Monday, April 13, 2015

Chicago has most air-conditioned homes: Study

Humidity and temperature determines
the number of air conditioned homes.
You might think that hot climates drive the demand for indoor air conditioning.

But the results of a recent study on the prevalence of homes with HVAC systems might surprise you.

When it comes to demand for homes with central air conditioners, it’s not the heat; it’s the humidity.

A RealtyTrac analysis of homes in U.S. cities with more than 100,000 residents showed that cities with high humidity and temperatures, not just one or the other, have the most homes with central air.

Yet Chicago, which is among neither the hottest nor the most humid cities, outranked scorchers like Houston, Miami, and Phoenix on RealtyTrac’s list of “coolest” cities.

Rounding out the list where central A/C is a must-have were Philadelphia; San Antonio, TX; Portland, OR; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; St. Louis, MO; Orlando, FL; Jacksonville, FL; Atlanta; Charlotte, NC; and Indianapolis.

Except for a few West Coast cities with mild, year-round climates, air conditioners come standard in most new homes, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

As their use increases, builders have been able to upsell more energy-efficient models.

Source: Construction Drive

Don't let poor IAQ affect productivity

Many HVAC systems excel in heating or cooling a home, but they often get a failing grade when it comes to indoor air quality.

Exposure to indoor air pollutants may affect people's health, well-being and productivity, making cleaner indoor air an important goal at home and at work.

In fact, a committee of the World Health Organization estimates that as many as 30 percent of new or remodeled buildings may have unusually high rates of sick building complaints. While this is often temporary, some buildings have long-term problems which linger, even after corrective action. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that poor ventilation is an important contributing factor in many sick building cases. (Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

Electrocorp has designed a wide range of industrial and commercial air cleaners that remove airborne chemicals, odors and particles and provide cleaner and more breathable air.

Electrocorp is the industrial division of AllerAir, a company that offers residential and office air purifiers with activated carbon and HEPA.

For more information and a free consultation, contact Electrocorp at 1-866-667-0297 or write to

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Toxic solvents underneath IBM building defy cleanup

Buildings on contaminated soil may
expose workers to harmful chemicals
through soil vapor intrusion: Experts.
ENDICOTT – After 35 years, IBM Corp. contractors have stanched the flow of industrial solvents into a commercial and residential district in the heart of the village, but they have yet to find a solution for the source of the problem at the company's former flagship manufacturing plant.

Officials recently reported that efforts to intercept and remove the subterranean flow of hazardous chemicals coming from the industrial complex — now owned by Huron Real Estate Associates — have been successful.

Consequently, health risks to a nearby neighborhood have been eliminated.

Yet they have no remedy for a concentrated pool of solvents directly under the manufacturing site, where at least 1,500 people still work.

It may take years before a proven remedy is found, according to Alex Czuhanich, an engineering geologist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, although the agency has no timetable for the project.

The pollution, discovered in 1979, includes trichloroethylene (TCE) and other solvents used as industrial degreasers that have been linked to maladies ranging from cancer to birth defects.

IBM used vast quantities of the solvents to manufacture printed circuit boards during the company's heyday from the 1950s through the 1970s.

The contaminated hot spot — known as "the source area" on DEC records — lies under an area the size of eight village blocks, and it was once bustling with the delivery, handling, storage, transport and liberal use of solvents.

The source area encompasses a railroad corridor where chemicals arrived in bulk, loading docks where they were handled, and a network of tanks and pipelines that stored and transported virgin chemicals and chemical waste to and from various manufacturing lines throughout the campus, according to DEC records.

Situated over and near the source area, and blocking access to cleanup, are dozens of buildings, most of them massive, bunker-like, cement structures built during the Cold War era and some well before.

The contaminated ground is dense with tunnels, boiler rooms, tank rooms, crawl spaces, cables, pipes and conduits.

"There is just so much infrastructure there," Czuhanich said. "Trying to get anything in there (to remedy the problem) is difficult, at best."

To date, nearly 70,000 gallons of solvent — more than 40 tons — have been pumped from the ground. Officials don't know how much is left, according to DEC spokesman Peter Constantakes.

Court records filed by attorneys representing residents suing IBM for damages from the pollution put the solvent pool up to 1 million gallons "that had apparently collected over many years from leaking pipes and tanks."

Reluctance by IBM and the DEC to publicly discuss the source area has added to uncertainty about its status. IBM spokesman Todd Martin did not reply to phone calls or written inquires on the subject.

Safety debated

IBM sold the plant in 2002 to Huron Real Estate Associates, which now rents space to BAE Systems Electronics, i3 Electronics (formerly Endicott Interconnect), Binghamton University and other smaller firms that collectively employ between 1,500 and 2,000 workers.

TCE, the main contaminant under the campus, is not commonly used in bulk by industry in the U.S. anymore, though it is a pervasive contaminant at many Cold War-era industrial and military sites throughout the country.

In addition to the former IBM site, notorious TCE legacy sites in the Southern Tier include the CAE Electronics site in Hillcrest, and the Morse Industrial site in Tompkins County, both linked to contamination of nearby residential neighborhoods.

The TCE problem is as stubborn as it is complex. TCE is one of a class of chemicals that tend to be heavier than water, so they sink through the water table and adhere stubbornly to soil particles.

They also give off toxic fumes that rise from the ground, ending up in basements, crawl spaces and — ultimately — circulating into living spaces through a process known as vapor intrusion.

There is no national standard to limit TCE exposure in air, although there has been a political push to develop one since the federal Environmental Protection Agency determined in 2011 that the chemical was a carcinogen and a "non-cancer health hazard."

Just how much exposure presents a risk remains a controversial topic. Levels that might not affect one person could make another seriously ill. Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable.

According to the latest EPA assessment — challenged by the chemical industry — risks for non-cancer illnesses, such as birth defects, from short-term TCE exposure in residential settings are found to increase statistically at levels at or above 2 micrograms per cubic meter.

The agency has set the threshold for risks from short-term exposure in an industrial setting at 7, based on the assumption that people spend less time at work than in their homes.

Cancer risks become discernible for chronic exposure — the type people might experience in homes — at levels beginning at 0.43 micrograms, according to an EPA assessment.

New York state has set a broad guideline of 5 for residential and commercial exposure. But the agency often requires action at levels below the threshold when feasible.

Feasibility remains the issue at the Huron campus. Indoor air samples at 42 buildings collected in 2005 — the last time the state oversaw testing — ranged from zero to 17 micrograms per cubic meter in some areas that tended to be occupied. Levels were much higher in other areas — often registering between 50 and 300 micrograms in tunnels and tank rooms below Building 18, for example.

Concentrations in the soil directly below the buildings often exceeded 10,000 and sometimes were over 100,000 micrograms.

In 2005, the state health department determined that the TCE levels at the Huron campus present a "low" health risk to people working there, according to a report at the time. That means state health officials "do not expect to be able to associate health effects" from exposure.

Health department spokesman Jeffrey Hammond said the guideline remains "under review" as more information comes to light "to ensure that previous decisions and recommendations continue to protect public health."

In 2005, a health department study found elevated rates of testicular and kidney cancers, and birth defects that were "statistically significant" in an area affected by solvent pollution in the area south of the former IBM plant, and several blocks to the southwest of the plant polluted by an undetermined source. (The area has since been cleaned by the IBM remediation efforts.)

The results of a study by NIOSH and the health department evaluating birth outcomes of women who worked at the plant is expected to be released later this year.
By the numbers
• 35: Number of years IBM has been cleaning the pollution.
• 70,000: Number of gallons of concentrated chemicals removed so far.
• 1,500: Approximate number of employees who work at the site.
• 470: Number of structures off-site that have been fitted with vent systems to divert toxic fumes.
• 5: Safety threshold, in micrograms per cubic meter, for TCE exposure in air in New York state.
• 2: Level, in micrograms per cubic meter, at which risks associated with short-term TCE exposure increase statistically.
Source: PressConnects; This article has been edited for length.

Are you concerned about chemical exposure at work or vapor intrusion in your building? Electrocorp has designed a wide range of industrial and commercial air cleaners that help remove chemicals (including TCE, formaldehyde and benzene), gases, fumes, odors, particles and other contaminants. The air cleaners come in all sizes and with a wide range of options. For more information and a free consultation, contact Electrocorp by calling 1-866-667-0297 or writing to

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

US salons need to nail occupational safety: Advocates

Nail salons will employ more than 100,000 workers by 2022

Many nail salon employees are women
of reproductive age, experts say.
When New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, JD, announced that her office was releasing a report on nail salons last year, it was anything but a frivolous task.

The policy report, “How Safe is Your Nail Salon?,” released in September, took a look at health and safety practices for both consumers and workers in New York City’s nail salons.

And with more than 2,000 businesses licensed to do manicures and pedicures in the city alone, the health of a large swath of the public is affected.

In New York, the salons are regulated by the state — which has just 27 inspectors to help maintain their safety, James told The Nation’s Health.

The health and wellness of nail salon employees is no small matter, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated there were 86,900 manicurists and pedicurists in the U.S. in 2012. That number is expected to rise to 100,400 by 2022.

But that estimate is probably far too low, according to the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, which estimates there are 97,100 manicurists in California alone right now.

Up to 80 percent of those workers are Vietnamese immigrants, and more than 50 percent are women of reproductive age.

Duyen Tran, MPH, an APHA member and the interim outreach coordinator for the collaborative, says there are several reasons that nail salon work appeals to young women in the Vietnamese community.

Some of it is the flexibility working in a nail salon can afford: Employees can tailor their schedules around their families’ needs. Another reason is the ease with which a worker can enter into the industry and start making money. Training courses, which are 12 to 18 months long, and exams are offered in Vietnamese.

“To do nail salon work you don’t need high English proficiency,” Tran told The Nation’s Health. “It doesn’t require intensive English training, so it’s really an opportunity for this recent immigrant population to enter the workforce and use it to support their families and communities in a very short time.”

But joining the workforce means exposure to known dangerous products — and potentially unknown dangers, as well.

Three chemicals pose most risks to workers

The biggest risks to nail salon workers are “the toxic trio:” Toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate are the most common and dangerous ingredients in nail products, including polish and polish remover, that have been linked to serious health risks.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, toluene exposure has been linked to tiredness, confusion, weakness, drunken-type actions, memory loss, nausea, loss of appetite and hearing and color vision loss. High levels of exposure have been linked to kidney damage.

Formaldehyde exposure can lead to irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, causing tearing, and skin irritation, according to CDC, and is a known carcinogen. CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry notes that dibutyl phthalate is linked to organ development issues in fetuses when exposed during gestation.

The toxic trio can be transmitted as airborne particles, through product contact with skin or eyes and via unintentional transfer of the materials to uncovered food, drink or cigarettes, according to research from the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has reported that chemical levels can exceed 826 parts per million during the application of acrylics in nail salons, but proper ventilation can drop that to 12.4 parts per million.

Despite these risks, in Nails Magazine’s 2014-15 report, “Nails Big Book: Everything You Need to Know About the Nail Industry,” 34 percent of nail salon workers reported that they never wear protective gloves while working.

Sixty-one percent said they never wear a mask while working. And more than half reported having work-related health concerns. Twenty-three percent said they were uninsured.

Salons can promote safety for workers

Though self-reported low numbers of nail salon workers take safety precautions, state and federal government regulations require certain steps to be taken to ensure worker safety.

OSHA distributes “Stay Healthy and Safe While Giving Manicures and Pedicures: A Guide for Nail Salon Workers,” which outlines workers’ rights to health and safety for both employees and salon owners.

The guide has been translated to Vietnamese, Spanish and Korean. And OSHA has been working to reach out to communities to make sure workers’ rights are well-known, said Mandy Edens, MSPH, director of OSHA’s directorate for technical support and emergency management.

Source: The Nation’s Health; This article has been edited for length.

Do you want to reduce chemical fumes in your nail salon or spa? Electrocorp has designed a wide range of industrial-strength air cleaners for the beauty industry that can remove airborne chemicals and particles, including toluene and formaldehyde. Contact Electrocorp for more information by calling 1-866-667-0297 or e-mail