Friday, December 01, 2006

Residential Mold Case Goes Against Residents



An interesting piece of information was printed in the New York Law Journal, dated October 18, 2006 regarding residential mold and a resident's ability to sue based on health problems suspected of being caused by the mold. According to the article, Manhattan Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich found that the plaintiffs (Colin and Pamela Fraser) failed to demonstrate that the community of allergists, immunologists, occupational and environmental health physicians accepted their theory - that mold and/or damp indoor environments cause illness.
This is the typical story regarding mold. The Frasers developed a variety of health problems while living in a moldy apartment on East 52nd Street. Justice Kornreich conducted a Frye hearing to assess the scientific viability of the claim. Both sides submitted reams of evidence, laboratory results, and 4 witnesses testified, 2 for the plaintiffs and 2 for the defense.
Though this is not likely the last case we will see, I think it will be interesting to see where this heads since the article also mentions the Netti v. Auburn Enlarged City School District which had an opposite ruling back in September, 2006.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Improved Air Quality, Improves Student Performance


A new study featured in the October issue of the American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineer's (ASHRAE) Journal indicates that student performance improves, when the air quality in the classroom improves. This research indicates that by lowering the temperature in the classroom and increasing the amount of ventilation supplied to the classroom, will reduce how many errors are made and increase how quickly the student works by 10 to 20 percent (%). These results, which confirms earlier research done by ASHRAE, once finalized will be incorporated into ASHRAE's technical guidance, that is used by engineers to design heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems in all buildings. The study also provides several suggestions for school officials to improve learning conditions:
  • Visit each classroom to ensure HVAC systems are operating properly.
  • Develop and adhere to a preventative maintenance program for all HVAC equipment on site.
  • Allow and encourage teachers to lower the temperature in the classroom on warmer days.
  • Investigate and implement methods to reduce heat build-up in classrooms.
  • Allow and encourage teachers to open operable windows in the classroom on milder days.
  • Encourage maintenance staff to replace supply air filters more frequently, particularly during pollen season.
  • Investigate the feasibility of introducing more outside air into the classrooms than codes require in an energy efficient manner.

Imagine your son/daughter able to improve themselves by 10-20%. Making 10-20% less errors may be the difference between an A- or B+ for a grade. Being 10-20% quicker may mean the difference between finishing the exam and not finishing the exam. This difference achieved by making sure the classroom is cool and well ventilated. Making sure the student is confortable in the classroom. It is amazing how comfort can have such a significant impact on errors, speed, and for office workers productivity. This research indicates that putting indoor air quality programs in place will provide significant benefits based on their costs. So give us a call to help you implement your own program.


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Asbestos Project Monitor Sentenced to 7 Months in Prison and Fined $1,000

Posted by Picasa On September 15, 2006 Mr. John Toner, former Health and Safety Officer for Comprehensive Employee Management (CEM), was sentenced to seven (7) months in prison and fined $1,000 for a misdeameanor violation of the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. Section 7413 (c) (4), the negligent release of asbestos into the ambient air. Mr. Toner admitted he aided and abetted the negligent and unlawful release of asbestos into the ambient air, and in doing so did negligently place other persons in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury. Mr. Toner in his capacity as a third party health and safety officer employed by CEM, Inc. did fail to stop those practices. To give you some background, these charges stem from the illegal removal of 25,000 linear feet of asbestos during a three day period in May 1999 at a former Westinghouse facility located at 4454 Genesee Street, Cheektowaga, New York. This is the case we've talked about in previous air sample technician and project monitor refresher classes regarding the potential for criminal charges (criminal liability) for ignoring unlawful removal of asbestos containing materials by a contractor. In addition, based on our discussions and the limited amount of aggressive air sampling that was being done by air sampling technicians or project monitors the arguement could be made that project monitors/air monitoring technicians were actually aiding and abetting the unlawful removals. This case emphasizes that Air Sample Technicians and Project Monitors, as individuals, can be held criminally liable for not ensuring that the contractor complies with the asbestos regulations. Many individuals in the industry always assumed that we could be assessed civil penalties but individual criminal charges were not typically on our list of worries. That has now changed, a project monitor that ignores the regulations and their duty under the regulations can be held criminally liable, which means jail time based on their level of negligence. Remember these were only federal charges under the Clean Air Act. This doesn't include any violations under the old New York State Regulations. In addition, realize the new New York State Regulation includes alot of requirements for the project monitor, including performing visual inspections according to the ASTM standard and signing off that the cope of work on a project was completed. These requirements puts project monitors in the middle of making sure the regulations are complied with and hence if they do not meet these requirements sets them up for violations. So there is more reason to make sure you comply. Good Night and Good Luck!

Monday, October 23, 2006

New Asbestos Regulation Goes Into Effect


September 5, 2006, the new Asbestos Regulation for New York State, Industrial Code Rule 56, went into effect. While we were in Plattsburgh training, in one of the refresher classes we heard that NYSDOL gave violations to the asbestos contractor and the asbestos consultant working in the area doing asbestos floor tile removal. The contractor's violations involved not removing all the asbestos material, and mastic remover leaking out from containment. The violations to the asbestos consultant were not being onsite while air sampling, and not performing the visual inspection properly. The interesting violations are the ones to the asbestos consultant, because this indicates they will be reviewing the visual inspection and the requirement that the air sampler be onsite while air sampling is being performed. This is the first we are hearing how enforcement of the new regulation may occur. Especially since the new regulation is much stricter than the old regulation. We already know that site specific variances must be submitted by certified Project Designers that have Asbestos Company Licenses from September 5, 2006 on. It will be interesting how many other parts of the regulations they will enforce.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

"The Pollution Within" from Plattsburgh, NY


This week I'm in Plattsburgh, New York for asbestos awareness and refresher classes. On the way up, on the train, I read an interesting article in the October, 2006 issue of National Geographic. The article's name is "The Pollution Within" written by David Ewing Duncan (learn more about this article at http://ngm.com/0610). It certainly seems lately their is a theme on the information I've been reading or exposed to lately. "The Pollution Within" is an article about the chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis and their ability to enter our body and possibly accumulate in the body. It is very interesting reading especially after seeing the 911 movie we discussed in our previous blog.
An interesting point the article makes is that many of the chemicals we are exposed to everyday, have little or no scientific research on their effects on humans. Some of these chemicals show varying effects in animals, such as impacts on neurodevelopment, thyroid function, and reproduction. But very little is known about their effects on humans. Our exposure to these chemicals can come from the food we eat, the plastics we use for wrapping and storing food, our clothes, furniture, and cosmetics. Though there are potential health risks, using these various chemicals have saved lives (such as fire retardants) and may be worth the risks.
From this article we learned that in 2005 the European Union gave initial approval to a measured called REACH - Registration, Evaluation, & Authorization of Chemicals requiring companies to prove the substances they market or use are safe, or that benefits outweigh any risks. Needless to say the bill is opposed by the Chemical Industry and the US Government. The measure would encourage companies to find safer alternatives to suspect flame retardants, pesticides, solvents, and other chemicals. This bill would give a boost to the green chemistry movement.
The United States should not be opposing this measure, but should consider how we can support this measure and update our own laws to meet the challenge of achieving safer chemical use. The United States Government should be promoting and exporting our environmental protection and conservation expertise. As Green Building movement picks-up momentum, more data will come out on how these buildings pay for the extra costs with reductions in energy, and maintenance costs, and their ability to attract occupants that are willing to pay premium prices for the apartments, condos, or offices.
We need a better understanding on the various effects that chemicals have on our bodies and the potential effects that the interaction of multiple chemicals have on our bodies. Let's hope if the US doesn't get its act together regarding chemical exposures, we might get information from the European Union or data from the Green Movement to assist us with a better understanding of these effects.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Toxic Clouds of 9/11

On Sunday, September 17, we went to see the film "The Toxic Clouds of 9/11" at the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, NY (http://www.cinemaartscentre.org/september/911.html). After the film, their was a panel discussion, which brought new information to light regarding the Environmental Protection Agency's response during the clean-up and the fact that NYC Emergency Medical Technicians that responded to 9/11 are being left out of the loop on compensation for their illnesses. The film was produced and directed by Alison Johnson who has written several books on multiple chemical sensitivity and Prevention is the Cure (www.preventionisthecure.org) was the sponsor for this program.
Several points we took way from the film and panel discussion:
  • It's taking too long to compensate NYC EMTs (Unsung Heroes-Helping Heroes www.unsunghhh.org is an organization trying to remedy this problem) and other workers that worked at Ground Zero in the toxic dust.
  • Many chemicals being used have very little or no data on their effects on humans.
  • No surprise here, EPA lied about the air quality at Ground Zero.
  • Workers at Ground Zero were only provided N95 filtering facepieces.
  • No effort was made to contain the toxic dust to Ground Zero and prevent its spread to other parts of the City.
  • The health effects that Ground Zero workers are experiencing are similar to the reactions of multiple chemical sensitivity victims. These reactions have been seen in Gulf War Veterans, workers that worked on Exxon Valdez oil spill, and starting to see in workers that worked on cleaning up after the Hurricanes Rita & Katrina.

Considering the health effect information coming out regarding the handling of various catastrophies, it certainly seems we need better work procedures to protect first responders and the workers during these clean ups. We also need to make sure we provide adequate compensation for first reponders and the clean-up workers who work at these catastrophies and then get sick because of their work.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Welcome

Welcome, to the first posting of the Future Environment Designs blog. We will discuss the safety and health regulations and information we are getting regarding asbestos, mold, lead, and project safety (both general industry and construction). We look forward to working with this medium and see where it leads.