Monthly Archives: December 2015

Michigan’s largest asbestos release nets probation for Kalamazoo woman

By Rex Hall Jr., http://www.mlive.com/

Judges_GavelA Kalamazoo woman who was behind a salvage operation that federal prosecutors say led to the largest release of toxic asbestos in the state’s history will spend the next three years on probation, according to court documents.

In February, LuAnne LaBrie, formerly known as LuAnne McClain, pleaded guilty to failing to notify federal or state authorities that asbestos material would be stripped and removed at the former Consumers Energy power plant in Comstock Township.

In March, LaBrie also pleaded guilty in federal court to misdemeanor charges of failing to timely file a tax return in 2011 and 2012 on income of more than $1.75 million in proceeds from the salvage job.

LaBrie’s two co-defendants, Cory Hammond, of Hastings, and Robert “Mike” White,” of Kalamazoo, who supervised the salvaging of scrap metal at the power plant, pleaded guilty in February to failing to adequately wet asbestos material during the operation. Read more

How risky is drinking water contaminated with lead?

By Mary Brophy Marcus, http://www.cbsnews.com/

LeadwaterThe public health emergency declared in Flint, Michigan, over high levels of lead in the drinking water raises concerns about the long-lasting impact lead exposure could have on the city’s residents, especially children.

After the city switched its municipal water supply from Detroit to the more local Flint River in 2014 to save money, some 100,000 residents may have been exposed. Chemicals used to treat the water leached lead from old pipes leading to homes, contaminating the water people got from their taps.

Reports of smelly, discolored water began to flow in last fall and researchers have since found elevated lead levels in dozens of children.

Just how much lead people have been exposed to isn’t clear yet, said Dr. Eden Wells, Chief Medical Executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

“My understanding as of yesterday is that they don’t have all of that mapped out yet — that’s part of the investigation. We on the health side have a lead testing program and since the 2014 Flint River water switch, we have seen about 100 children with lead levels greater than 5 micrograms per deciliter [in their blood],” said Wells.

Wells, who is also a clinical associate professor in epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, said a level of zero is the ideal.

“Lead at any level can be associated with decreases in IQ, behavioral disorders, even an association with certain juvenile delinquency as these children get older,” she said. Read more

Most teddy bears are covered in food poisoning bacteria, tests reveal

By Plymouth Herald, http://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/

bacteria bearEighty per cent of teddy bears are contaimianted with bacteria linked to food poisioning and a quarter harbour bugs commonly found in faeces.

That is according to new resaerch carried out by Dettol – which also found that 90 per cent of children regularly drop their teddies on the floor and 75 per cebt of bears aren’t washed after a child has been ill.

New laboratory research also revealed cuddly toys have the highest levels of bacteria in the family laundry basket.

Microbiologists swab-tested a variety of children’s teddies and found that over 80% were contaminated with staphylococcus spp (a pathogen associated with food poisoning) and almost a quarter contained coliforms, indicating a possible presence of harmful organisms. Read more

Former Letcher County teacher files lawsuit claiming asbestos in school caused cancer

By: Angela Reighard,http://www.wkyt.com/

rogerhallRoger and Evelyn Hall are holding onto each other a little tighter these days.

Roger was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Mesothelioma about one year ago.

He taught history at the old Letcher High School from 1976 to 2003.

“If you wanted to have a decent life, you had to become a doctor, a lawyer, school teacher, so on. So, I figured a school teacher is easy enough,” Roger Hall said.

Hall spent a lot of time in the break room at the high school. It’s now an office at Letcher Elementary. He said he ate lunch there.

“You had no thought that you were limiting your life,” Hall said.

When he found out he had Mesothelioma, he did some research. One thing kept coming up: asbestos.

“When I asked several people I worked with is there asbestos in that school? They said it was loaded with it,” Hall said.

Hall filed a lawsuit against various members of the school district saying asbestos exposure caused his cancer.

As of today, the principal of Letcher Elementary says they are dealing with asbestos.

“We always kind of knew it was here. We just assumed it was being taken care of the way it was supposed to be taken care of,” Letcher Elementary Principal Wendy Rutherford said.

Rutherford said in the seven years she’s worked at Letcher Elementary, the custodians have followed protocol. They clean and wax the tile in order to prevent asbestos exposure.

The hallway in the school was recently sealed. However, some classrooms and the cafeteria still have the old tile.

“It is something I do think we need to address just for the safety of our students and staff and to help with fears any people have,” Rutherford said. “I think it’s a wise call for our board to remove the tile.” Read more

Benefits for humanity: From NASA to Napa

By Laura Niles, http://phys.org/

Click here for the video

From the microgravity environment aboard the International Space Station to the microclimates of the Napa Valley, station research impacts many different industries on Earth. The latest video in the Benefits for Humanity series illustrates how solutions for growing crops in space translates to solutions for mold prevention in wine cellars and other confined spaces on Earth.

Mold tends to grow in wine barrel storage rooms due to stagnant air. This not only can taint the wine, but also it can create an unhealthy working environment for winemakers. Luckily, a solution created for optimizing crop growth on the space station has helped reduce the amount of airborne mold spores in wine cellars.

NASA is studying crop growth aboard the to develop the capability for astronauts to grow their own food as part of the agency’s journey to Mars. Scientists working on this investigation noticed that a buildup of a naturally-occurring plant hormone called ethylene was destroying plants within the confined plant growth chambers. Through collaboration with the University of Wisconsin, researchers developed and successfully tested an ethylene removal system in space, called Advanced Astroculture (ADVASC). It helped to keep the plants alive by removing viruses, bacteria and mold from the plant growth chamber.

Realizing the potential for use in confined spaces on the ground, scientists adapted the ADVASC system for use in air purification. Initially used to prolong the shelf-life of fruits and vegetables in the grocery store, winemakers soon took note of the technology and employed it in their storage cellars. According to one winemaker, the ADVASC-derived air purification system enhances storage conditions, resulting in even better wine.

“It’s amazing when you think about all the innovations that are going on up in space, how they can come into a place as unexpected as a winery, which translates to benefits on your dinner table,” said Andrew Schweiger, winemaker at Schweiger Vineyards in St. Helena, California. Read more

This Rocker Has A Heavy Metal Warning For Fellow Parents

By Lynne Peeples, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

JohnfishmanWhen Jon Fishman’s family moved into their 200-year-old Maine farmhouse years ago, they didn’t think to be concerned about lead paint hazards. That all changed this February, a few minutes after a pediatrician pricked their toddler son’s toe. The rapid blood test revealed the presence of lead.

Tiny, largely invisible particles of the poison, they would later confirm, had taken residence in their home — making them one of the at least 4 million households with children that are exposed to deteriorated lead paint and elevated levels of lead dust, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now Fishman, the drummer for the band Phish, wants to share what he’s learned so that other parents have their young children screened for lead. He also wants to ensure people avoid renting, buying, selling or remodeling a home while blind to the threat of the neurotoxic heavy metal.

“I’m just trying to parlay the little celebrity I have to raise awareness,” he said. Fishman recently donated to the completion of “MisLEAD,” a forthcoming film on the lead issue, and will be hosting screenings in Vermont this October.

Homes built in the early to mid-20th century, during the heyday of lead-based paint, are most worrisome. Yet risks may reside in and around any building constructed or painted before 1978, when lead was finally banned from residential paint sold in the U.S.

“Lead is all over the damn place — aging and chipping,” said Fishman, who also discovered lead hazards in a lakeside cottage and a general store his family owns. “It’s an epidemic. And it’s causing serious health problems in lots of kids around the country.”

Of course, the majority of children who suffer from lead poisoning aren’t celebrity kids with multiple residences. Risks are generally highest in low-income communities, where lead paint can often be seen peeling from poorly-maintained properties. But the poison can still find its way onto the hands and into the mouth of any child.

Read more