Carpets Growing Mold After Being Exposed to Moisture are Presenting Serious Health Risks

carpet cleaningAccording to wcjb.com, Fort White Elementary School in Fort White, FL, is dealing with a mold crisis that may be putting children and teachers in harm’s way.

Michelle Works, a mother of four students at Fort White Elementary, was one of the first people to suspect the presence of mold in the school after noticing a strong smell during an open house in August. In some classrooms, she said the smell was practically unbearable.

Over that summer, the roof of the two story brick building experienced leaks through its metal shingles. Columbia County Schools has said that the roof has since been repaired, but Works claims there is still plenty more work to be done before the building is safe.

“They repaired the pipes and fixed the roof damage, but they haven’t done anything about the mold and mildew in the classrooms,” said Works.

Works reported that the mold has already begun affecting her kids who now suffer from respiratory and breathing problems.

Experts recommend professional carpet cleanings in homes and businesses every 12 to 18 months to avoid the proliferation of mold, dust, and other toxins in carpeting. However, if rugs retain moisture, then more than a simple cleaning could be necessary to eliminate the hazard of mold.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only case of mold in a school in the area in recent years. In 2013, Starke Elementary School closed for almost eight months due to the discovery of mold. After extensive cleaning and renovation of the school, costing a total of $2 million, the school’s doors finally reopened.

While this case is terribly unfortunate considering that these children were likely already exposed to mold before anyone even realized the issue, some organizations have put in effort to prevent people from being exposed in the first place.

An article from kingstreenews.com reported that the American Red Cross issued a warning to South Carolina residents whose homes were damaged in the recent floods. They accentuate the importance of recognizing and effectively eliminating mold from the structure.

“When we talk to those affected, we want them to know that if things are wet – insulation, sheet rock, furniture – and have been wet for 48 hours or more, then they do have to be removed,” said American Red Cross Health Services Volunteer Pam Deichmann.

They explained how to recognize mold from the black discoloration and the coinciding pungent and musty odor. In order to assist residents, they also provided a list of tips to follow for removing mold.

The first step is to permanently remove any furniture, wood, leather, and especially carpet that had been exposed to moisture for over 48 hours, and then use bleach to clean mold of off any remaining hard surfaces, such as floors or counter tops. They also advise wearing rubber boots, rubber gloves, goggles, masks, and opening windows and doors during the entire process to help assure safety.

According to Deichmann, people should stay alert for any respiratory issues or burning sensations in the sinus area as an early indication of the presence of mold. Effectively eliminating mold could mean the difference between life and death.

Sources:  WCJB.com
KingsTreeNews.com

It Might be Time to Wash the Five-Second Rule From Your Eating Habits

dirty floorNot a single child in the United States isn’t well-versed in the five-second rule and hasn’t at some point taken advantage of it not to waste their favorite piece of candy. Unfortunately, this famous “rule” may not be as true as many would hope.

According to The Irish News, basic level experts say that even before five seconds is up, you shouldn’t eat anything dropped on the floor because bacteria can transfer to food instantly. In fact, bacteria can live after four weeks just on a carpet, and thanks to a process called “microbial adhesion,” germs such as Salmonella typhimurium, Campylobacter, and Salmonella enteritis, which cause horrible diarrhea and vomiting, can transfer immediately to food.

One of the first official studies testing Genghis Khan’s theory of bacterial contamination — even though he believed food could be safe for consumption even after 12 hours on the floor — was conducted by American high school student Jillian Clarkes as part of an apprenticeship at the University of Illinois.

By inoculating smooth and rough tiles with E. coli, Clark placed either cookies or gummy bears on each tile for five seconds or less. She found that bacteria did transfer to the foods, and that gummy bears were far more susceptible to the transmission.

Similar results were found in a separate study by researchers in the Journal of Applied Microbiology. They contaminated wood, tile, and carpeted surfaces with Salmonella, and then dropped bread on them for either five, 30, or 60 seconds.

Their findings insinuated that the time spent on the floor didn’t affect how much bacteria accumulated on the food, but the type of surface did. Hard surfaces, such as tile or wood, transferred up to 5 to 68% of bacteria, while food dropped on carpet picked up less than 0.5%.

However, The Irish News and The Royal Gazette alike reported on a study from Aston University, which claims that the time food spends on the floor is a significant factor in the transfer of bacteria.

The researchers monitored the transmission of E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus from carpeted, laminated, and tiled floor with different foods, including toast, pasta, cookies, and sticky sweets. They determined that food that came in contact with the floor for just three seconds had substantially less bacteria than those with 30 seconds of exposure, and the foods that made contact with tile after five seconds had transferred more than 99% of the bacteria.

“Salmonella Typhimurium can survive for up to four weeks on dry surfaces in high enough populations to be transferred to foods and… and can be transferred to the foods tested almost immediately on contact,” concluded the researchers.

The Royal Gazette also reported on a study by Clemson University in South Carolina that states the cleanliness of a floor is a more important consideration than the time food spends on the floor. After dropping bread and bologna on different surfaces, they found that on carpet treated with salmonella, less than 1% of bacteria transferred to food, as compared to 70% on wood and tile.

Regardless of which study had the most accurate findings, the fact of the matter is that any bacteria on the floor will transfer to food. Therefore, it’s time to throw out the five-second rule — and anything that falls off your plate!

Sources:  IrishNews.com
RoyalGazette.com

More Than 4,000 People Died in U.S. Construction Accidents

construction siteConstruction cranes are a common sight and welcome addition to skylines in every major city in the world. They’re often seen as visible, albeit highly anecdotal, evidence that a city is growing. Normally, a crane collapse doesn’t garner much interest outside the closeted world of the construction industry. But that changed earlier this year, when a deadly crane collapse in Mecca killed 107 people.

Mecca is the holiest city in Islam, and the Grand Mosque there is at the center of the annual pilgrimage known as the Hajj. This September, tragedy struck when a storm toppled a massive construction crane, which then crashed through the roof of the mosque. At least 107 people were killed, while about 240 more worshipers were injured. As so often happens in the digital age, shaky cellphone videos and images of the bloody chaos spread quickly across social media.

Because of this high-profile incident, crane collapses are drawing more attention than usual. On Thursday, October 15, when a firetruck-red crane collapsed on an Atlanta parking garage. Fortunately, no one was injured this time, although a team of construction workers was temporarily stranded.

Now, the U.S. National Science Foundation has announced a $650,000 grant to study and improve construction equipment. Researchers at Penn State University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign say that the research could literally save lives. That’s because in 2013 alone more than 4,040 people died in construction site accidents.

Specifically, this program will focus largely on mobile cranes, one of the most common causes of construction job site injuries and deaths. Already, even the smallest cranes use a system of crane pads and mats that help stabilize the equipment as it towers over the work site.

“When it comes to sizing outrigger pads or crane pads for mobile cranes, I recommend discontinuing the use and teaching of the “3 Times the Area of the Outrigger Float” for cranes with a lifting capacity of 90 Tons or greater,” says Kris Koberg, CEO, DICA. “Any sizing method that does not take the ground into consideration is ignoring one of the most important factors in pad sizing, especially as loads and pressures increase.”

To help improve safety, the researchers say they want to use the NSF grant to develop virtual solutions to improve safety. Crane operators sometimes perform “blind lifts,” in which they lift and place equipment they can’t see. The researchers hope to provide crane operators with real-time information from cameras and sensors. The U.S. already has strict safety standards builders must follow, but as with any piece of large equipment, cranes can still pose serious risks.

“Among commonly used equipment, cranes account for a larger share of accidents. In crane-related accidents, the most frequent cause of worker injury or death is crane collapses at 39 percent, followed by contact with overhead power lines at 14 percent, impacts by crane loads at 14 percent, and impacts by other crane parts at 14 percent,” said Chimay Anumba, an architectural engineering professor at Penn State University.

Unlucky Lottery Winners Will Have to Wait For Winnings

Man play lotteryUnlucky lottery winners” may sound oxymoronic, but that’s exactly the term to describe those in Illinois who have won more than $600 in lottery games. According to state lottery officials, all winnings over $600 will be delayed because of the Illinois budget impasse.

“We don’t have the legislative authority to replenish our check-writing account,” said lottery spokesman Steve Rossi.

As of October 15, the Illinois State Lottery’s account was expected to be depleted with no source of funds to replenish it until a new state budget passes, according to a written statement from lottery officials.

Fortunately, participants who win $600 or less can still get their lottery payments at retail locations.

The debacle first began back in July, when the Illinois lottery started giving out IOUs to those who had won more than $25,000. As the state budget remained in political gridlock, the funds grew smaller and smaller, until it reached the point at which the lottery couldn’t pay out any amount over $600.

“Without a budget, we can’t, by law, make any payments on an appropriated fund without a court order or consent decree or statutory continuing appropriation,” the state comptroller’s office said.

Thanks to a federal class action lawsuit, however, that court order might just be on the way. The group of winners who filed the suit against the state alleges that they’re waiting on a staggering total sum of $288 million.

With the state in its fourth month without a spending plan, the lottery hasn’t considered suspending its games. Lottery officials have said that all outstanding winnings will be paid once the state passes a budget.

“Once the budget situation is resolved, this will be resolved as well,” said Rossi.

‘Divorced’ Couples Actually Still Married Thanks to Divorce Attorney Scam in New Jersey

filling out legal court formsMany times people take what others tell them they are at face value — especially when consulting those in legal and professional fields, where they least expect to encounter fraud and deception. But one case in New Jersey highlights just how important it is to do some research before hiring a lawyer.

Prosecutors say that at least two victims were deceived by 29-year-old Anastasya Varvaryuk of Elmwood Park as she claimed to be a divorce attorney, according to the NYC/New Jersey ABC 7 news.

Although Varvaryuk didn’t steal exorbitant amounts of money from the couples she worked with, she did leave them with one big problem: namely, that they’re still married. Varvaryuk allegedly sold fraudulent divorce judgements to her clients as well as forged a superior court judge’s signature on them in an attempt to pass them off as real.

Now the people who were already trying to get through the difficult process of a divorce must go through the entire ordeal again, but this time hopefully they find a legitimate lawyer to help them. Varvaryuk is not a lawyer and actually worked at Empire Multi Services.

Confidence and the power of persuasion can be powerful things, and it appears that’s all it may have taken for the unhappy couples to fall for Varvaryuk’s scheme. Replying to an online posting of her services on AngiesList.com, she answered, “Yes, I am appropriately licensed for my trade,” to a question about licensing on the listing, according to the New Jersey radio station site NJ1015.com. Apparently, that’s all at least two people needed to hear.

“It’s obviously extremely rare for someone to pass themselves off as a lawyer, but there are many pitfalls to trying to handle a difficult legal situation like a divorce on your own,” says Kenneth J. Phillips, the Law Office of Kenneth J. Phillips.“I have had many clients come to me where their spouse had an attorney and they did not, and as the country and western song says,”they got the shaft.” Unfortunately, divorces are only partly a matter of legalities; most of what I have to deal with are the personalities of my client and the spouse, and those personalities are at their worst during a divorce, especially when there are children involved. If you’re even thinking about getting a divorce, go to a lawyer to discuss your situation and your options. It will be time well spent.”

According to Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes, practicing law without a license and forgery are third-degree crimes that can carry three to five years each serving time in State Prison as punishment. Authorities continue to investigate the case and are trying to determine if there are more victims who may be unknowingly still married.

New Debates on Electromagnetic Sensitivity

Senior man with a headacheElectromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) is a relatively new term for those who are sensitive to the radio waves coming from various forms of technology. This could be a TV, laptop, cell phone, WiFi router — basically anything that emits a signal. Recently, the condition has gone more mainstream and been recognized on a more global scale.

The condition is characterized by numerous “non-specific” symptoms, but there is debate on its legitimacy. On one hand, a study in 2012 said that chronic EMF exposure showed physiological stress in cells after 1.5 years. In addition, a federal agency called the Access Board, which is responsible for the guidelines in the Americans with Disabilities Act, said that the condition may be considered a disability. But on the other hand, the World Health Organization (WHO) doesn’t recognize the condition.

In August of this year, a lawsuit was filed by parents against a private school for a failure to accommodate their son’s electromagnetic sensitivity. The school already ran their WiFi signal at 1/10,000th of the safety limit, but the parents wanted them to turn it down or return to Ethernet cables.

But the WHO argues that “there is no scientific basis to link EHS symptoms to EMF [electromagnetic frequency] exposure.” They recently published an article entitled, “Allergic to Technology: Ethics and the ‘Electrically Hypersensitive’ Individual,” in which Dr. Kenneth R. Foster and Dr. G. James Rubin said that their years of research did not show conclusive evidence linking the symptoms to EMF. They also said in another study that it seems the symptoms depend on whether a person thinks they’re being exposed, rather than if they actually are.

The term for this type of condition in the medical community is a “nocebo effect.” This means that an individual may experience legitimate symptoms that come from a completely inert exposure/source. This is to say, the effects may be real, but the source is not actually dangerous.

Court cases concerning this condition have varying degrees of outcomes. A French woman won $900/month disability stipend in September, while a New Mexico case ruled against the plaintiff in March since there is currently no scientific basis for the condition.

Now Is the Time for Home Remodeling Projects, Says Harvard Joint Center Research Team

Construction or repair of the rural houseMost homeowners would assume that spring is the best time to begin a home remodeling project, but according to the latest data from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, right now is actually the ideal time to get working on that bathroom or kitchen remodeling project.

The Lowell Sun says that researchers expect remodeling expenditures to pick up during the final stretch of 2015 and continue well into next year.

CNBC noted that the most likely cause of increased remodeling spending is that homeowners feel more secure about the value of their property — and with their overall finances — and therefore feel comfortable enough to make remodeling investments to increase that value.

It’s expected that homeowners will be spending around $154.5 billion on remodeling projects during the second quarter of 2016, which will be 6.8% higher than the $144.7 billion homeowners spent in the second quarter of 2015.

This past quarter (third quarter of 2015), homeowners spent $149.4 billion, and this was a 2.4% increase from one year ago.

“This year, a steady economy showed a significant improvement in residential remodeling; homeowners are more confident spending their money on much needed home improvements,” says Peter Kiwior, Owner, Pro-Home Services. “Replacement windows and roofing are among the most popular items customers have inquired about this year, however the best savings on windows, doors and LP Smartside siding are in the winter months and roofing in the early spring.”

A report from Houzz, a remodeling website, also found that the majority (two-thirds) of home renovation and remodeling businesses in the U.S. will have annual revenues for 2015 that are comparable to, or even higher than, earnings from pre-recession years. While national home improvement chain stores are expected to see a majority of the increased revenue, it seems possible that many independent remodeling and repair businesses will start seeing an increase in revenue as well.

Chris Herbert, managing director of Harvard’s Joint Center, agreed that the interest in remodeling projects is tightly connected to the currently-stable housing market.

“Home-improvement spending continues to benefit from the last year’s upswing in housing-market conditions including new construction, price gains and sales,” said Herbert in a statement.

“Strengthening housing-market conditions are encouraging owners to invest in more discretionary home improvements, such as kitchen and bath remodeling and room additions, in addition to the necessary replacements of worn components such as roofing and siding.”

With Colder Temps, Experts Say More Bugs Will Invade

AntsAs we move closer to winter and the temperatures start to drop, bugs will be looking for a warm place out of the cold — likely leading them into your home. Stink bugs and cockroaches are the two biggest perpetrators.

The good news with stink bugs is that even when they do get inside, they’re fairly harmless. They won’t bite you or your pets, and they don’t cause structural damage. However, once one gets in the house, you should be on the lookout for more.

Experts at Michigan State suggest that while the weather is still slightly warm, you should check outside your home for any cracks, especially near windows and doors. If you’ve done that and they still find their way in, seal off outlets, ceiling fixtures, and your heating ducts.

Getting rid of them is as easy as picking up a vacuum cleaner, says Rebecca Finneran, of MSU.

“Just get a Shop Vac kind of thing and a long hose, and away you go. If you squish a stink bug, you’re probably going to notice a really sickly sweet and kind of putrid odor — that’s why they’re called stink bugs,” Finneran told WZZM in Grand Rapids. “Even if you just capture them, you’ll notice that smell — they emit that smell; that’s why I’m suggesting the vacuum cleaner to clean them up, as opposed to squishing them.”

Because some of the different types of these bugs are invasive, Michigan residents are advised to report sightings to the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network.

Stink bugs are not the only issue facing homeowners this season. Cockroaches, which can survive in temperatures as low as 32 degrees Fahrenheit and rest up to 75% of the time, also invade homes around this time.

In addition, homeowners should watch for spiders and small rodents.

“The bugs, like humans, are trying to get inside and stay warm,” said Jordan Rode, general manager at Buckeye Exterminating in Lima, OH. “They’ll do what they call over-winter, hide around, sometimes it’ll be a J-channel around your windows, anywhere that they can get into, doors. A lot of times you’ll see mice or other rodents trying to get in thresholds of doors, cracks in the foundation.”

Rode adds, “Rather than put a band aid on it once it’s happened, if you can get the problem before it starts or just as it’s getting going, it’s a lot easier to take care of them than when the bugs overrun your house.”

Zacks Downgrades Leading Aftermarket Auto Parts Distributor to a Hold Rating

Car partsA true gearhead would scoff at the idea of buying an aftermarket part for their vehicle, but a market for these products does exist. However, for one of the leading distributors in the industry, the future looks slightly bleaker than usual.

According to Financial Wisdom Works, U.S. Auto Parts Network (NASDAQ:PRTS) had its stocks lowered from a strong-buy rating to a hold on Tuesday morning by investment research firm Zacks.

U.S. Auto Parts Network is a leading online provider of automotive aftermarket parts, including body parts, engine parts, performance parts, and accessories.

Shares for the company were at $2.35 on Tuesday. It currently trades 5,237 shares, with a one-year low of $1.50 and a peak of $3.34.

Investors may be hesitant to invest in the company due to a new trend of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts that have become the most popular option for those customizing their vehicles.

Many car owners avoid aftermarket parts as they can potentially void their warranty, but mechanics will sometimes use them in place of original parts to cut costs.

In 21 states and the District of Columbia, a body shop’s repair estimate does not have to indicate whether aftermarket parts will be used.

According to Money Flow Index, the public’s unfavorable opinion of aftermarket parts is also having an effect on other major companies. Shares of Genuine Parts Company (NYSE:GPC) traded with a loss of -0.06% in the last session.

Goldman Sachs, another renowned investment research firm, downgraded their rating of Genuine Parts Company on the heels of their slight decline.

U.S. Auto Parts Network had revenue of $76.5 million for the most recent quarter, which paled in comparison to the consensus estimate of $79.2 million investors pegged for the company a few months ago.

Newer South Carolina Housing Developments Hit Hardest by Hurricane Joaquin

Hurricane Sandy destructionResidents of South Carolina are still trying to pick up the pieces from recent storms and flooding, but newer homes in the state seem to have taken the brunt of the damage.

According to Newsweek, older buildings in the historic corridor of Charleston remained relatively unscathed throughout the devastation of Hurricane Joaquin because they were built to stand on higher ground.

However, newer housing developments were not as fortunate, absorbing much of the flood damage throughout the state due to being situated on lower ground.

“The architecture [of Charleston] responds to its environment,” said Winslow Hastie, chief preservation officer for the Historic Charleston Foundation. “Because flooding isn’t a new thing to the city, many of the old buildings are without any apparent catastrophic damage.”

Many of the latest developments are built upon “made land” in the suburbs, which means they were constructed on old creek beds and filled-in marshes. These new homes were the ones most devastated by the flooding.

Joseph Snyder, a junior at the College of Charleston, notes that it wasn’t just his city that fell victim to major flood damage from the storm, and no one was safe from its wrath.

“It wasn’t just Goose Creek, Charleston, bits of Summerville,” said Snyder. “It was the whole state.”

A few newer housing developments, including ones in Beaufort County, were spared from extensive flood damage, but they are still standing strong with their fellow South Carolinians during these trying times.

According to The Washington Post, the cities of Charleston and Columbia both set two- and three-day records for total rainfall during the storm. The state’s torrential rainfall is considered to be a “once in 1,000 year” event.

In the aftermath of the storm, South Carolina residents are just trying to regain a sense of normalcy. Hastie tends to think that a slight change of the weather would do a lot of good for those affected.

“We just need some sun,” he said. “I think everybody’s kind of just ready for the water to recede.”