Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Chemical Safety Board plagued by bad news

The Chemical Safety Board is bogged down
by internal troubles and incomplete reports.
The independent agency that investigates chemical accidents is under fire from seemingly every corner of the government—from the White House on down.

The White House is reviewing a damning inspector general report against the head of the Chemical Safety Board, Rafael Moure-Eraso.

Members of Congress also are unhappy, with several committees on the case. And there's a federal investigation into the leaked identity of an agency whistleblower.

It's yet another bit of unwanted attention for the board, which has been beset for years by accelerating internal troubles, shoddy morale, and a backlog of incomplete reports.

A controversial motion passed late in the night at a recent meeting in California has only added fuel to the fire, since it appears to close observers and insiders that it wipes out a number of reforms while consolidating power in the chairman's office.

"It's a stunning turn of events … that has very much upended the staff," said one CSB employee, who spoke under the condition of anonymity to protect their job. "Things are just not getting better."

Moure-Eraso's tenure ends in June, but he may not make it that long. An as-yet unreleased report by the EPA inspector general accuses the chairman and two top agency officials of violating the Federal Records Act by using outside email systems to conduct official government business and not capturing those emails in the agency system.

EPA IG Arthur Elkins Jr. outlined the findings to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last week. A new subpanel covering environmental and energy issues, along with the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, are looking at the CSB.

The findings were referred to the White House, which is reviewing the report.

The IG report—which could be released by the Oversight Committee as early as this week—is the result of a winding investigation in which CSB was accused of stonewalling investigators and refusing to turn over documents.

In a statement, CSB spokesman Hillary Cohen said the latest report related to emails sent before 2013 that were transferred to a federal records system 18 months ago. Cohen said CSB would be "providing guidance to all employees on the use of personal email that might relate to CSB business, since it appears this has been a common practice among various current and former CSB board members and staff."

The use of personal email is not necessarily a violation if the emails are forwarded and stored on an official system, which makes them searchable by inspectors and subject to the Freedom of Information Act (every agency crafts their own compliance plans for the Federal Records Act).

But the use of personal emails for official business can raise red flags and feeds into a deeper concern about CSB management's penchant for consolidating power at the expense of other staff and board members.

The latest and most egregious move by senior officials, critics say, was a 22-page motion passed by board member Manuel Ehrlich just weeks into his new position.

Late last month, the board presented its long-awaited final findings and safety recommendations from a 2012 Chevron refinery fire in Richmond, Calif., and took public comments at an evening meeting there for four hours.

Near the end of the meeting, Ehrlich introduced a motion that would, in essence, consolidate power with Moure-Eraso and wipe out a number of reforms made under a Justice Department order.

Mark Griffon—the third member on the short-handed board—tried to table the unexpected motion in order to at least give him more time to read it (it had not been announced in any public documents).

With no one to second the motion, Griffon was outvoted and quickly saw his share of power in the agency drop.

The "California coup," as one observer called it, scrubs a number of reforms meant to balance power between the chairman and other board members, such as requirements that the chairman consult on hiring decisions, designations to the Senior Executive Service, and expenditures over $50,000.

Some staff members don't see the motion as simple housecleaning, saying it consolidates power with Moure-Eraso and two top officials, general counsel Richard Loeb and managing director Daniel Horowitz.

The Ehrlich order also ended investigations into a pair of accidents at the Silver Eagle refinery in Utah, releases of hydrofluoric acid from the CITGO Corpus Christi refinery that began in 2009, and a 2010 zinc fire at a Horsehead facility in Pennsylvania.

The board had issued technical reports and recommendations in the Silver Eagle and CITGO cases, while the Horsehead facility in question has closed. Ehrlich said in California that there was "no realistic opportunity" for a more comprehensive agency report.

The agency currently has 12 investigations listed as open and its investigative backlog has long been a sore point.

All that, said a former staff member familiar with the board motion, adds up to an agency where "productivity is poor, attrition is high and work just doesn't get done." The three closed cases, the staffer said, were just more proof of CSB coming up short in its mission.

Source: National Journal. Please note that the original text has been edited for length.

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Unmitigated dust becomes explosion hazard: OSHA

Combustible dust may become a
hazard that employers need to control.
Combustible dust left uncontrolled or suspended in the air can explode, which was one of many safety hazards discovered after an inspection at the Thomas Moore Feed facility in Navasota, Texas, by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

OSHA inspectors found 18 violations and proposed a penalty of $58,100.

The agency's Houston North Area Office did its inspection in September 2014 following a complaint. OSHA cited Thomas Moore Feed for not protecting workers from a potential dust explosion; allowing openings in the dust collection exhaust path of the hammer mill; failing to keep dust accumulations below 1/8 inch in a priority area; not maintaining a functioning monitoring device on the dust collector or making repairs to the dust collector; and not having an adequate dust emission source.

"Airborne grain dust in the right concentration can become explosive and must be properly controlled by ventilation, proper housekeeping to control dust accumulations and other effective means, which this employer failed to do," said Josh Flesher, acting area director for OSHA's Houston North Area Office.

The serious violations include failure to guard belts, pulleys, chains and sprockets less than 7 feet from the ground or platform; evaluate permit-required confined spaces; and outline procedures to prevent the unintended startup of machinery.

A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Three other violations involve failing to document forklift training; not identifying names on locks when a crew performs service or maintenance; and not providing information to employees wearing respirators.

ST Feed Mill, doing business as Thomas Moore Feed, specializes in manufacturing animal feed and employs about 35 workers at the Navasota facility.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit OSHA.

Source: OSHA

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Friday, February 20, 2015

IBM to settle toxic spill suit

Company and plaintiffs announce a settlement over TCE releases from the former plant

The settlement ends a six-year saga.
IBM Corp. will settle a lawsuit brought by 1,000 plaintiffs who alleged that toxic spills from the company's former Endicott manufacturing plant caused illnesses and deaths, damaged property values and hurt businesses.

Both sides announced the settlement without revealing details of the agreement.

"IBM and the plaintiffs' counsel have reached this agreement in an effort to resolve these cases without further burdensome and expensive litigation," said the joint statement from the litigants.

The settlement brings to a close a more-than six-year saga in which IBM and those who claim they were harmed by the toxic releases waged a fierce legal battle on monetary rewards.

Affected residents, in a multi-million-dollar liability lawsuit against IBM, claimed the company should pay for the damage caused to residents around what once was the company's main domestic manufacturing facility.

From 1935 to the mid-1980s, IBM used TCE (trichloroethylene) to clean metal parts in degreasers at its industrial campus in the Village of Endicott. In 1979, the company discovered some of the TCE had pooled in groundwater beneath the facility and appeared to be migrating.

Soil vapor intrusion

Contamination from soil vapor intrusion was detected by the late 1990s, and by 2002, IBM began testing the air at the request of state health and environmental agencies. Basement ventilation systems were eventually installed in more than 400 homes.

Settlement negotiations between the parties began last July, when state Supreme Court Justice Ferrous D. Lebous requested that representatives of both sides start meeting about an out-of-court settlement. Negotiations were apparently successful, culminating with Tuesday night's release that the parties agreed to a settlement that satisfied both sides.

Lawyers of those who brought the suit against IBM said they will conduct meetings with clients over the coming weeks to present terms of the settlement.

IBM representatives said the company will continue the environmental cleanup that has been ongoing since the widening toxic plume was discovered.

Pumps spread throughout Endicott pull pollution from the ground through structures called recovery wells.

Over time, these wells have grown in number from four to more than 22, and to date, they have recovered more than 815,000 pounds of trichloroethylene and other toxic chemicals, with an unknown amount remaining beneath the village.

Company officials have never publicly explained IBM's role in the disaster, and their legal position was that the company always handled chemicals responsibly and in accordance with standards of the day.

They have not denied their former operations were a primary contributor to the pollution. They have not admitted it, either, nor have they offered a detailed explanation of the source of the problem.

Cleaning up industrial solvents

Representatives of the company said it was cleaning up the solvents from multiple industries that have operated in the region's industrial corridor for generations. Endicott was also home to the vast shoe manufacturing empire of Endicott Johnson Corp., once the region's largest employer.

However, the toxic-liability suit named only IBM as the source of the chemicals that tainted parts of Endicott's commercial district and nearby residences.

IBM sold the 140-acre campus to Huron Real Estate Associates in 2002. Current tenants include i3 Electronics (formerly Endicott Interconnect), BAE Systems and Binghamton University, among others.

Lawyers for IBM have long contended it was following the responsible path, picking up the sizable costs for cleaning the spill and providing venting systems for properties designated at-risk for vapor intrusion.

Both sides scored initial victories as the case wound its way through the courts. Lower courts ruled against IBM's motion to have the case dismissed, and ruled in favor of a plaintiff's motion to have charges of negligence — the underpinnings of the case — tried before a jury.

But lower court rulings also eliminated or limited some aspects of the litigation, including the charge that the pollution constitutes a trespass in all cases, and the claim that IBM should be held accountable for monitoring the medical condition of all plaintiffs, including non-property owners.

IBM was also able to limit claims for medical monitoring to only people claiming other damages, such as illness or property loss. That eliminated claims for a potentially large group of plaintiffs — renters and children, for example — who may have been exposed but did not develop illnesses or suffer property damage.

Source: PressConnects

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Schools need to manage mold and moisture: EPA

Potential health effects and safe clean-up practices

Mold exposure can trigger asthma,
allergic reactions and more problems.
As you prepare for spring’s warmer weather, consider taking some time to review your district’s policies and procedures related to mold and moisture control.

Schools should be proactive in their moisture control practices, which are the key to controlling indoor mold growth.

Molds are a major source of indoor allergens and can trigger asthma in sensitive individuals.

Even when spores are dead or unable to grow, mold can cause health effects, such as allergic reactions.

The types and severity of health effects associated with exposure to mold depend, in part, on the type of mold present and the extent of the occupants’ exposure and existing sensitivities or allergies.

Prompt and effective remediation of moisture problems is essential to minimize potential mold exposures and their potential health effects. These negative health effects can lead to increased absenteeism and reduced performance in both staff and students.

To learn more about how IAQ issues, including mold and moisture, can affect student and staff performance, visit

How should mold be safely cleaned?

It is essential to clean up mold as well as excess water or moisture, because moisture is the key to mold control.

If the excess water or moisture problem is not fixed, mold will most likely grow again, even if the area is completely cleaned.

Clean hard surfaces with water and detergent and dry them quickly and completely.

Absorbent materials such as ceiling tiles may have to be discarded if the mold cannot be completely removed.

To clean up mold safely and effectively, staff should wear waterproof gloves during clean up and should not touch mold or moldy items with bare hands.

Respiratory protection should also be used in most remediation situations to prevent inhalation exposure to mold.

10 tips to control mold and moisture in schools this spring

  1. Establish a mold prevention and remediation plan within your greater IAQ management program.
  2. View the IAQ Reference Guide on Mold and Moisture for tips on identifying and correcting common mold and moisture issues.
  3. Inspect all school buildings for signs of mold, moisture, leaks or spills, or evidence of past water damage.
  4. Prevent moisture condensation by increasing surface temperature, installing proper insulation and improving air circulation.
  5. Eliminate sources of moisture by reducing indoor humidity; maintain indoor humidity levels between 30 and 60 percent.
  6. Respond promptly when you see signs of moisture and/or mold or when leaks or spills occur. Dry all wet areas within 24 to 48 hours.
  7. Perform regular heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) inspections and maintenance as scheduled. Ensure HVAC drip pans are clean, unobstructed and flowing properly.
  8. Review EPA’s “Mold Remediation in Schools and Large Buildings” to learn about mold growth in schools and how it can be managed.
  9. Educate school community members, including teachers, school officials, and facilities and maintenance staff , on the importance of mold and moisture control.
  10. Review the Mold and Moisture: Double Trouble for Schools webinar presentation given by Peggy Caruso, IAQ Coordinator for Katy Independent School District in Texas and Todd Spore with PBK Architects. Learn cost-effective solutions to prevent and control mold and moisture, and find technical information about remediating mold or moisture intrusion.

Source: EPA

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Monday, February 16, 2015

Is it possible to repurpose polluted land?

Ex-shipyard in Amsterdam houses shops and offices

Polluted land doesn't have to stay
abandoned, experts say.
Although Amsterdam’s latest urban experiment, De Ceuvel, is built on solid ground, there’s much that reminds its denizens — artists, entrepreneurs, designers, sustainability experts — of its past as a commercial shipyard.

Converted rowboats serve as benches, stranded houseboats are used as buildings and — raised 90 centimeters, or 35 inches, off the polluted ground — a quay-like walkway constitutes the sidewalk.

De Ceuvel officially opened this summer after a team of architects, landscapers, sustainability experts and entrepreneurs created 1,250 square meters, or 13,450 square feet, of office, studio and commercial space on a polluted plot of land in the city’s industrial north.

Besides producing its own power and minimizing waste, the design aims to create a fertile ground for community interaction, while letting the area’s physical ground recuperate from its industrial past, explained Pieter Theuws, the lead landscape architect on the project.

“Our challenge is to connect streams of waste and energy and people into a circular city model,” he said.

Commitment to urban experimentation

The project is an example of Amsterdam’s commitment to urban experimentation. A few kilometers north of the centuries-old city center, artist spaces and urban experiments like De Ceuvel and NSDM, another large abandoned industrial harbor space turned into studios, or Ijburg, a community of floating houses moored off reclaimed land, are part of the city’s innovative growth initiatives.

The physical pieces needed to create De Ceuvel were 16 old houseboats, phytoregenerative plants, bio water filters, a thermophilic compost, solar panels and the long pathway. The human contribution, its creators say, included lots of physical labor, a willingness to fight administrative bureaucracy and a desire to share the place with the public.

“All of it is to attract a lot of people, to get a lot of people here, so that they get in contact with the sustainability stories,” said Sascha Glasl, who dreamed up the project and is its lead architect.

De Ceuvel won the Frame Public Dutch Design award in October. The annual prize, ultimately decided by a voting public (both online and at the Dutch Design week) is given to innovative designers. “De Ceuvel gives the impression of a utopia that has actually been accomplished,” wrote the prize selection committee.

Project focused on houseboats

Houseboats were always the soul of the project, Mr. Glasl said. Not only were they ideally suited to be plotted, without foundation, on land best left untouched, but they could be converted into innovative spaces before being towed up harbor and placed on the site by crane. This allowed the designers leeway, since city housing permits are not required to bring houseboats on land.

The original tenants were found through an advertisement on Marktplaats, a Dutch ad site, which asked potential tenants to chose one of the houseboats on sale that week, pretend that they could buy it for one euro and explain what they would do with it.

And, in fact, most of the houseboats were acquired for that nominal sum. As Amsterdam’s canals gentrify, and moorings are being leased by wealthier and more demanding residents, old boats are being scrapped to make way for new.

The offer to take the boats for a euro proved so popular that Mr. Glasl, a principal with the Amsterdam architectural office Space & Matter, and his team had to choose among offers.

The project was funded by the city through a 250,000-euro, or $313,000, start-up grant and a further €200,000 bank loan that it guaranteed. Those funds paid for materials, plants and some of the professional services required to make De Ceuvel a reality. Both volunteers and the development partners invested hundreds of hours of work, ultimately bringing down the price tag.

The tenants, who often share the boats, pay approximately €65 per square meter of workspace each year — a song in comparison with commercially available art spaces which, in Amsterdam, can fetch that much each month. The proceeds, Mr. Glasl said, are being used to pay off the guaranteed loan over the next nine years.

While the houseboats retain their original shapes, much has been done to make the interiors suitable for modern offices. Some roofs have been raised and outside paneling renewed, in some cases using freshly felled Dawn Redwood from a nearby street enlargement.

Designed to ease pollution

Many aspects of the design are positive for the polluted land on which it sits, said Mr. Theuws, an associate at Delva, a Dutch-Belgian landscape architectural firm responsible for landscaping and choosing the area’s flora.

Grasses, fireweed, foxglove, black willow and eastern cottonwood were chosen either to digest pollutants in the ground or absorb metals left behind.

Despite all the pollution — before the area housed a shipyard, Amsterdam dumped its canal sludge there in the 19th century — the ground, he says, is actually not particularly poisonous to humans.

Solar panels have been installed on roofs and biofilters installed to clean waste water from the sinks. Each boat has been equipped with a composting toilet, making them independent from the city sewer system.

Capturing rainwater to make drinking water was blocked by the city because that would have meant licensing the community as a drinking water provider — which was too complex and costly. In the end the community opted to bring in city water, although the ateliers are not connected to the sewer system. Commercial spaces and the cafe are connected.

Source: NY Times; Please note: The article appearing here has been edited for length.

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Friday, February 13, 2015

Asbestos to blame for Nevada cancer levels: Study

Mesothelioma has been linked to
asbestos exposure.
DENVER - Malignant mesothelioma has been found at higher than expected levels in women and in individuals younger than 55 years old in the southern Nevada counties of Clark and Nye, likewise in the same region carcinogenic mineral fibers including actinolite asbestos, erionite, winchite, magnesioriebeckite and richterite were discovered.

These data, published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology, the official journal of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer, suggest that these elevated numbers of malignant mesothelioma cases are linked to environmental exposure of carcinogenic mineral fibers.

Malignant mesothelioma is a fatal cancer associated with asbestos exposure that develops on the outer linings of the lungs.

The 3-year survival rate is only 8% and there are limited therapeutic options. The incidence of malignant mesothelioma is higher in locations with known industrial and occupational exposure and for similar reasons the incidence is higher in men, with a male to female ratio of 4:1 to 8:1.

The latency period for is 30-50 years so those diagnosed from occupational exposure are usually in their seventies whereas those diagnosed younger than 55 are rarely associated with occupational exposure.

Asbestos is a commercial and regulatory term applied to six mineral fibers historically mined for industrial use. Naturally occurring asbestos is a term used to describe fibrous minerals that were not used commercially and therefore were not called asbestos and their use was and still is not regulated.

Like asbestos, these naturally occurring fibers are natural components of rocks and soils and a potential source of exposure especially if these fibers become airborne through natural erosion or human activities producing dust.

Researchers from Hawaii, Nevada, and Pennsylvania examined malignant mesothelioma mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control by gender, age group, state, and counties for the period 1999-2010.

The two southern Nevada counties of Clark and Nye were grouped together and the proportion of women and those younger than 55 years old in these two southern counties were compared to those in all other Nevada counties grouped together as well as the rest of the United States.

The male to female ratio of malignant mesothelioma in all Nevada counties excluding Clarke and Nye was 6.33:1, but in Clarke and Nye counties it was statistically lower at 2.69:1 (p=0.0468), which could not be explained by population demographics, as these were the same.

The percentage of individuals younger than 55 was significantly higher in the southern Nevada counties compared to the remainder of the US counties (11.28% vs 6.21%, p=0.0249).

Tremolite and actinolite, both members of the asbestos family, as well as erionite, winchite, richterite, and magnesioriebeckite are present in southern Nevada and all have been linked to cancer in humans.

The authors acknowledge that women and children can be exposed to fibrous minerals as a result of their husband's or father's occupational exposure when bringing these fibers home on their clothes.

However, the authors conclude "in southern Nevada there are no major asbestos industries, thus this seems an unlikely hypothesis. Instead, the presence of asbestos and other fibers in the environment of Clark and Nye Counties, where a lower M:F sex ratio and an increased proportion of malignant mesothelioma are seen in young individuals, suggests that some of these malignant mesotheliomas are caused by environmental exposure which can happen when human activities and natural processes such as wind or water release fibers in the air."

Michele Carbone, senior author on the study, states "further research is needed, including epidemiological, geological, mineralogical and health-based personal exposure studies in order to characterize the residential and occupational history of the malignant mesothelioma cases we studied, to highlight the highest risk areas within Clark and Nye counties, to identify the type of fibrous minerals and their precise distribution throughout Nevada, and to identify the activities responsible for the release of fibers in the air, which may be the cause of some of the malignant mesothelioma in this region."

Source: IASLC

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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Welders at risk of toxic and explosive fumes

Blast kills temporary worker, critically injures another

Employers need to verify fire and explosion hazards: OSHA
MOSS POINT, Miss. — Two temporary workers hired to cut and weld pipes at the Omega Protein plant in Moss Point on July 28, 2014, had no idea and had no training to know that the storage tank beneath them contained explosive methane and hydrogen sulfide gases.

One of the two men found out later as he lay in a hospital with a fractured skull, internal injuries and broken bones. The second, a 25-year-old man named Jerry Taylor, died when the tank exploded.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigated the incident and has found four companies violated safety regulations that could have prevented the tragedy.

The companies are Accu-Fab & Construction Inc., Omega Protein, and JP Williams Machine & Fabrication, all in Moss Point, and Global Employment, in Pascagoula.

Accu-Fab, a metal fabricator, was contracted by Omega Protein to manufacture and erect a wastewater storage tank that required modification of existing pipes.

A staffing agency, Global Employment Services, provided Accu-Fab with the employees needed at Omega. JP Williams Machine, which provides industrial service and repair, was on-site the day of the explosion performing unrelated maintenance activities.

"The Omega Protein plant explosion shines a spotlight on how critical it is for employers to verify, isolate and remove fire and explosion hazards in employee work areas," said Eugene Stewart, OSHA's area director in Jackson. "If the employer ensured a safe environment, this tragic incident could have been prevented."

Repeated violations

OSHA issued 13 citations to Omega Protein, a producer of omega-3 fish oil and specialty fish meal products, for willful, repeated and serious safety violations.

OSHA issued a willful citation for exposing employees to fire and explosion hazards due to Omega management's failure to inform Accu-Fab that the storage tank contained wastewater that could generate hydrogen sulfide and methane gases, which can be highly explosive and toxic, even at low concentrations.

The repeated violations involve not having standard railings on open-sided floors and platforms and failing to label electrical boxes properly.

Omega Protein was cited previously for these same violations in 2012. Additionally, the serious hazards included allowing workers to weld and cut piping on an improperly prepared storage tank containing explosive methane and hydrogen sulfide gases and failing to label or tag the storage tank to note that it contained hazardous chemicals.

OSHA cited Accu-Fab for one willful, four serious and two other-than-serious violations. The willful violation was issued for failure to train workers on chemical hazards in the work area, such as hydrogen sulfide, methane, welding gas and paints.

Global Employment Services was issued a serious citation for this same hazard.

Additionally, both employers were cited for a serious violation for failure to instruct employees about avoiding unsafe work conditions.

Accu-Fab was also cited for failure to ensure employees working on top of a storage tank at heights of up to 29 feet were wearing fall protection and for not recording this fatality or two other recordable injuries.

JP Williams was issued one serious citation for improperly storing oxygen and acetylene cylinders.

Exposure to acetylene can cause headache, dizziness, asphyxiation and even frostbite.

Proposed penalties for the four companies total $187,620.

OSHA has conducted 13 inspections at Omega Protein facilities in Mississippi, Virginia and Louisiana since 1998. The company received citations for noise exposure, personnel protective equipment, machine guarding, welding and cutting and electrical hazards.

Accu-Fab has three prior OSHA inspections, most recently in 2002, and has been cited for scaffolding, forklift, welding, cutting and electrical violations. Both JP Williams and Global Employment have no prior OSHA inspection history.
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Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit OSHA's website.

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Monday, February 2, 2015

E-cigarettes produce formaldehyde: Study

Electronic cigarettes can produce more formaldehyde than regular cigarettes

Formaldehyde is a probable
human carcinogen.
A preliminary study in the New England Journal of Medicine raises a new worry about electronic cigarettes – exposure to formaldehyde.

Under certain conditions, taking 10 puffs from an e-cigarette would expose a user to about 2.5 times as much formaldehyde as he or she would get from smoking a single tobacco cigarette, according to the study.

Formaldehyde is the pungent chemical that was used to preserve the frog you dissected in your high school biology class.

It’s used as an industrial disinfectant and as an ingredient in permanent-press fabrics, plywood, glues and other household products, according to the National Cancer Institute.

It is also formed when the propylene glycol and glycerol in e-cigarette liquids and oxygen are heated together.

The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer says formaldehyde can cause leukemia and nasopharyngeal cancer. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers the chemical a “probable human carcinogen.”

In experiments at Portland State University, researchers used a tank system type of electronic cigarette to produce nicotine vapor.

The e-liquid vapor was captured in a tube and analyzed using a technique called nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Each sample consisted of 10 puffs of vapor (at 3 to 4 seconds per puff) collected over 5 minutes.

When the e-cigarette was used on the “low voltage” setting of 3.3 volts, the researchers didn’t detect any formaldehyde in the vapor. However, when the device was on the “high voltage” setting of 5 volts, they measured an average of 380 micrograms of formaldehyde per sample.

Based on these results, the research team estimated that an e-cigarette user who vaped 3 milliliters of e-liquid per day would breathe in at least 14.4 milligrams of formaldehyde. The actual daily exposure is probably higher, they wrote, because their experiments failed to capture all of the vapor the e-cigarette produced.

For the sake of comparison, a 2005 study in the journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology estimated that a person who smoked a pack of 20 cigarettes would inhale 3 milligrams of formaldehyde in the process.

The researchers calculated that the lifetime cancer risk incurred by inhaling formaldehyde would be 5 to 15 times higher for long-term e-cigarette users than for long-term tobacco smokers.

Proponents of electronic cigarettes were quick to criticize the study for testing the devices under conditions that don’t reflect actual use.

If a person were to take 4-second puffs on a high voltage setting, they would experience a “very harsh and awful taste,” Bill Godshall, an advisor to the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Assn., said in a statement distributed by the American Vaping Assn.

Gregory Conley, the group’s president, added that e-cigarette users take shorter puffs as they increase the voltage on their devices. “These are not settings that real-life vapers actually use,” he said.

But study coauthor James Pankow, a chemistry professor and expert on cigarette smoke dangers at Portland State University, said the line between e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes was growing fuzzier by the day.

“No one should assume e-cigarettes are safe,” he said in a statement. “For conventional cigarettes, once people become addicted, it takes numerous years of smoking to result in a high risk of lung cancer and other severe disease; it will probably take five to 10 years to start to see whether e-cigarettes are truly as safe as some people believe them to be.”

Source: Los Angeles Times

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