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Free Encyclopedia of Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, Repair
ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS - INSPECT, TEST, REMEDY
MOLD: A COMPLETE GUIDE to TEST CLEAN PREVENT
ACTIVITY of MOLD in BUILDINGS
AGE of MOLD - Old is the Mold?
AIR CLEANER PURIFIER TYPES
AIR FILTERS for HVAC SYSTEMS
AIR TEST SAMPLING CASSETTE STUDY
AIRBORNE MOLD COUNT NUMBER GUIDE
AIRBORNE PARTICLE ANALYSIS METHODS
ALLERGEN TESTS for BUILDINGS
BROWN HAIRY BATHROOM MOLD
BIBLIOGAPHY for ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH, MOLD, IAQ
BLACK MOLD, HARMLESS COSMETIC
BLACK MOLD, TOXIC & ALLERGENIC
BLEACHING MOLD, Advice about
BOOK MOLD, Moldy Book Cleaning
BOOKSTORE - ENVIRONMENTAL
CACTUS FUNGI / MOLD
CAR MOLD CONTAMINATION
CARPET DUST IDENTIFICATION
CARPET PADDING ASBESTOS, MOLD, ODORS
CARPET FUNGICIDAL SPRAY
CARPET STAIN DIAGNOSIS
CARPET & other STAIN TESTS
CARPET TEST PROCEDURE
CARPETING & INDOOR AIR QUALITY
CHAIN OF CUSTODY - TEST SAMPLE
CLEARANCE INSPECTIONS - MOLD CLEANUP
DIRECTORY of MOLD / ENVIRONMENTAL EXPERTS
DIRT FLOOR MOLD CONTAMINATION
DISINFECTANTS & SANITIZERS, SOURCES
DISINFECTING BUILDINGS with BLEACH
DO-IT-YOURSELF MOLD CLEANUP WARNINGS
DUST ANALYSIS for FIBERGLASS
DUST, HVAC CONTAMINATION STUDY
EFFLORESCENCE, Salts & White / Brown Deposits
FEAR of MOLD - MYCOPHOBIA
Fiberboard Insulation Sheathing Mold
FIBERGLASS INSULATION MOLD
FIND MOLD, ESSENTIAL STEPS
MOLD in BUILDINGS
FIRE DAMAGE vs MOLD DAMAGE
FLOODS IN BUILDINGS-mold
FOXING STAINS on books & papers
FUNGICIDAL SPRAY & SEALANT USE GUIDE
GAS DETECTION INSTRUMENTS
GAS EXPOSURE EFFECTS, TOXIC
GAS EXPOSURE LIMITS & STANDARDS
GAS TEST PROCEDURES
HOUSE DUST ANALYSIS
HOUSE DUST COMPONENTS
HUMIDITY CONTROL & TARGETS INDOORS
LAB PROCEDURES MICROSCOPE TECHNIQUES
LIGHT, GUIDE to FORENSIC USE
MEDIA BLASTING for MOLD REMOVAL
METHANE GAS SOURCES
MICROSCOPE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
MEDIA BLASTING for MOLD REMOVAL
METHANE GAS SOURCES
MICROSCOPE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
MILDEW ERRORS, IT's MOLD
MILDEW REMOVAL & PREVENTION
MOISTURE CONTROL in BUILDINGS
MOLD: A COMPLETE GUIDE TO MOLD
MOLD EXPERT, WHEN TO HIRE
MVOCs & MOLDY MUSTY ODORS
MYCOPHOBIA, STAINS MISTAKEN for MOLD
MYCOTOXIN EFFECTS of MOLD EXPOSURE
ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
RENTERS GUIDE TO MOLD & IAQ
ROBIGUS & Wheat Rust Fungus
SMELL PATCH TEST to Track Down Odors
STAINS on & in BUILDINGS, CAUSES & CURES
THERMAL IMAGING MOLD SCANS
TRAPPED MOLD BETWEEN WOOD SURFACES
UV LIGHT BLACK LIGHT USES
VAPOR BARRIERS & CONDENSATION
VENTILATION in BUILDINGS
VOCs VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUNDS
WATER ENTRY in buildings
Mold and other indoor hazard or contamination advice for renters: this document discusses the steps that a tenant in a rental apartment or rental home can take to look for and test for mold, responding to other possible indoor contaminants or safety hazards, how to inform building management of a known or suspected building hazard or safety problem, what to expect the rental property managers to do if they are going to address a health or safety problem properly, and what the rental apartment tenant needs to watch out for during a mold investigation and mold remediation of their home. An easy-to-print PDF version of this article is here.
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Rental Unit Mold Contamination Guide: how to handle mold problems or other indoor air hazard conditions at a rental property - Mold & IAQ testing advice for rental tenants - what can a tenant do about a moldy apartment or rental home? & Mold testing and mold remediation advice for landlords. Tenant's Action Guide to Indoor Contaminants, Hazards or Mold in Rental Homes, Apartments, Offices
A rental tenant in a moldy apartment in Kentucky asked us for advice. The risk in her situation was increased because she suffers from a compromised immune system. our advice to her follows her letter.
I appreciate the user friendly format and the wealth of information on your website. I'm suffering severely from mold related illness and I need immediate help.
Two months ago I moved into a new apartment. Ever since I have had terrible congestion that appears w/in a minute of entering the apt. And only clears up after hours of leaving the apt. I have gone and had allergy testing and find we are highly allergic to *most* molds.
We have found a black shadowing mold like substance on the walls coming from beneath the kitchen cabinets. The *dust* settles on the edge of the counter at the wall beneath the cabinets. The dust is large particles that look a lot like black pepper. It also sticks to wall on the way down.
Tenant Wants to Move out of Moldy Apartment - Lease Breaking Issues
We need to move because I cannot live with this building-related sickness.
It is important to know what I'm dealing with before I go to management, because it seems to be such a severe structural issue, they may try to do something underhanded and cover it up.
We have a year lease and need to handle the situation in a way that will allow me get out from under this situation w/out our being taken advantage of and we are no expert in these matters.
On-site inspection is important: Keep in mind that anyone whose opinion you seek by telephone, email, or web "prospecting", even if s/he is very competent, is distant and can't see all of the site conditions. Therefore such advice can only be general, and we must keep in mind that there could be, in fact probably are, important observations that might change the assessment of an individual situation as well as the advice on steps to take.
If more than ten square feet of moldy material is found in a building or if mold returns after you have cleaned a small moldy surface, ask your landlord to fix the problem.
At TENANT LANDLORD MOLD DISPUTE we describe how a tenant or a third party might inspect a rental apartment or rental home, photo-document conditions found, and if necessary, collect mold test samples using an inexpensive procedure that can be processed by just about any environmental testing laboratory.
Advice to Renters when health complaints appear related to spending time in a building - where Mold is Visible or Suspected
Building-related illness symptoms often stop or diminish quickly when the suffering person leaves that location. A simple subjective test which you have applied is the observation that you suffer health complaints soon on entry to the building and they stop when you've been out of the building.
Contents may be contaminated from a prior residence: Of course if someone's apartment contents were mold-contaminated from a previous residence those complaints could still occur, so it's important to rule out that chance by recalling what reactions you had to your previous home.
Mold related illness symptoms don't always stop right away: Finally, while some building-related or building-aggravated health complaints diminish or stop entirely on leaving that environment, other complaints may be slow to appear and also slow to diminish even after leaving the problem environment. In fact high exposure to some materials such as allergens or mold can increase sensitivity to those particles in some individuals, making them later react to even low levels of such particles in a new environment.
Health Risks for Tenants in Rental Apartments - Compromised immune system increases vulnerability to mold-related illness
The fact that a building occupant's immune system is compromised places that person at extra risk and means that s/he and the contents of their apartment need to be protected carefully.
People at extra risk of health problems if exposed to moldy dust and demolition debris include elderly, infants, immune-compromised, asthmatics, people suffering from COPD or other respiratory illness, and possibly others. While chronic exposure to high levels of toxic or allergenic mold can make even some healthy people become sensitized as well, the people I just listed should be particularly careful about exposure.
See MOLD RELATED ILLNESS.
Too often we find that "black mold" on building surfaces has received attention but hard-to-see Penicillium sp. or Aspergillus sp. (for example) remain in large reservoirs on building surfaces or in insulation.
One of the ways an expert finds the problem mold reservoir(s) in a building is to first understand what causes mold (see Possible Mold Causes) and second, where it is likely to be found - on what it grows. See Possible Hidden Mold.)
Magic bullets: Also, "bleaching mold" or "fogging" or "encapsulating" mold is never a successful remedy for a moldy building. The places where mold is growing must be found, moldy material removed, exposed surfaces cleaned, and the causes of mold growth corrected. If the area of mold growth is large (more than 30 sq ft) the work needs to proceed with special procedures to avoid spreading moldy dusty debris around.
The tenant or building maintenance staff may have already identified apparent mold reservoirs or sources, and of course there could be other sources from other leaks or problems they haven't discovered:
Roof leaks - can have leaked into ceilings and walls; depending on what building materials used, they could be moldy with problem molds.
HVAC systems - If there is a common A/C duct system which has become mold contaminated, no amount of cleaning in your immediate apartment would be sufficient since it is possible that the whole system needs to be cleaned, or possibly some duct sections replaced, and the cause corrected. Also it is common for A/C condensate or water from a chiller system to leak; water could have leaked into your closet ceiling and walls, also creating a problem mold reservoir.
Building insulation - often building insulation has become mold contaminated but looks "clean" to the naked eye. Few mold inspectors test this material, yet it is often discovered to be the principal problem mold reservoir in some building areas.
See INSULATION MOLD.
Very often when we visit a site we find other leaks and mold sources that need to be addressed, so I wouldn't assume these are the full extent of what needs attention.
Mold cleanup cost concerns: Sometimes a building management is reluctant to face the expense and trouble of handling leaks and mold contamination correctly. Correct response might require a (costly) thorough building survey, evaluation, diagnosis of problem areas and their causes and specification of the steps to remedy them, followed by performing of the work followed by clearance inspection and testing by someone not at all connected with the contractors performing the remediation. It would be rare for a building manager to have such an expert on full-time staff, so hiring an outside expert would be necessary.
Mold fear concerns: Reluctance of building managers to address mold also comes from the wish to avoid alarming other tenants. In our experience this is always a mistaken notion, as tenants talk to one another anyway, and building-related illness frightens people - fear spreading faster than mold growth. Accurate information and the assurance that tenant concerns are being handled competently is more effective than other less direct responses by building management.
True cost of improper mold remediation: Half-baked or amateur workmanship risks increasing the ultimate cost to the building management:
In sum, it's least costly if mold remediation is performed properly in the first place.
1. Notify in writing: You should notify building management in writing of unhealthy unsafe conditions that need attention and that you are
unable to live in the apartment. If you are not certain of the presence of unsafe conditions in the rental apartment,
your letter should state your observations, complaints, concerns, and ask the building management to bring in the appropriate
professional to inspect, diagnose, and if needed, specify what repairs, cleaning, or remediation are needed.
Mold and Leak Reporting Advice for Renters
The U.S. EPAsuggests that renters should report all plumbing leaks and moisture problems immediately to your building owner, manager, or superintendent. In cases where persistent water problems are not addressed, you may want to contact local, state, or federal health or housing authorities. Also see Health Department.
2. Simple mold testing: You might be successful in identifying some of the mold suspect material you see as problematic, and you might
collect a settled dust sample to see you can pick up indications of other problem molds or allergens.
Our mold sampling instruction contains sampling instructions you can follow. I'm on assignment out of the U.S. and won't be processing any lab samples until after 9/10 so if you are in a rush you should use another lab but you can still follow our sampling procedures.
3. If building management responds: If building management elects to make some effort to deal with the problem:
4. Should I Hire a Mold Expert to examine my moldy apartment? See MOLD EXPERT, WHEN TO HIRE for help in deciding when it is appropriate to bring in an expert. In general we do not advise tenants to face the trouble and expense of hiring an expert to inspect and test their landlord's building (or apartment and areas that affect the apartment) for mold. But the information at MOLD EXPERT, WHEN TO HIRE suggests that you are facing a serious health or economic risk, and if your landlord is not responding to your written and oral requests for help, hiring an independent expert may be useful.
In some egregious cases tenants have taken their complaint to the local health department. Also see Health Department.
Renters in New York City who have a mold problem in their home and who have not been able to resolve it can contact the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Call 311, or visit nyc.gov/health. Select 'M' in 'Health Topics A to Z' and click on 'Mold'.
If you live in another city or town, contact your local health department for advice. But beware; the staff at some health departments may not be educated about the common causes, extent, and potential health complaints often associated with mold exposure.
If there is a serious and obvious problem with mold or other health concerns in a rental apartment the health department may condemn the property and require the owners to act. In our opinion this rather drastic step may be appropriate in dire circumstances. It will also be likely to end any cooperation between landlord and tenant.
The more you know about proper procedures to find and clean up moldy buildings the better you can assure that your situation is handled properly. The articles at these links might be helpful:
When is mold a problem in buildings? What should be done about it? Find expert field and lab testing, inspection, remediation advice, but ... avoid "fear of mold" and bogus advice which can both cost you and yet may not really address the problem effectively. Our interest is in providing expert service to our clients, protecting not only their health but their wallets. I provide field investigations to find problems and to recommend solutions to mold in buildings, and I operate a forensic laboratory in New York which accepts mold and other indoor air and particle samples for examination. In depth information is at InspectAPedia.com and the links at that page. Website content suggestions are most welcome.
Case Histories: At our Mold Blog Mold Central: indoor air quality investigation case histories, I post summaries of field and lab toxic or allergenic mold and other indoor air quality investigations. I omit private information. I describe observations, procedures, and findings helpful to readers who are trying to remedy their own mold, allergenic, carbon monoxide, odor, or other indoor air and related health concerns in their indoor environment.
Green link shows where you are in this article series.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: my rental trailer has water leaks, gas leaks, carbon monoxide leaks - the owner says the black stuff I see is not harmful mold
I moved into a single wide trailer 3 months ago in Battlement mesa, CO I am a 61 yr old disabled person on O2 a t night. Since I have been here there has been a water leak under the floor, one through the roof, gas leaks and carbon monoxide leaks. I have had the maintenance people over every week. They half way fix things or tell me I am wrong about things. The leak under the floor got so bad the windows where dripping with moisture and the humidity in here was stifling.
Today they finally had to do something because the walls where wet and it has smelled terrible in here the whole time. They pulled off a panel, and found one leak and then knocked holes in the floor and found way more leaking. There is black stuff along the bottom of the walls and on the floor. All the wood is blackened and rotted.
I had the owner come look at the mess. Now they say it’s not mold, the stink will go away, it’s just old, and they have seen worse. I have breathed this smell all day. I feel like it’s in my mouth. I don’t trust these people. I am afraid I am going to die in this place.
What do you suggest? They have a fan blowing in there now, and I am going to sleep on the floor tonight, for at least for four more days.If they don’t think the black stuff is mold and just cover it up, will it make me sick? I can’t afford to move again. Also, the lease says I don’t get my deposit back $500 when I leave. I know I signed this even though I never had that in a lease before, but I needed a place to live that I could afford after the bank foreclosed on my home. The bank did not even care I was disabled. - J.M.
A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem with mold, leaks, and more of an emergency, possible very serious health risks for someone with a respiratory illness as you must have if you need to use oxygen for breathing assistance.
That said, here are some things to consider:
Watch out: My first concern is that running fans in a moldy area risks an enormous increase in the level of airborne mold, if problem mold is present - and could thus increase the mold hazard for you.
Second, it would be appropriate to have a neutral professional, someone with no link to your property management/ownership and with no connection to companies who repair or fix mold or buildings to examine your home for unsafe conditions, leak causes, and visible mold. That inspection may or may not lead to the need for some supporting mold testing. Mold tests without an inspection are unreliable.
If your home is mold contaminated, the problem
At our EXPERTS DIRECTORY of home inspectors or at MOLD & ENVIRONMENTAL INSPECTORS you might find a professional who will help you pro bono or at a reduced rate if you explain your concerns. You might find a local real estate attorney (also try DIRECTORY OF ATTORNEYS & expert witnesses) who will also help you pro bono or at a reduced rate. Most leases require the landlord to provide safe, habitable living space.
You may also have financial aid available to you locally through your local senior citizens, town, or county associations or even the Red Cross.
Make sure that you have expressed your concerns and health risks to your property management in writing.
Question: fragile health, mold exposure, doctor wants us to test our apartment for mold but we have moved out and have no access - can you test a moldy board game from that space?
I have an incurable type of anemia (Alpha Thalessemia) that often leaves me very weak and fatigued, and I am also currently receiving physical therapy for ortho-arthritis in both of my knees from a work injury 3 years ago.
I have three children and our monthly income is less than $700 per month. When I am unable to work because of my therapy schedule and treatment for my anemia, I volunteer a few hours a week just to stay productive.
We moved into a newly renovated, market rent apartment owned by the City of Decatur Housing Authority in April 2011. A few weeks after we moved in, I noticed that the apartment had many unfinished construction issues (no air filters, brownish gray(sewage) plumbing would constantly back up in the tub and toilet and over flow onto the bathroom and hallway floor(hardwood), door and window frames had no weather stripping allowing wind, rain, and insects into the house, broken pipes under the kitchen sink causing huge leaks and cabinets to be water damaged, broken stair rails on our porch causing my 3 year old and other children to often lean on them and fall off the stairs, no peepholes, opossums, and stray cats going through our trash bags every night(the building didn't have a dumpster and we were not allowed to have trash cans; so the city issued trash bags were constantly ripped through and trash scattered everywhere in the mornings...their solution was for us to keep our trash inside our small apartments until garbage day(Mondays) which caused our apartments to smell bad.)
I wrote all of my complaints down and submitted them to the landlord for immediate repair and after 60 days, there was very little effort to repair and correct. So I began paying my rent into the court until they could repair everything. The landlord in turn also claimed that we were to be evicted due to non-payment of rent, in which I appealed, but they still proceeded to ask for collection of rent without repairing everything.
During our court dispute, there were two more huge plumbing issues, and after each sewage back up and plumbing leak, it took maintenance up to 4 days to come out and repair, which left a musty odor months after repair and clean up. My children and I kept getting serious respiratory infections, high fevers, headaches, and congestion at least 2 times per month. After treating everything we were allergic to, our Allergy and Asthma doctor asked had we tested for mold and mildew in our apartment.
This had been the only allergy of ours that she had been unable to treat. I purchased the two test kits and placed them by the air vents in the areas where the musty odors were strongest. While waiting on the kits to collect enough to test, our doctor produced a letter to our landlord asking either if they could relocate us to a dry mold and mildew free unit because of our illness and allergies; or allow us to break our lease early because of the conditions of the rental.
The landlord refused my last two months of rent and ordered a writ based on their first filing for eviction from 2 months earlier. There was no paperwork warning us of the writ, I called the court and found out that one had been filed. I then in turn filed an cancellation of writ based on uninhabitable conditions. My cancellation was approved on the same day that the maintenance crew began moving our items out. By the time I got to the property with the signed order to cancel the writ/eviction, the marshal said it was up to the landlord to decide if I could move back in or if they could transfer me into a new apartment. The mold test kits were the only items that were not moved out of the apartment and new locks were placed on the door.
The writ and eviction took place in November 2011, but our case is still ongoing because of the appeal and the cancellation based on uninhabitable conditions.
We just received a court day for June 2012 last week, and I have had the hardest time locating a lawyer and toxic mold specialist to test our old apartment. I now have a respiratory condition that causes me to wheeze easily because of the exposure in the apartment. I had placed a couple of board games that had been on the floor near the leak in a big thick black plastic bag and taped it up prior to the eviction and I still have them. That is the only sample I have from the apartment in my possession.
Is there a way that the board games can be tested or is there a way I can still get the old apartment tested? This whole case is a big headache, but so is the fact that my lungs are now super sensitive due to the bad maintenance of that apartment.
Please inform me on any options, referrals, or advise that will aid in my case. - S.C. 5/9/12
Reply: testing a board game for mold would not be a reliable indicator of your mold exposure
A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem. When an onsite inspection is no longer possible, because there is no access or because the original site has been cleaned or conditions there have changed, I agree that it's too bad but you just don't have that option as an information source that might help inform your doctor of conditions to which you have been exposed.
An accurate characterization of the mold to which you were exposed would require a visual inspection of the moldy apartment, some representative samples of the dominant mold genera/species growing in the home, possibly even some invasive measures to find large hidden mold reservoirs, and other measures.
I'm afraid that your mold test kits were most likely an unreliable approach to characterizing the mold in your apartment. What grows on the culture of a test kit may not be the dominant nor most harmful mold in the apartment but rather it's what fell onto the culture and liked to grow in that particular medium.
We could examine tape samples of the moldy surfaces of your board games, and I'd offer that work pro-bono for up to 4 tape samples (procedure at MOLD TEST KITS for DIY MOLD TESTS) but frankly it does not sound useful to do so. It would be a mistake to assume that the mold that grows on your board games is or ever was the dominant or most important mold that may have been in your home environment.
Your doctor can assist you in setting priorities for your time and attention but it seems to me (I am not a doctor) that your health comes first, and that the doctor will have advice on how your present health risks and complaints should be treated, considering that from your description alone you have probably been exposed to a variety of water-intrusion-type indoor mold growths.
A second concern is that if your home was very moldy, the contents that you have moved out of it into your new home may need to be cleaned, HEPA vacuumed, laundered, dry cleaned, washed, etc. to avoid importing a high level of moldy dust and debris into the new home.
Question: Suspected Chemical Hazards in a Converted Industrial Space
I got your website address from one of the Dutchess County health inspectors. He tried to help us but he could only test for organic solvents. He said sorry when he could not find anything and told us we needed to hire a private company to do testing.
We moved into a newly converted industrial space at [redacted for privacy] in Poughkeepsie. The building use to be a metal factory for the last 60 years until they turned it into rental units. On the 5th day of working there I noticed a strange vapor in the air that smelt like "welding" or something. For about a month after that I was in like a zombie like state. When I felt to sick to go to work and stayed home for a few days I snapped back to myself. Over those few days I was shaking like I was going through withdrawal or something. I downloaded a list of hazard waste shipments that this metal company shipped out and my symptoms fit well with tetrachloroethene exposure
I called the health dept and they told me to go to the emergency room which they said the only treatment would be fresh air and rest. I guess the health dept meet with the landlord and they were not able to find anything. One day a few days later I was there I could smell the stuff in the air that's when the inspector meet with me and said they can only test for solvents.
I bought one of these Haz Mat smart strips It tested positive for oxidizer and the Cyanide test turned a funky color that is not on the chart.
The landlord is a large company based in Westchester they seem to not care. The keep saying to write down dates and times and get blood tests. They never return our calls We tried to get blood tests but the doctor said we need to find out what we exposure to.
This nightmare has gone on for 2+ months my business is pretty much destroyed. I will be homeless in a month if someone does not help Can you please help us pro-bono or on a payment plan Thanks, R.S. - Poughkeepsie, New York
I am sorry to read of the difficulties you describe, and also to report that because my forensic expertise is with particles, mold, allergens, and not chemical contaminants, I'm not the best person to assist you. I agree that there could be chemical contaminants left from the prior industrial use of your building, including oils and solvents, and on an older building such as those along Cottage St. in Poughkeepsie, even pesticides.
Tetrachloroethene, also referred to as tetrachloroethylene or as "perc" was used in dry cleaning as well as a degreaser for metal working.
Watch out: while it is quite reasonable to suspect that tetrachloroethylene was and may remain present in a building where metalworking was conducted (used as a degreaser solvent that is both volatile and persistent in the environment), it would be a serious mistake to jump to the conclusion that it is the chief or only hazard in your building just as it would be risky to guess at your own exposure or to diagnose your complaint without consulting a qualified expert physician and hygienist. Just as an example, depending on the kind of work performed, metal plating, for example, can leave other hazards such as cadmium or other heavy metals behind in a local environment.
Watch out: Similarly, the "Smart-Strip" test kit that you purchased is a warning badge intended for emergency responders not comprehensive building surveys for chemical hazards. It was developed by Mike Reimer and is sensitive to chlorine, abnormal pH levels (identifying highly acidic or highly caustic agents), Fluoride, some nerve agents, Oxidizers, Arsenic, Sulfides, and Cyanide. It is by no means intended as a broad spectrum analyzer to identify specific chemicals among the thousands that may be used among various industries and industrial processes.
This chemically reactive "badge" is intended to be used or worn by first responders and emergency workers in the field to make very broad identification of hazardous conditions. It is not intended to identify specific chemicals or contaminants. And while this badge is widely accepted as a rough hazard screen, with this or many other chemically-based tests for contaminants, the presence of some chemicals or gases will affect the detection of others.
In contrast, an expert building investigator will consider the history of use of the building, the site, even nearby sites, as well as actual onsite observations, and occupant interview results in choosing an approach to screening for specific hazards.
I'm not sure you have to identify the exact solvent or chemical for a physician to be of assistance. If s/he has experience in environmental medicine or can refer you to someone who has that experience, there are most likely somewhat more broad exposure tests to hydrocarbons, solvents, including the one you name.
I suggest contacting an industrial hygienist willing to work on residential exposure questions, or perhaps Paul Ciminello at Ecosystems Strategies. But I am doubtful that many others besides myself are willing to take work like this on a pro-bono basis. And expert services can be costly.
Watch out: In my OPINION the safe inhabitability of a building is the responsibility of the building owner, and more, that the building owners may be inadvertently accepting a very very large liability risk if they have not had the building adequately surveyed and assured safe for occupants. If you make that concern clear, in writing, you may find that the owners will be willing to have proper inspection and testing performed. We can understand that an owner, not wanting to face or exacerbate what they may feel are avoidable expenses or troubles, may hope to find someone who will be quick, cheap, and who will give a clean bill of health to the building. But the risks of sloppy, careless or superficial work are so great for both owners and occupants, that in my view that would be a dangerous approach, and one to be avoided.
At RENTERS & TENANTS GUIDE TO MOLD & INDOOR HAZARDS we give advice to renters concerned about mold or other indoor contaminants - that may be helpful to you,
If you think it will assist your building owners in deciding what action is appropriate, when you write to them (phone calls alone are not adequate if serious building risks are suspected) you can include a copy of our correspondence, along with your own description of your concerns, along with the New York State file about Tetrachloroethylene exposure that and the Tetrachloroethylene MSDS I attached to my email to you and link-to here.
Please keep me posted on how things progress, and send along photos or documents about your building and its history if you can. Such added details can help us understand what's happening and often permit some useful further comment. What we both learn may help me help someone else. - Daniel
Question: obligation of a hotel to notify occupants of mold hazards or other health hazards
[The following is redacted and paraphrased to respect the correspondent's anonymty - Ed.]
Hi. Your website is a fantastic resource. Well done. Applause.
I wish to pose a question regarding citations and obligation to disclose.
I [...] reported [significant] mold [contamination] in [a hotel] room [and on a later visit to the same hotel] I found that the mold had not been removed. [I later found mold contamination in other rooms in the same hotel. [I] submitted [a] formal complaint to [the] local health authority. Authority did investigate, did confirm presence of mold and did cite the hotel in each instance. [But when I spoke with the hotel manager [s/he] denied [that the] presence of mold was confirmed, and that citations were issued [by the local authorities].
My question is, if the hotel is cited for mold in a particular hotel room and a public citizen later asks management whether the hotel was cited for mold in [in that very room] and the hotel manager asserts it wasn't cited for mold in that room might [there] be a governmental regulatory agency tasked to respond to such an incident? If actionable, what governmental regulatory agency should be notified?
Thanks in advance for your consideration. Sincerely, Anon 6/8/2013
Reply: laws requiring a hotel to give notice of health hazards
Good question and troubling but not at all surprising story; the hotel is naturally worried about scary publicity.
In my view it would be both appropriate and fair to first notify the building management and owners of your concern, in writing, in a clear, documented, and polite letter. Putting information in writing has its own strength and compelling nature.
It's easy enough to find the requirement for notice of unsafe or unhealthy conditions in a hotel, as I document here:
For information about hotel and health regulations see
Also see Cornell University offers information on hotel regulations
Watch out for a related concern: in my OPINION and based on my own field experience, building owners and managers, out of worry about scaring renters or in this case hotel guests, thus risking loss of business, may not only fail to report a mold hazard (especially if they do not agree with you that there was a hazard), they also may fail to take proper action to clean up or remove moldy materials and to adequately correct the cause for mold growth in the building. Inadequate mold remediation risks leaving a hazard in the building, one that may be particularly risky for future occupants who may be infant, elderly, asthmatic, allergic, or immune system-impaired.
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Technical Reviewers & References
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OTHER IAQ ISSUES: How To Find and Address Other Indoor Air or Indoor Environment Contaminants Besides Mold
Mold or allergens may not be the only or even the main indoor environmental contaminant. Don't let media attention to mold cause so much enviro-scare fear that other, possibly more urgent hazards go un-addressed.