Simple Solutions for Extreme Hazards

At home, myriad of problems, simple solutions.

Because, everything is not always as it seems.

And indoors, we are usually the ones that produce the problems.

Some are focused on Air Quality, and all its permutations, some on “dirty” Electricity, some on EMFs (why does my meter read 2?), some on 5G (Interestingly, one client believed 3G was limited to 3 GHz, 4G to 4 GHz, and 5G to 5GHz. But that is far from reality.). To some “specialists” in any camp, other camps may appear to be “fringe science.” However, when you sit back, and review the basic laws of physics and chemistry, most of these issues make sense, while others are nothing but hype. So when you meet up with someone who claims expertise, unless you are one also (in the same camp), you may wish to listen carefully to try and determine if they’re blowing smoke, or if they’re “The Real McCoy.”

I claim no extraordinary wisdom, but have been exposed to extensive and differing levels of technology, so that when I walk into a home, I can quickly glean that some issues may be related to air quality, and some to electrical issues. In these random musings, I try to offer perspective of both, so that you may benefit from realizing that issues may be more complex than superficially obvious, while perhaps mundane to me.

That being said, this is dedicated to a colleague / client / friend.


I went visiting with relatives to other relatives’.

Mingling and meandering, I happened to be in the living room having a leisurely drink. As the kitchen was within line of sight through an opening in the wall, I saw what appeared to be “sparklers” flying about in the kitchen.

I quickly looked at my drink and tried to assess how many I’d had. Mirage, I determined. Flicker of light reflecting off of something else.

A couple of minutes later my father-in-law came by, struck up a conversation, and mentioned the “sparklers.”

I quickly looked at his drink and tried to assess how many he’d had. Or maybe not a mirage.

I proceeded to the kitchen and found an empty seat, so I could get comfy and observe.

After a few minutes went by, but before I got bored and wandered off, I saw sparklers emanating from under the kitchen sink, through the 1/4” or so crack in the door opening created by those oh-so-cute little bumpers that prevent door slamming. So whatever was happening, was trying to send a message, before something more dire possibly happened.

I opened the door to the space below the sink, and noted a switch on the side wall, controlling a sink grinder. I left the door open, and this time the sparklers visibly came from just above the switch. ?

I moved my chair closer. Relatives being on drinks, didn’t mind me much, I was “just another piece of furniture.”

Paying more attention, I noticed a drop of water falling from above the switch, onto the cable, and a few seconds afterwards, sparklers emanated from there.

The technically-inclined member of the homeowner couple being away, I had to try to mentally forage for appropriate tools, since the wife didn’t know where the conventional ones were.

I asked for a screwdriver, a knife, and a scissors.

I shut off power to the circuit involved. I removed the switch cover plate. I extracted the switch, and removed the wires from it. I loosened the clamp on the cable, and pulled it through.

The cable had been clamped so tight that it cut through the outer plastic insulating sleeve of the cable. The cable had a paper wrap around each individual wire, in addition to the individual plastic insulation for each wire. The cable had been clamped so tight that it also cut through the inner plastic insulation for each wire, but not enough to short them out.

The sink and countertop had an ever-so-slight incline to one side, so that any spillage became manifest on one side, and more specifically, one corner of the sink. And would you believe, that was the same corner directly above the grinder switch. So any sink spillage, occasional though it was, gradually caused the water-tight seal to fail (if it wasn’t installed improperly to begin with), causing an intermittent drip, through the countertop, and down on top of the cable, right where it was clamped.

The intermittent drip would soak though the paper, make electrical contact between the hot and return wires, and cause localized flaming, but not enough to trip the breaker. The paper had burn marks where it had gotten wet.

I used the knife to skin back some insulation, and fortunately there was enough slack on the cable to allow for this. I used the scissors to cut the wire beyond the damage. I know, I know, not the proper tool, but it worked.

I fed the cable through the clamp into the switch box, and attached the wires to the switch. I inserted the switch into the box, and tightened down the cable, but not as extremely as before. I restored power to the circuit. I advised the owner to get the water seal around the sink repaired.

I went back to my drink.


Long ago, almost too long for me to remember, I bought the home I now live in.

I lived in it since about April the first year. Leaky and ancient single-pane Andersen windows, cast iron baseboards for heat, a furnace weighing in excess of 500 lbs, but that could provide on-demand hot water. Quite advanced for a 50+ years old home.

Six months or so later, I began to keep the windows closed to keep the cold out. While daytime occupancy was unchanged, nighttime was a nightmare. I could not sleep. I was gasping for air. I began to research why I was behaving this way.

Having scheduled vacation, I left home.

Within 24-48 hours my sleep returned to normal.

I thought: It’s a miracle, Thank You, God. Or maybe, just maybe, my house was sick.

I returned from vacation, and within 24-48 hours my normal sleep pattern vanished.

Ticked off was an understatement, as my life seemed to be on the line. I began scouring any possibly applicable literature. I searched high and low. This was before I had any environmental training.

I realized that my cast iron baseboards would get quite hot, perhaps to 180 degrees, but the air motion from them was not turbulent but laminar. So I dismissed the idea that they were stirring stuff up into the air. Not an Air Quality issue. Then I reconsidered, noticing that two bedrooms, and the stairway to the basement, had carpeting.

The home has hardwood flooring throughout.

One bedroom had carpeting glued down to the hardwood floor. AArgh . . .

Another bedroom had the carpet underlying foam disintegrated to a fine dust.

I decided they had to go.

I extracted the carpeting, cleaned the two bedrooms, and went to bed.

Why, I’ll be . . . I slept normally.

I had no instruments to quantify my exposure and behavior, but I surmised that the dust within the carpeting had been ground down to a fine microscopic size, so that even if the air flows from the hot baseboards were gentle and laminar, they were aerosolizing the fine dust, making me inhale it, and feel like I was going to die.

It should be of interest, that I had no problem in the daytime, it was only at night that I had problems. Possibly because my metabolism, as yours, slows down during sleep, making me, and you, more susceptible to environmental interference.

Once my sleep returned, I restored the hardwood flooring to original by scraping, etc., and re-coating with a clear coat.

I went one step further and decided to clean 50+ years of dust accumulation elsewhere.

This additional accumulation was in the fins of the hot water baseboards, which in these models (Base-Ray) are only on the rear, facing the wall.

Out of sight, out of mind. Right?

Well, I used pressurized air, as in those cans used to clean computer keyboards, and a vacuum cleaner. The air was sprayed onto the top of the baseboards’ air exit ports, while simultaneously having a vacuum cleaner sucking at the bottom of the baseboards’ air entry openings. Simple. Huh?

You might have been surprised at the tumbleweeds I extracted, although they were not the primary irritants.

Eeach of the above was two decades or more ago, so I guess it’s safe now . . .



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