Post Hurricane Sandy, What to Look out for: Lead Paint, Asbestos, Mold, Radon

November 1, 2013 1:20 pm

We all saw Hurricane Sandy come and go, leaving behind an incredible amount of work to be done to restore our communities. As we all rebuild Post Hurricane Sandy there are a few important environmental factors to keep in mind.

1. Mold: It germinates within 48-72 hours of moisture intrusion, and when properties sat with no heat, or electricity for days, sometimes weeks, this provided an ideal breeding ground for mold spores. Unaddressed, mold and moisture will continually decompose building materials. Reconstruction, renovation and demolition without proper engineering controls will be a substantial source for mold spore growth & migration and if not addressed prior to final reconstruction, will most certainly re-germinate, and colonize into the future. Especially with homes so close to the water and constant elevated ambient air moisture levels.

What to do if you have mold? Remediating mold-impacted surfaces depends on the particular surface it is growing on and the extent of the growth. Hard non-porous surfaces, such as tiles and metal, can be cleaned with a detergent solution wipe and then let to dry. Porous material, such as drywall, may be cleaned depending on the extent of the fungal growth. Superficial growth may be cleaned with the detergent wipe. However, any porous surface where growth is more extensive, wiping with a detergent is not effective. Due to the nature of mold growth, wiping extensive growth only removes the growth on the surface and does not remove the mold that has grown into the material. The growth within the material will eventually reappear, in spite of the thoroughness of the cleaning process. For this reason, removal of the material is necessary. If the size of the area affected cannot be assessed visually or if the source of musty odors cannot be identified, then a reputable professional qualified testing company should be considered (ACAC certified or other recognized certification). Whether the work is performed in-house or by a professional company, the area should be visually absent of mold growth after the remediation is complete. Post remediation sampling can provide assurance that the remediation efforts did not further contaminate the area due to improper remediation techniques as well as document normal conditions.

2. Asbestos: It is a known human carcinogen, so if any Asbestos Containing Material (insulation, floor tiles, shingles, pipe wrap, etc) was damaged during the storm and needs to be replaced make sure you use a licensed asbestos abatement contractor. They will ensure this hazardous material is removed and disposed of in a safe and legal manner. If you’re not sure if you have asbestos in your home have asbestos sampling performed before performing any work.

3. Lead Paint: The use of lead paint was banned by the Federal Government in 1978 so if your home was built before that year there is a good chance lead paint may be present. The amount of lead dust it takes to poison a child is less than the size of a grain of sand, making lead paint and dust a toxic problem. Just the act of opening or closing a window can create enough lead dust to create a hazard. In 2010 the new Federal EPA RRP Rule, which regulates the renovation, repair and painting of homes with lead paint, went into effect. If you think you have lead paint you can either get your home tested, or make sure your contractor is using lead safe work practices and is RRP trained and certified.

4. Radon: Radon is a gas that occurs naturally with the decay of uranium. This gas is colorless, odorless, and tasteless and can be found in ore, shale, limestone and granite. When emitted from these sources it enters the surrounding soil where it can then be disbursed into the air. Radon is radioactive and carcinogenic. It is one of the leading causes of lung cancer and if you walked into a room with high levels of radon it would be virtually undetectable. When disbursed through outdoor air, its poses no real threat, but the real danger occurs when this gas gets trapped inside buildings.

If a home’s foundation has cracked or been damaged it may be possible for Radon to seep into the structure. Find out if you live in a high radon zone here. If you do live in this type of zone, consider having you home tested for radon.