Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Oil and gas drilling connected to earthquakes, studies show

Man-made quakes are a concern, experts say.
With the evidence coming in from one study after another, scientists are now more certain than ever that oil and gas drilling is causing hundreds upon hundreds of earthquakes across the U.S.

So far, the quakes have been mostly small and have done little damage beyond cracking plaster, toppling bricks and rattling nerves.

But seismologists warn that the shaking can dramatically increase the chances of bigger, more dangerous quakes.

Up to now, the oil and gas industry has generally argued that any such link requires further study.

But the rapidly mounting evidence could bring heavier regulation down on drillers and make it more difficult for them to get projects approved.

The potential for man-made quakes "is an important and legitimate concern that must be taken very seriously by regulators and industry," said Jason Bordoff, founding director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.

He said companies and states can reduce the risk by taking such steps as monitoring operations more closely, imposing tighter standards and recycling wastewater from drilling instead of injecting it underground.

A series of government and academic studies over the past few years has added to the body of evidence implicating the U.S. drilling boom that has created a bounty of jobs and tax revenue over the past decade or so.

The U.S. Geological Survey has released the first comprehensive maps pinpointing more than a dozen areas in the central and eastern U.S. that have been jolted by quakes that the researchers said were triggered by drilling.

The report said man-made quakes tied to industry operations have been on the rise.

Scientists have mainly attributed the spike to the injection of wastewater deep underground, a practice they say can activate dormant faults.

Only a few cases of shaking have been blamed on fracking, in which large volumes of water, sand and chemicals are pumped into rock formations to crack them open and free oil or gas.

"The picture is very clear" that wastewater injection can cause faults to move, said USGS geophysicist William Ellsworth.

For decades, earthquakes were an afterthought in the central and eastern U.S., which worried more about tornadoes, floods and hurricanes. Since 2009, quakes have sharply increased, and in some surprising places.

The ground has been trembling in regions that were once seismically stable, including parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas.

The largest jolt linked to wastewater injection — a magnitude-5.6 that hit Prague, Oklahoma, in 2011 — damaged 200 buildings and shook a college football stadium.

The uptick in Oklahoma quakes has prompted state regulators to require a seismic review of all proposed disposal wells.

Source: KPCC. The article has been edited for length.

Oil and gas drilling has been linked to a number of health concerns, including the release of dangerous gases. Electrocorp has designed a wide range of air cleaners with activated carbon and HEPA that can remove airborne chemicals and gases from indoor spaces and help provide cleaner and more breathable air. Contact Electrocorp for more options, call 1-866-6670297 or write to info@electrocorp.net.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Popular Weedkiller a carcinogen: WHO

The herbicide glyphosate is a "probable
carcinogen," cancer research agency says.
The active ingredient in Roundup, one of the world's most popular weed killers -- and the most commonly used one in the United States -- has been declared a "probable carcinogen" by the World Health Organization.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the WHO, recently released the results of its review of five herbicides and pesticides.

The French-based agency ranks cancer-causing agents on four levels: known carcinogens, probably or possible carcinogens, not classifiable and probably not carcinogenic.

The herbicide glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, was classified by IARC as "probably carcinogenic to humans."

But the classification is not binding, said the IARC.

"It remains the responsibility of individual governments and other international organizations to recommend regulations, legislation or public health intervention," the agency said in a statement.

According to the Associated Press, the United States Environmental Protection Agency said it would consider the IARC's evaluation.

The IARC did clarify that the new ruling is mostly directed at the industrial use of the herbicide, and that use by home gardeners does not fall under the same classification.

Glyphosate is employed in more than 750 herbicide products and has been detected in the air, during spraying and in foods, reports the IARC.

The determination is sure to alarm the agro-chemical industry and particularly Monsanto, the agribusiness giant that is the leading producer of glyphosate.

Worldwide annual sales of the chemical are estimated at $6 billion.

The company put out its own statement: "All labeled uses of glyphosate are safe for human health," said Monsanto's Phil Miller, global head of regulatory and government affairs.

“We don’t know how IARC could reach a conclusion that is such a dramatic departure from the conclusion reached by all regulatory agencies around the globe,” said Miller.

Monsanto requested an urgent meeting with the World Health Organization to clarify the scientific basis of the ruling.

A summary of the agency's findings was published in the British journal Lancet Oncology.

Source: International Business Times

Are you concerned about chemical exposure at the workplace? Electrocorp has designed a wide range of industrial and commercial air cleaners with activated carbon and HEPA that can remove airborne chemicals, gases, odors and particles. Check out Electrocorp's air cleaners for chemical processing plants or contact Electrocorp for more information: Call 1-866-6670297 or e-mail sales@electrocorp.net.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Chicago has most air-conditioned homes: Study

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Construction Drive

Don't let poor IAQ affect productivity

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

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

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

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

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

For more information and a free consultation, contact Electrocorp at 1-866-667-0297 or write to info@electrocorp.net.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Toxic solvents underneath IBM building defy cleanup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safety debated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

US salons need to nail occupational safety: Advocates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three chemicals pose most risks to workers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salons can promote safety for workers

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Builders oppose OSHA's proposed silica rule

The proposed rule for silica would be
too expensive, builders say.
In a classic tug-of-war between keeping contractors safe on the job and the cost of that safety, builders are battling the Occupational Safety and Health Administration over its proposed standards for silica.

Crystalline silica is found in soil, sand, granite, quartz, and other natural substances that contractors work with.

When blasted, cut, or drilled, those stones and minerals produce dust that workers can inhale.

Long-term exposure can lead to respiratory problems and silicosis, a chronic lung disease.

OSHA’s plan to require more aggressive protection has been in limbo since the agency introduced it in September 2013.

After multiple extensions, the proposed rule had one of the longest public comment periods in OSHA’s history.

Although the comment period is closed, the Construction Industry Safety Coalition, a consortium of 25 trade associations, sent a report to OSHA last week saying the agency’s proposed requirements for lowering the exposure to silica on job sites could cost the industry billions of dollars more than the government has projected.

In an accompanying letter to Assistant Labor Secretary David Michaels, a lawyer for the Coalition called the proposed rule “potentially… the most expensive OSHA standard ever for the construction industry.”

The government’s case

Both sides agree that contractors working in mining, quarrying, road construction, with cement or flint, and in sand blasting and glass industries are most likely to be at risk.

But they disagree about the best way to mitigate that risk.

OSHA’s proposed construction standard would require employers to measure the amount of silica that workers are exposed to, during an eight-hour work day, to see if it could exceed a level acceptable to OSHA (25 micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air). If the exposure measures more than 50 micrograms, the company must protect workers.

In addition, the proposed rule would require construction firms to limit workers’ access to high-exposure areas; use dust controls to protect workers from inhaling higher-than-acceptable amounts of the powder; supply respirators when those dust controls aren’t enough to limit a worker’s exposure; and offer medical exams, including chest X-rays and lung function tests, every three years to workers who are exposed to high levels of silica for 30 or more days a year.

The rule would also mandate more employee training and careful record-keeping that documents workers’ exposure and medical exams.

At a congressional hearing in mid-March, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez defended the upcoming standard.

“We’re trying to save lives here, and exposure to silica kills,” Perez told the House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee.

House Republicans questioned the need for the rule, suggesting that OSHA do a better job of enforcing its existing standard. Compliance with the current rule is 70%.

The builders’ response

Builders and trades involved in commercial, residential, road, and heavy industrial construction have partnered to oppose the proposed rule. They back a Construction Industry Safety Coalition request for OSHA to withdraw its planned new standard and instead bolster enforcement of the existing rule.

The cross-sector Coalition claims that the proposed silica standards will cost the industry $5 billion per year—a whopping $4.5 billion more than OSHA has estimated.

“We are deeply concerned about the misguided assumptions and cost and impact errors that OSHA has relied upon in creating this proposed rule that will significantly affect our industry,” Tom Woods, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders, said in a press release.

Woods asked OSHA to put its proposal aside and instead work with the industry on a compromise that is “technologically and economically feasible [and] also works to improve industry workers’ health and safety.”

The Coalition claims OSHA’s cost estimates reflect “a fundamental misunderstanding of the construction industry.”

The Coalition’s report estimates that 80% of the cost of complying with the proposed rule will come from paying for additional equipment, labor, and record-keeping.

The remaining 20% will result from increased prices for materials like concrete, glass, roofing shingles, tile, paint, and countertops, as manufacturers pass their compliance costs on to builders.

In addition, the industry has predicted that the proposed rule will lead to the loss of more than 33,000 full-time jobs among contractors, equipment suppliers, and building products manufacturers, and another 20,000 economy-wide when laid-off construction and supplier workers no longer have earnings to spend.

Add in part-time and seasonal jobs, and the number soars to 80,000 lost positions, the Coalition’s report says.

Source: Construction Dive

Concerned about dust exposure on the job? Electrocorp has designed a wide range of industrial and commercial air cleaners for construction, renovation and other industry applications. Armed with HEPA and other high quality dust filters as well as a carbon filter and other options, these air cleaners remove airborne dust particles, chemicals, fumes, smells, bacteria, viruses and more. Contact Electrocorp for more information and a free consultation by calling 1-866-667-0297 or writing to sales@electrocorp.net.