Is your house making you or your family sick? Unfortunately some homes do make the occupants sick. Many people are not aware of “Sick House Syndrome” and its causes. But most people are aware of the symptoms that can result from a sick home such as eye, nose, and throat irritation, congestion, respiratory issues, headache, lightheaded or a spacy feeling. If these and or other symptoms come and go quickly upon entering and leaving the home, or even if they may take up to an hour or two to notice when coming and going, you likely have Sick House Syndrome.
Call Tom at 315-439-1103 to Schedule a “Sick House Investigation” for Central New York
Read below for more info; For questions and comments please post at bottom of page, thanks.
Molds, natural and man made toxins, pesticides and gases are in every home, and the more you’re exposed to them, the greater your risk for developing the health problems they can cause. Those who seldom leave home like stay at home moms, young children and the elderly are at highest risk. For testing or evaluation of indoor air quality issues you need someone qualified and experienced.
Causes of Indoor air quality issues may include:
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s)
- Formaldehyde (a common VOC found in building materials, foam, and plastic toys)
- Molds and Mildew
- Allergens, pollen, pet dander, dust, etc.
- Radon Gas
- Methane Gas
- Radon gas in Water (primarily deep wells)
- Methane gas in Water
- Other water contaminants
- Carbon Monoxide
- Un-combusted flue gases
- Microwave leaks
- Natural Gas and Propane leaks
- Musty-Wet Basements
- Pests and rodents
- Biological Hazards (bacteria and viruses)
I provide testing for all these and more. Testing for all these will be very expensive you need to consult with a indoor air quality specialist with some experience under their belt to help narrow down the most likely causes, this should include questions about:
- Possible related health symptoms of occupants
- Building history, age of building, construction materials, system components
- Building use, time spent in building, and building maintenance
- Types of floor coverings, type of carpet padding, furniture and mattress foam and fabric, large plastic children’s toys
The Home is the primary environment for many people, especially stay at home moms and small children. It’s good to view the health condition of your home environment in light of actual health conditions and potential problems.
- Health Conditions – Which of your health problems, current and past, could be related to your home environment?
- Potential Hazards – Take preemptive action in evaluating the potential hazards lurking in your home and do what you can to minimize or eliminate them?
Most calls I get about a “sick house” are from people who have been experiencing certain health issues for some time, months or years, at some point in their treatment/diagnosis the doctors say something like “This could be due to your home environment”. There are no objective tests that measure these symptoms but common sense can get you pointed in the right direction by paying attention to the symptoms.
Questions you should ask yourself:
Where you are when the symptoms strike? How long after you enter the home or what room of the home do symptoms occur? After you leave the home, how soon do symptoms disappear? Did these symptoms begin or increase after moving into this house? Also consider how often the house is “closed up” with no fresh air circulation. With today’s lifestyles and homes many rarely have the widows open to air the house out. They are closed up in winter to heat and summer to cool, “close that door quick”… (don’t let any fresh air in).
Fresh air is one advantage of an older “drafty” home. Newer well insulated homes are air sealed and there is very little fresh air entering the home, especially during the winter months, the air you breath and everything in the air is recirculated over and over. Homes with hot water or electric heat usually have no air filtration system. Homes with forced air furnaces have air filters that can remove some larger particles from the air, but not toxins, gases, VOC’s etc.
It pays to think ahead in many areas of life including a healthy home verses the health of it occupants. Most effects of a homes environmental hazards build up over time and are often not evident for years or decades. Radon gas is the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers but will usually take decades before the cancer is realized. The roof cause of some illnesses such as allergies, asthma sinusitis, chronic coughing and other respiratory illnesses, can be difficult to determine, doctors will often attribute them to “your environment” which for most would primarily be their home where they sleep and spend most of their time.
Every house or building is different, but you look for the same general sources when trying to determine what hazards may be present. The air we breath is of primary concern, hence – carbon monoxide detectors, radon gas testing and furnace filters. Secondly the water we drink and bathe in, public municipalities regularly test the water doing spot tests only, not in your home. If on a well, it may be important to test regularly depending on how deep it is and what constitutes your water shed. There are thousands of contaminants that can be found in public and private water sources.
10 Household Hazards You Can Improve or Eliminate
- Tobacco smoke. Most people realize not that smoking causes lung cancer and that long-term exposure to second hand smoke increases your risk for lung cancer, respiratory infections, other lung problems, and possibly heart disease. Just say NO!
- Radon. Radon is an odorless, invisible gas and the number one cause of lung cancer in non smokers. radon greatly increases risk of cancer for for smokers. Radon tests are not expensive. Be smart, test your home for radon yourself or hire a radon professional. Test kits are cheap, about $10.
- Asbestos. If your home was built between 1920 and 1978, it is a pretty sure be there is asbestos in your home. It was one of the most commonly used as a building materials used added to many building product. Asbestos is only a problem when it becomes air-born in small particles. Exposure to small amounts of asbestos probably won’t harm you, but breathing high levels of it can increase your risk of cancer and lung disease. This is important to be aware of when remodeling, refinishing, doring HVAC work etc. See the EPA’s web site at www.epa.gov/opptintr/asbestos/ashome.htm#4.
- Lead. Many homes built in the U.S. before 1978 contain lead paint, which causes lead poisoning in nearly 900,000 American children each year (mostly from eating paint chips, and sucking on toys etc with lead dust on them). One of the biggest sources of lead dust has been from cheap pull shades manufactured over seas; the painted coating breaks down as shades are operated. You can do a lead test or older pull shades if your not sure. If you have a young child at home who is at risk for lead exposure, talk to your physician about having the child’s blood tested for lead levels, especially if remodeling. Most lead paint by now has been painted over with non-lead paint and if there is no peeling paint there is minimal risk. However, if you live in an older home and you are not sure you should consider testing for lead paint. See EPA http://www2.epa.gov/lead.
- Combustion gases. These gases include carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide. They can cause flu-like symptoms, respiratory illnesses, or even death. Don’t use un-vented combustion appliances, generators or kerosene heaters indoors. Don’t heat your home with a gas cook stove or oven! Clean and maintain your chimneys and furnace every year, making sure that they are properly vented. Install a carbon monoxide monitor on each floor of the home, most importantly near the sleeping areas.
- Water pollution. It’s smart to check your water, whether you have public supplied water or a private well. See EPA web site at www.epa.gov/safewater/dwhealth.html. It’s recommended to test private well water every year for nitrates and bacteria. Depending on where you live, you may also want to test for pesticides, organic chemicals, or radon.
- Household chemicals. A child born today will grow up exposed to more chemicals than a child from any other generation in our nation’s history. Choose the least dangerous chemical for the job. Keep household chemicals away from children and pets, and if possible, store them outside the house and away from living spaces. See EPA website, Household chemicals.
- Pesticides. Reduce your child’s chances of pesticide poising (EPA link). Avoid using chemical pesticides as much as possible when maintaining your yard. Store firewood outside and away from the house, store food in tight containers, and clean up food spills to minimize critters and insects in the house.
- Mold. The key to mold control is moisture control. Roof and plumbing leaks, wet basements and crawlspaces are breeding grounds for mold. Fixing leaks, proper installation of gutters and downspouts with extensions and proper grading around the home will take care of the vast majority of moisture issues in most houses. If you need mold testing, be sure to have air sampling with mold spore cassettes that trap air-born molds or you are probably just wasting your money. See: EPA mold-guide.
- Allergens. To reduce other allergens in the home keep furry animals out of the house (or at least out of the bedroom), wrap your mattresses and pillows in allergy-proof covers. Be sure to change furnace filters regularly – every 30 to 90 days depending on the filter. If you have a forced air heating system you can install a Whole-House Electronic Air Cleaner that installed where the furnace filter slot is next to the furnace. These can capture up to 98% of microscopic particles like dust and smoke, and larger contaminants like mold spores and pet dander. The metal filter is washed of and put back in, no filters to buy. Cost is about $350 to $650 plus installation. If you don’t have forced air furnace a good HEPA Air Purifier, such as the The Honeywell True HEPA Air Purifier is a very good choice.
Young Children at Greatest Risk
Children, older adults, and individuals with a chronic illness are particularly susceptible to environmental hazards. It’s good for parents to think about your homes environment from the vantage point of a child, or toddler, both which are closer to the floor level, or crawling on floors; note that many of volatile gases, toxins and molds are highest at or close to the floor where our children live.
I have been successful in helping families with sick house syndrome, to pinpoint the causes and find solutions for healthier homes.
In Central New York you can call Tom at 315-439-1103 To Schedule a “Sick House Investigation”
For more info or questions, please post below. Thanks.
Hi, about the points number 3rd, we need to educate people about the danger of asbestos, I believe most people didn’t know about this material and I hope the government want to give more attention to this problems.
Please call me at 585-223-1283 , i live near high acres and feel like the sulpher dioxide is making me ill?? Thank u
Can you test for sulpher dioxide? 585-223-1283
Hi Linda, no I do not test for sulphur dioxide or hydrogen sulfide. New York now makes it almost impossible for home inspectors to test indoor air quality since 2016. Odors in landfill gas are caused primarily by hydrogen sulfide and ammonia, which are produced during breakdown of waste material. Short-term exposures (typically up to about two weeks) to elevated levels of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide in air can cause coughing, irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headache, nausea, and breathing difficulties. These effects usually go away once the exposure is stopped. Studies have been conducted in communities near landfills and waste lagoons to evaluate health effects associated with exposure to landfill gases. These studies lasted for several months and reported health complaints which coincided with periods of elevated levels of hydrogen sulfide and landfill odors. The reported health complaints included eye, throat and lung irritation, nausea, headache, nasal blockage, sleeping difficulties, weight loss, chest pain, and aggravation of asthma. Although other chemicals may have been present in the air, many of these effects are consistent with exposure to hydrogen sulfide.
Methane and carbon dioxide are colorless, odorless gases that can displace oxygen in enclosed spaces. Health effects associated with both methane and carbon dioxide result from the lack of oxygen rather than direct exposure to these gases. Health effects caused by a reduced oxygen level include a faster heartbeat and having to take deeper breaths, similar to the effects felt after vigorous exercise. A greatly reduced oxygen level (that is, when the oxygen level is well below its usual level of 21% of the total air volume) can cause reduced coordination, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and unconsciousness. These effects have rarely been reported from landfills.
Homeowners should contact their Regional New York State Department of Environmental Conservation office if they suspect landfill gases are entering their home. A link for contact information is provided in the “For Additional Information: On a specific landfill” section of this factsheet. Measures a homeowner or developer can take to help prevent landfill gas from entering a building include minimizing entry points and making sure there is adequate ventilation. Entry points for landfill gas can be minimized by eliminating cracks and gaps in the basement by caulking and sealing. These measures will help to reduce the potential for landfill gases to build-up in indoor air. In some cases, additional measures may be needed to reduce landfill gas migration from soil into buildings. For example, installing a sub-slab depressurization system will direct soil vapor away from the building. A sub-slab depressurization system is often included in new construction on or adjacent to landfills.
For Additional Information
On a specific landfill:
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Regional Office Contact Information: http://www.dec.ny.gov/about/558.html
For Exposure: contact New York State Department of Health – http://www.health.state.ny.us/environmental/about/exposure.htm
Sorry Linda, no longer doing indoor air quality testing due to new New York State restrictions on air testing. You should contact NY State, see links in other post.