Monthly Archives: April 2014

Snow mold popping up on lawns

It’s that time of year when things start to sprout up and grow.

But you might find an unwanted visitor on your lawn this spring: snow mold.

The fungus gets its name because it thrives underneath snow cover. So all the snow we got this past winter means the mold is popping up on more lawns than in past years.

The temperature underneath all that snow sits right around 30 degrees, the perfect conditions for which mold to grow, said Nate Devisser of Weed Man Lawn Care.

“Those are conditions that are prime for the fungus to grow in lawns: prolonged period of snow cover,” Devisser said.

The good news is, it’s not hurting your grass. Only in rare causes would the mold cause permanent damage.

It just looks bad.

“It looks like dead grass,” Devisser explained. “A lot of homeowners might panic and say, ‘Oh my goodness, my lawn died over the winter!'”

But there’s a simple fix to get rid of it: just rake it up.

“You just want to fluff it up,” he said.

But even though snow mold doesn’t hurt your lawn or plants, you’ll still want to take care of it as soon as possible in case someone in your family’s allergic to mold.

It can cause some serious symptoms, said Dr. Christina Barnes, an allergist with the South Bend Clinic.

“Runny nose, itchy nose, sneezing, sometimes stuffiness, drainage,” Barnes listed. “And if they have asthma, it can trigger asthma as well.”

Educational program executives sentenced for exposing high school students to asbestos

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo, http://legalnewsline.com

Two former executives from a now-defunct nonprofit organization were sentenced to prison on Monday for exposing as many as 80 Merced County high school students to asbestos in an attempt to cut corners in asbestos removal.

Patrick Bowman and Rudy Buendia III pleaded no contest to federal charges of violating federal asbestos laws in May.

Bowman, who was also a teacher with the Valley Community School in Los Banos, Calif., served as Firm Build’s board president and coordinator of the Workplace Learning Academy, and Buendia was the nonprofit’s construction project site supervisor.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill of the Eastern District of California sentenced Bowman to 27 months and Buendia to 24 months in federal prison.

Joseph Cuellar, Firm Build’s former administrative manager, was also charged but filed a motion to withdraw his no contest plea, which was later denied. As a result, O’Neill gave Cuellar’s counsel until May 15 to file additional motions before moving forward with sentencing.

Firm Build had a contract with the Merced County Office of Education to provide job training and work experience programs to local “at-risk” high school students from the Workplace Learning Academy. The program was intended to teach trade skills to students as young as 14 years old.

The students would work for part of the school day and receive school credit for their work. Some were paid minimum wage for the work they performed, Bowman’s plea agreement states.

Instead, the trio knowingly used to students to remove asbestos during a demolition and renovation project at Castle Commerce Center’s Automotive Training Center, located at 2245 Jetstream Drive in Atwater, from September 2005 to March 2006.

The “defendants falsely represented that Firm Build, Inc. intended to perform a renovation construction project … with no disturbance or removal of any asbestos containing materials, including flooring, insulation and piping, when, in truth and fact, defendants knew that the renovation and construction project would involve the removal of asbestos containing materials,” the indictment states.

During the construction work, students and employees removed and abated between 700 and 1,000 linear feet of asbestos-containing pipe insulation.

The students were required to remove asbestos-containing materials without first learning proper removal methods and were not provided appropriate respiratory protection.

Job Coach Joe Gudino testified that they would cut through the insulation and pipes and let them drop to the ground, creating dust. He added that the insulation was “crumbly.”

Students also cut out the insulation, dragged it to dumpsters and removed the remaining dust with dustpans. They also occasionally used sledgehammers to remove pipe insulation and then used their hands or shovels to dispose of the material in dumpsters.

Job Coach Angelo Gonzalez testified that employees and students put the asbestos-containing insulation in garbage bags and wheelbarrows and disposed of it in dumpsters, which were picked up by the Central Valley Disposal to take to regular landfills.

According to court records, the men knew the building had asbestos in it when they negotiated the lease. Read More

Does Lead Poisoning Make You More Likely To Become A Criminal?

By Lecia Bushak, http://www.medicaldaily.com

 Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

In the U.S., crime has been reduced significantly in the past several decades. Economists and researchers have hypothesized that this decline in crime is somehow linked to the removal of high lead levels from common things like gasoline or paint, and thus claim that lead poisoning at an early age may be cause for criminal activity later on.

Before Rudy Giuliani became the mayor of New York City in the early 1990s, the Big Apple was known for its high crime rates. Since the 1960s, rape, murder, and robbery rates had ballooned significantly. Giuliani came along with a plan to decrease crime with the “broken windows” theory, and it worked; crime dropped significantly. But it wasn’t just in New York City. Amazingly enough, it was happening all across the States during the last decade of the 20th century.

Why did the homicide rate decrease by over 40 percent by the end of the 1990s? Economists and criminologists have struggled to find a clear cut answer, and perhaps there is none. Some believe it’s because of an increase in police officers; others point to the fact that the number of criminals who are behind bars has risen. However, a fraction of researchers believe that the decline of crime is linked to lead.

Research has shown that having high levels of lead in blood could lead to decreased cognitive function, as well as aggressive or violent characteristics. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), having 5 micrograms per deciliter of lead in a child’s blood is considered abnormal. During the 1970s, the average U.S. resident had significantly higher levels of lead in their blood than the average person today.

So some economists have hypothesized that as the amount of leaded gasoline and lead paint increased during the 1970s, so did crime rates. Likewise, when lead levels began to drop, so did crime. Read More

Mold may set off asthma in middle-aged men

By Annie Rahilly-Melbourne, http://www.futurity.org

Reducing the presence of mold in the home may reduce asthma in middle-aged adults, according to new research.

In a follow-up of a longitudinal health study conducted in Tasmania, over 5,700 participants completed respiratory and home environment questionnaires and had skin-prick tests for allergies.

The results revealed that recent presence of mold in the home was associated with “non-allergic” asthma in middle age, particularly in men whose risk was about four times that of women.

Lead author John Burgess of the University of Melbourne and University of Tasmania says most studies of mold and asthma had concentrated on children and adolescents.

He adds that in this study, published in the Journal of Respirology, the asthma and related symptoms were more common as mold exposure increased. Read More

Iowa’s asbestos inspectors overloaded

By Jason Clayworth, http://www.desmoinesregister.com

contained asbestosA contractor’s complaint has prompted closer scrutiny of possible asbestos exposure involving workers at a downtown Des Moines renovation project, but an inspector doesn’t even visit hundreds of sites across Iowa each year where workers could face risks from the cancer-causing material.

The routine lack of asbestos-handling inspections at construction sites in Iowa and across the nation represents a widespread failure to protect the public, environmental safety advocates say.

In Iowa, one inspector enforces U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asbestos removal regulations and oversees as many as 4,500 asbestos removal projects each year. Another inspector must try to enforce federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration asbestos regulations.

“It’s safe to say that enforcement of asbestos regulations nationwide is abysmal,” said Brent Kynoch of the Environmental Information Association, a group based in Maryland focused on health hazards in buildings, specifically asbestos.

“There are no budgets with either the state or federal governments to put the kind of inspection staff out there that we really would require to enforce the regulations,” Kynoch said.  Read More