Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions on Lead

How big is the problem?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, childhood lead poisoning is the number one environmental health risk facing children in industrialized countries today. In the United States, more than three million children age six and younger-- that's one out of every six children -- already have toxic levels of lead in their bodies. New research in Mother Jones magazine, finds Pb (chemical symbol for lead), to be the hidden culprit or reason behind violent crimes, lower IQ's, and even the ADHD epidermic. And fixing the problem is a lot cheaper than doing nothing.

Do many homes have lead-based paint hazards?

It is estimated that at least 19 million homes have lead-based paint hazards, of which at least 4 million have young children under age the age of six living in them. (HUD 1990; EPA 1995).

If there's lead in my home, do I have to remove it?

Usually, no. In most states there are no laws that require you to remove lead paint. (Check with state and local authorities to see if there are more stringent laws where you live.) But, you do have to contend with it. That is "manage it" using approved, lead safe work practices when performing maintenance or repairs.

Can I use a do-it-yourself testing kit?

You can, but you should know that HUD and EPA do not permit the use of chemical spot test kits as an official evaluation method. (Evaluations must be performed by EPA certified and state licensed lead inspectors and risk assessors.) The EPA says these kits may give unreliable results. One of the reasons is that lead paint is usually buried under layers of newer non-lead paint. The do-it-yourself testing kits often are unable to measure deeply buried paint layers. However, the kits are a good way to test pottery, toys and other household items for lead.

Why is lead dangerous?

The effects of lead-poisoning on children can be devastating. Just 10 micrograms of lead per day (the equivalent of 3 grains of sugar) can place a child in danger. Irreversible learning disabilities as well as lowered intelligence are the usual result. Lead poisoning occurs when lead has been introduced into the bloodstream by ingestion and inhalation of lead dust or fumes. Our bodies cannot distinguish lead from other minerals, like iron and calcium, which our bodies actually need, and sends it directly to vital organs. Lead is then deposited in these organs as well as our brain and bone marrow. Women of childbearing age and children under the age of six are considered to be at the highest risk.

What are the symptoms of lead poisoning?

Lead poisoning produces a variety of symptoms that are often overlooked as everyday medical complaints:
• Loss of appetite
• Insomnia
• Irritability
• Fatigue
• Headaches
• Joint and muscle aches
• Lack of concentration
• Learning disabilities
• Hyperactivity
• Hearing dysfunction
• Decreased sex drive
• Miscarriage
• Moodiness

Frequently Asked Questions on Asbestos

Is asbestos dangerous?

Yes, especially if it is damaged. If so, why? Damaged or old asbestos can easily crumble and the needle-like fibers can become airborne. It's easy to inhale these fibers. The fibers will lodge in the pleura (lining of the lungs) or other parts of your body and can cause scarring and other problems.

Where might I come into contact with asbestos?

Asbestos can be present in many products produced before the asbestos warnings of the 1970s, including insulation, drywall tape, gaskets, brake shoes, certain household products, and more. These may still be in your home or your workplace.

What kinds of products have asbestos in them?

It is believed that in decades past, up to 5,000 consumer products contained asbestos, including insulation products, drywall tape, gaskets, fertilizer, hair dryers, toasters, coffee pots, irons and ironing board covers, wood-burning stoves, electric blankets, and many more. You may still own some of these products.

What should I do if I think I have asbestos in my home?

Am I in danger? If you think you have asbestos in your home, you should call a licensed asbestos removal company to test your air quality. If the air quality is less than satisfactory, the asbestos should be removed. Usually, if the asbestos is not damaged and is left alone, it will not pose a health hazard.

How might I be exposed to asbestos fibers?

Asbestos can enter the environment from weathered natural mineral deposits and fiber releases arising from man made asbestos products. Asbestos may be found in products like floor tiles, roof shingles, cement, and automotive brakes. Electrical, plumbing, acoustical, and structural insulation applications are also very common. Asbestos fibers are released into the air when these products are disturbed. It can be accidentally swallowed or inhaled.

How can asbestos affect my health?

Information on human health effects of asbestos comes mostly from long-term studies of people exposed to asbestos in the workplace. Asbestos workers who breathe in asbestos may develop a slow build-up of scar-like tissue in the lungs called asbestosis. This scarred tissue state impairs the ability of the lungs and heart to adequately provide oxygen to the body. This is a serious disease, and can eventually lead to disability or death in people exposed to high amounts of asbestos. Asbestos workers also have increased chances of developing two types of cancer: Lung cancer starts within the respiratory tissues, and mesothelial cancer grows from the thin membranes that surround the lung or the abdominal cavities. Both lung cancer and mesothelioma are usually fatal. These asbestos-related diseases do not appear immediately, but may develop 20 to 50 years after exposure.
The health effects from oral asbestos exposures are unclear. In some areas where the residents are exposed to asbestos fibers in the drinking water, cancers of the esophagus, stomach, and intestine may be a greater concern. After reviewing the scientific evidence from human experience and animal testing; however, health authorities are still unsure of asbestos links to cancer in the digestive system.

Frequently Asked Questions on Mold

What are molds?

Molds are types of fungi. They grow in the natural environment. Tiny particles of molds are found everywhere in indoor and outdoor air. In nature, molds help break down dead materials, and can be found growing on soil, foods, plants and other items. Molds are also very common in buildings and homes. Mold needs moisture to grow. Indoors, mold growth can be found where humidity levels are high, like basements and showers. Molds produce microscopic cells called "spores" that are spread easily through the air. Spores can also be spread by water and insects. Live spores act like seeds, forming new mold colonies when they find the right conditions.

Should I be worried about mold in my home?

Yes and no. On the one hand, there will always be mold in your home in the form of spores and pieces of mold cells. The presence of mold in the air is normal. On the other hand, one should not let mold grow and multiply indoors. When this happens, your level of exposure can increase, thereby increasing the risk of potential health problems. Building materials, household goods and furnishings may also be damaged. Mold needs to eat to survive, and it's perfectly happy eating your home if you allow it.

What health problems can be caused by mold?

There are four kinds of health problems that come from exposure to mold: allergic illness, irritant effects, infection, and toxic effects. For people that are sensitive to molds, symptoms such as nasal and sinus irritation or congestion, dry hacking cough, wheezing, skin rashes or burning, watery or reddened eyes may occur. People with severe allergies to molds may have more serious reactions, such as hay-fever-like symptoms or shortness of breath. People with chronic illnesses or people with immune system problems may be more likely to get infections from certain molds, viruses and bacteria. Molds can also trigger asthma attacks in persons with asthma. Headaches, memory problems, mood swings, nosebleeds and body aches and pains are sometimes reported in mold complaints, but the causes of these physical symptoms are not yet understood. The toxic effects of certain molds are not well understood, and are currently a controversial topic in the medical and scientific community. There is evidence of specific long-term toxic effects from eating foods with mold toxins. Unfortunately, very little is known regarding the actual health risks from breathing in or skin contact with mold toxins. Allergic disease is now considered the most likely health problem related to mold exposures. Research into the possible health effects related to mold exposure continues today.

How can I be exposed to mold?

Mold is virtually everywhere, floating in the air and on all surfaces. People are exposed to molds 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. Exposures increase when indoor moldy materials becomes dried, damaged or disturbed, causing spores and other mold cells to be released into the air and then inhaled. Elevated exposure can also occur if people directly handle moldy materials or accidentally eat mold.

Are some molds more hazardous than others?

Some types of molds can produce chemicals called "mycotoxins". These molds are common, and are sometimes referred to as "toxic mold". There are very few reports that "toxic molds" inside homes can cause unique or rare health conditions. If you think you have a mold problem in your home, you do not need to find out what type of mold you may have. All molds should be treated the same when it comes to health risks and removal. All indoor mold growth should be removed promptly, no matter what type(s) of mold is present, or whether or not it can produce mycotoxins.

How Should Mold Be Cleaned?

Mold should be cleaned as soon as it appears. Persons who clean the mold should be free of symptoms and allergies. Small areas of mold should be cleaned using a detergent/soapy water or a commercial mildew or mold cleaner. Gloves and goggles should be worn during cleaning. The cleaned area should then be thoroughly dried. Throw away any sponges or rags used to clean mold.

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