Monthly Archives: June 2013

Move Over, Styrofoam; The Fungi Are Here

By Daniel Mathews, http://www.earthtechling.com

In the entire tiny-house movement, one tiny house stands out: it sounds the kookiest, but is the most likely to transform your world some day. Called the Mushroom Tiny House, it’s now growing in the upstate New York plant of Ecovative Design. (Rhymes with “innovative,” not with “evocative.”)

As you can see in the picture, it has inner and outer sheathing of tongue-and-groove wood. Within those walls, Ecovative is culturing fungi. On purpose. Mixed with moist ground-up corn stalks or other agricultural waste that serves as its food, this fungal mycelium takes just a few days to fill the space, at which point it will be dried out and killed. It will provide fire-resistant, vapor-permeable insulation, while also being so strong, and adhering to the wood so firmly, that no studs are needed.

wall with braces

A wall of the Mushroom Tiny House, with braces that keep the two wood panels from spreading farther apart under the pressure of growing mycelium. Via Ecovative.

(What is mycelium? It’s the “body” of a mushroom fungus, living year-round in the soil or other substrate, whereas the mushroom itself is just a temporary spore-disseminating organ. Mycelium comprises miles and miles of fast-growing, tiny, tangled, fibrous tubes each just one cell thick.) Read More

 

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Attack of the Killer Bacteria: Superbugs, Prepare to Die!

By Charles Choi, LiveScience.com

Predatory bacteria that devour microbes could help kill potentially lethal drug-resistant germs when antibiotics fail, researchers say.

Antibiotics currently help fight bacterial infections both in people and livestock, saving countless lives. However, constant use of these drugs has now bred germs resistant to many antibiotics — superbugs that some experts warn could lead to apocalyptic scenarios. Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have estimated that each year in the United States, nearly 2 million patients acquire infections in hospitals. Many of these infections are caused by these drug-resistant contagions.

Scientists are hunting for ways to overcome drug-resistant bacteria, such as viruses known as bacteriophages, which infect and kill only bacteria. Now investigators suggest predatory bacteria that eat other bacteria may serve as vital allies, too. Read More

 

Poll: Many unaware that basic homeowner insurance skips mold, quakes

By Walter Hamilton, http://www.latimes.com

Many Americans are confused about the basic elements of homeowner insurance policies, according to a new study.

More than four in 10 people wrongly think that the policies cover mold damage and 73% don’t realize that the policies do cover personal items that are stolen from a car, according to the poll by InsuranceQuotes.com.

Perhaps most dangerous for anyone in California, 51% are unaware that earthquake coverage is not covered by standard homeowner policies, the study found.

Poll respondents did better in knowing that fire is covered (90% know that). And 72% understand that lawsuits from an injured visitor are covered.

The lack of understanding could be very expensive in an emergency, said Laura Adams, senior insurance analyst for InsuranceQuotes.com.

“This misconception could prove extremely costly,” Adams said. “Mold remediation can cost tens of thousands of dollars. It’s often not covered by homeowner’s insurance, especially if it was caused by neglected maintenance such as a leaky pipe.” Read More

Asbestos: the killer we allow to remain with us

English: Photo of Bauer Elementary Miamisburg,...

English: Photo of Bauer Elementary Miamisburg, Ohio. Asbestos Warning! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Larry Graham, http://www.watoday.com.au

Governments, unions and companies were, and remain, culpable for the spread of the killer asbestos – the result of their handiwork is that over 50,000 Australians have died.

Every day in this state another person dies as a result of exposure to this terrible product. There is no safe level of exposure to it and there is no cure for the diseases it causes, but somehow we still allow the killer asbestos to remain with us.

The diseases that asbestos causes are horrible, particularly the effects of mesothelioma, which has been described to me as akin to being slowly strangled to death, or having concrete set in your lungs. The period from exposure to diagnosis can be a very long time but once diagnosed there is no cure and it is a death sentence.

Of the folklore surrounding this killer product, the one that enrages me most is that those in authority were not aware of the dangers.

There have been formal health warnings about the dangers of asbestos since the 19th century but still every day governments and companies continue to use this pathetic defence.  They regularly lose their court cases because it is just not true, has never been true and they know it. Read more

Spring cleanup can increase lead exposure in home

By Terry Gibb, Michigan State University Extension

Spring cleaning is an annual ritual. Whether you’re cleaning, remodeling or renovating, you need to become knowledgeable about potential lead contamination and sources.

Many homes have one or more sources of lead contamination. Lead exposure can have health and environmental effects on humans and pets. Lead is a soft metal used in many products, including ceramics, printer’s ink, children’s toys, paint, solder, lead crystal, water pipes and gasoline. For many years, it was commonly used in these products. Lead can last for hundreds of years in the environment and never break down into a harmless substance.

In homes, the most common source of lead is from “paint dust” in older homes. While lead was banned in paints in 1978, 74 percent of homes built prior to 1980 may have high levels of lead paint. This is the most common source of exposure for children. They don’t eat peeling paint chips, instead they play in areas where deteriorating paint has produced paint dust. Most of this dust can be found near areas exposed to moisture, such as around doors, windows and exterior walls. If paint is intact (no chipping, peeling or chalking), then exposure is greatly reduced. Chalking that causes paint dust also comes from weathering or when surfaces rub or scrape together as in the case of door and window sills.

Do-it-yourself kits are available to test for lead. These kits will indicate the presence or absence of lead but will not indicate the amount of lead present.

Other sources of lead are contaminated soils and drinking water. While lead occurs naturally in soil, soils can become further contaminated through paint or leaded gasoline. Read More

 

Indoor air quality: One of the EPA’s top 5 environmental risks to public health

By Michelle Krueger, http://www.nwitimes.com

When it comes to air sealing and ventilating, new residential building codes are now in place to ensure energy efficiency as well as the comfort of the homeowner. In many existing homes, there can be a number of uncontrolled air leaks that add up to the equivalent of leaving a window open 24/7.

While its been reported that air sealing uncontrolled leaks can reduce energy bills anywhere from 10-20 percent or more in some cases, its important to understand a home’s ventilation before undertaking any project. The advice of a certified home contractor may even be needed to avoid creating an unhealthy and potentially-life threatening environment.

With indoor air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, dust mites, pollen, radon, mold, excessive carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds and other chemicals identified by the EPA as contributing to poor indoor quality that causes or contributes to health concerns such as asthma, headaches, dry eyes, nasal congestion, nausea and fatigue, it’s extremely important to understand the role of proper ventilation or air exchanges. Indoor air is on average two to five times more polluted than the air outdoors and can be up to 100 times more. Read More

 

Schools get in on LEED certification

By Stephanie Toone, http://www.nashvilleledger.com

An East Nashville middle school once marred by mold, asbestos and age is set to receive an almost full facelift that will add it to the list of Metro Nashville Public School’s “greenest” buildings.

Highland Heights, the Douglas Avenue building that most recently housed KIPP Academy Charter School for grades 5-8, is slated to become a LEED-Silver Certified building.

“The cost savings alone makes LEED the best option,” says Claire Pitt, project manager for contractor R.G. Anderson Company.

“The building will be overall more efficient by recycling 75 percent of the building debris for other construction projects, the recycled drywall [will be used], and the pervious parking lot [will] conserve water,” she says.

The front half of the school represents the largest repurposed element of the project, Pitt says. The wall and roof structure of the school’s front will be retained in the rehabbed building.

Metro Schools are following the trend of schools systems nationwide seeking to take advantage of the cost-savings and educational benefits of building LEED-certified schools, says Tiffany Wilmot, president of Nashville’s Wilmot Inc., a building sustainability consulting firm. Read More

 

Lead-Tainted Ginger Found In California Trader Joe’s And Whole Foods

By Chris Weller, http://www.medicaldaily.com

The state attorney general of California has accused Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and ten other California grocery stores of selling ginger and plum candies with dangerously high levels of lead.

  • (Photo : michelle@TNS, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) Lead exposure from ginger products sold by California grocery stores could cause brain damage in customers.
(Photo : michelle@TNS, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) Lead exposure from ginger products sold by California grocery stores could cause brain damage in customers.

Amid the recent fervor regarding GMO-based foods, this case punctuates the growing importance of food labeling, especially as it pertains to children and pregnant women, who face a greater risk of lead poisoning.

While Lynda Gledhill, the attorney general’s press secretary, said the lead levels were sporadic — “meaning it wasn’t something that was naturally occurring” — the nature of this case poses the greatest threat, because pregnant women often enjoy ginger candy during their pregnancy and children are, no doubt, notorious candy eaters.

California’s Proposition 65 states businesses must disclose to consumers the harmful toxins found in food, toys, jewelry, and other products — a disclosure that the suit argues never happened. Read More

Is Lead Exposure Behind Cities’ Schizophrenia Problem?

By Sydney Brownstone, http://blogs.villagevoice.com

In New York City, like in many other major metropolises, schizophrenia is a disease that can be more visible than most. In 1999, after a schizophrenic off his meds pushed a woman into the path of an oncoming N train, New York State even came up with a law to make the mentally ill seek compulsory treatment. Kendra’s Law, named after the woman who died on the tracks, sought to prevent violence by pushing schizophrenics with a potential for self-harm or violence into psychiatric care.

But for decades, researchers have been struggling with a bigger question about the nature of the relationship between schizophrenia and cities–and why, for example, growing up in a city makes you more vulnerable to developing schizophrenia as an adult.

A landmark study from Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health and published last week in Schizophrenia Bulletin may shed new light on that connection–for the first time, animal models show that lead, along with other environmental toxins, could be a major contribution to the link. Read More

 

Asbestos Bill Invades the Privacy of Victims and Veterans | Commentary

By Susan Vento, http://www.rollcall.com

Since at least the early 1900s, the lethal risks of asbestos exposure have been known — and intentionally hidden from — American workers and their families by companies of all sorts whose bottom lines were more important than the well-being and very lives of their workers.

For many years, asbestos companies have lobbied at the state and federal levels to erode the constitutional and legal rights of those workers diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis and cancers caused by asbestos. Now they are lobbying Congress once again to delay and deny medical bill payments to those who are sick and dying.

The FACT Act is not about transparency at all. It requires the unbelievable disclosure on a public website of asbestos victims’ personal information, including the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, information about their finances, their children and other sensitive material that could subject them to identity theft and possible criminal mischief. The bill is completely one-sided — asbestos companies have no such “transparency” requirements. Read More