure the health and safety of his or her employees.

In Ontario, Regulation 490/09 outlines the requirements to control exposure of workers to these substances. Regardless of the building’s age, it is beneficial to perform a survey. Most contractors will not begin a renovation/demo project without a designated substance survey completed.

If you have a larger firm and require the assurance of compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), it is recommended to seek the utilization of an industrial hygienist.  Occupational hygienists will be able to develop corrective measures to eliminate hazards. Failure to enforce an asbestos management plan could lead to hefty fines form the Ministry of Labour.

Top 3 Reasons To Utilize a Hygienist

1. Avoid Government Fines: The OHSA and Ministry of Labour will issues fines if employee safety is not met. An industrial hygienist is committed to identifying all hazards within the workplace, including chemical, biological and physical factors.
2. Ensure Employee Health and Safety: An outside party, such as an industrial hygienist, can investigate employee health and safety concerns. This directly leads to better health and safety communication throughout the workplace.
3. Increase Profit: Performing a survey can help decrease the likelihood of employee’s taking time off due to illness caused by hazards at work. Also, your employee’s will feel safer and work more effectively. 

Take Action Against Radon Gas Fri, 14 Aug 2015 20:40:43 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

No matter if your home is 50 years old or brand new, your property may emit high levels of radon gas. According to the World Health Organization, radon is the second most prominent cause of cancer.

Homeowners can find research online that outlines through maps where radon emissions are higher. Although this is a good tool for researchers, this is not an accurate way to tell if radon is a problem in your home. In fact, home inspectors have found entirely different levels between homes on the same street.

If you’re purchasing a home, it is best to seek a qualified professional to conduct radon testing prior to securing the property. If levels are high, mitigation can be discussed.

It is important to note that radon testing is not a legal requirement when selling a home. If you’re purchasing a home, you may want to make an offer based on the condition that radon testing is performed prior to and if levels come back high, the offer is void.

Since radon is an invisible and odourless gas, it is impossible to detect without the proper tools. Every homeowner should be aware of the possible health risks to their family if the home has never been tested. Since people typically spend a majority of their time indoors, high radon levels can cause cancer in both smokers and nonsmokers due to long-term exposure.Currently, there are no regulations protecting homeowners in regards to radon exposure. In fact, there are only guidelines on thresholds, which differ from the World Health Organization’s limits.  Health Canada recommends radon levels are below 200 Bq/m3.

Radon can also be an existing issue within the workplace. Radon can enter through any building, regardless of size. There are no current legal obligations on the employer to perform radon testing. However, it is recommended to test in order to comply with the Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material Guidelines.

Although the government has made a decent effort to inform the public on the harsh realities of radon, Canada is incredibly behind in addressing the issue. Without proper legislation, radon will continue to enter homes and lung cancer diagnosis will continue.

As a homeowner, your best level of action is to have testing performed. Even if levels are high in your home, there are removal services, which can decrease your family’s risk instantly.


Topics to Consider when Purchasing a Home | Topic 6: Basements Tue, 04 Aug 2015 15:07:38 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Most prospective homeowners already have a plan or a rough idea of their perfectly designed basement. From children’s play areas to elaborate media rooms; basements have become one of the most highly demanded renovations.  This is evident through numerous renovation shows on HGTV geared towards dream basements.

Yet due to its high investment, basement renovations can become a financial burden, especially when purchasing a home with an unfinished one.

Most unfinished basements are made of up wide-open areas. Usually, there is access to the mechanical systems, such as furnaces, boilers and piping.

Before starting a renovation, there are numerous elements to investigate. One of the most common problems in basements is moisture and there are several ways moisture can enter your home.

A previous flood in the basement is a surefire sign of extensive issues. Whether burst piping, sewage backup or heavy rainfall caused the flooding, dealing with the origin of entry is important.

During heavier rain, water can accumulate around a home. Homes at risk include ones next to natural streams, near ditches, or on lower ground. Typically, proper grading on the property will lessen the risk of basement flooding. The solution to floods caused by accumulation of water is usually good waterproofing (which can be incredibly costly).

Once a flood has occurred, mould can develop due to moisture still within the substrates. Mould can grow in ducts, vents, wooden frames, drywall and any other fibrous material. When inspecting for mould, look for water damage (stains, spots) and a musty smell. Once mould is found, it should be removed to reduce health risks.

If your new home’s basement contains vinyl tile, it may have asbestos. Asbestos vinyl tile was commonly used due to durability during the 1950’s. Older homes may still have this form of tile. Most asbestos tile found in Ontario is 9 by 9 inches. Only an accredit lab can determine if you tile is positive for asbestos. Even more, the tile may come back negative but the mastic may come back positive. Asbestos fibres are only harmful when released so if you plan to disturb the flooring, it could be a potential hazard for contractors or yourself.

Lastly, if you’re planning to DIY a renovation, it is important to test the ceilings, walls, etc. before you start work. Asbestos can also be evident in plaster, stucco, etc. More than 240,000 homes in Canada contain asbestos materials according to Canadian Cancer Society. These are only rough estimates.

It is essential to know what issues may lurk in your basement before they arise in order to budget for added expense. Prior to purchasing a home, you should have a proper inspection performed.

Once you know what concerns you’re dealing with (and how to remove them), you can close the deal on your new home.

Topics to Consider when Purchasing a Home | Topic 5: Roofing Fri, 26 Jun 2015 18:01:19 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Whether purchasing a new home or an older home, roof repairs or replacement can be a costly addition to a budget.

There are three common roofing materials used: composition/asphalt shingles, wood and metal. Out of these, asphalt shingles is the most popular due to its durability, easy installation and economical advantage.

Asphalt shingles on a roof.

When inspecting an asphalt roof, you want to search for broken, damaged or missing shingles. You also want to check to make sure the flashing is in good condition. Typically, flashing that has loosened or deteriorated from weather can lead to roof leakage.

Aesthetically pleasing, wood shingles (done properly) offer a natural look to a house and offers around a 30 to 40 year lifespan. However, the cost for wood shingles is higher than other types as well as extensive maintenance is necessary. When inspecting wooden shingles, you want to research the type of wood used since different types offer different pros and cons. Additionally, wood is prone to mould issues, rot and infestation by insects.

It is beneficial to have a home inspector check the roof soffits for stains or signs of decay. You may also want to ask your inspector if there are issues with ventilation, gutters and the condition of the chimney itself. A leaking roof can cause water damage on the ceiling of your attic and will also cause mould growth. Cracks, splits and weakened beams can all also be signs of moisture issues.

Asbestos-containing materials were used in roofing until around 1990. Since roofs have a life expectancy of around 30 years, it can exist in older homes.  A visual inspection and testing done by a professional can determine if the hazardous material is apparent.

Despite this extensive list of roofing issues, most homebuyers can negotiate with the sellers for hefty repairs. The most important part to take away from this is the underlying fact that not all faults in roofing are visible, especially mould and asbestos. It is always recommended to hire a professional to perform a detailed inspection.



Topics to Consider when Purchasing a Home | Topic 4: Flooring Fri, 19 Jun 2015 15:31:28 +0000 Continue reading ]]> While looking for a place to live, it’s generally common that you will invest some time and money into numerous renovations, repairs and replacements.

Most new homeowners desire to replace or repair old flooring due to previous wear or may wish to restyle.

The majority of flooring renovations are not labour intensive and can be cost effective, dependent on the style of flooring desired.

Before purchasing a home, a prospective homeowner should take the time to inspect the current flooring situation. Each type of flooring comes with various potential issues to be made aware.

Vinyl tile flooring is used in bathrooms, basements and kitchens. Flexible and non-porous, vinyl flooring is easy to install and is a cost effective approach. However, if the tile was installed within the home prior to 1990, it could contain asbestos. Most asbestos tiles will be 9 by 9 inches in size but other sizes have been found. Only under a polarized microscope can you determine if tiles contain asbestos fibres. It is important that if you suspect the tiles contain asbestos, you delay disturbing the flooring until tests are performed. If you have asbestos tile and are not disturbing it and it is in decent condition, the tiles are not harmful to your family’s health.

Carpeting is often used in living rooms, bedrooms and basements. Providing both comfort and style, carpets act as a noise buffer and can insulate a room in the colder months. Typically issues with carpets include staining and wear and tear due to cheaper material. If possible, look underneath carpets for signs of mould or deterioration.

Hardwood flooring is a popular choice and can transform a home’s value. Hardwood can be difficult to install due to uneven flooring and can chip, warp and scratch in high-traffic areas. Despite this, hardwood floor can be refurbished within its lifetime. When inspecting hardwood flooring, the main issue to look for is unevenness and warping. Warping can be caused by a previous flood and if the wood is still full of moisture, you could have an extensive mould issue on your hand. Air tests can determine the extent of mould.

No matter if you replace or keep the current flooring, it is important to research into the pros and cons of each type. A safe floor makes for a safe home. If you require the removal or detection of hazardous substances including volatile organic compounds, mould and asbestos, it is helpful to call a professional.





Topics to Consider when Purchasing a Home | Topic 3: Crawl Spaces Tue, 09 Jun 2015 20:04:12 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

Despite providing easy access to pipes and substructures, crawlspaces are often a concern to home inspectors as severe damage can occur without proper maintenance as well as improper installation.

There are several ways that extensive damage can transpire and affect your potential home. Crawlspaces are difficult to enter due to height restrictions so homeowners may never check them, thus the reasoning for potential long-term mould issues.

Water from an exposed ground floor, water vapour from vents, cracks in foundation, underground springs and moisture from concrete can create an inevitable mould infestation. Mould thrives on surfaces like drywall, insulation and wood products.

Crawlspaces can also have issues with rodent inhabitation, and pet urination issues within the home can often seep through the floors and mimic mould issues.

When inspecting a crawl space, it is important to look at the flooring. If your crawl space has a dirt floor, the crawlspace will always likely have moisture issues.

If mould is evident in the crawlspace, it is imperative to seek remediation and determine the main cause. A qualified company can investigate further.

If you believe there could be the potential for moisture issues in the future, it is advised to calculate the extra cost of either waterproofing the property, installing a sealing system or drainage/sump pumps.

TOPICS TO CONSIDER WHEN PURCHASING A HOME | TOPIC 2: BATHROOMS Mon, 27 Apr 2015 17:26:34 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Another component to consider when purchasing a home is a detailed inspection of the property’s bathroom(s). Unless you plan to renovate the bathroom right away, it is important to look for evidence concerning issues that could diminish the value of a home.

Bathrooms require proper ventilation due to high humidity levels. When inspecting a washroom, check the exhaust fan to make sure it does not terminate into the attic. If you’re unsure, get a qualified home inspector to oversee this. There should be adequate airflow and pressure throughout the room. Issues could lead to moisture penetration into drywall, insulation, and joists (mould develops). A buildup of condensation on walls is a telltale sign of a bathroom in need of upgrades.

All drains (sink, tub and/or shower) should not be clogged. It’s a good idea to have a look under the sink to ensure plumbing is in decent condition as well with the toilet. The two shapes commonly used are S and J pipes. Both contain sink traps (used to trap gases) that could become blogged with objects.

Caulking around the tub/shower should be carefully analyzed for traces of mould/mildew. The caulking should look clean and be uniform around the entire area. If there are stains or evidence of past leaking around the base of the tub/shower, there could be mould hidden underneath. Typical signs of mould growth are: a musty smell, dark stains around the tub/shower and poor ventilation.

Floors and windows will be covered in another article, which will discuss in-depth on the issues many homes contain.

Topics to Consider when Purchasing a Home | Topic 1: Attics Tue, 14 Apr 2015 19:42:59 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

As a potential homebuyer, you have researched and sought out extensive advice on finances, suitable locations, work commute and other important factors concerning your needs. It is equally important and beneficial to understand the top ten factors that could affect your new home.

Before purchasing a home, it is necessary to hire a professional to perform a home inspection. It is also important to develop a good relationship with your inspector by playing an active role in the inspection process (for example, accompanying the inspector, keeping up-to-date with information).

Most houses contain at least one attic, sometimes two. Attics fill the space between the ceiling of the top floor and the slanted roof. Most are awkwardly shaped, hard to access, and have extensive issues due to neglect/improper care. Based on experiences, our company has found that less than 5% of homeowners access their attic.

Despite this, attics play an important role within a property by directly affecting temperature and moisture within the house. Below is a checklist used to inspect an attic.

   • Look for stains, damage to structure
   • Ensure sufficient insulation
   • Look for adequate ventilation (moisture issues)
   • Look for electrical issues (splices/missing junction box covers)

The reason for adequate ventilation is to allow air movement and control the temperature. Humidity is one of the main factors at play in the growth of mould.

Once discovered, attics issues can be fixed with adequate vent chutes, upgrades and proper installation of insulation, and mould remediation, which should be performed by a professional remediation company. 

Stay tuned for more information following a range of topics to consider when purchasing a house. 

Exposure: Disinfect When Contamination Occurs Fri, 13 Mar 2015 18:01:10 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Contamination of hazardous substances into an otherwise healthy environment can occur whether it is from renovations, building maintenance or accidental causes. Hazardous materials include asbestos fibres, bacteria, lead or volatile organic compounds. Once a hazardous substance has been exposed to an occupied area, there are certain issues to consider.

The first issue is health of the frequent occupants. Although health risks can occur, it is important to state that the health risks related to asbestos exposure are typically due to long-term exposure. Despite the fact, liability is a major concern when employees are involved. It is within a property owner/manager’s best interest to get a designated substance survey performed on the building to identify any hazards on site. Without knowing of materials within the buildings structure, you can put your workers and contractors at risk, especially if renovations or maintenance is conducted. This can result in contamination of an entire building, which could be prevented with the proper knowledge.

If contamination does occur, the first step is to contain the area that has been breached. Fibres can be carried throughout the premises so it is imperative to block areas affected from human contact.

What is disinfection? An accredited company should perform disinfection and sanitization. It is important to seek a professional company who has knowledge of the hazardous material involved and has proper licensing. This process includes disinfection (walls, ceilings, appliances, furniture, etc. Not all materials can be sanitized, such as fibrous materials) with non-toxic sterilizers, fibre-trapping cloths, heap vacuuming, and other means necessary.

Air tests may be performed prior to disinfection services as well as after sanitation to ensure safe environment. If there is a persistent irritant within the air, such as mould or bacteria, organic fog sanitization can also be performed.