Monday, September 12, 2016

Its Been 15 Years Since 9/11. 4 Things We Have Learned!

On September 11, 2001, two planes were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center.  Those two planes caused the collapse of the buildings and the killing of 2,996 people and injuring over 6,000 others.  When they collapsed, a massive plume of dust was released into the air.  In addition, fires burned at Ground Zero for more than 90 days continuing to spew contaminants into the air.  Then-EPA chief Christine Whitman encouraged workers and residents to head back to Lower Manhattan saying the air was "safe to breathe.."  Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani repeated her claim by saying "to go back to normal" and the air around Ground Zero was "safe as far as we can tell, with respect to chemical and biological agents."  Though some experts, like Mount Sinai's Dr. Philip Landrigan, warned that it was not.

New York City pre-9/11
Will 15 years later we now know that Whitman did not have sufficient information to make that claim and recently has admitted she was wrong.  Studies of the dust have shown significant quantities of carcinogens, irritants, and poisons.  Contaminants like polyaromatic hydrocarbons, dioxin, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), fiberglass, lead, asbestos, volatile organic compounds, etc.  The pH of the dust was basic.  Records have shown the City knew of the hazards of the dust and air.  Expediency of the cleanup and the recovery was more important at Ground Zero, than protecting workers from the toxic dust at the site.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was only onsite acting in an advisory role and obviously had little impact on the health consequences of the workers.  As has been printed in numerous articles and pictures many did not wear the respirators they were provided or were provided the incorrect respirator.
Various Respirators Worn During Recovery & Cleanup
The result from this lack of concern regarding the dust?  Will 15 years later we know, that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates roughly 400,000 people - including rescue and recovery workers, residents, students and school staff, building occupants and passersby - were exposed.   As of July 2016, nearly 75,000 were enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Program (this program was established by the James L. Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2011).  56,580 of the people enrolled are from the Fire Department of New York and other responders.  8,881 are civilians that were exposed to the toxic dust.  Based on the CDC estimate that means hundreds of thousands of people remain unaccounted for and maybe untreated.  The World Trade Center Health Program is monitoring over 30,000 people and is treating 23,000 people.  On December 18, 2015, President Obama signed a law that reauthorized the Zadroga Act that extended funding for the World Trade Center Health Program through 2090.

English: New York, NY, September 28, 2001 -- D...

Photograph by Andrea Booher taken on 09-28-2001 in New York

The statistics from the program can be found on the CDC website for the program.  These responder statistics show 18,639 members suffer from rhinosinusitis; 16,418 members suffer from gastroesophageal reflux symptoms (GERD); 10,274 members suffer from asthma; 6,532 members suffer from respiratory disorders; 5,639 suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and 1,033 members suffer from prostate cancer.  The New York City Health Department's research found that for all cancer types more cancer cases were found among rescue/recovery workers and civilian survivors compared with the New York State general population between 2007-2011 (11% and 8% respectively).  A 2011 study found that 8 years after 9/11, the prevalence of several respiratory conditions among 10,999 World Trade Center exposed male firefighters remained high in comparison to men in the general population.
One World Trade Center
What have we learned?  First, we should heed the warnings of experts, not politicians.  Second, respirators are an essential and mandatory part of any emergency recovery/cleanup.  Third, safety is important but not if we sacrifice health.  Finally, dust generated by disasters, calamities, and emergencies cannot be underestimated in its potential health risk.  Yesterday, was a day to remember and mourn those who died at 9/11.  It was also a day to remember the mistakes made by those who disregarded the dust from the World Trade Center and make sure those mistakes don't happen again!
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Friday, August 26, 2016

OSHA Fines Increase By 78%, Will That Lead To An Increase in Safety Consulting & Training?

Starting on August 1, 2016, employers who have Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violations issued on or after this date for violations occurring on or after November 2, 2015 are subject to the new OSHA maximum civil penalties (fines) that are 78% higher.  This civil penalty increase was mandated by Congress, on November 2, 2015, through legislation that required all federal agencies to adjust their civil penalties to account for inflation.  For OSHA, the last time these penalties were adjusted was back in 1990.  Moving forward, as the legislation requires, the penalties will be adjusted each year based on the Consumer Price index.  OSHA will continue to do penalty reductions based on the size of the employer and other factors.

The following table shows based on the type of violation what the old fine was compared to the civil penalty increase:

OSHA Penalty Adjustments To Take Effect After August 1, 2016
Current Maximum Penalty
New Maximum Penalty
Other-Than-Serious Posting Requirements
$7,000 per violation
$12,471 per violation
Failure to Abate
$7,000 per day beyond the abatement date
$12,471 per day beyond the abatement date
Willful or Repeated
$70,000 per violation
$124,709 per violation

It is important to realize violations such as not performing respirator fit testing on your staff, or having a respiratory protection or hazard communication programs will now be $12,471 per violation.  Add to this OSHA's new reporting requirement that goes into effect on January 1, 2017.  This new reporting requirement requires electronic submission of injury and illness information that already is being collected.  The difference is this information will be made available to the public.  The idea is that with information being available to the public, employers will focus more on safety.  The new reporting regulation also anticipates an improvement in the accuracy of the data, because it prohibits employers from discouraging workers from reporting injuries and illnesses.  This part of the rule went into effect on August 10, 2016 (hey that's my birthday), however, OSHA has delayed enforcement till November 1, 2016.  It seems to us these two changes will create the perfect storm for employers to have an additional need for safety & health training and consulting.

Angelo Garcia, III Speaking at PACNY 2016
OSHA's website discussing the increase in civil penalties can be found here.  While the OSHA website discussing the new reporting requirements can be found here.

Friday, July 22, 2016

PACNY's Annual Pro/Am Fishing Tournament Was A Whale of a Good Time!

As we write this post, we are snacking on some of the salmon we caught and cured during this year's fishing derby.  It is absolutely delicious!  Creamy & buttery with a little hint of peat.  Love eating it plain, it doesn't need any garnish or bread.  Oops!  Sorry we're getting carried away.  The third annual (really the fourth annual, last year the weather was too rough to go fishing) Professional Abatement Contractors of New York's (PACNY's) Pro/Am Fishing Tournament (you say tournament, we still like derby) was a success.  There was 18 boats that went out of Point Breeze at Oak Orchard Creek to brave the Lake Ontario waters and see what we could catch this year.  A big THANK YOU to PACNY for again sponsoring this Tournament, giving us more opportunities to get together and network.  Here was this year's lineup of PACNY members and the boat they were on:

Lining Up for the Shotgun Start

Abscope on the Chrysalis
Cornerstone Training Institute on the Sunrise II
Cornerstone Training Institute 2 (NRC) on the Legacy
Paradigm Environmental on the Free Spirit
Future Environment Designs on the Catchin Hell
Aramsco on the Runnin Rebel
LeChase on the U-Betcha
Rochester Environmental on the Irish Thunder
Envoy on the Rusty Lure
Environmental Contracting and Construction on the Reflection
AAC Contracting Inc on the Troutman
AmVets courtesy Sullivan Contracting on the Intimidator
United Rentals Rochester on the Screaming Reels
Dival Safety on the Reel Excitement
Dival Safety #2 on the Just Eleven
ECG on the Richmond 4
Greenleaf/Watts on the Rally Killer
AAC Contracting Inc #2 on the Shotgun

The day started out beautifully with a nice sunrise over Lake Ontario.  We started loading the boats around 5:50 in the morning.  PACNY's Darren Yehl organized the event again and was as efficient as the attendees allowed.  Everybody was ready for the shotgun start at or about 6:30.  As our usual we took the luck of the draw and this year our boat was named "Catchin Hell", with Captain Tom and first mate Mike.
Sunrise over Lake Ontario
It was a beautiful day out on the lake.  The sun was hot but there was a nice breeze.  We caught three king salmon, two steelhead trout and one rainbow trout.  Veronica Garcia caught the big fish this year and the one that got away "coulda been a contender!"  After the weigh-in, we enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Black North Inn, while being serenaded by Acoustically Sound.  This year's prizes and the winners were:

Big Box of Three Fish:  1st: $350  2nd: $200  3rd: $100
Biggest Fish:  1st: $350  2nd: $200  3rd: $100
The final weigh-in numbers!
Though this year we didn't finish in the money, we still had a great time and we brought home a lot of fish.  This year we tried a new recipe for salt/sugar curing the salmon.  We even created our own version of the cure by adding Islay Scotch Whiskey to the cure.  Needless to say we're in-love with our recipe.  For the original recipe visit  Plans are already being set in motion for next year's fishing derby (tournament).  We would like to host our own boat next year.  If you think you would be interested send us an email so we can start making plans.  The Tournament is always on a Wednesday and usually the second or third one in July.  We're already looking forward to the adventure!
Veronica Garcia, Capt. Tom , & the Big Fish! 
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Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Asbestos Dust Sampling in New York State

In our recent asbestos inspector/designer classes we have been informing them about the New York State (NYS) requirements for dust/surface sampling.  Under NYS Department of Labor (NYSDOL) Industrial Code Rule 56, dust and debris are listed as suspect miscellaneous asbestos containing materials (ACM).  Meaning that if the building was built pre-1974, this debris and dust that is visually assessed by the inspector shall be treated and handled as ACM and shall be assumed ACM, until bulk sampling is done.  Well the question comes how do you bulk sample debris and dust?

Asbestos Inspector Initial Course
The best way is to collect the debris and dust by scraping it into a asbestos sample bag using a knife or a scraper.  This material could then be analyzed using NYS Department of Health (NYSDOH) Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ELAP) method 198.1.  NYSDOH ELAP method 198.1 is the standard polarized light microscope method utilizing dispersion staining and point counting.  

Another popular method for collecting debris and dust samples is the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard "D5755 - Microvaccum Sampling and Indirect Analysis of Dust by Transmission Electron Microscopy for Asbestos Structure Number Concentrations"  The D5755 method requires vacuuming a known surface area (100 squared centimeters is mentioned in the standard but it could be larger or smaller).  The vacuuming is done with a standard 25 or 37-millimeter air sampling cassette (the air sampling cassette should have a mixed cellulose ester (MCE) or polycarbonate (PC) filter membrane with a pore size less than or equal to 0.8 micron) and an air sampling pump.  A plastic tube should be attached to the inlet orifice to act as a nozzle and should be cut at a 45 degree angle.  The air sampling pump should be calibrated to run at 2 liters per minute.  The D5755 method incorporates a method of analysis for the sample, however, in NYS that method cannot be used.  According to the NYSDOH ELAP Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) number 8, "all bulk samples collected must be analyzed by ELAP approved methodology at an ELAP accredited laboratory.  ASTM method D5755 ....... are not certified as ELAP approved methods of analysis."  The method of analysis that shall be used, especially if you want transmission electron microscope analysis, is NYSDOH ELAP method 198.4.  

SKC Catalog Photo
ASTM standard "D6480 - Standard Test Method for Wipe Sampling of Surfaces, Indirect Preparation, and Analysis for Asbestos Structure Number Concentration by Transmission Electron Microscopy" is another method for collecting debris and dust samples.  This method involves wiping a surface of a known area (100 squared centimeters is mentioned in the standard but it could be larger or smaller) with a wipe material (particle free, sealed edge, continuous filament cloth sampling medium such as a clean room wiper) to collect a sample.  See the video below by IAQTV for visual instructions on collecting this type of sample:


The D6480 method also incorporates a method of analysis for the sample, however, again in NYS that method cannot be used.  According to the NYSDOH ELAP Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) number 8, "all bulk samples collected must be analyzed by ELAP approved methodology at an ELAP accredited laboratory.  ASTM method......and D6480 are not certified as ELAP approved methods of analysis."  The method of analysis that shall be used is NYSDOH ELAP method 198.4

The interesting part about this is, NYS ELAP approved laboratories should be advising asbestos inspectors they cannot use the ASTM methods of analysis.  However, we've heard of several times when this has not occurred.  According to the above information, an inspector should be getting results for the samples collected in percent by weight (%), which they can then use to compare with the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) definition that an asbestos containing material contains greater than 1% of asbestos by weight.  If they use the ASTM methods they will get results of structures per square centimeter.  There is no government standard to compare these results to and be able to give a determination is the material asbestos containing or not.  However, that has not prevented individuals from determining that areas are contaminated, or that debris or dust is ACM.  This has cost owners thousands and millions of dollars to cleanup areas based on this analysis.  It is even more interesting to note that ASTM in the "Significance and Use" section states:
  • This test method does not describe procedures or techniques required for the evaluation of the safety or habitability of buildings with asbestos-containing materials, or compliance with federal, state, or local regulations or statutes.....
  • At present, a single direct relationship between asbestos sampled from a surface and potential human exposure does not exist.....
When using the two ASTM methods, an inspector must be very careful in collecting the samples and interpreting the data that you get from these methods.  Experience and knowledge are key.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Environmental Information Association 33rd Annual Conference & Exhibition 2016

This year the American Council for Accredited Certifications (ACAC) held its executive board meeting the weekend the Environmental Information Association's (EIA's) 33rd Annual Conference & Exhibition started.  Giving us the opportunity to attend this organization's conference for the first time.  We've been a member of EIA since we joined the Professional Abatement Contractors of New York (PACNY).  This is another benefit of becoming a member of PACNY    The mission statement for the EIA, formerly known as the National Asbestos Council, is "it's multi-disciplinary membership will collect, generate and disseminate information concerning environmental health hazards to occupants of buildings, industrial sites and other facility operations."

The 33rd Annual Conference & Exhibition was held March 6-9, 2016 at the Tropicana Las Vegas Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada.  The twitter hashtag for the conference was #EIAPROUD & #EIA2016 and Future Environment Design's twitter hashtag for the conference was #FEDTCEIA.  The conference was definitely full of information concerning environmental health hazards between the exhibition hall and the presentations.  We definitely were quite impressed with scope of the presentations.  The presentations ran in sessions so there were side by side presentations.  This was a disadvantage of the conference with so many presentations running at the same time we had to miss a few presentations that coincided with other presentations we wanted to hear.  One presentation we missed was Mr. Lee Poye's presentation on "Cumulative Summary of the Variety, Size, and Aspect Ratio of Respirable Elongated Mineral Particles (REMPs) Compiled During Analysis of over 400 Human Lung Tissue Samples".  From those who attended the presentation, the data provided information regarding the type and size (0.5 micron and smaller) of REMPs most commonly encountered in human lung tissue effected by asbestos related disease.

Dan Lier's Presentation was Inspiring & Interactive

The presentation by Mr. Dan Lier, "Maximize Your True Potential" was inspiring and had several attendees quoting him throughout the conference.  Several presentations we attended provided significant information for our future classes.  We attended Mr. Vincent Brennan's & Mr. Chris Walker's presentation on the University of Vermont's confined space program in relation to the new Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) confined spaces in construction standard.  Major points from this presentation was the importance of rescue services and the importance of practicing rescues in the confined space you may need to make a rescue in.  Mr. Guy Sylvester's, of Absolute Resource Associates, presentation was on the "Mold Legislation for New Hampshire" which provided insight into the legislation process of how a mold law can come into being (probably some similarity to how it happened in New York).  Mr. Adam Andrew's, of ACAC, presentation on "Certification: Asset or Liability?" provided additional information regarding the levels of certifications and the advantages of being certified.  Linda Reinstein's, of Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), asbestos presentation was loaded with information and passion as usual.  Peter Delucia & Gregg Mance's, of ACC Contracting, presentation "Asbestos Q&A: Inconsistencies & Ambiguities in the Regulation" had some technical glitches but was well researched and thought out.  Ms. Amy Hensley's, of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), presentation "PCBs 101" provided significant information on the history, regulations and handling of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Grayling Industries during Vendor Introductions

The exhibition hall was where box lunches were eaten and the vendor introduction on Tuesday night with the happy hour was informative, too.  Graylings Industries, Aramsco, & Fiberlock were some of the exhibitors we typically see at the PACNY conference, along with EMSL & RJ Lee Group.  Two interesting exhibitors were InspectManager a mobile inspection system and Mycometer, a rapid microbiology - on-site technology.  Both exhibitors were very interesting and had presentations on their products.  The Mycometer information we've added to both our New York State Mold Assessment & Remediation classes.  Overall we were quite impressed with the presentations and the information we gathered from this event.  The EIA's next event is there Fall Technical Seminar being held on October 14, 2016 at Rosen Shingle Creek, Orlando, Florida.  We'll be going this year and we hope to see you there!