Friday, August 29, 2014

Two chemicals banned from iPhone assembly factories

Apple is banning the use of benzene and
n-hexane in the production of iPhones.
Apple is banning the use of two potentially hazardous chemicals during the final assembly of iPhones and iPads as part of the company's latest commitment to protect the factory workers who build its trendy devices.
The decision comes five months after the activist groups China Labor Watch and Green America launched a petition drive calling on Apple Inc. to abandon the use of benzene and n-hexane in the production of iPhones.

A four-month investigation at 22 factories found no evidence that benzene and n-hexane endangered the roughly 500,000 people who work at the plants, according to Apple.

No traces of the chemicals were detected at 18 of the factories and the amounts found at the other four factories fell within acceptable safety levels, the Cupertino, California, company said.

Nevertheless, Apple decided to order its suppliers to stop using benzene and n-hexane during the final assembly of iPhones, iPads, iPods, Mac computers and various accessories.

What's more, Apple is requiring all its factories to test all substances to ensure that they don't contain benzene or n-hexane, even if the chemicals aren't listed in the ingredients.

Benzene is a carcinogen that can cause leukemia if not handled properly and n-hexane has been linked to nerve damage. The substances are often found in solvents used to clean machinery and electronics.

Apple is still allowing use of the two chemicals during the early production phases of its products — activities that primarily take place at hundreds of other factories besides the ones responsible for the final assembly of the devices.

As an additional precaution, Apple is lowering the maximum amount of benzene and n-hexane that can be present in the materials used during those earlier phases of production.

Green America's petition drive collected nearly 23,000 signatures urging Apple to phase out benzene and n-hexane.

Neither chemical is unique to Apple's manufacturing process. They are also used in the production of electronics products sold by other large technology companies that have also been criticized for their practices.

Source: San Jose Mercury News
This article has been edited for length.

Concerned about airborne chemicals at the workplace? Electrocorp offers industrial and commercial air cleaners with activated carbon and HEPA air filters to remove dangerous chemicals (including benzene, toluene and TCE), gases, odors, fumes, dust, particles, mold and other contaminants from the ambient air. Contact Electrocorp for more information and a free consultation.

Other technology giants still using hazardous chemicals, Greenpeace says. Read the full article here. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Urban air cleaner than ever: EPA

EPA report shows progress in reducing urban air toxics across the United States

Urban air toxics have been reduced, but they
still  pose a threat to public health, experts say.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Second Integrated Urban Air Toxics Report to Congress - the final of two reports required under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to inform Congress of progress in reducing public health risks from urban air toxics.

“This report gives everyone fighting for clean air a lot to be proud of because for more than 40 years we have been protecting Americans – preventing illness and improving our quality of life by cutting air pollution - all while the economy has more than tripled,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

“But we know our work is not done yet. At the core of EPA’s mission is the pursuit of environmental justice - striving for clean air, water and healthy land for every American; and we are committed to reducing remaining pollution, especially in low-income neighborhoods.”

Using national emissions and air quality data, the Urban Air Toxics Report shows the substantial progress that has been made to reduce air toxics across the country since the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.
  • A 66 percent reduction in benzene;
  • A nearly 60 percent reduction in mercury from man-made sources like coal-fired power plants;
  • An 84 percent decrease of lead in outdoor air, which slows brain development in children;
  • The removal of an estimated 1.5 million tons per year of air toxics like arsenic, benzene, lead and nickel from stationary sources and another 1.5 million tons per year (about 50 percent) of air toxics from mobile sources. This is significant because air toxics (also referred to as hazardous air pollutants or HAPs) are known or suspected of causing cancer and can damage the immune, respiratory, neurological, reproductive and developmental systems;
  • And, approximately 3 million tons per year of criteria pollutants, like particulate amtter and sulfur dioxide, have been reduced from cars and trucks as co-benefits of air toxics reductions.
EPA is working with state, local and tribal agencies to promote area-wide and regional strategies to address air toxics and support a number of community-based programs that help communities understand, prioritize and reduce exposures to toxic pollutants in their environment.

For example, in Indianapolis, the EPA is working with partners on the ground through an EPA grant for the “Building Lead Safe Communities” Project in the Martindale-Brightwood and Nearwest neighborhoods. They are addressing the risk of toxic lead exposure in children through outreach efforts and compiling block level soil lead data, identifying hotspots utilizing air sampling and developing synergistic local solutions.

Additionally, recent EPA actions will further address toxic pollution in communities. Since 2005, EPA has taken steps to address air emissions from stationary sources that include major reductions from boilers, power plants, and Portland cement facilities. For example, the 2011 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards will prevent about 90 percent of the mercury in coal burned in power plants from being emitted to the air.

The 2007 Mobile Source Air Toxics rule is projected to reduce toxics emitted from highway vehicles and nonroad equipment, which are known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health and environmental effects, by 330,000 tons in 2030, including 61,000 tons of benzene, and VOC emissions (precursors to ozone and PM2.5) by over one million tons.

The EPA expects reductions in air toxics from cars and trucks to grow to 80 percent by the year 2030 as newer, cleaner vehicles get on the road. The proposed updates to emission standards for petroleum refineries would reduce emissions from the 150 petroleum refineries across the U.S., many of which are located near communities.

It would also reduce emissions of chemicals such as benzene, toluene and xylene by 5,600 tons per year.  These efforts, along with the implementation and adoption of new and existing national rules for stationary and mobile sources of pollution, will improve public health for all Americans by providing further reductions in air toxics.

Source: EPA

Concerned about the air quality at your workplace? Electrocorp offers industrial and commercial-strength air cleaners with activated carbon and HEPA filters to remove the widest range of indoor air contaminants. Contact Electrocorp for more information.

Monday, August 25, 2014

OSHA to improve tracking of workplace injury and illness

Workplace air quality may affect
employee health and productivity.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced it will extend the comment period on the proposed rule to improve tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses to Oct. 14, 2014.

The proposal, published on Nov. 8, 2013, would amend the agency's record-keeping regulation to add requirements for the electronic submission of injury and illness information that employers are already required to keep.

During the public meeting held on the proposal, many participants expressed concern that the proposal may create motivation for employers to under-record injuries and illnesses, since each covered establishment's injury and illness data would become publicly available on OSHA's website.

Participants also expressed concern that the proposal would lead to an increase in the number of employers who adopt practices that discourage employees from reporting recordable injuries and illnesses. OSHA is concerned that the accuracy of the data collected under the new proposal could be compromised if employers adopt these practices.

"OSHA wants to make sure that employers, employees and the public have access to the most accurate data about injuries and illnesses in their workplaces so that they can take the most appropriate steps to protect worker safety and health," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.

Therefore, OSHA is soliciting comments on whether to amend the proposed rule to: 1) require that employers inform their employees of their right to report injuries and illnesses; 2) more clearly communicate the requirement that any injury and illness reporting requirements established by the employer be reasonable and not unduly burdensome; and 3) provide OSHA an additional remedy to prohibit employers from taking adverse action against employees for reporting injuries and illnesses.

Individuals interested in submitting comments may do so electronically at, the federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Comments may also be submitted via mail or facsimile. See the Federal Register notice for details.

Source: OSHA

Concerned about poor indoor air quality at work? Airborne chemicals, fumes, particles and other contaminants may affect productivity, health and well-being of workers. A dual-strength air cleaner with activated carbon and HEPA air filters may help provide cleaner and more breathable air at the workplace. Electrocorp has designed a wide range of industrial and commercial air cleaners to address various IAQ concerns. Contact Electrocorp for more information and a free consultation.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Formaldehyde threat real: Chemical industry

Formaldehyde is often used in wood products and has
been linked to cancer and other health concerns.
For years, the chemical industry has been winning a political battle to keep formaldehyde from being declared a known carcinogen.

The industry’s chief lobby group, the American Chemistry Council, has persuaded members of Congress that the findings of both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services were wrong and should be reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences.

In 2011, the academy did indeed criticize the EPA’s report on formaldehyde for being unclear. The chemical industry then used that critique to delay dozens of other ongoing evaluations of potentially toxic chemicals.

But recently, the academy issued a second report, which found in effect that government scientists were right all along when they concluded that formaldehyde can cause three rare forms of cancer.

“We are perplexed as to why today’s report differs so greatly from the 2011” report, Cal Dooley, president and chief executive officer of the American Chemistry Council, said in a statement titled “The Safety of Formaldehyde is Well-Studied and Supported by Robust Science.”

Part of the disparity is that in the 2011 report, Congress asked the academy only to critique the EPA’s draft assessment rather than evaluate the dangers of formaldehyde itself. The panel concluded that the EPA’s report was too long, repetitive and lacked explanation.

But after reviewing the scientific evidence itself, the academy concluded that formaldehyde is indeed a known carcinogen.

Formaldehyde is widely used in wood products and clothing.

In a blog posting, Jennifer Sass, a scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the American Chemistry Council’s efforts “a vicious attack on government scientific assessments [meant] to distort and discredit any evidence linking toxic chemicals to diseases, disabilities or death.”

Using the academy to review any negative findings from the EPA has become common tactic of the chemical industry.

The Center for Public Integrity reported in June that Rep. Mike Simpson, a Republican from Idaho, got the EPA to turn its negative assessment of arsenic over to the academy. At the same time, Congress also insisted that the EPA redo all ongoing assessments to address the criticisms of the 2011 formaldehyde review. Forty-seven assessments are affected.

The American Chemistry Council said in its statement that the academy “misses an opportunity to advance the science.”

Richard Denison, a scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, countered: “One can only hope that this sorry episode and waste of public resources will help to expose the narrow self-interest of the industry, which for years it has deceptively sought to wrap in the mantle of sound science.”

Source: Center for Public Integrity

Concerned about chemical exposure at work or at home? Electrocorp has designed industrial-strength air cleaners with activated carbon and HEPA filters that can remove a wide range of indoor air contaminants, including chemicals such as formaldehyde, benzene and toluene as well as fine particles, mold, bacteria and viruses. Contact Electrocorp for more information and a free consultation.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Pilot poisoned by toxic fumes on planes: Scientists

Pilots, crew and passengers may be exposed to toxic fumes
on aircraft, studies show.
Severe headaches. Insomnia. Vision problems. Confusion. Constant pain.

British Airways pilot Richard Westgate had been suffering from a long list of health problems in the years leading up to his death in December 2012, aged 43.

He had been convinced he was being poisoned by toxic fumes that leaked on board the planes that he flew.

In fact, he was so sure about it that he had asked his lawyers to begin legal action against the airline for “breaching health and safety guidelines”.

Now scientists claim they have compelling evidence that shows he was right all along.

Published in the Swiss Journal of Biological Physics and Chemistry, it’s believed to be the first case study of a pilot with chronic ill health following exposure to contaminated cabin air.

The researchers conducted a postmortem examination, analyzed the health problems Mr Westgate had detailed before his death, and retested blood that was drawn while he was still alive.

They concluded that the most likely cause of his death was “organophosphate induced neurotoxicity”. Organophosphates are hazardous chemicals present in jet engine oil and hydraulic fluid.

Frank Cannon, of Glasgow-based law firm Cannons Law, who has been fighting for answers following his client’s death, told the UK’s Mirror : “We believe that constant exposure to fuel leaks in planes contributed to Richard’s death.

“This scientific research proves that Richard suffered from chemicals called organophosphates which cause chronic brain and other problems. This happens because of constant exposure working aboard aircraft.”

The law firm is acting for 25 people who claim they’ve been affected by fumes on planes.

So how do toxic fumes get inside planes?
The cabin air is drawn in from the aircraft’s engines or auxiliary power unit — with the exception of the newer Boeing 787 model — using the engine’s compressors. This “bleed air” heats the air inside, and pressurises the cabin altitude. However, engine seals leak over time or fail, allowing heated oil mist to escape into the bleed air.

Mr Westgate, who had flown for 15 years, had noted that the on start-up, the engines would create puffs of smoke inside the plane followed by an oily smell.

After three years of flying his symptoms started, and progressively worsened to the point where he had severe chest pain, problems walking, and would fall off his bicycle for no reason. He underwent numerous tests and took a range of medications, and was even admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

Overall, he saw 15 specialists. But it was only shortly before he was found dead in his hotel room that he was diagnosed with having symptoms related to exposure to plane fumes.

How big is the problem?

It’s believed many more illnesses and even deaths have been caused by toxic fumes on planes.

However, it’s difficult to establish a causal link as there is no standard on-board system to monitor aircraft cabin-air contamination. That’s despite a series of ad hoc tests reporting contamination events.

Earlier this year an Australian Transport Safety Bureau report ­revealed passengers and crew on Australian aircraft were ­exposed to toxic fumes more than 1000 times over the past five years. There were several occasions when crew had to divert flights or make emergency landings because of the fumes, but passengers were never warned of the dangers.

Former pilot Dr Susan Michaelis, now head of research at the Global Cabin Air Quality Executive, says she collapsed from fumes.

“Sitting in an unhealthy environment and being exposed to chemicals every day made me sick,” she told the Daily Telegraph .

She said there is compelling evidence of the impact these events have on health.

“There is a pattern of chronic ill-health … and it needs to be looked at further. My research has found clusters of pilots with brain cancer in the UK. They were mostly flying short-haul journeys.”

“The way the engines are designed means crew and passengers are exposed to hazardous fumes. These have both short- and long-term health impacts including cancer.”

A British Airways spokesperson told “It would be inappropriate to comment or speculate on the cause of death of an individual. The safety and security of our customers and crew are of paramount importance to British Airways and will never be compromised.”


Concerned about chemical exposure at your workplace? Without proper handling, storage and safety precautions, prolonged exposure to airborne chemicals and fumes may affect your health and well-being. Electrocorp has designed industrial-strength air cleaners with activated carbon and HEPA filters to remove the widest possible range of airborne contaminants. Contact Electrocorp for more information and a free consultation.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sawmill ordered to pay for fatal fire

WorkSafeBC orders mill to pay $724,000 in penalties, levies for 2012 fire

Woodworking can cause a buildup of explosive sawdust.
The company that owns the northern British Columbia sawmill where two workers were killed and 22 others injured in a explosion and fire has been ordered by WorkSafeBC to pay more than $724,000 in penalties and levies.

The April 23, 2012 blaze at Prince George's Lakeland Mills Ltd. claimed the lives of Alan Little, 43 and Glen Roche, 46 and followed a similar deadly explosion only months earlier at the Babine Forest Products sawmill in Burns Lake, B.C.

The province's Criminal Justice Branch announced earlier this year it would not lay charges against either of the companies in the mill blasts because it feared the evidence collected wouldn't be admissible in court.

But WorkSafeBC said recently that Lakeland Mills breached the Workers Compensation Act and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations and ordered it to pay a $97,500 administrative penalty and a $626,663 claims-cost levy for violating the act and the regulations.

"The dollar value of a penalty or claims cost levy does not and cannot reflect the loss of lives and the pain and suffering of workers and families,'' the agency states on its website, adding the company has the right to appeal and review the penalties.

The order follows a similar $1-million ruling in April by WorkSafeBC against Hampton Affiliates, the owners of the Babine mill.

Lakeland Mills president Greg Stewart responded to Tuesday's report with a written statement, saying the company had just been notified earlier in the day.

"It will take some time to review the information,'' he said. "Only then will we be in a position to respond to WorkSafeBC's allegations.''

Shane Simpson, the New Democratic labor critic, called the penalties and assessments a slap on the wrist and of cold comfort to the families of the workers killed and the survivors.

He reiterated calls for an independent inquiry.

"We haven't got to the bottom of this,'' he said. "We haven't found closure for the families, and I'm afraid that's not going to happen until we have the kind of independent inquiry that has been called for across the board by most people other than the government.''

The fire at the mill broke out at about 9:30 p.m. on April 23, 2012, and WorkSafeBC found the mill's northeast corner exploded outward. A few seconds later another section, known as the bag house, erupted in flames, it found.

The explosion traveled east to west through the mill's operating level, destroying the mill, killing and injuring the workers.

All the evidence indicated wood dust was dispersed throughout the mill and in a high-enough concentration to explode, stated a WorkSafeBC report issued in May.

The report noted the primary explosion occurred an area of about three-square meters which was surrounded by a conveyor, steel-plated ceiling and exterior wall.

The report described the important relationship between containment and a fuel-like wood dust.

"If these components are contained and ignition occurs, the pressure develops to a degree that typically is violent and destructive,'' it stated.

The friction that ignited the blaze was caused when a piece of equipment known as a gear-reducer cooling fan failed, and a rotating shaft generated friction, heat and a temperature of 577 degrees Celsius, the report added.

As a result, the airborne dust burned away in the containment zone during the primary explosion and the secondary explosions, and fire leveled the mill, it stated.

The report also cited several underlying factors.

There was a lack of a dust-collection system and ineffective dust-control measures, as well as ineffective maintenance and inspection of the gear reducers, it found.

The configuration of the waste conveyor increased airborne wood dust as well, and wood and weather conditions played a role, the report noted.

"The weather conditions resulted in a very dry environment with low humidity,'' it stated. "The condition was compounded by the very dry beetle-killed wood. The dusts produced were drier, finer and migrated throughout the mill.''

Finally, the report cited "inadequate supervision of clean-up and maintenance staff.''

The agency said it has ordered every B.C. sawmill to assess the risks and hazards of combustible dust and implement effective dust-control programs.

Followup inspections have been ordered by WorkSafeBC at other sawmills and wood-processing operations, and the agency has ordered hazard alerts for gear reducers and wintertime conditions when there are increased risks.

Source: The Canadian Press via OHS Canada

Wood dust and other airborne hazards can be removed with one of Electrocorp's industrial air cleaners (such as Electrocorp's air cleaners for wood shops), featuring some of the most efficient filtration media on the market. Contact Electrocorp for more information.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Lab lets public use 3-D printing and laser tools

Laser engraving and cutting may release toxic
fumes that can affect people's health, studies show.
On any given day, an unusual cross-section of artists and entrepreneurs might be found tooling away on the cutting and industrial printing machines at a Central Square lab in Cambridge: a maker of percussion instruments, a fashion designer, even the owner of an electronic cigarette retailer.

The lab is called Danger!Awesome, and it is helping to introduce 3-D printing and laser-cutting technologies to people who don’t have the knowledge or access to factory- grade equipment to turn their big ideas into products.

The lab also performs professional-grade jobs for corporate clients, including the nearby Google Inc. offices. But to get 3-D printing to become an everyday technology adopted by the masses, cofounder Ali Mohammad said Danger!Awesome’s main calling is to teach hobbyists and entrepreneurs the technology isn’t all that difficult to master.

“Even if you don’t think you can make something, we will hold your hand through the entire process,” Mohammad said.

Like other labs, Danger!Awesome has both 3-D printers and laser cutters.

The former create solid objects by slowing extruding layers of plastic or other materials, based on a pattern designed in a computer program.

The latter starts with a block of material and meticulously burns away everything except the desired shape.

“You get this satisfaction from creating things,” Mohammad said. “There is something deeply, primally satisfying about building something you can touch.”

The company is among a number of startups in the Boston area anticipating that people will pay for training and access to bleeding-edge fabrication technologies.

In Somerville, Astisan’s Asylum trains members to use a Stratasys uPrint. The Printing Bay in Waltham offers classes and access to a MakerGear M2.

And on Newbury Street in the Back Bay, the 3-D printer manufacturer MakerBot has opened a store where the public can watch demonstrations of 3-D printing, scan and print their own designs, and buy a machine for their own use.

In Burlington, Einstein’s Workshop offers science and engineering classes aimed at children — including courses in 3-D printing and laser cutting for kids as young as second-graders.

“When you give kids access to these machines, it’s amazing what projects they think of themselves,” said workshop founder Henry Houh, who took a laser-cutting class at Danger!Awesome.

Visual artist Lannie Hathaway got so hooked on the new technology that she now works at Danger!Awesome, where she continues to use the machines for her own engraving and illustration projects.

“Using the tools that are used for engineering to make my own work come to life was very exciting,” Hathaway said.

The 3-D groundswell is being embraced by academia, as well.

Northeastern University, for instance, opened a comprehensive 3-D printing, 3-D scanning, and laser-cutting lab as part of its library system last year, and is developing coursework around it.

And the Massachusetts Institute of Technology supports a global network of 3-D printing laboratories through the Fab Foundation,a nonprofit started by the school’s Center for Bits and Atoms.

Mohammad was a doctoral student at MIT in computational linguistics when he stumbled on the technology, sneaking into the labs with laser cutters late at night to try out the equipment.

He became friends with Nadeem Mazen, and they decided to start a business. Their lab does about 50 orders a week, more around the holidays.

This article has been edited for length. 
Source: Boston Globe

Laser cutting and printing may release fumes that have been linked to a wide range of health concerns. Electrocorp has designed portable and highly efficient air cleaners for laser engraving and cutting as well as printing that boast a large activated carbon filter to trap chemicals and fumes before they spread. Contact Electrocorp for more information and a free consultation.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Fathers' solvent exposure linked to cancer in children

Parents' exposure to chemicals such as benzene, toluene and
TCE could be linked to brain tumors in their children.
Brain tumors in children could have as much to do with the father's occupational exposure to solvents as they have to do with the mother's, a new Australian study has found.

The study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, has found a link between parents' exposure to chemicals such as benzene, toluene, and trichloroethylene and brain tumors in their children.

Lead author Dr Susan Peters, occupational epidemiologist at the University of Western Australia, says while brain tumors are relatively rare they are a major cause of cancer death among children, and the causes are largely unknown.

"Because most of the cases occur before age five, the question is what are the risk factors because there are some genetic syndromes that are known to cause brain tumors but only in less than five per cent of cases," says Peters.

"The children are pretty young, [so] it could be that some of the parental exposures before or during pregnancy may be a cause."

The new study surveyed nearly 306 cases of parents of children up to 14 years old with brain tumors, which were diagnosed between 2005 - 2010 in Australia.

The researchers compared the parents' occupational exposures to solvents with those of 950 parents whose children did not have brain tumors.

The findings suggest that fathers working in jobs where they are regularly exposed to benzene in the year before their child is conceived are more than twice as likely to have that child develop a brain tumor.

Women working in occupations that expose them to a class of compounds called chlorinated solvents -- found in degreasers, cleaning solutions, paint thinners, pesticides and resins -- at any time in their lives also have a much higher risk of their child developing a brain tumor.

Building on previous studies

While brain tumors in children are relatively rare, previous studies have suggested a link between parental occupation and childhood brain tumors, finding parents working in industries such as the chemical and petroleum industries, car-related jobs, and jobs with regular exposure to paint, have a higher risk of their children developing brain tumors.

Peters says a previous study in rats also found that toluene -- found in petrol, paints, and inks -- had an effect on sperm cells, which points to a possible explanation for the link in humans.

Commenting on the study, Emeritus Professor Michael R. Moore, vice president of the Australasian College of Toxicology and Risk Assessment, says the data shows paternal exposure was a key issue.

"This is the children being directly affected by the father and the father's exposure is taking place prior to the children being conceived," says Moore.

"Parents who are thinking of having children should be thinking about not just what's happening with the mums but also with the dads."

Peters stressed that the study only involved relatively small numbers of cases, and it was still too early to say whether solvent exposure was the cause of childhood brain tumors.

However she said these solvents were associated with a range of other effects so exposure should be kept as low as possible anyway.

Source: ABC
Activated carbon is the best filtration media
to tackle airborne chemicals and odors.

Concerned about chemical exposure at work? Electrocorp has designed easy-to-use air cleaners for commercial and industrial applications. The air purifiers feature a deep-bed activated carbon filter for the removal of airborne chemicals (including toluene, benzene, TCE and more), fumes, gases and odors, a HEPA filter for dust and particles as well as optional UV germicidal filtration for the neutralization of bacteria, viruses and mold. Contact Electrocorp for more information and a free consultation.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Chemical plants susceptible to terror risks

Many chemical facilities could become targets
of terrorist attacks, releasing toxic fumes: Experts
The government has failed to inspect virtually all of the chemical facilities that it considers to be at a higher risk for a terror attack and has underestimated the threat to densely populated cities, congressional investigators say.

The year-long investigation by Republican staff on the Senate Homeland Security Committee paints a picture of inspection delay, government errors in risk assessment and industry loopholes in a $595 million terror prevention program passed by Congress in 2006. A copy of the investigators' report was obtained by The Associated Press.

Coming a year after a massive explosion at a West, Texas, fertilizer plant, the report points to threats from the release of toxic and flammable chemicals.

Roughly half of the 4,011 high-risk facilities on the Department of Homeland Security watch list are in 10 states: California, Texas, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina, Florida, Michigan and New Jersey.

The U.S. effort is "a broken program that is not making us measurably safer against the threat of a terrorist attack," states the report commissioned by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

It said widespread problems have left many of the nation's riskiest chemical facilities "effectively unregulated."

The report relies in part on internal DHS documents, including an assessment of the terror program completed late last year that hasn't been released, and a federal database of higher-risk facilities.

DHS spokesman S.Y. Lee noted that the department has stepped up monitoring efforts, having approved security plans for 750 facilities in the last two years. DHS officials have called on Congress to authorize the program over multiple years — not just year to year — so the government and chemical companies can better plan for longer-range security.

"The Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program is an important part of our nation's counterterrorism efforts," Lee said, adding that DHS is committed "to build on the progress it has made."

The report said that as of June 30, DHS had failed to conduct security compliance inspections on 3,972 chemical facilities, or 99 percent of the 4,011 facilities initially considered at a higher risk for terrorism. Many facilities are chemical manufacturers; they also include farm supply retailers or fertilizer distribution warehouses.

DHS considers a chemical facility "higher risk" based on the amount of toxic or flammable chemicals on site, such as chlorine, a corrosive, or ammonium nitrate, which can be used to make explosives.

Final rankings, on a tier of one to four, are determined based on additional information provided to the government.

The committee found that roughly 3,111 of the facilities had yet to have security plans approved despite statements to DHS officials that it would be done. Investigators said it could take years for DHS to reduce the backlog.

The report also cites a DHS-commissioned study completed late last year that raised concerns the list of 4,011 higher risk facilities was not accurate, in some cases relying on outdated data or treating densely populated areas as lower threats due to coding errors.

Committee investigators have indicated that larger metropolitan regions such as Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia might be more vulnerable to a chemical attack. The report notes that rural accidents like the West, Texas, plant explosion "pale in comparison with the consequences of releasing large quantities of toxic gas into a densely-populated city."

Among other findings, the report points to industry loopholes. DHS grants exemptions to a number of industries including water and wastewater treatment, which use high amounts of chlorine, a toxic chemical. While the program regulates ammonium nitrate, it does not regulate 12 other chemicals that can also be used to make explosives.

The report urges substantial changes before Congress re-authorizes the terror prevention program for the year, such as allowing lower-risk facilities to self-certify their security plans meet DHS standards; fixing the risk assessment methodology; creating a permanent task force of industry experts to advise DHS; and giving DHS power to penalize companies that deliberately seek to ignore its regulations.

Source: San Jose Mercury News

Concerned about toxic chemicals at your workplace? Improper storage or regular handling may affect your health and well-being. Electrocorp has designed industrial and commercial air cleaners with activated carbon and HEPA air filters that remove airborne chemicals, fumes, odors, gases, particles and much more. Contact Electrocorp for more information and ask about our air cleaners for chemical processing, waste-water treatment, and high-volume odor and chemical control.

Monday, August 4, 2014

A hospital disinfectant used for oil and gas production

A new product is currently being tested to
reduce the environmental impact of fracking.
Fracking seems to have more going against it than for it, but a South Carolina-based company is hoping the oil and gas industry will mitigate environmental damages and health concerns with its latest product, Excelyte.

Excelyte is an EPA-approved solution that addresses major controversies associated with fracking: pollution of groundwater with toxic chemicals, release of hydrogen sulfide that endangers oil field workers’ lives, and excess wastewater.

Integrated Environmental Technologies (IET) originally developed the solution as a final surface cleaner to eliminate hospital-acquired infections like tuberculosis, and then to prevent foodborne illnesses in food production.

Excelyte has been proven to be 99.9999% effective against HIV, H1N1, Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, among other bacteria and viruses. The solution’s main active ingredient is hypochlorous acid—a naturally occurring molecule in the human body that fights infection.

Healthcare to food production was a natural extension, but in searching for other applications where bacteria and viruses posed as a deadly threat, IET found an industry that’s desperate to improve its environmental impact: oil and gas.

Excelyte is currently being tested in Utah and New Mexico in its first foray into the oil and gas scene. David LaVance, CEO of IET, said several well-known companies are using the product, but would not reveal which ones.

A single frack job takes millions of gallons of water, with only 25-30% of that water recovered for reuse. IET claims that by mixing water with Excelyte’s bacteria and sulfur-fighting properties instead of toxic chemicals, twice as much wastewater can be recovered for reuse in fracking instead of using fresh water.

Hydrogen sulfide, a naturally occurring gas that can be released during oil and gas production, is the most frequent killer of oil field workers.

Excelyte is a hydrogen sulfide scavenger that combines chemically to hydrogen sulfide. The solution, which took over five years to develop into a substance fit for production in industrial quantities, is also designed to leave no trace on the environment.

“Our product persists for only 90 days and then it disintegrates,” said LaVance. “It’s not underground for very long and things go back to normal after that. So it’s a quick-acting biocide.”

Fracking fraught with controversy

Wherever fracking is involved, controversy has traditionally followed. Concerns range from polluting drinking water with toxic chemicals to setting earthquake records.

A community in the North Texan city of Denton, which is believed to hold one of the biggest natural gas reserves in the U.S., recently captured the attention of the energy industry with an attempt to ban hydraulic fracturing due to noise and toxic fumes from fracked wells in their backyard. But the city faces an uphill battle—the U.S. fracking market was valued at $26 billion in 2013 according to BCC Research.

In Utah, where Excelyte is in somewhat of a pilot testing mode, oil field companies are not required to obtain specific government approval to use the product, but are required to report chemical usage in the national database FracFocus.

Despite Excelyte’s impressive properties and promising applications, environmentalists aren’t likely to be overly excited about the product.

“Even if all of the chemicals used for fracking were perfectly benign (and they are not), the wastes still would be highly toxic, because the fluids bring numerous hazardous substances, including radioactive materials, to the surface,” said Deborah Goldberg, an attorney at environmentalist group Earthjustice.

“No one yet has found a way to dispose of all of the wastes without creating additional environmental risks.”

Though fracking is by no means a sustainable practice, it is projected to experience further growth well into 2018. If widely adopted, the use of Excelyte could save lives and save water in various processes.

Excelyte has been approved by the National Science Foundation (NSF), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use in food production; healthcare; veterinary practices; and the oil and gas industry.

The EPA declined to comment on the solution’s current or projected use in fracking activities.

The solution’s applications in reusing and recycling water would be of particular interest to West Coast states like Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and California, which have been facing a longstanding drought.

Source: Forbes

Concerned about the air quality at your workplace or residence? Electrocorp has designed industrial-strength air cleaners with activated carbon and HEPA filters to remove airborne contaminants. The air purifiers can effectively remove chemicals, gases, odors, fine particles, allergens, dust, mold, bacteria, viruses and fumes from the ambient air. Contact Electrocorp for more information and a free consultation.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Report lists agents and exposures that may lead to cancer

Welding can expose workers to
toxic fumes and particulate matter.
IARC listing prioritizes substances for evaluating carcinogenic risks

An advisory group to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has published a report recommending and prioritizing chemicals, complex mixtures, occupational exposures, physical agents, biological agents, and lifestyle factors for IARC Monographs during 2015-2019.

IARC is the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization, and government agencies across the globe use its monographs as scientific support for their actions to prevent exposure to potential carcinogens.

These monographs identify and evaluate environmental factors that can increase carcinogenic risks to humans.

The report lists more than 50 recommended agents and exposures, and among those listed as high priority for the upcoming years are bisphenol A, 1-bromopropane, shiftwork, multi-walled carbon nanotubes, welding and welding fumes, and occupational exposure to pesticides.

Source: OH&S online

Concerned about toxic fumes and vapors at work? Electrocorp has designed industrial-strength air cleaners with activated carbon and HEPA for applications such as welding fume extraction, chemical processing, laser cutting and engraving and many more. Contact Electrocorp for more information and a free consultation.