Microbiomes, Buildings, and Human Health

An informative report was published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The report highlights how a building can influence changes in the microbiology inside the building which can impact human health.  In this blog post, I summarize some of the key points from the consensus study report.   It may be helpful

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Bio-Contaminants in Water-Damaged Buildings

[The following is a chapter I submitted for a workshop on water damage, with a target audience of property managers.  It is a good primer on the contaminants found during water damage.]   Microorganisms are all around us.  In fact, they are in and on our bodies as well!  The vast majority of these organisms

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Vermiculite and Asbestos

  You may have come across something called “vermiculite” in potting soil or in attic insulation.  Why is it often associated with asbestos? Vermiculite is a mineral that appears in a pebble-like form. It is often gray, silver, and gold in color and can shimmer in light. Because of its insulating properties and versatility, vermiculite

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Mold Clearance Testing

One of the key parts of an effective mold remediation project is one that is often overlooked. “Post remediation verification” (PRV), or “clearance” is the process that evaluates the performance of a mold remediation project. This step should always be done by an unaffiliated, third-party testing company to assure an unbiased assessment. This assessment is

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Website Review for “IDPH Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality”

The intention of this blog post is to review a website from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).  The website can be found here: http://www.dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/environmental-health-protection/toxicology/indoor-air-quality-healthy-homes/idph-guidelines-indoor-air-quality   The website provides some general guidelines for indoor air quality.  Some details about each parameter are discussed.  Parameters ranging from humidity and temperature to formaldehyde and particulates in

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Asbestos in Settled Dust

  In homes throughout the nation built before the 1980s, asbestos containing materials were commonly incorporated. Asbestos was used because of its high durability, fire resistance, and other favorable properties. Asbestos was used in drywall, plasters, floor tiles, HVAC insulation, plumbing insulation, adhesives, and many other products. Asbestos containing materials in the home become a

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Featured Mold – Cladosporium

  Cladosporium is the most common culturable mold genera found in the world(1,2), found anywhere from the Amazon to the Arctic. Cladosporium grows in colonies that are dark in color, ranging from black/brown to green. In the outdoors, Cladosporium commonly grows on decaying plants and soil. Cladosporium levels in the outdoor air vary greatly by

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Radon: Part 2!

One of the happiest days of one’s life can be when you purchase your first house (or upgrade to an even better one)!!  But let’s face it, there are several things to worry about before the big moving day.  In addition to all the paperwork, we practice due diligence and hire a home inspector.  And

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What Is Radon?

“So what exactly is radon?  Is that bad for you?” I was asked these questions recently and it struck me how little the general public seems to know about this insidious gas.  In my experience, there is a greater understanding of radon today then there was roughly 20 years ago.  However, I believe that there

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Is That A Cat Skeleton?

For the past three months, I have spent several days a week crawling on my hands and knees (and occasionally on my stomach), wearing a Tyvek suit, a respirator, gloves and lugging equipment underneath unlit residential buildings. What was the purpose (besides building character)?  To help clients of ours assess mold and water issues in

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The Basics of Legionella

Legionella bacteria can pose a serious health risk in the indoor environment. Legionella is a gram-stain negative bacteria that was discovered in 1976 after an outbreak in Philadelphia. The outbreak occurred at an hotel during a convention for the American Legion, where 34 died and hundreds were hospitalized.  Up to that point in time, the

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Pesky Particles

The term particulate matter refers to the combination of liquid or solid particles that are present in the air. The size of particles varies with some types being visible to the unaided eye while others are only visible through microscopy. These particulates can originate from a wide variety of sources, such as combustion, the breaking

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PAACB Certification

Laboratories who analyze samples for mold typically have accreditation from the AIHA (American Industrial Hygiene Association) Laboratory Accreditation Program, LLC. This accreditation is for the lab as a whole covering everything from the facilities, equipment, standard operating procedures (SOP), and even record keeping. What may be surprising to some is that this accreditation does not

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Baby, it’s cold outside!!

During this time of year, I love to hear the old song “Baby, it’s cold outside!” play on the radio.  It sums up winter time in the Chicago area.  And with this frigid weather, we retreat to the comfort and warmth of our homes.   But the warmth that we feel inside our homes can

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Ancient Asbestos

  The usage of asbestos has been documented since antiquity. Before its usage in modern building materials, asbestos was used in pottery, clothing, and even ceremonial items throughout the world. Many ancient civilizations used asbestos because of its amazing properties which included fire resistance and ability to be woven and integrated into many objects. In

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The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

Every few months a new tragic story about a fatal carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning surfaces.  The stories of people who have lost their lives from a common environmental compound can be sad and unsettling.  CO poisoning is preventable but first it is essential to know some general information about this dangerous gas. Many individuals are

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Featured Mold – Aspergillus and Penicillium

Aspergillus and Penicillium are two of the most common mold genera that we see in air samples.  When dealing with spore trap lab results, you will often see these types listed together in groups such as Aspergillus/Penicillium, Asp/Pen, or Pen/Asp. Visually, spores of these genera are so similar that analysts can not differentiate them, so

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Air Cell Pipe Insulation

Air Cell refers to an asbestos-containing pipe insulation product. It has alternating layers of plain and corrugated asbestos paper.  The term “Air Cell” was used as a product name by Armstrong Contracting and Supply Corporation and others.  However, the term “Air Cell” can also be used in a generic manner for various types of similar

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What is that terrible odor?

  There is an old story that I tell that goes like this.  I am sent to a home where the owners have noticed a strange odor that they want us to identify.  As soon as I enter the door, I am immediately asked “Can’t you smell it?  Can’t you smell it?!!”.  After sniffing around

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Da Vinci & Mold

Da Vinci died hundreds of years ago, but his creations during his 67 years on earth leave a legacy that stands the test of time.  Nature, however, always finds a way to leave it’s mark.  This article highlights how Aspergillus halophilicum leaves several marks all over the famous painter’s face. http://www.aspergillus.org.uk/content/da-vincis-self-portrait-damaged-aspergillus  

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Marvel Comics & Asbestos

In the colorful universe of Marvel Comics, many of its superpowered characters gained their abilities via a science experiment, magic, technology, or other uncanny circumstances. In the late 1940s Marvel (known at the time as Timely Comics) created a character that drew their abilities from a real world material known as asbestos. This character took

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Indoor and Outdoor Pollutants in Chicago

Living less than a half mile away from Lake Michigan in Chicago made the Lakefront Trail (LFT) effortlessly accessible. I could quickly warm up with a short walk or jog and almost instantly have access to the beautiful lake and a path designed specifically for pedestrians and bicyclists. The LFT lines the edges of the

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