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All Posts in Category: Health Basics

Mildew, Mold and Understanding the Difference

If you’ve heard horror stories about mold infestations in homes, you might be on high alert for this common household enemy. So when you come across what you think to be mildew lurking on your bathroom tile and shower wall, you might suddenly find yourself questioning if it could really be something more dangerous – like black mold.

So how do you know when to simply take a little elbow grease to gunk on your walls or floor and when the problem might be better left to a professional? Take a look at this brief overview of the differences between mildew and mold and how to handle each problem.

What Is Mildew?

Mold and mildew are both types of fungi. Of the two, mildew is much less invasive and also much easier to get rid of on your own, than mold. If it’s really mildew that you’re dealing with, it’ll probably be grayish-white or brown and can look powdery. Since it only lives on the surface of materials like your bathtub or bathroom sink, mildew is fairly easy to scrub clean with a regular household cleaner or diluted bleach.

Although mildew can cause similar symptoms as mold, including allergic reactions and respiratory problems, it’s not usually as big of a deal because of how easy it is to get rid of.

What Is Mold?

Unlike mildew, mold can be extremely difficult to remove from your home completely, as it can penetrate through surfaces like walls and furniture and hide out there for long periods of time becoming more noticeable. Although some mold resembles mildew in color, other types of mold can be red, green, and very dark black.

Stachybotrys, or “black mold,” is one of the most dangerous types and can cause flu-like symptoms, diarrhea, headaches, memory loss and severe respiratory damage. If you see black, gray, or dark green mold in your home with a very musty odor, it’s best not to try to deal with this problem on your own. Instead, call in a professional for mold testing and mold removal if necessary.

We always recommend testing for mold, even when you visually see mold in your home, and here is why.

Home Remedies for Mold

Although professional mold removal can be costly, you don’t want to risk your health or the health of your family by either ignoring the problem or trying to do it yourself. Once any active mold is completely gone, however, there are some steps you can take to try to prevent more mold from invading your home in the future.

The best mold prevention tip is to keep your home as dry as possible. If you know you have a leaky basement or roof, making these repairs could save you in the long run by keeping mold at bay. There are also special types of drywall on the market that may help to keep the air in your home dry and clean.

If you still have questions about how to detect mold or how the mold testing process works, feel free to call IRIS Environmental Laboratories at 1-800-908-6679 or contact us online for more information.

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Asbestos Floor Tiles-Tips for Installation Companies

For any company, employee and client safety are of the utmost importance, and most reputable flooring, construction, and demolition companies do take necessary steps to ensure the safety of everyone involved. However, in some cases, there could be health hazards lurking at the job site that workers may be unaware of, which could put them and the homeowners at risk. Anytime a flooring company is asked to remove old flooring, asbestos floor tiles are one of their biggest hazards.

The Importance of Asbestos Testing before Flooring Removal

IRIS Environmental Laboratories has encountered quite a few homeowners who wanted to have their floor tiles inspected for asbestos. One, in particular, had previously hired a general contractor to have his floor tiles encapsulated with another layer of floor tile, simply because he’d always suspected that the floor tiles were actually asbestos floor tiles. However, when the workers arrived, they mistakenly began removing the floor tiles instead of sealing it, which resulted in the dust – and potentially asbestos – particles throughout his home.

Sure enough, the flooring tested positive for asbestos. Unfortunately, the entire time the workers were removing the flooring, they were unknowingly exposed to deadly asbestos particles. Had it not been for the homeowner asking them to stop for asbestos testing, they would have continued their work and risked further asbestos exposure.

Sealing Asbestos Floor Tiles vs. Removal

Even if a job requires sealing asbestos floor tile rather than removing it, all workers should be made aware of the dangers of asbestos exposure and what to do if they find themselves in a potentially hazardous situation. In the story described above, had even one of the employees realized that asbestos testing should be done prior to flooring removal, the entire incident would have been avoided altogether.

If, on the other hand, the job requires workers to completely remove flooring tiles, it’s best to play it safe and test for asbestos before starting anything. A good rule of thumb to follow is to arrange for asbestos testing prior to any demolition or flooring renovation project that could disperse asbestos particles into the air.

Taking the Next Step: How to Arrange for Asbestos Testing

So, how do you go about testing for asbestos and safely removing asbestos, if necessary, before beginning a demo project? You can either work with a company like IRIS Environmental Laboratories to ensure all necessary testing is complete prior to beginning a job, therefore you know your workers are safe, or you can ask the homeowner to have the material tested prior to your arrival.

It’s important to note that you need to make sure you’re working with a certified asbestos testing company, as there have been many incidences of fraud in the past. When it comes to keeping your workers and clients safe and healthy, it really doesn’t pay to skip this step or hire an unauthorized asbestos inspector.

For more information about how to arrange for asbestos testing prior to a flooring removal job, contact IRIS online or give us a call at 1-800-908-6679.

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Consequences of Violating Clean Air Act

Man Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Violating Clean Air Act

When it comes to keeping people safe from environmental hazards as outlined in the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency does not take policy violations lightly. Recently, a man was charged with three counts of violating the Clean Air Act for his unlawful involvement in an asbestos inspection and removal scheme within the Pillsbury Mills plant in Springfield, Illinois.

Why It Doesn’t Pay to Be Caught up in an Asbestos Scheme

Joseph J. Chernis IV was ordered to spend a total of 37 months in federal prison because he knowingly hired an untrained person to illegally inspect and remove asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) from the Pillsbury Mills factory. As a direct result of his actions, asbestos-containing dry insulation was improperly and unsafely removed from four buildings within the Springfield facility, putting countless people at risk of asbestos exposure. Clean-up efforts that are estimated to cost the U.S. EPA millions of dollars will now need to be carried out to ensure the safety of factory workers.

Health Risks of Asbestos Exposure

What is particularly troubling about Mr. Chernis’ actions is the fact that they did not just put him at risk. Asbestos removal workers, factory workers, and anyone else in the vicinity could have been exposed to dangerous asbestos fibers, which can cause a deadly form of lung cancer called mesothelioma. For this reason, asbestos testing and removal need to be performed by a trained and certified professional who will abide by all EPA standards and policies to ensure the safety of everyone involved.

EPA Regulations for Asbestos Removal

Asbestos is included as a type of hazardous pollutant outlined in the Clean Air Act. As such, business owners, contractors, or anyone else overseeing a demolition or renovation project needs to be aware of the EPA’s rules and regulations for identifying and properly removing and disposing of asbestos-containing materials.

In the long run, it simply doesn’t pay to try to save a few bucks by illegally hiring an unqualified individual to remove ACMs. Before beginning a demo or renovation project, make sure you’re compliant with EPA regulations.

How to Know If You’re Hiring a Legal Asbestos Testing Company

The first step in getting rid of ACMs safely is to call in a professional to inspect the property for asbestos and have samples tested. To make sure you’re working with a reputable company, don’t be shy about asking for things like certifications, accreditations, and whether or not they are compliant with all federal rules and regulations regarding the removal and disposal of asbestos-containing materials.

At IRIS Environmental Laboratories, a trained professional will always conduct a thorough asbestos inspection and have any possible ACMs tested for the presence of potentially deadly asbestos fibers. Once any detected asbestos is properly removed by a professional asbestos remediation company, IRIS Environmental Laboratories will then conduct an air quality test to ensure that there are no longer dangerous asbestos particles in the air.

If you still have questions about how to properly test for and remove asbestos before starting a demolition or renovation project, feel free to give us a call at 1-800-908-6679 or contact us online.

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Asbestos – High Risk Occupations

Asbestos, which is a naturally-occurring substance known for its ability to resist heat and corrosion, is no longer used in most modern building materials because of its serious health risks. However, many workers can still be exposed to this harmful substance on a regular basis, so it’s crucial that employers in these fields take extra precautions to keep their employees safe. Outlined below are just some of the most high-risk occupations for exposure to asbestos.

Construction Workers

One of the most at-risk jobs for asbestos exposure is construction, especially for workers who are involved in demolition of any kind. That’s because asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) are most harmful when they are disturbed and their fibers are released into the air.

Since asbestos was very commonly used in building materials such as insulation, dry wall and shingles up until the 1980s, any structures built within this time period should be treated as though they do contain asbestos. This should involve professional asbestos testing and abatement to ensure worker safety.

Electricians

Asbestos was also commonly used to insulate electrical wires due to its flame-resistant quality. Because of this, electricians who work in old construction could be at a high risk for asbestos exposure, and special care should be taken when removing old insulation and wiring from homes and other structures.

Plumbers

Pipe insulation is another building material that frequently contains asbestos, especially in older buildings, which can put plumbers at risk for coming into contact with ACMs while they work.

Auto Mechanics

Many people don’t realize that asbestos can also be found in some brake pads, linings and various gaskets. Thus, when working with these materials, auto mechanics could be exposed to asbestos in the workplace.

Firefighters

Because firefighters enter buildings that may be burning or are otherwise damaged, they can be at a very high risk for asbestos exposure. However, proper equipment can help to protect firefighters from breathing in asbestos fibers, smoke and other dangerous substances.

Teachers

Older school buildings contain ACMs, so teachers can run the risk of being exposed to asbestos fibers in the classroom if these materials are disturbed.

Additionally, some art supplies have been found to contain asbestos, including powder paints or glaze, clay and wheat paste. Art teachers should take special care when choosing supplies for their classes and when working with any existing supplies that could contain asbestos.

Asbestos Exposure Symptoms

If you work in an environment where your risk of asbestos exposure is high, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of asbestos exposure. Some of the most notable signs include:

  • A persistent cough
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • “Clubbing” fingers or toes

How IRIS Environmental Laboratories Can Help

If you or your workers could be exposed to ACMs on a regular basis, a crucial step in ensuring employee safety is to have the space or materials checked for asbestos. When you work with IRIS Environmental Laboratories, a certified and trained professional will be sent to find asbestos containing materials.

To learn more about how to get started with this process, feel free to contact us online or give us a call at (908) 206-0073.

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Are People Still Dying from Asbestos?

Despite the fact that regulations have been in place since 1971 regarding how much asbestos workers can be exposed to and what types of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) can still be manufactured, up to 15,000 Americans are still dying from asbestos exposure each year. Not only are many workers still at risk, but many families could also still be exposed to ACMs that are within the four walls, flooring and ceiling tiles of their homes.

For this reason, familiarizing yourself with the potential risks of asbestos exposure as well as the proper way to test for and get rid of ACMs in your home, business or other structure are crucial steps in minimizing your and your family’s risk of asbestos exposure and associated health complications. Read this article for more information.

How Can I Be Exposed to Asbestos?

Asbestos becomes the most dangerous and biggest health threat when its tiny particles are dispersed into the air. Thus, any time you disturb asbestos-containing materials that might already be in your home during a renovation, for example, you and your family could be at risk for inhaling the harmful particles. This is why calling in professional asbestos testing and asbestos abatement teams are an important first step before starting any major demolition or renovation project yourself.

Additionally, many workers are still being exposed to asbestos on a regular basis, especially those who work with older structures and building materials. Some of the highest-risk occupations for health problems associated with asbestos include:

  • Construction workers
  • Electricians
  • Plumbers
  • Mechanics
  • Teachers

What Are the Health Effects of Asbestos?

A specific type of lung cancer called mesothelioma remains the leading cause of asbestos-related deaths, and has accounted for more than 45,000 deaths in the United States between 1999 and 2015.  The first signs of mesothelioma can take years or even decades to develop, which is why this disease is more commonly seen among people over 85.

However, there continue to be cases of people as young as 35 who are beginning to show signs of the negative effects of asbestos, which means that people today are still being exposed to this dangerous substance. In fact, children are at the greatest risk for developing asbestos-related health issues later in life, as their lungs and respiratory systems are still developing.

In addition to mesothelioma and other types of lung cancers, asbestos can negatively affect your health in many ways, including:

  • The formation of plaques in the lining of the lungs
  • A condition known as “folded lung”
  • Increased risk of developing laryngitis
  • Reduced immune system function

IRIS Environmental Laboratories

The bottom line is that many people don’t realize that asbestos is not a thing of the past—it remains a very real public health threat today. If special care is not taken when working with or around ACMs, you could risk developing related health complications down the road.

If you’re about to start a home renovation project or are concerned about ACMs in the workplace and the safety of your employees, start by having the space tested for asbestos by a certified environmental testing laboratory. Then, if asbestos is found, hire a team of asbestos abatement professionals to properly handle and remove it from your home or other building.

Still have questions about the effects of asbestos or how to initiate the asbestos testing process? Please feel free to send us a message, or give us a call at (908) 206-0073.

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Makeup Products Test Positive for Asbestos

It’s a hard pill to swallow when you hear that everyday make up is currently testing positive for asbestos. You might think to yourself, “How is that even possible?” or “Who would purposely place asbestos into cosmetics?!”  As if that’s not scary enough, tween cosmetics are also turning up positive for Tremolite asbestos fibers! This means when you purchase a makeup kit for your daughter, niece, granddaughter, or little cousin for their birthday’s or Christmas, there’s a chance they are applying asbestos directly onto their faces. Keep reading to get more details on what to look out for and how asbestos is making its way into our cosmetics.

 

So, How Does Asbestos Even Get Into Makeup?

Talc is a mineral that is mined around the U.S. and was often found to have the presence of tremolite asbestos within it. While many domestic manufacturers have taken safety measures to prevent levels of tremolite in their mined talc to later be used for cosmetic products, foreign manufacturers tend to have less environmental regulations on asbestos use and allow contaminated products to enter the country. Talc, a common ingredient in cosmetics, is a naturally occurring mineral often mined near asbestos deposits on the earth’s surface. Sometimes, the two substances mix.

 

Who is Producing These Cosmetics?

Justice, a national retail chain marketed to young girls, has stopped selling a cosmetics product after discovering it contained talc contaminated with asbestos fibers. The tainted product was Just Shine Shimmer Powder, which the company stopped selling at stores and removed from its website, according to a Tuesday post on its Facebook page.

 

Recent lab tests show that kids’ face paint and makeup still contain frightening ingredients like arsenic, cadmium, chromium, and lead. The Campaign also found other creepy chemicals, such as toxic VOCs (volatile organic compounds), and known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, lurking both on and off the label of kids’ Halloween and play makeup.

 

HEALTH CONCERNS: Cancer, endocrine disruption, developmental and reproductive toxicity, bioaccumulation, eco-toxicity.

How Can You Avoid Carcinogens in Cosmetics?

Read labels and avoid cosmetics and personal care products containing formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (quaternium-15, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, and 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3 diol), phenacetin, coal tar, benzene, untreated or mildly treated mineral oils, ethylene oxide, chromium, cadmium and its compounds, arsenic and crystalline silica (or quartz).

 

With Holidays Approaching Fast…

Help us pass along this information to your friends and family so they can also be aware of the dangers lurking in talc containing products! Don’t let the people you care about be the next victim.

For more information on asbestos containing makeup, and ways you can have your loved one’s products tested, please contact our support team or give us a call at (908) 206-0073 today!

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5 health risks caused by asbestos

5 Health Risks Caused By Asbestos

5 health risks caused by asbestosAsbestos is a building material that was used pretty widely across the U.S. prior to the 1980s. It was then that asbestos was thought of as a solution to various industries to help build homes. However, there are health risks caused by asbestos. 

Asbestos is a group of naturally-occurring fibrous minerals. It’s strong and heat resistant. This made is popular in building materials such as including building and pipe insulation, and friction products.

It wasn’t until after years of use that it was deemed seriously dangerous, even deadly to those exposed to it. Asbestos is a serious health risk and can cause harm. If you think you might have been exposed to asbestos or live in a home where you suspect asbestos, read this article to learn 5 health risks caused by asbestos.

Health Risks Caused By Asbestos

Laryngeal Cancer

Laryngeal cancer is cancer of the larynx, also known as the voice box. Researchers have suspected that people who inhaled asbestos got it’s fibers lodged into the voice making its way to the lungs. The fibers cause irritation which eventually lead to cancer.

Asbestosis

Asbestosis is a lung disease that is said to be caused by scarring of the lung tissue. Exposure the asbestos can cause a person to breath in the dangerous fibers. The fibers will attach themselves to the lung walls and over time cause scarring. Over time the lungs will become irritated and the tissue becomes thick. This can be painful causing chest pains and shortness of breath.

Clubbed Fingers

People with asbestosis often develop clubbed fingers. This is actually an early sign of the disease where the tips of the fingers are swollen and look like a square shape. This happens when there is a dangerously low blood levels of oxygen.

Pleural Plaques

Pleural plaques are caused by deposits of fiberglass and rock left from the asbestos. The pleura contains two layers: An inner layer that lines the lungs, and an outer layer that lines the ribs. The presence of asbestos fibers can cause these layers to inflame and rub against each other, a condition called pleuritis. Unfortunately there is no cure for this disease and serious medication is required for treatment.

Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer, it affects the inner linings of organ walls in the chest and the stomach. Typically this is caused to exposure to asbestos is the work place, but you may not notice symptoms until years later, sometimes as late as 30 years past the time of exposure.  To date there is no cure for this disease.

Avoiding Asbestos Exposure

Since asbestos is banned from use, newer homes may not be in danger of containing any remnant of the substance. However, it is important to keep away from asbestos if you suspect it in your home or workplace. There are safety procedures set in place to evaluate the area in question and do proper asbestos testing. From there it’s important to understand the information on asbestos give from the testing lab. Once this is given talk to a professional about whether the asbestos needs to be removed and if it is a threat to your health.

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Why should I worry about Asbestos?

Asbestos is a mineral with useful properties. Asbestos possess thermal stability, strength, and good insulating abilities. Asbestos cannot be seen with the naked eye. The bad news is asbestos may cause diseases if it is not handled properly. Asbestos may be anywhere in your home.  Following are places where asbestos can be found in your home:

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