Category Archives: Environmental

Issues concerning general environmental testing

Georgia peanut farmers having difficult year with white mold disease

By Tatyana Phelps, http://www.albanyherald.com/

 

peanutmoldWhite mold disease has always been a problem for Georgia peanut farmers, according to University of Georgia plant pathologist Tim Brenneman. The disease has been even more of a nuisance due to the hot and humid weather conditions this growing season.

Brenneman insists that, through proper use of the correct fungicides, white mold can be contained.

“It’s probably our No. 1 cause of loss due to disease in the state, and this year appears to be one of the worst years we’ve had in a while,” Brenneman said. “The weather has been very favorable (for the disease) this year, and the variety we grow is Georgia 06G, developed by Dr. (Bill) Branch. It’s a very good variety. It’s extremely high yielding, which is one of the reasons our growers really like to grow it. (However), it is also really susceptible to this disease.”

Brenneman recommends farmers spray at night, when the plants’ leaves are folded, in order to prevent white mold damage. Read more

Researcher finds more asbestos-like fibers in Penokee Hills

By Danielle Kaeding, Wisconsin Public Radio

Penokeeoutcrop1More asbestos-like fibers have been discovered in rock samples from the Penokee Hills of Northwestern Wisconsin, where a company had proposed to build an open-pit iron mine.

According to a northern Wisconsin geoscientist, the greatest amounts of hazardous minerals are in the western part of the range, including the area that mining outfit Gogebic Taconite planned to develop before pulling out of the project earlier this year.

Northland College associate professor of geoscience Tom Fitz said there’s an approximately nine-mile stretch of the range with rock containing the long, slender “asbestiform” crystals. The crystals are a form of mineral known to be linked to mesothelioma, a rare type of lung cancer.

“In the stretch that’s in Wisconsin between the western part of the Penokee Range over to Ironwood, the area near Mellen, is the area that has the greatest potential to have the asbestiform variety,” Fitz said.

He said the asbestiform minerals show up in the Tyler Forks River and become abundant in some areas between there and southwest of Mellen.

Differences in geologic heat when the minerals were formed account for the variation in some parts of the range, Fitz explained. Not all so-called amphibole minerals are known to be hazardous, he said — just those that got hot enough to form into the long, slender asbestiform crystals.

“I don’t know exactly where the amphibole disappears in there, but it certainly decreases between Upson and Ironwood,” he said, cautioning that it could still be found in smaller veins across the entire range.

Fitz said more research is needed to determine what affect mining in the Penokee Hills could have on public health.

Read more

HUD gives $101M to communities for lead paint, home hazard removal

By Trey Garrison, http://www.housingwire.com/

paintbrushesThe U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded over $101 million to 32 city, county and state governments.

The grant funding announced will reduce the number of lead-poisoned children and protect families by targeting health hazards in over 6,000 low-income homes with significant lead and/or other home health and safety hazards.

Earlier this week in Baltimore, Maryland, HUD Secretary Julián Castro announced the funding during a news conference with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake as part of the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative Back to School event, promoting healthier housing to improve school outcomes.

The City of Baltimore is one of the grantees.

HUD’s Lead Hazard Control grant programs has a demonstrated history of success, filling critical needs in urban communities where no other resources exist to address substandard housing that threatens the health of the most vulnerable residents.

“Every family deserves to live in a safe and healthy home where they can see their children thrive and excel,” said Castro. “Communities will use these grants to help eliminate home-related hazards in neighborhoods across the country. A healthy home is vital to the American Dream.” Read more

VA Employee sickened by mold says Federal Workers’ Comp Insurance won’t cover her medical needs

By Adam Walser, http://www.abcactionnews.com/

vaempEarlier this month, we told you about mold inside the St. Petersburg VA Regional Benefits Office, which employees claim is making them sick.

Now we’re hearing from a woman who says she has suffered chronic problems as a result of her exposure there, and claims she can’t get the medical care she needs.

“My first symptom was just absolute bone-numbing fatigue, then lungs, sinuses, terrible infections,” said Aileen Mullin.

She was granted workers’ comp in 2012 after doctors determined that mold inside the St. Petersburg benefits office where she works made her sick. 

As the I-Team first reported, multiple reports show mold has been detected in the building for several years.

Constant leaks from a skylight and the roof have been blamed for the problem. 

“January 2012 was when I was taken out in an ambulance,” said Mullin.

Since suffering her first life-threatening asthma attack, Mullin has depended on nebulizers, inhalers and prescription drugs to breathe.

Qualifying for workers’  comp has created additional issues, since her regular employee health insurance coverage no longer applies to any respiratory-related claims.

“They reversed the charges from my doctors and the doctors in turn have billed me, creating an enormous financial debt,” she said. Read more

Google’s Street View cars have been quietly testing air pollution

by  Katie Fehrenbacher,http://fortune.com/

googlemobileWhile Google’s Street View cars have been busy snapping images of roads across the globe, including some of the most remote locations on Earth, a small handful of the smart vehicles have been quietly gathering data on something that’s much harder to see: air pollution.

Three of Google’s Street View cars were equipped with sensors from San Francisco startup Aclima and the roving sensor-laden vehicles spent a month driving around Denver last year, testing the air quality. The cars spent 750 hours on the city’s streets and collected 150 million data points about levels of various air pollutants, many of them caused directly and indirectly by gas-powered cars and fossil fuel-based power plants. The test was done in collaboration with NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency.

A key point of the test was to validate seven-year-old Aclima’s environmental sensor tech, which is a first step for the startup to offer the environmental sensors more widely. The company uses algorithms, big data analytics and machine learning to make its sensor data highly accurate. The company also makes it own hardware and has been developing what it says is the world’s smallest particulate matter sensor in collaboration with the EPA and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Read more

Lead fishing tackle ingested by fish is killing loons and other birds

By Samantha Stark, http://www.dl-online.com/

leadtackleLead’s widespread use has resulted in worldwide environmental contamination, human exposure and significant public health problems.

Lead is an extremely toxic element that, over the years, has been removed from water pipes, gasoline, paint and other sources due to extensive health issues in humans, animals and the environment. Yet toxic lead is still entering the food chain through widespread use of lead fishing tackle.

Thousands of cranes, ducks, swans, loons, geese and other waterfowl ingest lead fishing tackle that was lost in lakes and rivers each year, often resulting in deadly consequences.

“All it takes is one small lead jig to kill a loon,” said Phil Votruba, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) watershed project manager. “It doesn’t take much.” Read more

How Germs Might Shape the Future of Architecture

By Vicky Gan, http://www.citylab.com/

We know that buildings can make us sick. Take, for example, cases of lead poisoning, mold exposure, or the aptly named Sick Building Syndrome. But cabiobuildingn they also make us healthier? Scientists are trying to answer that very question, starting with detailed studies of the microbes that populate our homes and offices. The end goal? Using this information to design structures constructed with bodies in mind.

This is a big shift in how we’ve previously conceptualized microbial life. We’ve long treated bacteria as the enemy. But it turns out that few of the germs we’re constantly trying to kill with hand sanitizer actually cause disease—and the more bacteria we have on the whole, the better. In fact, our habit of ultrasterilization appears to be hurting us. A number of recent studies have lent credence to the so-called “hygiene hypothesis,” which attributes the uptick in autoimmune and allergic diseases, including eczema and asthma, to a lack of early childhood exposure to germs. Read more

Pet allergies are big business

By Darcy Reynolds, http://www.columbusceo.com/

allergydogIt’s that dreaded season. Allergens are bountiful and wreaking havoc on our eyes, noses and throats. But the allergy suffering isn’t exclusive to humans. The misery many of us have to deal with can extend to our very best friends; our beloved household pets.

Allergic symptoms in dogs and cats can translate into frustration, misery and big business. If you have spent time in the company of a favorite canine and witnessed persistent licking and paw chewing along with incessant scratching, red skin and “hot spots” plus itchy ears and runny eyes, you are likely watching the effect of allergies in action. Cats, too, present allergies in a similar manner along signs such as hair loss, scabs or open sores, excessive scratching and discharge in the ears.

In both people and pets, an allergy is a state of hypersensitivity in which exposure to an allergen induces the body’s immune system to overreact. Gwendolen Lorch, DVM and assistant professor of dermatology at OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, believes cases of pet allergies are trending upward, particularly in the Midwest. “Puppies that are bred and raised in Arizona may never present themselves with an allergy. But for areas like Ohio, an average vet practice may treat pet allergies and related ailments in 30-40 percent of all appointments booked,” Lorch says. Read more

Alarming Spike in Imported Asbestos Products in Canada

By Tim Povtak, http://www.asbestos.com

canadian-flagsThe importation of asbestos into Canada increased by a startling 22 percent in 2014, raising safety concerns for the unsuspecting general public and those still working with the toxic products.

Brake pads and brake linings were the most popular asbestos import, valued at a seven-year high of $3.6 million, according to The Globe and Mail news service research.

Other related imports included various friction materials, compressed asbestos fiber jointing and shipments of crocidolite fibers — the most dangerous form of asbestos. Much of the findings came from Statistics Canada, a government website that provides economic, social and census data. Read more

Summer is the time for TEM

-Jeff Mlekush, QuanTEM Laboratories

I know a lot of you will be doing Clearance Testing on asbestos abatement projects in the coming months, so here is a quick summary chart for your reference.

TEMChart