Monthly Archives: May 2014
By Craig Welch, The Seattle Times
The workers sat down in the makeshift classroom, prepared to learn how to safely remove cancer-causing asbestos.
Instead, the instructor turned on a video of the 2004 action flick “Van Helsing.”
The owners of a Tacoma company that was among a mere handful certified by the state to train workers to inspect or handle asbestos pleaded guilty on Friday in Superior Court for faking training programs for years.
It’s just the latest in a string of issues nationwide with companies responsible for dealing with the ubiquitous hazardous substance commonly found in ceilings, siding and insulation.
“We get a lot of calls on individuals who are cutting corners — either from a business or a colleague,” Tyler Amon, special agent in charge with the Environmental Protection Agency’s law-enforcement division in Seattle, said in an interview.
“But what we are focused on is where it’s concentrated in a criminal enterprise.”
The Tacoma company, Emergency Management Training, let workers skip training altogether or show up for as little as 30 minutes of an eight-hour course. Owners submitted false records to let workers avoid state-mandated follow-up. It forged documents so its own untrained employees could bid on a hazardous-materials-removal job for the military at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
The company even took money under the table so that uncertified contractors could evaluate schools and hospitals to see if they were asbestos-free. Read more
By Rick Kornak, http://www.mesothelioma.com
Washington state’s Department of Corrections (DOC) has put an end to a 23-year-old program that employed inmates for asbestos abatement projects.
Although the DOC has claimed the matters are unrelated, the program’s termination comes not long after a recent investigation by the Department of Labor and Industries, which found that seven crew workers at the Washington Corrections Center for Women may have inhaled asbestos-containing dust in June, 2013. The work involved two nine-hour shifts of removing contaminated floor tiles.
“They were allowing the workers to be exposed to asbestos,” said Elaine Fischer, a spokeswoman for the Department of Labor and Industries. Although the amount of exposure is unclear, Fischer pointed out that any inhalation of asbestos fibers can be detrimental to one’s health. “There’s no minimum safe amount of exposure,” she said. Inhaling airborne asbestos fibers can lead to a variety of respiratory health problems, including fatal afflictions, such as mesothelioma.
The DOC was originally fined $141,000 for the violations, but this amount was halved when the agency agreed to do additional training and purchase more equipment. The inmates were trained and certified for asbestos removal, but the investigation done by the Department of Labor and Industries led to the discovery that proper procedures were not being followed at all times. The contaminated material was not always wet down, as it should be, and masks, gloves, and other protective equipment was worn inconsistently. Read More
By Biz Carson, http://gigaom.com
The yellow blobs of slime mold normally grow in dark forests, not on computer chips or on gelatinous squares shaped like the United States. But through his research, University of the West of England professor Andrew Adamatzky has shown that the mold can, and should, be grown elsewhere because of its potential in computing.
Physarum polycephalum is a brainless mold that’s sole purpose is to build transportation networks for the nutrients that sustain it. As it expands in search of food, it sends out slimy tubes that continue to branch out until it finds a food source, at which point it forms a blob around the nutrients. Its slime tubes then continue to grow and split until the mold forms a network of tubes to transport the food throughout itself.
The key to Physarum polycephalum’s computing power, however, is its ability to form the most efficient and optimal network.
Because it’s a self-repairing, living creature, it can also model emergency situations. So if a road was cut off due to flooding or an accident, the mold could also be suddenly cut off at that point and its resources redirected in another optimal way.
“By understanding how living creatures build transport networks, an urban planner would probably modify their approaches towards urban development and road planning,” Adamatzky said.
And while we may not see a petri dish of slime mold on an urban planner’s desk anytime soon, there are more practical applications of the mold when it comes to computing. Adamatzky wrote a book in 2010 where he defined the concept of Physarum machines: programmable, amorphous, living computing devices. Because the mold is sensitive to light and certain chemicals, the mold can be programmed to travel certain ways while still finding the optimal network. Read More
By Patricia Sullivan, http://www.washingtonpost.com
Residents of one of Alexandria’s largest affordable apartment complexes grilled federal regulators, local authorities and their landlord Saturday over the discovery of asbestos during renovations of their homes, angrily asking why it took three months for officials to halt the work.
Owners of the 530-unit Hunting Point on the Potomac, formerly Hunting Towers, received a rare stop-work order from the Environmental Protection Agency last week after inspectors discovered asbestos in the floors, doors and windows. The agency also found that workers were not taking legally required precautions.
During four visits to the 63-year-old complex since the beginning of the year, EPA officials found crumbling asbestos in apartments, halls and trash areas where windows and floor tiles are being replaced. No notice of the danger was posted, the EPA said, and workers did not seal the area to protect residents. No certified supervisor was on the job, nor were workers certified in the task of removing hazardous materials. The EPA has ordered testing for airborne asbestos fibers.
The stop-work order is an unusual action by the EPA; only five a year are typically issued, and they rarely involve occupied apartment buildings, an EPA spokeswoman said. Read More
Posted by KABC-TV/DT, http://abclocal.go.com
Los Angeles County health officials made the screenings available Monday after excessive levels of lead were detected in recent emissions from the battery recycling plant. Elevated levels of lead were found in the yards of 39 homes around the plant.
“There are many sources of lead in our daily environment,” Director of Public Health Jonathan Fielding said. “However, it is clear that Exide Technologies has emitted unacceptably high levels of lead and other toxic chemicals into the surrounding communities for years.”
Exide recycles batteries and has been under close scrutiny by state and local regulators over the past year.
Residents from Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles have voiced concerns about their safety numerous times.
This is the latest in a string of problems surrounding the plant. In January, regional air quality officials sued Exide for $40 million, saying the plant exposed people to cancer-causing chemicals such as arsenic. Read More
By Joseph Castro, http://www.livescience.com
Hundreds of years before asbestos became ubiquitous in the construction industry, Byzantine monks used the fibrous material in plaster coatings underlying their wall paintings during the late 1100s, new research shows.
Asbestos is a type of natural, rock-forming mineral known for its ability to separate into long, flexible fibers. It has long been thought that asbestos fibers, which are corrosion- and combustion-resistant, were first integrated into such things as plaster, finish coatings and floors after the Industrial Revolution.
But while investigating the 12th-century paintings in the Byzantine monastery Enkleistra of St. Neophytos in Cyprus, UCLA researchers discovered the magnesium silicate mineral, chrysotile (white asbestos), in the finish coating of the plaster underneath a portion of a wall painting. The chrysotile provided a smooth layer with a mirrorlike surface for the painting.
“[The monks] probably wanted to give more shine and different properties to this layer,” said UCLA archaeological scientist Ioanna Kakoulli, lead author of the new study, published last month in the Journal of Archaeological Science. “It definitely wasn’t a casual decision — they must have understood the properties of the material.” Read More
By David Deegan, http://www.epa.gov
In an effort to improve compliance with laws that protect children from lead paint poisoning, EPA is sending letters to approximately 200 home renovation and painting contractors, property management companies and landlords in and around New Haven, Conn. announcing a compliance assistance and enforcement initiative. The EPA letter outlines steps EPA is taking to increase compliance on the part of these entities with the federal lead-based paint Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
EPA’s RRP Rule, which became effective in April 2010, is designed to prevent children’s exposure to lead-based paint and/or lead-based paint hazards resulting from renovation, repair and repainting projects in residences, schools and other buildings where children are likely to be.
This Rule requires individual renovators and firms performing renovations to be trained and certified so that they follow lead safe work practices during renovations of pre-1978 housing and child-occupied facilities in order to protect children from lead poisoning.
The letter EPA is sending to New Haven-area contractors, landlords and property management companies invites these entities to an information session at the New Haven Health Department office, 54 Meadow Street, New Haven, on April 16, 2014 from 3 to 6 pm where EPA will provide an overview of the RRP Rule requirements, and introduce an expedited settlement offer for one violation of the RRP Rule. The letter also notifies the contractors that EPA will be inspecting a number of them in June 2014.
During April and May, EPA will offer compliance assistance on the RRP Rule to companies and the public in the New Haven area. In June, EPA lead inspectors will inspect numerous renovation, painting and property management companies in the New Haven area regarding their compliance with the RRP Rule. The inspections may be followed up with enforcement. Read More
By JC Sevcik, http://www.upi.com
The department announced their have been eight cases of invasive meningococcal disease in the county so far this year, the L.A. Times reports.
Invasive meningococcal disease causes meningitis, an inflammation of the the meninges, the protective membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It can be spread through exposure to sneezing and coughing and contact with saliva and mucous. Kissing, sharing beverages or cigarettes, and living in group settings can transmit the bacteria responsible for infection.
Symptoms usually onset within five days of exposure to the bacteria, and may include a high fever, stiff neck, aches, and an aversion to bright lights.