Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Air Rhino: The most versatile and innovative air cleaner of its class

Air Rhino: Powerful particle filtration
and/or chemical, gas and odor removal.
Electrocorp’s Air Rhino is the most versatile air filtration system of its kind, with a small ecological footprint.

This innovative machine has interchangeable carbon and HEPA filters, so it can easily convert from a rugged chemical, gas and odor scrubber to a powerful particulate air cleaner right on site. 

The Air Rhino is capable of creating a negative air environment, and it is equipped with an industrious deep-bed carbon filter and extended filter depth, which leads to a longer dwell time for contaminated air and allows for quicker and more thorough adsorption of gaseous pollutants.

Electrocorp's Air Rhino
The Air Rhino also features an advanced medical-grade HEPA filter to trap 99.97% of particles, and can accommodate an ultraviolet light to remove bacteria and other airborne pathogens.

The operator-friendly air purification system comes with particle pre-filters to prevent clogging as well as a pressure switch that tells you when the filters are saturated. 

The meticulous air scrubber can be used in stationary applications for long-term air cleaning, or on job sites for remediation projects and environmental clean-ups. As well, it can be used as a portable, stand-alone unit, or it can be attached to the ceiling.

It is a great air filtration system for heavy-dust environments, industrial odor control, construction and restoration, mold and asbestos remediation sites, auto body shops and garages, manufacturing plants and warehouses, among other applications.

Contact us for more information and follow us on Twitter. For technical specifications, please select the Air Rhino Series on the Electrocorp website.

Monday, May 30, 2011

EPA’s goals to curb coal plant pollution – will they improve air quality?

Air pollution - a valid concern
outdoors and indoors.
Air pollution has always been a hot topic -- especially for people living close to industrial complexes and in urban environments -- and if the turnout at a recent public comment session is anything to go by, then it will be an important issue for many years to come.

Several hundred people came together in Philadelphia last week to share their expertise, opinions, experiences and concerns about coal plant pollution in a meeting with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The people who testified included environmentalists, physicians, mothers and fishermen, among others. Worried about emissions of mercury, arsenic, nickel, chromium and acid gases, they urged EPA to update the standards that limit the amount of air pollution that coal-fired plants can release into the atmosphere.

Mercury, for example, builds up in ocean and freshwater fish and can be highly toxic for people who eat them.

"Young children are uniquely vulnerable to the toxic effects of environmental poisons such as mercury and arsenic," said Dr. Kevin Osterhoudt, medical director of the poison control center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, in an article  from AP. "These compounds are especially dangerous to the developing brain and nervous system."

Opponents to new standards argue that the costs would force some plants to shut down and electricity prices to rise.

According to the article, the regulations would require power plants to install technologies that would limit the emissions, resulting in what the EPA said would be a 91 percent reduction of the mercury in burned coal from being released into the air.

The rules would also further limit other pollutants, including particles such as dust, dirt and other fragments associated with a variety of respiratory ailments.

EPA researchers estimate that the proposed emission limits would annually prevent up to 17,000 premature deaths, 11,000 nonfatal heart attacks, 12,200 hospital and emergency room visits and 120,000 asthma attacks. The updated standards would give coal-fired facilities up to four years to reach compliance.

If you are concerned about this subject, you can voice your opinion in writing. The EPA will accept written comments from the public until July 5.

Source: Associated Press

Take control of your indoor air quality

Electrocorp's RAP Series
While industrial pollution is still being debated, businesses and workers can take simple steps to make sure they breathe the purest air possible indoors - after all, we spend more than 90 percent of our time in enclosed spaces.

These steps include controlling sources of indoor air pollution (for example, chemical cleaners, contaminated ventilation systems, etc), regular maintenance and using an air cleaner to purify the air and avoid sick building syndrome.

Electrocorp air filtration systems remove a wide range of airborne pollutants with a deep bed of activated carbon for chemicals, gases and odors as well as particle filters (pre-filters, medical-grade HEPA or Super-HEPA), the safest and most effective filtration technologies on the market today.

Contact one of our air quality experts for more information.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Welder sues after becoming covered in chemicals

Welders need to protect them-
selves from dangerous fumes.

Welding is an important yet dangerous job that exposes workers to heat,  intense light, poisonous gases and fumes.

But it becomes even more dangerous if welders have to work on containers with hazardous materials - especially if they don't know about the toxic substances inside.

This is allegedly what happened to a welder, who has filed a claim against a chemical company. The worker claims he was not warned by the company that the tank he was cutting contained chemicals.

Samuel P. Chaisson filed suit against Hexion Specialty Chemicals Inc. n/k/a Momentive Specialty Chemicals Inc. and Momentive Specialty Chemicals Inc. on April 21 in federal court in New Orleans.

The alleged incident occurred on April 22, 2010.

According to the complaint, the tank contained chemicals which spilled out of the tank and knocked Chaisson off his feet. Chaisson states he sustained severe and disabling injuries when he was knocked down and covered with the chemical.

The defendants are accused of negligence, malice and a conscious indifference to the rights and safety of Chaisson.

The plaintiff is seeking damages for physical pain and mental anguish, lost earnings, loss of earning capacity, disfigurement, physical impairment, medical expenses, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of household services, interest, court costs and punitive damages.

For more information about the case, read the article in the Louisiana Record.

Fume extractors capture toxins at the source

Electrocorp's Fume Extractor Series
with source capture arm.
When it comes to choosing the right air purifier or fume extractor for welders, an industrial-strength activated carbon + HEPA filtration system has been proven to counteract harmful toxins and particles.

Electrocorp’s specially designed air filtration systems for welding fume extraction feature portable, powerful units that capture many toxic fumes at the source, directly at the work station.

They adsorb gases and chemicals in a deep bed of activated carbon, using 40 to 80 pounds of this efficient filtration media.

The units are designed for TIG, MIG and arc welding operations and they feature a spark arrestor, flexible arm and optional custom carbon blends.

Electrocorp also offers air purifiers specifically designed for soldering applications, including a tabletop unit with an intake hood and a smoke particle filter as well as an activated charcoal filter.

Air purifiers by Electrocorp can easily be modified and converted to purify the air in any industrial and commercial environment.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Occupational safety and health: Xylene exposure

Xylene can be found
in paint thinners.
Many industries rely on the use of xylene – including the paint and painting industry, biomedical laboratories, automobile garages, the metal industry and furniture refinishers.

What is xylene?

Xylene is a colorless, sweet-smelling liquid that is very flammable. Chemical industries produce xylene from petroleum and it has become one of the top 30 chemicals produced in the United States in terms of volume.

Xylene is often used as a solvent in the printing, rubber and leather industries. It is also a common ingredient in cleaning products, paint thinners, varnishes, adhesives and ink.  According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, xylene is a good cleaning agent for silicon wafers and steel.

The three forms of xylene are meta-xylene, ortho-xylene and para-xylene (also known as m-xylene, o-xylene and p-xylene). Xylene can be absorbed through the respiratory tract and through the skin.

Health effects of xylene exposure

Xylene affects the brain. High levels from exposure for short periods (14 days or less) or long periods (more than 1 year) can cause headaches, lack of muscle coordination, dizziness, confusion, and changes in one's sense of balance.

Exposure of people to high levels of xylene for short periods can also cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat; difficulty in breathing; problems with the lungs; delayed reaction time; memory difficulties; stomach discomfort; and possibly changes in the liver and kidneys. It can cause unconsciousness and even death at very high levels.

There is insufficient information to determine whether or not xylene causes cancer.

How can workers be exposed to xylene?
Car exhaust fumes
contain xylene.
  • Breathing xylene in workplace air or in automobile exhaust. 
  • Breathing contaminated air. 
  • Touching gasoline, paint, paint removers, varnish, shellac, and rust preventatives that contain it. 
  • Breathing cigarette smoke that has small amounts of xylene in it. 
  • Drinking contaminated water or breathing air near waste sites and landfills that contain xylene. 
  • The amount of xylene in food is probably low.

How can you tell whether you’ve been exposed to xylene?

Laboratory tests can detect xylene or its breakdown products in exhaled air, blood, or urine. There is a high degree of agreement between the levels of exposure to xylene and the levels of xylene breakdown products in the urine.

However, a urine sample must be provided very soon after exposure ends because xylene quickly leaves the body. These tests are not routinely available at your doctor's office.

Has the federal government made recommendations to protect human health?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set a maximum level of 100 ppm xylene in workplace air for an 8-hour workday, 40-hour workweek.

Companies that sell xylene caution that it is highly flammable and should only be used in a well ventilated area.

Source: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, United States Public Health Service (US Department of Health and Human Services)

Worried about chemical exposure or hazardous fumes?
AirRhino: Industrial-strength air cleaner.

Electrocorp’s industrial-grade air filtration systems for auto body shops and garages, laboratories, and woodshops use a deep-bed activated carbon filter to remove the widest range of chemicals, gases and fumes, including xylene, benzene and toluene.

The units are also equipped with high efficiency particulate arrestor (HEPA) filters for the removal of fine particles.

Recommended air filtration systems include the AirRhino Series, DirtyDog Series, the I-6500 Series, the RSU Series and the RAP Series.

See also Air Purifiers for Xylene and Formalin Exposure.

Contact us for more information. Always consult an environmental or chemical expert when dealing with toxic substances.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Asbestos and radon among hidden dangers for renovation contractors and workers

Renovation contractors and workers can
be exposed to dangerous toxins like asbestos.
Building performance renovation contractors and workers like to make homes healthy, comfortable, energy efficient, and durable. But they often have to deal with major indoor environmental quality (IEQ) nightmares.

These include CO poisoning and lead exposure, asbestos, radon, volatile organic compounds; sulfur-containing drywall — also known as Chinese drywall — and even everyday construction dust.

Asbestos - harmful when inhaled

Asbestos is regulated at the local, state, and federal levels. All of these laws are intended to protect the public and the construction worker from being harmed by asbestos exposure.

Asbestos is most harmful when the tiny fibers are inhaled. The fibers are too small to be seen with the naked eye and can be inhaled deep into the lungs, where they remain. The fibers damage lung tissue, causing scar tissue to form; the result is a disease called asbestosis.

When the lung surfaces are covered with scar tissue, they cannot function properly, causing problems ranging from shortness of breath to death. Inhaling asbestos fibers can also cause lung cancer.

Workers can be exposed to asbestos when they are working in an area where there are airborne asbestos fibers. Fibers can become airborne when the material containing the asbestos is drilled, cut, abraded, sanded, chipped, or sawed during a home performance renovation.

This often happens, for example, when a worker is cutting holes through an asbestos-containing “popcorn ceiling.” The family living in a home that is being renovated can also inhale asbestos fibers. So can the family of the renovation worker who has brought the asbestos fibers home on his or her clothing and equipment.

Even though asbestos has been banned in most construction materials, buildings and homes are being constructed today with materials that contain asbestos. In fact, today you can go to your local hardware store and buy roofing mastics and other sealants that contain asbestos.

To avoid exposure to asbestos, a contractor must know whether the project will expose the workers to asbestos-containing building materials.

It makes sense to test for asbestos in the following situations:
  • The work will involve a material that is, or was, commonly manufactured with asbestos.
  • The residential property was built prior to 1980.
  • Anyone doing the renovations was hired to do the work.

Radon - second-leading cause of lung cancer

Radon becomes an IEQ nightmare when a builder or renovator fails to consider that radon can accumulate in a tightly constructed or tightly air-sealed home.

Radon is an odorless gas that comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. Radon gas decays into radioactive particles that can get trapped in your lungs when you breathe. As they break down further, these particles release small bursts of energy.

This can damage lung tissue and lead to lung cancer. In fact, radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer, after smoking cigarettes.

EPA recommends radon mitigation in all homes with test results of 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or greater. Radon levels less than 4 pCi/L can still pose a health risk, and in many cases should be reduced.

After renovation and remediation work is done, the building should be tested for Radon again, to make sure the measures were successful.

Source: Home Energy Magazine Online
Related posts: 

Air cleaners for construction and renovation projects

Electrocorp has designed air filtration systems to aid in the mold and asbestos abatement process. Contact one of our air quality experts for more information.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Loss or reduced sense of smell a common problem

Many people don't realize they are losing their
ability to smell because it's a gradual process.
Most patients who have a reduced ability to smell or detect odors seem to attach less importance to the sense of smell in their daily lives than people with a normal olfactory function, according to a report in the April 2011 issue of Archives of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

"Disorders of the sense of smell are common," the authors provide as background information in the article.

"In the general population, hyposmia [reduced ability to smell] varies from 13 percent to 18 percent and anosmia (total loss of olfactory function) from 4 percent to 6 percent. The main causes of olfactory disorders are viral infections, head trauma, sinonasal disease, and neurodegenerative diseases."

Most cases of reduced or loss of the sense of smell seem to be associated with aging, according to the authors. They suggest that many patients do not seek medical help for these disorders because they either do not notice the impairment because they do not use the sense or because it develops so gradually that they find ways to cope and adjust.

People with such disorders often complain about difficulties cooking, a lack of appetite and low interest in eating. However, reduced ability to detect odors also can pose an increased risk of hazardous events.

"Approximately 17 percent to 30 percent of patients with olfactory disorders report a decreased quality of life, including symptoms of depression."

Ilona Croy, M.D., and colleagues from the University of Dresden Medical School, Dresden, Germany, evaluated data from 470 individuals (235 patients with a reduced or no sense of smell and 235 individuals with a normal sense of smell) to compare the importance of olfaction in daily life.

The study participants completed the Individual Importance of Olfaction Questionnaire (IO) and olfactory testing using the "Sniffin' Sticks" test kit.

The questionnaire included items to reflect emotions, memories and evaluations that are triggered by the sense of smell; how much a person uses his or her sense of smell in daily life; and how many people use their sense of smell for decision making.

The "Sniffin' Sticks" test kit consists of pen-like odor dispensers that were placed close to the participant's nostrils for a few seconds to assess odor identification ability.

"The main result of the present study is that patients with olfactory disorders rate the importance attached to their olfactory sense to be lower in general and also in all the investigated subscales compared with healthy normosmic subjects," the authors report.

"…Although they might not be aware, [they] seem to adjust to their olfactory constraints. Their sense of smell seems to be of less importance to them in daily life when it is reduced. So they report fewer olfactory-triggered emotions and memories, which seems reasonable because patients with olfactory disease experience fewer olfactory triggers. In accord, they also report to use their sense of smell less and to rely less on this sense in decision making."

"In conclusion, most patients attach less importance to their current sense of smell in daily life than do normosmic individuals and adjust to their reduced olfactory function. This behavior might be an example of regaining psychological health despite acquired and long-lasting impairments," the authors write.

Source: JAMA and Archives Journals

Friday, May 20, 2011

Why a bad smell can hurt bars and night clubs

Bad odors and the smell of alcohol or
stale tobacco can have a negative
impact on the nightlife experience.
In an effort to protect people from the damaging effects of secondhand smoke, smoking has been banned from most bars, night clubs and other nightspots.

This is great news for the healthcare industry.

The flip side is that customers have become more aware of unpleasant smells, including body odors and the smell of old beer that used to be masked by cigarette smoke.

A new study suggests that night clubs might want to use fragrances to hide unwanted odors and enhance the nightlife experience.

According to Dr. Hendrik Schifferstein from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, and his colleagues, carefully selected fragrances can enhance dancing activity, improve the overall perception of the evening, and improve how nightclub goers rate the music as well as their mood.

However, most fragrances will introduce potentially dangerous chemicals into the air, and prolonged exposure to certain chemicals has been linked to serious health effects such as cancer or respiratory problems, so there is a danger that worker health and safety complaints may resurface.

Don't add too many untested chemicals and fragrances without first considering a cost-effective and safer alternative - industrial-strength air filtration systems.

"I am writing to inform you of how satisfied I am with the air filter system that your company sold to Duffy’s Bar. The air quality has improved immensely and our clients have mentioned that there is a noticeable difference. Thank you, again."
Brant Read, owner of Duffy’s Bar, Quebec

Provide cleaner, better air for customers and employees

Electrocorp has designed a number of portable, high-quality air purification systems for the hospitality industry as well as industrial-strength odor control systems for bars, restaurants and night clubs.
RSU Series: Powerful odor removal
(try one in the DJ booth)

Our units have been equipped with a deep-bed activated carbon filter to remove a wide range of airborne chemicals, gases, fumes and odors as well as HEPA filters to trap particles, dust and allergens.

We have specialized smoking units that can get rid of lingering odors like stale tobacco and our diverse product line includes portable, stand-alone units, HVAC compatible filtration systems and units that can be mounted on the ceiling.

Our most popular units for night clubs and bars include the Numerical Series (5000 and 6000 Series), the RSU Series and the 9000 Series.

Electrocorp's air filtration systems make your customers' experience more enjoyable. Contact one of our indoor air quality experts to find out more or try our online chat option.

Related links:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Flood waters: Mold growth and serious IAQ concerns

Flood - Courtesy of Elspeth and Evan
Reports of flooding in communities across North America have dominated the news recently, and while a flood can be scary, the after-effects can be even more dangerous.

Excess moisture and standing water caused by natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes and tornadoes contribute to the growth of mold in homes and other buildings. When returning to a home or building that has been flooded, mold will be present and become a serious health risk for all occupants.

Active mold growth usually starts within 24-48 hours of excessive moisture. The indoor air quality in flooded or previously flooded buildings or homes can also remain problematic due to bacteria and chemicals or other hazardous substances that are present in the flood water.

Companies specializing in mold remediation should also consider the indoor air quality and take the necessary steps to improve IAQ as part of the mold removal process.

Possible health effects

After buildings have been flooded, moisture can remain in drywall, wood furniture, cloth, carpet, and other items and surfaces and can lead to mold growth. Exposure to mold can cause hay-fever-like reactions (such as stuffy nose, red, watery or itchy eyes, sneezing) and asthma attacks as well as headaches, leading to poor memory retention and decreased productivity.

How to recognize mold growth
Mold removal is necessary to avoid
health problems later on.

    Sight (Are the walls and ceiling discolored, or do they show signs of mold growth or water damage?) and/or
    Smell (Do you smell a bad odor, such as a musty, earthy smell or a foul stench?)

How to deal with mold growth in a building after flooding
  • Talk to a doctor or healthcare provider, a health and safety officer or nearest practitioner if your building has been flooded.
  • To prevent mold growth, clean and dry everything that has come in contact with flood water and throw away anything that can’t be cleaned or dried quickly (like paper or padded furniture).
  • If there are large amounts of mold and serious health and safety concerns, hire professional mold remediation help.
  • Clean and dry all hard surfaces.
  • If something is moldy, and can't be cleaned and dried, throw it away.
  • Use a detergent or use a cleaner that kills bacteria and other pathogens.
  • Do not mix cleaning products together or add bleach to other chemicals.
  • Wear an N-95 respirator, goggles, gloves so that you don't touch mold with your bare hands, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and boots or work shoes.

Additional tips for mold removal in schools and commercial buildings from EPA
  • Consult health professional as appropriate throughout process
  • Select remediation manager
  • Assess size of mold problem and note type of mold-damaged materials
  • Communicate with building occupants throughout process as appropriate to situation
  • Identify source or cause of water or moisture problem
  • Plan remediation, adapt guidelines to fit situation
  • Select personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Select containment equipment
  • Select remediation personnel or team
  • Choose between outside expertise or in-house expertise
  • Remediate
  • Fix water or moisture problem
  • Clean and dry moldy materials
  • Discard moldy items that can't be cleaned
  • Dry non-moldy items within 48 hours
  • Check for return of moisture and mold problem
  • If hidden mold is discovered, reevaluate plan

Helpful resources:

Improve indoor air quality in buildings affected by mold

Electrocorp has designed air filtration systems that are uniquely suited to mold applications. Our units purify the air with a powerful deep-bed activated carbon + HEPA filtration technology.

Many of our air cleaners can also be equipped with a sterilizing ultraviolet light, which helps neutralize biological contaminants such as mold spores, bacteria and viruses.

Find out more about our air scrubbing machines for mold and asbestos remediation as well as other contaminants.

Related posts:

Media bias against workers in dangerous jobs, reporter claims

Worker health and safety
remains a serious issue.
Is the deck stacked against workers in hazardous industries?

Quite so, according to senior reporter Jim Morris, who explained the dilemma in a lecture before he received the Upton Sinclair Memorial Award for Outstanding EHS Investigative Reporting.

"In my reporting over the years, I've sometimes detected an odd bias [in the media] against those who work in the oil and gas fields, refineries, commercial fishing, and similar dangerous occupations," he said.

"It's as if it is tragic but hardly shocking when workers in these industries die. 'They knew what they were getting into, didn't they?' It's a stunning bias and lack of compassion."

Morris has written about the dangers of working in certain industries, including lung disease, cancer in the PVC industry, manganese risks from welding fumes and the marketing of the asbestos trade in the developing world.

His stories focused on individual experiences and put it into perspective with the help of statistics, documents, data and quotes.

Closing his lecture, titled "'Why Should I Care?' Humanizing Worker Safety in the Media," Morris said industrial hygiene professionals have a role in media coverage that can positively influence worker safety and health.

"Journalists usually don't know about the emerging threats," he told the audience of about 250 attendees. "I and other journalists rely on information from people like you for the story. It can have a powerful impact."

Source: OHS Online

Learn more about the dangers of welding fumes and benefits of welding fume extractors:

Find out more about working with dangerous chemicals and air filtration systems designed to target specific pollutants.

Read about asbestos exposure and recent lawsuits and verdicts.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hair treatment controversy continues

Hair straightening products can
release formaldehyde fumes.
Not too long ago, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) of the United States Department of Labor issued a health alert for hair smoothing products.

It warned that hair salon owners and workers could be exposed to formaldehyde from using Brazilian Blowout and other hair straightening treatments.

Many salon workers and stylists have reported difficulty breathing, headaches, stinging eyes and sore throats after working with these chemical hair smoothing products that involve flat-ironing the hair to make it smooth.

Calls for FDA to regulate hair products

Now, a Wall Street Journal article reports that members of congress are asking the Food and Drug Administration to issue a voluntary recall of two hair-straightening treatments sold in salons under the brand name Brazilian Blowout, citing concerns about unacceptably high levels of formaldehyde, a suspected carcinogen.

They cited a 2010 study by the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division that found formaldehyde in the Brazilian Blowout Solution and Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution.

Products often mislabeled

The Oregon OSHA study measured samples of the two products and found they contained average formaldehyde levels of 8% for Brazilian Blowout Solution and 8.8% for Acai Professional Smoothing Solution, a product labeled "formaldehyde free." Oregon OSHA's threshold for disclosure of formaldehyde is 0.1%.

"These dangerous products are still available and used on a daily basis in salons across the United States," the representatives wrote to the FDA. The lawmakers want the FDA to test chemical hair straighteners and recall those with high levels of formaldehyde, and they also want warning labels on the products.

The FDA is investigating and welcomes consumer input on their website.

Meanwhile, Mike Brady, chief executive of Brazilian Blowout, is quoted in the article as saying that the line is "a perfectly safe product that gives people the hair of a lifetime and generates money for the economy." As for the letter to FDA, he says, "it's not based on any fact. It's just based on emotion."

Salon workers to testify about their symptoms

At a Congressional staff briefing today, Wednesday, salon workers and technicians are scheduled to describe adverse health symptoms following their use of these hair smoothing products. The briefing is hosted by the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and advocacy groups Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and National Healthy Nail Salon Alliance.

Besides calls for more regulation, the company marketing Brazilian Blowout products also faces private-party legal complaints and a suit filed by the state of California. In April, the California attorney general filed a motion seeking a preliminary injunction to stop GIB LLC, the entity doing business as Brazilian Blowout, from selling the treatment line. The cases are being heard in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

In reaction to the controversy, the company has released Brazilian Blowout Zero, a treatment it says is free of formaldehyde and methylene glycol.

Source: Wall Street Journal

What we can do to help  

Clean Breeze 3: Air cleaner
for hair salons and spas.
Electrocorp has designed powerful yet portable air filtration system with a source capture attachment for hair salons and spas.

Equipped with pre-filters, Super-HEPA and an activated carbon filter that offers more inches of filter depth and enhanced adsorption capacity, the Clean Breeze 3 removes more airborne chemicals, gases, odors and particles than ever before – right at the source.

Call one of our IAQ experts for more information: 1-866-667-0297.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Simple steps to improve indoor air quality in the workplace

Many offices and other workplaces can
expose employees to harmful pollutants.
The air quality in the workplace – be it an office with many printers, computers and other electronic equipment, a factory or any other enclosed space – plays a crucial role when it comes to workers’ productivity and absenteeism as well as morale.

EPA studies show that indoor air pollution levels can routinely be up to five times higher than those found outdoors as a result of contaminants from tracked-in soil, chemical-laden cleaning products, inefficient or unmaintained heating and cooling systems, etc.

In the short-term, poor indoor air quality can cause sneezing, itchy eyes, scratchy throats, and fatigue. Over the long-term, however, medical authorities say it can contribute to asthma, lung disease, cancer, and even damage to the neurological system.

Here are simple steps to improve the air quality in the workplace:
  1. Be aware of the risks and different sources of indoor air pollutants. The more you know about the dangers of chemical exposure (even at low levels), particle inhalation and mold growth, the quicker you can act to avoid health problems later on.
  2. Have furnaces, heating and cooling equipment cleaned periodically to prevent gas build-up or discharge; regularly replace filters to help avoid harmful particles from circulating throughout the place of work.
  3. Use advanced filtration technologies such as activated carbon, HEPA and UV to remove and/or eliminate the widest range of indoor air pollutants (including chemicals, gases, particles, viruses, bacteria, allergens and mold spores). Opt for a free-standing, portable air purifier that can help improve indoor air quality at the fraction of the price it would take to fix up the ventilation system. The most effective air purifiers feature many pounds of activated carbon, advanced airflow design, the best particle filters and other options.
  4. Remove the source of pollutants (if possible). For example, make sure no harsh chemicals are used to clean the workplace. When renovating, low-VOC products should be used. Ventilation needs to be adequate and EPA also says that air cleaning can be a useful adjunct to source control and ventilation.
  5. Place "scraper" floor mats outside entranceways to remove soiling from shoes, and place walk-off carpeted mats just inside entrances to capture any residual particulates. All mats should be cleaned regularly to ensure their effectiveness.
  6. Mop floors after vacuuming to remove any contaminants left behind. Technologically advanced microfiber mops and dusting cloths, in particular, can capture more soiling than traditional cotton products…and without the use of potentially harmful cleaning solutions. An EPA study conducted for the healthcare industry found that microfiber cleaning can remove up to 98% of contaminants from surfaces using only water.
  7. Regularly use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to help eliminate common allergens like pollen, pet dander, and dust mites. Dander, for example, clings to clothing and can be easily spread.
  8. Use a dehumidifier and an air conditioner to keep indoor humidity in the 30-50% range — a level that helps keep mold, dust mites, and other allergens at bay.
Many office buildings suffer from poor indoor air quality that can affect workers negatively. EPA uses the term "sick building syndrome" (SBS) to describe situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified.

The complaints may be localized in a particular room or zone, or may be widespread throughout the building. In contrast, the term "building related illness" (BRI) is used when symptoms of diagnosable illness are identified and can be attributed directly to airborne building contaminants.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bed bug pesticide blamed for tourists’ death at Thailand hotel

Indoor air quality in hotels can be problematic.
Hotels often have indoor air quality issues. As we have explained in previous blog posts (see below), guests may encounter mold or humidity problems, allergens, chemicals from harsh cleaning products and off-gassing materials, third-hand smoke and more indoor air pollutants at hotels.

Health problems can include breathing difficulties, headaches, nausea, gastrointestinal ailments, skin rashes, severe allergic reactions and neurological damage.  

But it can get worse.

To contain a growing bed bug problem, a hotel in Thailand allegedly used a poisonous pesticide, one that has been banned in many countries, which may have caused the deaths of at least seven tourists staying there.

Seven people dead after staying at the hotel

According to an article in the Daily Mail, a British couple were among seven tourists whose deaths in Thailand have been linked to a toxic bed bug pesticide used at the Downtown Inn in Chiang Mai.

An undercover investigation revealed shocking evidence linking the deaths between January and March after all seven stayed at or used facilities at the hotel.

Police initially dismissed the mystery deaths as a terrible case of food poisoning caused by eating toxic seaweed from a stall at a bazaar.

Most had very similar symptoms, including myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart, suspected to have been caused by food or water contamination.

 Thai authorities have continually maintained the deaths linked to the three-star hotel were coincidence despite repeated claims of a cover-up by families of the victims.

Hotel rooms sprayed with pesticide that was banned from indoor use

A probe by the New Zealand current affairs programme 60 Minutes has revealed the hotel rooms had been sprayed with a potentially lethal toxin called pyrophus, which has been banned from indoor use in many other countries.

Reporters posing as hotel guests secretly took samples from the fifth floor room where New Zealand backpacker Sarah Carter, 23, died in February.

Test results found small traces of an insecticide called chlorpyrifos (CY) inside the room - a chemical that is used to get rid of bed bugs.

Thai police recently raided the company in charge of eradicating insects at the hotel and Chiang Mai’s head of public health suspects the pest controllers could have made a mistake.

‘It's possible that they mixed together the wrong chemicals,’ Dr Surasing Visaruthrat said.

According to the article, United Nations chemical expert, Dr Ron McDowall, said he was confident Miss Carter's symptoms and death were linked to CY poisoning.

‘Their reaction was that it is clear, it's CY poisoning - we've seen it before, the symptoms are the same, the pathology is the same and the proxy indicates that the chemical was in the room,’ Dr McDowall said.

‘I think she’s been killed by an overzealous sprayer who has been acting on the instructions of the hotel owner to deal with the bed bugs.’

Chemical gets absorbed quickly

Dr McDowall added that the poisoning is difficult to confirm from blood samples making tests done on Miss Carter useless: ‘The chemical is absorbed by the body very quickly. It only has a half-life of a day so it can be very hard to predict the event.’

The popular tourist destination of Chiang Mai, 430 miles north of Bangkok, is one of Thailand’s most culturally significant cities, nestled among the highest mountains in the country.

Source: Daily Mail

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The damaging effects of mold in libraries and archives

Valuable books and collections
can be destroyed by mold.
Mold is a serious issue for people as well as for materials and documents – as the archives staff at Emporia State University in Kansas recently found out.

In a detailed three-part series, The Bulletin’s editor in chief Kelsey Ryan explained how employees at ESU’s archives have struggled with this serious indoor air quality concern.

The Anderson Library building, which houses a portion of Emporia State’s historical archives and historical collections, has a major mold problem. The university’s archivist first discovered active mold bloom in September 2009 and subsequently found mold on more than 300 records, papers, photographs and books in the rare collections.

The Anderson building stores the majority of ESU’s archives, including over a hundred years’ worth of historical photographs, academic journals, archived issues of The Bulletin and bound issues of The Sunflower, ESU’s yearbook.

Some of these documents are in jeopardy because of alleged moisture and humidity problems in the building due to roof leaks, inadequate HVAC, high humidity levels and poor building maintenance.

The personnel have been asked to take care of the problem in-house, even though a better and quicker option would be to outsource the job to mold remediation professionals.

Mold can create health problems

The archive employees were hesitant to give details, but they spoke in general terms about their worries regarding their health.

Mold can affect human health, depending on the type of mold and exposure. According to EPA, all molds have the potential to cause health effects because they produce allergens, irritants and in some cases toxins.

Building occupants may begin to report odors and a variety of health problems, such as headaches, breathing difficulties, skin irritation, allergic reactions, and aggravation of asthma symptoms; all of these symptoms could potentially be associated with mold exposure.

There are no regulatory guidelines or regulatory issues on mold at this point by Environmental Protection Agency or Occupational Safety and Health Administration, according to the director of the university facilities, but the workers were given personal protective equipment if they wanted it.

A lengthy process

In order to properly clean the documents and get the mold spores off of them, items that have mold on them must be separated from others and dried out. Once the mold is flakey, it can be vacuumed using a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner.

The archives staff keeps a clean room within William Allen White Library where they clean documents before they are stored into compact shelving.

The university has considered selling the building, but finding a buyer may be difficult since the building requires extensive renovations and maintenance. This, even though the university spent $250,000 to fix Anderson Library in the last six years, on things like the new heating system, roofs, gutters, pointing, maintaining and dehumidifiers.

The building has been plagued by mold, water intrusion and mice.

Source: Emporia Gazette

Manage mold problems with air cleaners

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Asbestos lawsuit awards $322M to man with asbestosis

A man with asbestosis wins millions
in health and safety lawsuit.
Occupational health and safety, especially with regards to chemical exposure, needs to remain a major focus for companies, as many recent lawsuits and verdicts show.

A Mississippi jury has awarded $322 million in damages to a former oil worker diagnosed with asbestosis, in what is believed to be the largest verdict for an asbestos lawsuit in U.S. history.

The complaint was filed by Thomas “Tony” Brown, Jr. against Chevron Phillips Chemical (CP Chem) and Union Carbide Corporation, alleging that Brown developed the debilitating lung disease as a result of asbestos exposure while working on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and on the Mississippi River during the late 1970s until the mid-80s.

Brown alleges that his work with asbestos-laden mud caused him to suffer scarring of the lungs, known as asbestosis, which results in chest pains, shortness of breath and other respiratory problems. There is no known cure for the lung condition and Brown now must use an oxygen mask to breathe.

The Smith County jury awarded Brown, 48, a record-breaking $322 million for pain and suffering, future medical expenses and punitive damages.

One of the major issues during the trial was Brown’s literacy and whether the companies were responsible for workers who were unable to read understanding warning labels and signs. Brown was 16 when he began working in the oil fields and was illiterate.

Union Carbide officials have indicated that they intend to appeal the verdict. Union Carbide protested the case being tried in Smith County, where at least 989 residents, nearly 10% of the adult population, have filed asbestos lawsuits.

Asbestos was widely used in a variety of manufacturing and construction applications throughout the last century, including home insulation, with use peaking in 1973. Most uses of asbestos were banned in the mid-1980s. When inhaled, asbestos fibers can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. The illnesses have a long latency period, with signs of illness sometimes not showing up for decades.

Asbestos exposure suits are the longest running mass tort in U.S. history, with the first asbestos case filed in 1929. Over 600,000 people have filed lawsuits against 6,000 defendants after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis or other asbestos-related diseases.

Source: AboutLawsuits.com

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Air pollution near schools linked to poorer student health, academic performance

Air pollution near schools has been linked
to poor attendance rates and performance.
When it comes to academic performance, the school’s location and indoor air quality may be important factors.

According to a study from University of Michigan researchers, the air pollution from industrial sources near Michigan public schools jeopardizes children's health and academic success.

The researchers found that schools located in areas with the state's highest industrial air pollution levels had the lowest attendance rates---an indicator of poor health---as well as the highest proportions of students who failed to meet state educational testing standards.

More than half of all schools located near industrial areas

The researchers examined the distribution of all 3,660 public elementary, middle, junior high and high schools in the state and found that 62.5 percent of them were located in places with high levels of air pollution from industrial sources.

The study results are reported in the May edition of the journal Health Affairs. Mohai and Kweon presented their findings today at a Washington, D.C., forum sponsored by Health Affairs.

"Our findings show that schools in Michigan were disproportionately located in places with high levels of air pollution from industrial sources. In addition, we found that Michigan's minority students bear a disproportionately high share of the air pollution burden," said Mohai, a professor at the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment. Mohai is also a faculty associate at the Institute for Social Research.

Researchers suggest an environmental-quality analysis for new schools

The authors conclude that Michigan and other states should require an environmental-quality analysis when education officials are considering sites for new schools. "While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a draft of voluntary school-siting guidelines in November, those guidelines might not be strong enough and could be ignored by many school districts," said Kweon, a research investigator at the Institute for Social Research and an adjunct assistant professor in the School of Natural Resources and Environment.

Geographic information system software was used to digitally map the 3,660 schools and to then overlay industrial air pollution data from the Environmental Protection Agency's Risk-Screening Environmental Indicator data base.

School attendance rates were used as a proxy for health levels at each school. As a school performance measure, the researchers used 2007 scores from the Michigan Educational Assessment Program, a standardized test that all third- through ninth-graders in Michigan public schools are required to take.

Specifically, they used the percentage of students who failed to meet the state standards for English and math.

Though the study focused primarily on the effects of industrial air pollutants, nearly identical patterns were found when the researchers analyzed data from the 2005 National Air Toxic Assessment, which includes on-road mobile sources such as cars, trucks and buses, as well as non-road mobile sources such as airplanes, tractors and lawnmowers.

Why are schools located near industrial pollution sources?

The authors suggest that the large amount of land that a school requires and the costs of land acquisition probably mean that officials searching for new school locations focus on areas where property values are low, which may be near polluting industrial facilities, major highways and other potentially hazardous sites.

Half of all states, including Michigan, do not require any evaluation of the environmental quality of areas under consideration as sites for new schools, nor do they prohibit building new industrial facilities and highways near existing schools.

Children are known to be more vulnerable than adults to the effects of pollution. Exposure to environmental pollutants during important times of physiological development can lead to long-lasting health problems, dysfunction and disease, the experts said.

"Our findings underscore the need to expand the concept of environmental justice to include children as a vulnerable population. Moreover, our findings show that children of color are disproportionately at risk," the authors wrote. "There is a need for proactive school policies that will protect children from exposure to unhealthy levels of air pollution and other environmental hazards."

The authors offer four policy recommendations to address the problem: 1) All potential school sites should be thoroughly analyzed, including tests of soil, water and air quality. 2) Policies should be enacted to insist on a minimum distance between sources of pollution and school locations. 3) Environmental mitigation policies should be adopted to reduce children's potential exposure to pollution. 4) Oversight and enforcement at the national, state and local levels needs to ensure better school environments.

Students exposed to 12 harmful chemicals

Ninety-five percent of the estimated industrial air pollution around schools comes from 12 chemicals: diisocyanates, manganese, sulfuric acid, nickel, chlorine, chromium, trimethylbenzene, hydrochloric acid, molybdenum trioxide, lead, cobalt and glycol ethers.

These pollutants come from a variety of sources, including the motor vehicle, steel and chemical- manufacturing industries, power plants, rubber and plastic products manufacturers, and lumber and wood products manufacturers. The 12 chemicals are suspected of producing a wide variety of health effects, including increased risk of respiratory, cardiovascular, developmental and neurological disorders, as well as cancer.

Source: University of Michigan

Also check out this story on Oregon schools: A simple step to improve air quality for schoolkids.

Air purifiers for schools and universities

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Friday, May 6, 2011

Hospital workers and patients breathing poisoned air

Air quality tests in hospitals have
revealed high levels of contaminants.
Air quality study reveals dangerous levels of PCBs in air at Copenhagen’s main hospital Rigshospitalet

Most people check into a hospital with the hopes of getting better. But what if they are exposed to contaminated air?

Indoor air quality in hospitals has always been a problem – the air is not only polluted by bacteria and viruses, but also by volatile organic compounds (VOCs), mold and fungi as well as chemicals such as glutaraldehyde (used for equipment sterilization), diethyl ether (anesthetic gas) and formaldehyde (used to preserve tissue).

And these IAQ concerns are not limited to North American hospitals either.

Recent random air quality checks at the Rigshospitalet hospital in Copenhagen have revealed dangerously high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the air patients and employees breathe.

The petroleum-based compounds, which are colorless and odorless, are known to be carcinogenic, as well as for causing hormone disruptions and neural damage. Studies suggest they may also contribute to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children.

PCBs were widely used as additives in grouts and joint-fillers in buildings built in the 1960s and 1970s. Over time the volatile chemical additives evaporate into the air, in a process called off-gassing. Air quality checks reveal that is exactly what is happening at Rigshospitalet.

Two of the eight air quality checks conducted at Rigshospitalet exceeded the National Board of Health’s safe limit for PCB concentrations. In one of the measurements, the concentration was 20 percent above the limit. In the other, it was double.

The director of Rigshospitalet, Gunnar Theis Hansen, underscored that although the situation is serious, there is nothing to indicate that any patients or employees have gotten sick from the poisonous air.

“The concentration of the substance combined with the time span in which people stay in the rooms, doesn’t give any cause for anxiety,” Hansen told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. However, he added that the hospital is “taking it very seriously. We have a problem and we’re going to do something about it.”

More extensive and systematic air quality measurements are now being done at the hospital to see how widespread the PCB problem is. The new measurements will form the basis for an action plan on how to solve the problem.

Dorthe Steenberg, the vice chairman of the Danish Nurses’ Organisation, was surprised to learn that employees and patients at Rigshospitalet have been breathing in PCB gases for more than 30 years.

“The situation is worrying. But it’s good that Rigshospitalet is itself actively taking measurements and identifying the problem,” Steenberg said.

PCB production was banned in the US in 1979 and by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in 2001.

Source: Copenhagen Post

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Secondhand meth fumes could be dangerous, researcher says

Secondhand meth fumes could be
harmful, a researcher suggests.
If your city or town is located in the middle of a major methamphetamine trafficking corridor – like Gothenburg – residents may be subjected to the harmful effects of secondhand meth fumes.

With federal restrictions on the purchase of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine (some of the ingredients used to make the drug) more meth is manufactured in Mexico and brought to the United States using major corridors like Interstate 80.

Dr. Sandra Wells of the public health department of University of Nebraska Medical Center told local Rotarians that much of that meth—and what is still made in homemade labs — affects not only the user but those who live in the household.

And, although there are numerous reports on the overall dangers of meth use and production, she said the actual health consequences of second-hand exposure are largely unreported.

The assistant professor in the department of environmental, agricultural and occupational health sees second-hand exposure to meth as an increasing health problem in Nebraska and the nation.

“But most published work is about the health effects on users,” she said. “There is very little there about secondhand exposure.”

Wells, who joined UNMC in 2009, started researching problems from exposure to meth while at the University of Montana at Missoula with help through the National Alliance of Drug Endangered Children.
At her UNMC lab, research is done on respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other environmental factors such as meth.

“We’re seeing kids with respiratory symptoms from homes where meth is used or manufactured,” Wells said.
Whether that is caused by the drug itself or poor household conditions is what the researcher wants to find out.

When meth is heated, Wells said the drug vaporizes and creates small particles that go deep into the lungs.
Even one-time moderate exposure to meth can cause injury to lungs, she said, which is why researchers want to know what happens over the long-term.

Source: Gothenburg Times

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Health and safety lawsuits: U.S. drug firm pleads guilty in lab worker's death

Companies need to protect workers and
lab technicians from chemical exposure.
In yet another occupational health and safety lawsuit, a U.S. drug firm is under fire and has pleaded guilty to one of five safety charges in the death of a lab technician who was exposed to toxic chemical fumes at his work station at a Nova Scotia plant.

According to the article by the Canadian Press, the company entered a guilty plea today in provincial court to a charge under the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act that it failed to ensure an adequate venting system was in place.

In an agreed statement of facts, the Crown lawyer said the lab worker’s lungs were gradually destroyed by the chemical.

He eventually suffocated in hospital 18 hours after exposure on Oct. 7, 2008 to vapors from trimethysilyl diazomethane.

The court dismissed charges the pharmaceutical company failed to ensure adequate personal protection equipment and failed to ensure that the employee was instructed in the safe use of the chemical.

Charges that the company had failed to instruct an employee in safe use of a substance in the company's Windsor lab and failed to ensure that no person would disturb the scene of an accident were also dismissed.

Source: Canadian Press

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Asbestos: the hidden health hazard in many homes

Workers and homeowners can be
exposed to asbestos during
renovations and construction work.
The use of asbestos has been common in the industrialized world since the mid-19th century until it was banned in most countries.That does not mean, however, that the asbestos problem has gone away.

If you live in the UK, your home has a 50% chance of harboring asbestos, which could be lethal if disturbed.

In the United States, health agencies warn of asbestos in homes and commercial buildings. According to the Asbestos News website, estimates are that asbestos containing materials remain in most of the nation's approximately 107,000 primary and secondary schools and 733,000 public and commercial buildings.

While this may sound alarming, asbestos is likely to be dangerous only if it is released into the air and you breathe it in. Then you could be at long-term risk of developing lung cancer, asbestosis or mesothelioma (a cancer that forms in the lining of the chest or abdomen). Experts say that there should be little or no risk if the asbestos is enclosed and left undisturbed but it must be regularly checked for signs of deterioration.

But accidents happen and the previously dormant devil within could be released when "improvement" work is being carried out, for example, or when a burst pipe causes damage to ceilings.

In older UK homes, asbestos is often present in ceilings decorated using Artex textured coating. This is because, until the mid-1980s, Artex was made with white asbestos to strengthen it. However, Joe Oakins, a surveyor at Vintec Environmental Management, says: "We find asbestos products used in the strangest places and sometimes apparently for no reason. Often builders used whatever they had lying around, so you often find off-cuts of asbestos boards used as packing and filler."

Asbestos is also often present in pipe wrap and vinyl flooring tiles, in roofing and flooring felt and roof coatings, according to EPA.

Peter Coling, technical director at Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward Chartered Surveyors, estimates that 30% of asbestos is found in ceiling coatings, 15% in boiler flue pipes and ducts, and 15% in floor tiles. A further 15% is found in areas such as cold water storage tanks, insulation materials, eaves, gutters and rainwater pipes, while 10% is in cement panel ceilings, 10% in outbuildings and 5% in fire protection materials, for example on the underside of integral garage roofs and in cupboards enclosing boilers.
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Source: The Observer

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