Education Center

What is asbestos?

  • Asbestos is a set of naturally occurring silicate minerals exploited commercially for their desirable physical properties.  Asbestos became increasingly popular among manufacturers and builders in the late 1900s because of its sound absorption, tensile strength, the ability to be woven, and its resistance to heat, electrical, and chemical damage.

Why is asbestos dangerous?

  •  The inhalation of asbestos fibers is a serious health risk.  The fibers embed in the lung tissue and over time may cause lung diseases, including malignant lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.  Asbestos fibers may also become embedded in the skin and cause diseases such as asbestos warts, pleural plaques, and diffuse pleural thickening.  Disease symptoms may take several years to develop following exposure.

When is asbestos dangerous?

  • Exposure to asbestos is never healthy, however, asbestos exposure becomes a health concern when asbestos fibers are inhaled over a long period of time.  When asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed by repair, remodeling, or demolition activities, microscopic fibers become airborne and can be inhaled into the lungs, where they can cause significant health problems.

Is there still much asbestos left in the United States?

  • Yes, in 2006, 2.3 million tons of asbestos were mined worldwide.  This asbestos is still being used for the manufacture of products and materials which are then shipped into the United States.

What are typical products in which asbestos can be found?

  • Vinyl floor tile, sheet flooring, and adhesives
  • Drywall and joint compound
  • Roofing tars, felts, siding, and shingles
  • Transite panels, siding, counter tops, and pipes
  • Popcorn ceiling, acoustic ceilings, and ceiling tiles
  • Thermal pipe insulation
  • HVAC flexible duct connectors

How can asbestos be identified?

  • Asbestos can only be positively identified through the use of a special type of microscope.  Unless the material is labeled, you cannot tell whether it contains asbestos simply by looking at it.  If you suspect that it is an asbestos-containing material, you should treat the material as asbestos until you can contact a Licensed Asbestos Inspector to have the material sampled, analyzed, and identified.

What if I have asbestos in my home, office, or building?

  • If the asbestos-containing material is still in good condition, it is best to leave it alone.  Generally, material in good condition will not release asbestos fibers.  Check the area of concern regularly for signs of wear or damage such as tears, abrasions, or water damage.  Damaged materials may release asbestos fibers which cause health concerns.

To learn more, visit the following links:

EPA – Asbestos

PA DEP – Asbestos

MDE – Asbestos & Industrial Hygiene

IAQA – Asbestos

National Center for Healthy Housing – Asbestos

CDC/ATSDR – Asbestos

What is mold?

  • Mold and mold spores are everywhere in nature and are common in household and workplace dust.  However, when spores are present in large quantities, they can cause allergic reactions and respiratory problems for some people.

Why is mold dangerous?

  • Some mold spores produce mycotoxins that can pose serious health issues to humans and animals alike.  Exposure to high levels of mycotoxins can lead to neurological problems.  Prolonged exposure can be particularly harmful.

Where is mold often found?

  • Molds can be found everywhere – both indoors and outdoors – and it can grow on almost any surface where moisture or humidity are present. Molds are reproduced by spores which are carried by air currents.  These spores need only three things to grow into mold:  Nutrients, moisture or humidity, and time.  Mold growth can begin in as little as 24 hours.

What is Thieves?  And why does Baxter Environmental Group, Inc. use it during mold remediation?

  • Some products used during mold remediation will eliminate the mold contamination, but leave behind harmful volatile organic compounds (VOC’s).  Baxter Environmental Group, Inc. uses Thieves Essential Oils as an alternative to those chemicals to improve the overall indoor environmental quality of the building.  See the attached History of Thieves and the Alternative Mold Remediation Practices research completed by Baxter Environmental Group, Inc. for details.

To learn more, visit the following links:

EPA – Mold

U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development – Mold & Moisture

MDE – Mold Prevention & Cleanup

IAQA – Mold Resources

National Center for Healthy Housing – Mold

CDC – Mold

What is lead?

  • Lead is a soft, malleable metal.  It is also counted as a heavy metal and a poor metal (which means it is softer, weaker, and has a lower boiling point than other metals).  It is poisonous to both humans and animals.

Why is lead dangerous?

  • Lead can damage the nervous system and cause brain disorders.  Excessive lead also causes blood disorders and is a potent neurotoxin that accumulates both in soft tissues and in the bones.  The effects of lead are the same whether it enters the body through breathing or swallowing.  Lead can affect almost every organ and system in the body.  The main target for lead toxicity, however, is the nervous system.  Long-term exposure can cause decreased performance in tests that measure functions of the nervous system, cause weakness in fingers, wrists or ankles, cause small increases in blood pressure, and can cause anemia.  High exposures to lead levels can severely damage the brain and kidneys, ultimately causing death.  Lead exposure has also been linked to learning disabilities.  Lead that is emitted into the atmosphere, for example, sanding a painted area, can be inhaled or it can be ingested after it settles out of the air.  It is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream.

Where is lead often found?

  • Lead may be identified in contaminated soil, dust or lead-based paints.  Older houses (built prior to 1980) may still contain substantial amounts of lead paint.  Old paint should not be sanded off, as this produces dust that may be inhaled and dangerous to breathe.

How is someone exposed to lead?

  • Lead exposure mostly occurs through ingestion and it is usually ingested by children.  As lead paint deteriorates, it peels, pulverizes, and then enters the body through hand-to-mouth contact or through contaminated foods or liquids.

To learn more, visit the following links:

EPA – Lead

PA DEP – Lead Poisoning

MDE – Lead Poisoning Prevention

National Center for Healthy Housing – Lead

CDC – Lead


What is radon?

  • Radon is a radioactive, colorless, odorless, tasteless gas, occurring naturally as an indirect decay product of uranium or thorium.  Uranium and thorium are radioactive metals that are found beneath the Earth’s surface.

Why is radon dangerous?

  • Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States!  It is number one among non-smokers.

Where can radon be found?

  • Radon can be found in any home or building with a basement or a slab foundation.  Because of the nature of the pathways of uranium and thorium beneath the Earth’s surface, there is no way to tell whether your home, office, or building is affected unless you have it tested.

To learn more, visit the following links:

EPA – Radon

PA DEP – Radon Division

MDE – Radon & Your Home

IAQA – Radon Resources

National Center for Healthy Housing – Radon

CDC – Radon & Your Health

What is air duct cleaning?

  • Duct cleaning refers to the cleaning of various heating and cooling system components of forced air systems, and includes:
    • Supply ducts
    • Return ducts
    • Registers
    • Grills
    • Diffusers
    • Heat exchangers, heating and cooling coils
    • Condensate drain pans
    • Fan motor
    • Fan housing
    • Air handling unit housing

Should I have my duct work cleaned annually?

  • Duct cleaning has not been shown to actually prevent health problems.  This most likely is because much of the dirt in air ducts adheres to duct surfaces and may not be entering the inhabited areas.  There is no evidence that a light amount of household dust or other particulate matter in air ducts poses any health risk.

When should I have my duct work cleaned?

  • You should consider having your air ducts cleaned under the following circumstances:
    • There is visible mold growth on the surfaces of the air ducts or on other components of your HVAC system.
    • The duct work has been infested with rodents or insects.
    • The ducts are clogged with excessive amounts of debris.
    • Particulates are being released in to the home from your supply registers.

The cause of the infestation should be corrected prior to cleaning or the problem may reoccur.

To learn more, visit the following links:

EPA – Air Duct Cleaning

NADCA – Why Clean Air Ducts?

CDC – Importance of HVAC system maintenance

What are the indoor air pollutants that could affect my health?

  • Radon
  • Second-hand smoke
  • Combustion pollutants
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • Mold spores
  • Dust mites
  • Pet dander

How can I improve my indoor air and environmental quality?

  • Control sources of pollution versus masking them
  • Proper ventilation
  • Change heating and air conditioning filters according to the package instructions
  • Maintain an indoor humidity between 30% and 40%
  • Install air purifiers or air sanitizers
  • Diffuse essential oils to eliminate contaminants

What are the symptoms of health problems that could be caused by indoor pollutants?

  •  It depends on the actual pollutant; however, if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may want to have air samples collected in your home:
    • Allergy symptoms
    • Headaches
    • Skin rashes/itchiness
    • Drowsiness/lethargy
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea/vomiting
    • Shortness of breath/chest tightness
    • Stuffy nose/sniffles
    • Dry throat/cough
    • Eye irritation

For more information, visit the following links:

Healthy Homes Maintenance Checklist

EPA – Introduction to Indoor Air Quality

OSHA – Indoor Air Quality

PA DEP – Indoor Air Quality

MDE – Indoor Air Quality

IAQA – Consumer Resources

National Center for Healthy Housing – Ventilation & Indoor Air Quality

CDC – Indoor Air Quality

Click the link below to listen to the News Talk 103.7 FM radio interview with CEO and President of Baxter Environmental Group, Inc., Jocelyne Melton, who provides important tips when it comes to your work or residential air quality.


What is basement water-control?

Basement water-control involves techniques to prevent water from penetrating the basement or crawlspace of a building.  

What causes water to penetrate structures at or below ground level?

Ground water can build up in the soil or where there is a high-water table.  Water in the soil causes hydrostatic pressure to be exerted on the basement walls and under the floors.  This hydrostatic pressure can force water through cracks or to be absorbed by the concrete walls.

What damage can be caused by water penetrating structures?

Water penetration can cause major structural damage, structural deterioration, high humidity, and provide the perfect environment for the growth of mold.

What are typical methods used to control water and prevent water penetration into a building?

  • Proper landscaping
  • Repair or installation of proper gutter systems
  • Interior wall and floor sealers
  • Interior water drainage
  • Exterior drainage
  • Exterior waterproofing coatings
  • Foundation crack injections
  • Structural repairs to foundation walls

Related links:

What are the greatest safety concerns when performing renovations?

Disturbing hazardous materials such as asbestos or lead-based paint should be a major concern during site preparations for a renovation project or demolition projects.

How do I know if there are any hazardous materials in the area the renovations are to be performed?

An asbestos survey and a lead risk assessment should be performed prior to site preparation.  

Am I required to have an asbestos survey or a lead risk assessment before starting the renovation project?

A homeowner may perform work in the home in which they occupy without having these inspections performed, although it is highly recommended so they may protect themselves and the other occupants of the home or building.  A contractor or individual performing work under any other circumstances must have these inspections performed per the EPA and per state and federal regulations.  A licensed Asbestos Inspector and Lead Risk Assessor need to perform these inspections.

What are some other tips for SAFE RENOVATIONS?

  • Make sure the building is structurally sound before starting the work.  If in doubt, have a structural engineer assess the building prior to commencing the work.
  • Know the building and building systems prior to starting . . . where are the gas lines, water lines, electrical lines, load-bearing walls?
  • Have the work area(s) inspected for asbestos and lead-based paint and have hazardous materials removed prior to commencing the renovation work.
  • Have a clear plan for the renovation project before commencing and be prepared to revisit and adjust the plan as needed.  Typically, when renovating older buildings, issues will arise that are best to handle during the project, not after the project.
  • Contain and separate the renovation project from the rest of the building in such a way that dust and debris stay in the renovation area only.  When renovating, the non-renovation area needs to be protected from dust, mold, and other contaminants. 
  • Consult experts as needed.  
  • Clean and organize the worksite daily.  This habit will keep the renovators safe and will help identify any possible problems that may arise.
  • Use personal protective equipment as needed.
  • Confirm that the carbon monoxide detectors, smoke detectors, and fire extinguishers are in good working condition.  Have a first aid kit on site.
  • Be on the lookout for mold.  Mold is one of the most vicious contaminants that seems to be hidden in buildings until renovations begin.  Address mold-contaminated environments during the project.

Related links:

Informative Baxter Interviews and FAQ's

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