Bill would require certified mold technicians

By Ilya Hemlin, http://nj1015.com/

Believe it or not, there aren’t many requirements be a mold remediation technician in New Jersey, but new legislation aims to change that.  

Mold
Mark Wilson, Getty Images

“We have people who represent themselves as experts – there’s no training, there’s not certification, there’s not standards,” said Sen. Bob Smith (D-Piscataway), chairman of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee.

Under the bill, the state Department of Community Affairs would establish a certification program for mold inspectors and mold hazard abatement workers based on information from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  The bill also requires procedures for inspection and abatement of mold hazards in residential buildings and school facilities.

“Community Affairs would adopt rules and regulations about what training has to be accomplished, and then how it would be certified – probably taking a test and having a license,” Smith said.

If passed, the bill would require mold technicians to obtain the necessary certification within three to six months. Read more

CDC moves to contain anthrax exposure

By Alison Young and Donna Leinwand Leger,http://www.usatoday.com

AnthraxThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reassigned the director of the bioterror lab that experienced a potential anthrax exposure.

Dozens of CDC scientists and other workers are now taking antibiotics and anxiously watching for any signs of disease, even though the agency issued a statement saying the risk of infection is “very low.”

A team of investigators from the Federal Select Agent Program, which polices labs working with potential bioterror germs, was expected to arrive at the CDC’s Atlanta headquarters today or tomorrow, CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said Monday. Their investigation and an internal CDC inquiry seek to find out how one of the world’s premier public health laboratories mistakenly sent live samples of the particularly deadly Ames strain of anthrax to other agency labs, where workers believed the bacteria had been deactivated.

The CDC said Thursday that it may take disciplinary action against any employee whose failure to follow biosafety protocols led to the potential exposure of more than 80 employees to the deadly microbe.

Skinner said the head of the CDC’s Bioterror Rapid Response and Advanced Technology Laboratory had been “detailed to another job” pending completion of the agency’s review, but he said he could not confirm the employee’s name. Reuters, citing two CDC scientists who are not authorized to speak to the press, identified the employee is Michael Farrell.

Even with antibiotic treatment, anthrax has a fatality rate of 28% to 45%, depending on the type of exposure, according to information on the CDC’s website. It can take weeks or even months for symptoms to develop.

“There are a lot of people going through a lot of unnecessary anxious moments,” Skinner said. “Things like this shouldn’t happen. These are ‘never’ events. They should never happen. Period.”

Most of the staffers who are counted among possible exposures are scientists, lab technicians, administrative and maintenance staff who may have passed through areas where the live anthrax samples were handled without proper protective equipment and barriers, Skinner said.

About seven CDC scientists are at heightened risk because they had more direct exposure, he said. They would most likely have been vaccinated against anthrax previously because of their jobs. Now they’re taking antibiotics and would have been offered a booster vaccine, he said.

Some of this small group of scientists were involved in agitating or shaking test tubes of what they thought were deactivated anthrax spores, then lifting the tops off the tubes. That may have aerosolized the spores, creating the risk that these scientists inhaled some of the anthrax.

When working with live anthrax, scientists work in Biosafety Level 3 labs with safety equipment to prevent exposure. Live anthrax is supposed to be handled under negative air pressure in a special safety cabinet, and scientists wear personal breathing equipment.

But in the recent incident, because the scientists thought the spores were deactivated, the test tubes were opened in two Biosafety Level 2 labs with minimal protections, Skinner said. The scientists might have been wearing gloves, gowns and goggles, but they would not have been using a safety cabinet or a personal air supply. Read more

Boise construction company fined for asbestos violation

By John Sowell, http://www.idahostatesman.com

Judges_GavelOwyhee Construction Inc. will pay $100,000 and spend three years on probation after violating a federal environmental law when it failed to capture broken cement pipe that contained asbestos during a 2009 upgrade of the city of Orofino’s water lines.

The federal government is also seeking $2.5 million in cleanup restitution, with the final amount to be determined through a civil enforcement action brought against the company and others with potential liability, according to federal court records.

Cement pipe that contains asbestos is considered safe. However, when it is broken, asbestos fibers become airborne and pose a health hazard to anyone breathing them in. Although the company knew the water system contained up to 5,000 feet of pipe containing asbestos, the onsite manager and foreman failed to properly supervise the $3 million project to ensure the material was encased and disposed of properly. Instead, the waste materials were used as fill on 16 private properties around Orofino.

“Deceived into thinking Owyhee Construction had provided them with ‘clean fill,’ citizens and businesses of Orofino used the material to fill their, driveways and yards. The result: a contaminated mixture of crushed pipe and debris laced with harmful asbestos spread over 16 separate sites,” said Tyler Amon,special agent in charge for the criminal investigation division for the Environmental Protection Agency in Seattle.

The EPA spent $3.9 million to clean up the material.

District Judge Edward J. Lodge also ordered Owyhee Construction to implement a compliance and ethics program.

Last year, two Owyhee employees were convicted of violating the asbestos work standards of the federal Clean Air Act. Bradley Eberhart, 52, of Garden Valley and Douglas Greiner, 53, each served six months in prison and six months of home confinement.

Greiner was the project superintendent and Eberhart served as the onsite supervisor. The government accused both men of failing to properly supervise the project. Employees who completed the work were not properly trained in asbestos removal and failed to wear proper protective gear. Read more

Student says mysterious illnesses caused by school’s air quality

By Meghan Schiller, http://www.abc57.com

gasmaskA Penn High School student says he is being poisoned by the air in his school. He believes the chemicals and mold in the air are making it difficult for him to breathe. His family is getting the Indiana Department of Health involved.

In a few days, 16-year-old Cody Hicks will go to Indianapolis to get tested by a toxicology specialist. He hopes to find an answer to his mysterious health problems.
“Think of your lungs burning and it felt like something was stabbing them,” said Hicks.

That’s how Hicks says he feels when he walks the halls of Penn High School.

He has dozens of doctor notes, prescriptions for every allergy medication in the book and 4 pages listing his excused absences.

“My doctor was completely baffled- he had no idea. He said an allergic reaction, but I’m not sure what’s causing it,” said Hicks.

The family gave us pictures showing possible issues inside the school. they believe the photos show mold, fungal growth, water leaks, and chemical cleaners.

Hicks says the only way he could walk down the halls without wanting to collapse was to wear a gas mask.

“I had to wear a gas mask through the halls because when I walked through the halls it would really get to me– it was like the worst area in the entire school,” said Hicks.

“I think they believe he’s making this up,” said Hicks’ mother Bonnie Hicks. “I know he’s not making this up.”

Hicks says he wasn’t allowed to walk the halls with the mask on.

His mom contacted the Indiana Health Department. They conducted an indoor air quality evaluation at the school.

The Health Department sent a letter to the superintendent on June 12 giving the district 60 days to take action on three deficiencies.

They include classrooms that exceeded the acceptable level of carbon dioxide, stained ceiling tiles in classrooms that show a moisture problem and use of chemicals such as Windex and other cleaners that aggravates respiratory conditions. Read more

Asbestos Drilling Mud: When the Mud Is Deadly

By Heidi Turner, http://www.lawyersandsettlements.com

Asbestos lawsuits often involve construction workers and employees who were exposed to products that were packed with asbestos, but some asbestos lawsuits involve drilling mud. Although drilling mud itself does not sound particularly harmful, according to lawsuits filed by people who worked with the substance, asbestos was used as an additive to drilling mud, putting people who work with the mud, such as mud engineers, at risk of asbestos-related diseases.

Asbestos Drilling Mud: When the Mud Is DeadlyOne such lawsuit was filed in Louisiana state court, but removed to federal court in 2013. That lawsuit (Bridges et al v. Phillips 66 Co. et al., case number 3:13-cv-00477) was filed by 10 plaintiffs who allege they were exposed to asbestos, including handling asbestos and breathing it in, while working for a variety of companies including Chevron Phillips Chemical Co., and Shell Oil Co.

The plaintiffs further allege they developed illnesses related to asbestos exposure because of their work for those companies. They claim the companies knowingly used products that contained asbestos and, despite having information about the risks associated with using asbestos, continued to use those products.

Asbestos exposure has been a highly contentious area of litigation. Over the course of a career, employees could be exposed to asbestos from a variety of employers and product makers. Furthermore, symptoms of asbestos-related illnesses may not arise for decades after the exposure.

Among the illnesses linked to asbestos exposure are asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Drilling mud is used to keep the drill bit cool and to flush the well hole. It is usually mixed on-site, with asbestos mixed directly into the drilling mud because of its heat-resistant quality. Many workers, however, may not have realized the additive they were mixing into the drilling mud was toxic. They may have mixed the asbestos without wearing proper safety gear or taking proper measures. Read more

Mold-infested home with no clear owner a ‘serious’ health threat to neighbors

By Tom Perkins, http://www.mlive.com

mold houseOn any sunny, summer afternoon on Hawthorne Avenue in Ypsilanti Township, the unmistakable stench of mold and mildew wafts down the street.

 

That’s because a vacant house at 1070 Hawthorne is flooded with several feet of water and infested with mold, and officials say that’s a health threat to neighbors who have complained about issue at the property for several months.

 

At its June 17 meeting, the Board of Trustees formally approved township staff seeking a court order to bring the house up to code or to have it demolished.

 

In all likelihood, the home will soon be razed said Mike Radzik, director of the office of community standards.

 

“The basement has been flooded, it’s full of water, the stench can be smelled at the sidewalk and neighbors’ houses,” Radzik said. “We’ll be going after whichever bank we find owns it, but at this point we’re probably going for demolition because it’s so far gone that even Habitat for Humanity won’t want it.”

 

Who the township holds financially responsible for the probable demolition is unclear, Radzik said, because it isn’t known who holds the mortgage.

 

The original occupants were kicked out after foreclosing in January leading the the township to contact the owner of record, Columbus, OH-based US Bank National Association.

 

That bank said the mortgage was sold to Chase Bank, which assured the township it would send an agent to secure and clean the property.

 

But the house was left open and debris and junk littered the yard. The utilities were also left on for several months, causing a pipe to burst and the basement to flood. The continuously flowing water led to a $5,655 water bill for the property.

 

Chase Bank then told the township it no longer held the mortgage and didn’t know where it went.

 

“Meanwhile, neighbors continued to complain about a growing stench emanating from the house,” Radzik said. “It presents a serious health and safety threat to neighboring residents due to the unabated mold that is causing a strong stench to permeate the area.”

 

The home has been padlocked and township officials cleared the blight and junk from the yard. Radzik said he township would continue to seek the mortgage holder and bill the bank once they’re found, or place a lien on the property to recover the costs of cleaning the property, securing the home and the likely demolition. Read more

 

China blames ‘pencil-chewing’ on lead-poisoning in children

By Karen Graham, http://www.digitaljournal.com

Pencil chewingA Chinese government official in Dapu, Hunan province has suggested that the cause of an outbreak of lead poisoning in over 300 children is the result of “pencil-chewing,” downplaying the possibility a chemical plant in the town could be at fault.
Beijing started its crackdown on polluters in April of this year, revising an already existing 1989 anti-pollution law by adding more teeth to the regulations. The revised lawis supposed to take effect the first of the year in 2015, but it seems that many provinces and industrial plants haven’t gotten the message.

State media is reporting that tests done on children in Dapu, Hunan province showed excessive lead levels in over 300 children, many of them too young to go to school. The head of Dapu’s governing body, Su Genlin, told reporters, “When kids are studying, they gnaw on their pencils — that also can cause lead poisoning.”

The official was dismissive of the chemical plant located in the township, as well as the lab reports of airborne dust in the village containing 22 times the legal limit of lead. He also failed to mention the levels of lead, zinc, cadmium and arsenic in the factory’s drainage ditch that runs into the village’s river. Those levels are three times the acceptable level considered safe.

According to the official news agency, Xinhua, township chief Su Genlin was dressed down and ridiculed online for his remarks. It seems the Chinese character for the heavy metal is also used for pencil, in much the same way that “lead” has a double-meaning in the English language. Lead hasn’t been used in pencils since the 1500s.

The People’s Daily, the official online mouthpiece of China’s ruling communist party, posted an op-ed on Monday, ridiculing the township leader. Commentator Zhang Yusheng wrote, “It is scientific knowledge that pencils are made from graphite. Does this official’s statement show ignorance, or just disregard for the people’s welfare?”

While people in Dapu are outraged that their children have been subjected to substances that can cause liver, kidney, brain and nervous system damage, they are not alone in their anger. China has been plagued with literally thousands of cases of children being poisoned by lead linked to industrial pollution. It is well known that lead poisoning is the most common pediatric health problem in China today. Read more

Worcester area contractor convicted of illegal asbestos removal, child endangerment

Danger Asbestos

By  Megan Bard | mmorse@masslive.com  

A Webster man has been found guilty of improperly removing and disposing of asbestos and failing to provide a teenager contracted to help with the work with protective clothing during a 2008 job, according to the state attorney general’s office.

Daniel Watterson, 43, a plumbing and heating contractor working under three different company names, was found guilty of three charges of violating the Massachusetts Clean Air Act after a five-day jury trial in Worcester Superior Court, Attorney General Martha Coakley said in a news release on Monday. Watterson, whose companies were called “The Clog Specialist,” “Dan the Heating Man,” and “DW Plumbing & Heating,” was not appropriately licensed to do the work.

Watterson had been charged with failing to file notices of asbestos removal with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection; improper removal of asbestos-containing material; and improper disposal of asbestos-containing Materials.

Watterson was also found guilty of one count of child endangerment after he hired a teenager to remove asbestos insulation from around two old boilers in a Worcester residence and then demolish and dispose of the boilers. This was the first use of the child endangerment statute in an asbestos case, according to Coakley. Read more

Workers walk out, warn of black mold at Muskegon hotel

By Alex Shabad, http://www.wzzm13.com

Mold StrikeThey were disgusted, fed up, and they took to the streets. A half a dozen workers walked out of a Muskegon hotel to warn the public about black mold and other health hazards, that they say are in several rooms.

Anyone can reach a breaking point. For six workers at the Victory Inn and Suites in Muskegon, that time is now.

“I can’t take it no more,” says Alicia Rogers, with housekeeping at the hotel.

“I’m worried about the health of me, the other employees, and our customers,” says Christopher Hill, with maintenance at the hotel.

All the employees say they’ve all tried letting management know about the problems with black mold.

“When brought it to his attention, he told me to stay in my profession,” says Rogers.

So, Alicia Rogers led the group of six workers outside the Victory Inn and Suites, where they could carry their signs, and show the evidence. Rogers sent photos to WZZM 13, which she says show the black mold that’s in several rooms.

“We’ve got 128 that is saturated in black mold,” says Rogers.

“They just asked me yesterday to wipe down a room that had mold growing on a ceiling, to wipe it down so they could rent it out the same night, its disgusting,” says Hill.

The employees say the problems have been going on for at least four months and in just the past month they’ve had three different managers.

“The second one came in was here for a day, packed his bags, and left the next day couldn’t deal with it,” says Hill.

WZZM 13 tried to reach the manager by phone and then inside the hotel, but he had no comment. Read more

South Minneapolis mom chipping away at lead poisoning hazard

By Beena Raghavendran, http://www.startribune.com

Ticiea FletcherIt was the porch windows’ fault.

Ticiea Fletcher, 43, would pop them open for a breeze as her children played in her south Minneapolis apartment, cleaning her floors regularly to clear settled dust.

But everything changed after a checkup in 2009 revealed that her 10-month-old son, Dustin Shields, had high levels of lead in his blood — 21 micrograms per deciliter. Her daughter, 1-year-old Logan Shields, had 18 micrograms.

Dustin, now 6, has developmental disabilities blamed on chipping lead paint around windows in the apartment, and Fletcher is on a mission to make sure that other children are spared that diagnosis.

“All the windows were full of lead poisoning and I wasn’t aware of it,” she said.

Now, Fletcher is spreading lead awareness through events and word of mouth. To promote her free blood-testing station for children under 6, Fletcher — who has a partnership with healthy-home advocate Sustainable Resources Center — last week was passing out fliers for an event to be held from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday at McRae Park.

And through her organization Missions to the Streets, which works with landlords and tenants to give homes to the homeless, Fletcher ensures her clients can detect lead risks in potential apartments.

At that time Dustin’s blood was tested, a level of 10 micrograms per deciliter was considered “elevated” and meant a lead poisoning diagnosis. In April, the Minnesota Commissioner of Health lowered the state’s threshold from 10 micrograms to 5. This means that lead exposure can be limited by removing its traces in homes earlier, said Joe Houseman, director of production for the Sustainable Resources Center, which carries out lead-abatement work.

Minnesota has seen a decrease in lead-poisoning cases over the years, but cases still surface, said Stephanie Yendell, principal epidemiologist for the Lead and Healthy Homes program at the Minnesota Department of Health. Houseman said a lower level will lead to more people diagnosed with lead poisoning.

In 2012, Minnesota saw 527 cases of elevated blood levels compared to 1,750 in 2002 — a decline that comes back to increased prevention efforts, according to the latest numbers from the state Department of Health. About 91,000 children under 6 were tested in 2011 and 2012, an increase from the early 2000s, the report said. Read more

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.