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Environmental Health and Safety Blog | EHSWire

Air Monitoring Standards: Today's Air Monitoring Equipment and Methods Offer More

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Jan 25, 2012 8:15:00 AM

By Bruce D. Groves, CIH

Compared with the air quality monitoring methods of even a few years ago, today’s air monitor system offers its users a quicker, more effective, and comprehensive way to assess potential environmental hazards.

2nd Ave Subway Construction Muck House - What emissions from here are impacting the Local Air Quality?
 
The recently published article, “ MTA: 2nd Avenue Subway Construction Not a Danger to Your Health,” responds to a rise in complaints about possible environmental health hazards from the construction. In the article, MTA Capital Construction President Michael Horodniceanu suggested the public faced no danger from the construction based on results from a fall 2011 Parsons Brinkerhoff (PB) air monitoring study.

The PB study highlights important facts and issues about the project and makes useful points about air quality monitoring in general; however, PB used the same traditional dust and vapor monitors and methods that were used at the World Trade Center recovery site in 2001.

In the last decade and especially over the last few years, superior air monitoring technologies have been developed and used to help ensure that emission rates from major hazardous waste remediation operations in the New York metropolitan area are kept as low as possible. The use of innovative, more effective, and more cost-saving air monitoring equipment and methods would have provided data for the PB study that would better support MTA’s assertions.

Greenlight Map View of Integrated Air Monitoring Data


For example, state-of-the-art air quality monitors today use integrated, real-time environmental air sampling that measures multiple dust particle sizes while simultaneously tagging each sample to wind speed and direction—a particularly valuable approach for evaluating the impact of blasting, material (rock) loading, vehicle exhaust emissions, and other construction-related activities in densely populated urban sites where wind direction varies significantly. In addition, vapor and gas measurements, including VOCs, SO2, CO, H2S, and NH3, can now be integrated into a single database to create a visual map of the air quality and wind direction across a project area. The data are then transmitted in real time to computers, including iPads and other handheld technology, for quick response to problems.

An integrated approach also helps:

• Differentiate the sources of air contaminants so that those associated with the construction can be distinguished from those of other background sources

• Determine when emission levels from the construction/remediation activity begin rising

• Deliver immediate information to construction management so that they can make timely decisions to protect workers and the public

• Measure the efficacy of engineering controls and work practices in reducing emission rates, even when concentrations are below project or regulatory safe levels

Given the options, PB and the MTA would have found these and other meaningful enhancements in air monitoring equipment and techniques valuable to the 2nd Avenue Subway construction project.

I encourage you to learn more about state-of-the-art air monitoring equipment, including integrated systems that allow users to make evidence-based decisions to protect workers and the public.

Second Avenue Subway (SAS) Project – Air Quality Monitoring Study of Construction Activities between 69th and 87th Street on Second Avenue
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Topics: Emilcott, Air Monitoring, air quality monitoring systems, environmental health hazards, Greenlight, air monitoring equipment, MTA, monitoring air quality, health hazards, air monitoring techniques, Air Sampling, Greenlight System

TMI: Is there such a thing as Too Much Information for environmental monitoring?

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Jun 20, 2011 7:25:00 AM

by Barbara Alves

It’s funny, let’s face it. Someone shares some tawdry detail about their personal life and we wince. TMI…please just keep it to yourself! We chuckle or shake our heads. In reality, information equals power. The more we know, the better decisions we can make. If we have only half the important details, we will make weak decisions.

Let’s use some history to drive this home. Although the Allied Forces ultimately won WWII, overconfidence from the D-Day invasion and the quickness with which the Allies pushed the Germans eastward across France, caused Eisenhower to underestimate the tactical abilities and determination of Hitler’s army. This resulted in the disastrous Operation Market-Garden in the Netherlands and the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes. Because of lack of current data in the Market-Garden strategy, the Allies were not in Berlin by the end of 1944 as they expected. Instead, by December of 1944 the Germans had broken through into the Allies' line of advance in the Ardennes and caught us ill-prepared. Poor intelligence cost tens of thousands of lives.

This is perhaps one of the most dramatic examples of “not enough information”, but it makes the point. Amazingly, with the communication capabilities of today’s wireless, cellular, Internet and other “instantaneous” technologies, many choose NOT to use this power to gather all the project information that they can get. Like an ostrich with it head in the sand, if they don’t know something, they feel that they don’t have to react or worse, be held accountable. This “ignorance is bliss” type of decision-making is often the primary reason people make the choice to NOT implement real-time environmental monitoring on construction and remediation sites. “If we don’t know that it’s dangerous, than it must be ok, right?” Sounds crazy, but it’s true!

Using a modern and proactive approach, technology is available (right now) to continuously retrieve important and fluctuating intelligence about environmental field conditions. The information is gathered and immediately transmitted wirelessly to smart phones, PDAs, PC and laptops – all accessible by the Internet for all authorized viewers. And the data keeps rolling in throughout the project’s life cycle. What power!  To be able to make an immediate decision (or better yet, a correction) from a remote location and save time, expense, and ultimately, human health.

And what about the ability to review, store and retrieve project environmental data, which was collected over a period of time, for comparison or trending?  Super powerful! This can only result in better planning. Adding better decision-making abilities to better planning capabilities should ultimately result in doing a better job, a cleaner site and healthier workers. Who wouldn’t want that?  So the real question is, if an environmental monitoring system is NOT collecting reliable, real-time data, aren’t you really just making anecdotal decisions based on guesstimates instead of a foundation of actual data?

Many historians feel that Eisenhower’s planning of Operation Market-Garden was anecdotal because it was based on what the Allied Forces experienced coming out of Normandy. It was certainly wrong. Historians also believe that what turned the war around was the unbelievable ability our forces had to assess the real-time intelligence they gathered as they were “living in the field of battle” to make tactical decisions and outsmart the enemy.

If real-time, reliable data is available to help you make good, solid decisions, get it and use it. You will do a better job and make fewer mistakes. Information is power and you can NEVER have too much of it.  How have you used TMI to develop a better project or framework?
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Topics: indoor air quality, General Industry H&S, General EHS, Construction H&S, Emergency Response, Air Monitoring, Hazardous Waste Management, Air Sampling, construction, remediation, technology, environmental monitoring, environmental air monitoring, Respiratory, perimeter monitoring, air montoring

Clean Air in New Jersey – the NJCAC Focuses on Urban Areas

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Apr 30, 2011 11:13:02 PM

by Bruce Groves

Through my membership with the New Jersey American Industrial Hygiene Association (NJ-AIHA), I had the opportunity to make a presentation at the New Jersey Clean Air Council’s (NJCAC) annual meeting on April 13 th.   This particular meeting sounded intriguing as it would be focusing on a topic of great interest to me – a technical dialogue on how to measure and identify the effect of air pollution (and other environmental stressors) on the cumulative health issues of the public. The meeting aimed to bring professionals from varying disciplines to discuss technical approaches, academic research and general opinions on how to reduce this pollution and therefore improve the health of the affected populations.  

The meeting lasted a full day with contributing presentations from a dozen or so professionals. There were 15 NJCAC Board members at the meeting and 50+ attendees comprised of 11 presenters, NJDEP staff, and members of the public.  As a presenter, we were each given about 20 minutes to make our points regarding specific urban populations that have inordinately higher exposure to air contaminants as compared to people living and working in “cleaner” urban, suburban and rural areas of the state.  The majority of the presentations concluded that there are neighborhoods where pollution levels are chronically and significantly high.  Presented evidence also linked higher incidences of illnesses and disease with these cumulative exposures to contaminants and other environmental (and social) stressors.  

Bob Martin, the NJDEP Commissioner, gave an introductory presentation outlining current and future regulatory initiatives for reducing air pollution in New Jersey. One plan is to ban older diesel equipment in areas that do not have effective emission controls.  Joe Suchecki, a representative of the Engine Manufacturers Association, correspondingly, presented convincing evidence that new diesel technology does not create air pollution problems.  The trick now is to get all the older diesel equipment off all the roads and construction sites replaced by either new equipment or equipment retrofitted to control air emissions.

Ana Baptista, PhD, gave an excellent presentation on the high levels of pollution in the Newark Ironbound district and the resulting links to disease in the residential population resulting from cumulative exposure to these contaminants.  Dr. Robert Laumbach gave a similar presentation about future research that he is leading to test people who live in the Ironbound in an attempt to prove this link of air pollution exposure to increased illness and disease.

My own presentation discussed Emilcott’s experience measuring local air pollution (particulates and vapors) and other environmental parameters (noise, wind speed and direction) using the Greenlight Environmental Monitoring System which collects, in real-time, data for particulates (at multiple particle size ranges) and vapors, coupled with data of wind speed and direction, to identify emission sources and measure their impact on local air pollution.  We have found that “what is measured, improves”, and by using this sophisticated and integrated air monitoring approach, identified emission sources can be controlled to make immediate and sustainable improvements to the local air quality. 

Overall, excellent information was presented, reinforcing the fact that the air quality in much of New Jersey is not very good and, in certain areas (usually in disadvantaged urban neighborhoods), it is extremely poor.    And, residents living in zones with the worst air pollution also show some link to increased disease and illness.     

I left the NJCAC annual meeting knowing that solid academic work was underway to prove that high levels of air pollution causes disease.  What was missing was evidence that effective, short-term actions are being taken, to reduce the levels of pollution and contaminant exposure in these areas to improve overall health for the resident population.
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Topics: indoor air quality, health and safety, General EHS, Air Monitoring, Air Sampling, environmental air monitoring, Public Safety, cumuluative health, perimeter air monitoring, air pollution

Air Monitoring at Construction Sites…My New Reality

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Apr 4, 2011 3:33:53 PM

by Ed Pearl

I have been doing on-site environmental health and safety (EHS) work at many types of outdoor job sites for six years.  A big part of the site safety manager at a construction project is air monitoring. When workers have the possibility of exposure to an airborne hazard, it's critical to take frequent measurements of site conditions (often airborne particulates or hydrocarbons) to define worker risk for exposure. When the risk increases, the safety plan kicks in to prevent overexposure. Knowing what is floating in the air at the job site (and how much of it) is why air monitoring is such an important part of any construction site safety program.

For the last several months I have been working at a former Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) responsible for, yet again, another air monitoring program.  The difference is, for the first time, I’m using the Greenlight Environmental Monitoring System for air monitoring – a completely new experience.   

How I Used to do Air Monitoring


Maybe this daily process looks familiar to you? Snow, rain, ice, cold…the daily routine didn’t vary much!

  • I collected the air monitoring instruments at the end of the day and downloaded each one individually to get the day’s readings.



  • I checked through the day’s data to see if there were any problems (maybe a little late?).


A real leap in monitoring technology meant that I was using a laptop for data collection!  I drove or walked to each field station to download data onto the computer. Sunny days, while pleasant, had their own challenges – have you ever tried to look at a laptop screen while combating the glare of full sun? Needless to say, when it came to technology I was open…but skeptical.

My New Perspective


The differences between the fairly standard monitoring equipment setup (even with the laptop addition) and how the Greenlight System works is like night and day. As I worked, my initial impressions were shaped by Greenlight’s ease of setup and operation as the entire system design has been set up from an EHS professional’s perspective:

  • All monitoring devices in the field are turned on and off from a central location.

  • No tedious end-of-the-day drive and download because the System continuously feeds and records monitoring data to a server in “real time”.  


From the minute the project starts up each day, the monitoring results are displayed in REAL TIME on my operator screen.  I can see ALL of the readings from the entire site’s monitoring stations at the same time, no matter where they are in the field!  In fact, now I see site conditions as they happen so that I can take action as needed. And, if a field station or monitoring device is non-responsive, I am notified almost immediately rather than discovering that there’s no valid data to download at the end of the day.

The Greenlight System that I’m using includes what I consider to be ever-important – a weather station:  temperature, humidity, wind speed, and wind direction. Having this information corresponding to particulate or hydrocarbon monitoring -- in real time -- is critical when trying to define potential exposures to hazardous materials and implement appropriate controls. Since weather conditions directly affect air monitoring and have a potential to change quickly (and sometimes without much warning), the data pouring in from the weather station is very useful to have at my fingertips.

The Learning Curve Levels Out


Since I am a new operator of the Greenlight System, it has been a learning process for me. Starting out was a little bit scary! After six years of doing it pretty much one way, it’s a new way of both thinking and reacting. But, the ease of operation and the effectiveness of the System have transformed me…allowing me to provide more effective support to the site construction team. 

  • Need the entire site air monitoring and weather condition information? With the data on my computer screen and on the server, if anyone needs a snapshot of site conditions at any moment, I can supply that information.

  • Want to know what happened last week? I’ve got it the information all ready to go! It no longer takes hours or days to find the right data and put it into a format that is understandable and explainable.

  • Concerned that there is a change in airborne contaminant levels at the site?  I’m on top of that, too! Even when a small change occurs, I am notified immediately, and I can quickly investigate. 


The Data Speaks


My sense is that when the construction team experiences how available the air monitoring data is and that with these data we can be very responsive with control implementation, they are more confident that are working in a safe environment.  The workers seem more content, and project managers are pretty happy knowing that they can continue working safely while staying on time and on budget.

What new innovations do you see in particulate and hydrocarbon monitoring at construction sites? Have you found any other tools that will help you be a more effective site safety manager? What other “tools” would you like that would help you monitor airborne contaminants?
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Topics: General EHS, Construction H&S, Air Monitoring, Occupational Safety, Greenlight, Air Sampling, environmental air monitoring, perimeter air monitoring

Green Buildings –Solving One Problem, Creating New Hazards?

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Mar 28, 2011 6:39:27 AM

Dale Wilson, CIH, LEED AP

We all know what Green Buildings are, right? There are various permutations but generally, to be green, the structure is designed, built, maintained and sustained in an environmentally responsible and resource-efficient manner. The end-all objective is to reduce impact of the “built package and system” on both the environment and mankind by

  • Using energy, water, and other resources efficiently

  • Protecting occupant health

  • Improving employee productivity

  • Reducing pollution and waste


As a LEED AP-certified professional who specializes in Indoor Environmental issues with a focus on fire and life safety, I was very interested in recent articles that are creating awareness of some critical health and safety problems inherent to the green building movement that 1) use innovative, locally-produced products, and 2) implement new design, construction, and operation approaches intended to reduce energy usage and be environmentally sound.

Green Building Fire Safety


In Megan Grennille’s recent EHSWire article about the seminal Triangle Fire, it noted that building and fire code rules caught up with the high rise construction only after the tragedy of 146 worker deaths highlighted the challenges of safety and rescue in the case of a fire. The same situation recently occurred in Bakersfield where a green-constructed Target store highlighted some new concerns for health and safety for emergency responders:
“The fire at the Bakersfield Target started, firefighters learned, at the photovoltaic array [solar] on the building's roof. Even after the firefighters disconnected the electrical mains, they discovered that the solar panels were still energized, presenting a safety challenge in addition to the fire.”

This brings to light how the integration of green building practices on a seemingly typical commercial building can present new hazards that must be identified to protect building occupants and emergency responders.  Fire fighters responding to an alarm may cut electrical power from the supply grid, but what is the procedure if there is an active solar array or an integrated wind turbine generating power as a part of the building?  Other “new” electrical and fire hazards facing unprepared emergency responders include the unknown level of fire resistance of recycled/green building materials, how to control fire spread on green vegetative roofs, and how to control smoke in wide, open atrium areas.
“ owners of green buildings might have to be aware that the green designs can present previously unconsidered challenges that arise as a direct result of construction choices. ...Because codes — even a decade after green design concepts hit the mainstream — still largely deal with traditional building designs and materials, facility managers have to know how to address the intersection of green design and current codes.”

The bottom line is that "green concepts should be reviewed as part of a fire-protection and life-safety analysis”, because buildings, green or not, must meet building and fire code standards to protect the health and safety of both the occupants and emergency responders.

Moisture and Mold Management in Green Buildings


Another potential hazard of green buildings is the management of moisture within the building and how selection of a green design and materials may be inappropriate if the location and weather are not considered:  “the design-and-construction community must not assume that if one builds green, then one will be building regionally correct or even lower risk buildings”.

A recent article, Hidden Risks of Green Buildings, was written from an insurance underwriter’s perspective and centered on the management of moisture.  The article mentioned the trend of using carbohydrate-based building products instead of petroleum-based building products.  That is where my eyes widened! Any indoor quality consultant knows the formula:  moisture + food source = perfect habitat for mold growth.  Carbohydrate-based building products are food for mold!

Moisture comes from many sources in a building: bulk water from a rook, window, or facade leak; water pipe break; HVAC condensate overflow; condensation on cold surfaces; or vapor (relative humidity) in the air.  Additional humidity can be added to the air by introducing humid outdoor air that has not been properly dehumidified or from other sources such as showers, locker rooms, steam rooms, gyms, kitchen facilities, human respiration (particularly if more people are occupying the space than the original design).  ( More information on these moisture-related potential problems including the risk of LEED “flush-outs” can be found here.)

Moisture meeting carbohydrate-based building materials over time certainly does look like the potential beginning of The Perfect Storm, because, in reality, carbohydrate-based building materials, even treated with the best biocide, would only be “mold resistant” not “mold proof”.  Given food, water, and time… mold will grow.  So as a professional IEQ consultant who has seen it all when it comes to mold contamination, I sincerely believe the article’s foreshadowing that “ the design community would be advised to prioritize the lessons…already learned from the waterproofing, humidity control, and building forensics community”.  When using potential mold “food” within a building, moisture control is ever more critical to the air quality of the building as well as the building material’s life cycle.

Are you interested in green construction? Have you thought of the potential hazards that can be created when using new technologies, new materials and tightening up the envelope?
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Topics: indoor air quality, health and safety, General EHS, Construction H&S, Emergency Response, worker safety, Air Sampling, Mold, Fire Safety, Exposure, Respiratory, green buildings, Working Green

Renovations to Older Buildings: Think About Lead Paint (and More) or Repent!

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Feb 19, 2011 9:12:51 PM

Genya Mallach - CSP

As part of a standard, pre-work permit inspection by the local township, it was discovered the exterior of a church (and local pre-school) had been painted with lead-based paint!  Unfortunately, the estimates to remove and repaint the church were far beyond the church’s budget. At the acrimonious and finger-pointing church review meeting, a voice suddenly called out, “I’ll take care of it for half the cost of the lowest estimate!” Salvation!

However, when the contractor began the job, he learned that the cost of removal and repainting would be much more than he expected. In a panic, he did not remove the old paint and, to save materials cost, he diluted the new paint by 50% with water!

After the job was completed, a joyous church service was held to honor the contractor. In the midst of the service, a thunderstorm broke out and the congregants began to notice that the paint was literally washing off the building. The bewildered minister raised his arms and called out, “Oh, Lord, what are we to do?"  In reply, a booming voice from above called out, “Re-paint! Re-paint!”

I suppose the EPA heard this story as well because, on April 22, 2008, the EPA issued a rule requiring the use of lead-safe practices when engaging in renovation and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities, and schools built before 1978. Under the rule, beginning April 22, 2010, contractors must be certified and must follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination. Individuals can become certified renovators by taking an eight-hour training course from an EPA-approved training provider.

This rule applies to all renovations performed for compensation in “target housing” (housing constructed prior to 1978, except housing for the elderly or persons with disabilities --unless a child of less than 6 years of age resides or is expected to reside) and child-occupied facilities, except for the following:

  1. Renovations in target housing or child-occupied facilities in which a written determination has been made by an inspector or risk assessor that the components affected by the renovation are free of paint or other surface coatings that contain lead equal to or in excess of 1.0 milligrams/per square centimeter (mg/cm2) or 0.5% by weight, where the firm performing the renovation has obtained a copy of the determination.

  2. Renovations in target housing or child-occupied facilities in which a certified renovator, using an EPA recognized test kit and following the kit manufacturer's instructions, has tested each component affected by the renovation and determined that the components are free of paint or other surface coatings that contain lead equal to or in excess of 1.0 mg/cm2 or 0.5% by weight.


Lead poisonings in an office or domestic setting are mostly caused by exposure to lead dust. Here are a few facts:

  • Lead dust settles quickly on floors, window sills and other surfaces.

  • Paint repair can generate lots of lead dust.

  • Broom sweep won't clean up lead dust.

  • Lead-contaminated dust is invisible to the naked eye.

  • Initially, lead poisoning can be hard to detect — even people who seem healthy can have high blood levels of lead. Signs and symptoms usually don't appear until dangerous amounts have accumulated.

  • Lead usually targets the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells (hemoglobin) first. In time, it attacks the nervous system.


BEFORE conducting any renovations on older buildings, it's important to understand the hazards that may be discovered as construction continues. Determining if the interior or exterior paint contains lead, if any materials of construction contain asbestos, and if water intrusion has occurred anywhere in the building during its lifetime (wet building materials are a food source for mold) is the first step toward creating a healthier building.

Emilcott regularly assists clients who face building environment investigations such as indoor environmental quality, asbestos and lead management, microbial contamination and vapor intrusion. Our EHS staff work with building managers to quickly learn how their buildings operate, diagnose conditions, complete inspections of building systems, interview occupants, and advise on the best course of action to ensure that the building is a safe place to live, work or play.

Interested in reading more on keeping buildings healthy? Other EHSWire blog posts about building environments include:
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Topics: Emilcott, health and safety, General EHS, Construction H&S, EPA, H&S Training, Compliance, worker safety, Air Sampling, Mold, asbestos, Exposure, environmental air monitoring, Respiratory, lead, lead-based paint

The Challenge of Dust Control on Construction Sites in Winter

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Jan 16, 2011 9:03:00 PM

By Chuck Peruffo

It was a few days before Christmas and I was working outdoors as an Industrial Hygiene Technician on a construction project.  This is the first time in my life I have worked at such cold temperatures as I have been a Lab Rat most of my career.   Not being “climate adjusted”, I was bundled up like Ralphie’s little brother, Randy, from A Christmas Story.   As I kept one eye on my meters and the other eye trained on the excavator in front of me, the wind started to pick up.  The clouds of dust coming off the road shouted “dust control needed” even before I checked the numbers on the dust monitors.

Dust control is an important way to keep what’s in the ground out of the air and out of your lungs.  The standard method for controlling dust is to spray water on the ground. This practice works fine until your water truck freezes solid.  So, what do you do when Jack Frost is nipping at your nose and the dust is flying in the air?  Your solution for dust control is to make up a solution of water and a chemical such as magnesium chloride hexahydrate (“Mag flake”).  

Mag flake or Mag brine has long been used to control dust on rural roads.  Mag flake can be mixed directly into your water truck.  A bit of a disclaimer:  although Mag brine is less corrosive that sodium chloride, make sure the water truck tank vessel can handle the solution by noting the material of manufacture and then consulting a corrosion guide. And, it is good practice to flush the tank truck with clean water after use.

Some manufacturers sell Mag brine at up to a 33% solution for dust control. That translates into more than 2 ½ tons of Magnesium Chloride in a 2000 gallon water truck which is fine for dust control on rural roads that aren’t sprayed often but may be too concentrated for a construction site application. 

At Emilcott, we have found a solution to meet the challenge of frozen water.  Roughly, a 50 pound bag of magnesium chloride added to a 2000 gallon water truck lowers the freezing temperature by 0.3°F.  So, to have a liquid wetting agent for effective dust control when the temperature is around 25°F, we add 1500 pounds of magnesium chloride into a 2000 gallon water truck or about a 0.9% Mag brine solution.  And, now we have our “solution” to keep the dust out of the air!

Here’s the formula and factors Emilcott uses to determine how much magnesium chloride we need to add to the water truck to get the right, wet solution:

∆T = i * Kf * m

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Topics: health and safety, dust control, General EHS, Construction H&S, Hazardous Waste Management, Compliance, worker safety, Occupational Health, Occupational Safety, Air Sampling, environmental air monitoring, magnesium chloride, mag brine, mag flake, magnesium chloride hexahydrate

The EPA’s New Year’s Resolutions: Replace PCB-Containing Light Fixtures in Schools and Radon Testing in January

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Jan 9, 2011 10:50:05 PM

Dale Wilson, CIH, LEED AP

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ended 2010 with two announcements that impact Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ).   The first of these announcements involves polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in school environments. In their press release and guidance document , the EPA is recommending the removal of all PCB-containing fluorescent light ballasts from school buildings.  The focus is on school buildings built prior to 1979 which have not undergone a complete lighting retrofit since that time.  (Note:  In 1979, the EPA banned the use and processing of PCB.)  The EPA makes these recommendations following the detection of elevated PCB concentration in indoor air at several schools where damaged PCB -containing light fixtures were present.  According to the EPA , “PCBs have been demonstrated to cause cancer, as well as a variety of other adverse health effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, and endocrine system

While this announcement is directed at schools, commercial and/or residential buildings with pre-1979 fluorescent light fixtures should also consider following this guidance to prevent exposure to their building occupants.  While replacing such fixtures will improve indoor environmental quality, there is another likely benefit:  energy costs are reduced when replacing these older light fixtures with modern, energy-efficient models.   The costs of installing lighting equipment upgrades may also be offset if there is an active incentive program offered by your state government and/or local utility such as these Clean Energy programs offered by the state of New Jersey.  This type of office or plant upgrade is a quadruple “win” opportunity for companies who qualify: 

  • Improve employee work conditions by enhancing their IEQ

  • Reduce your operating costs

  • Participate in an environmental or “green” program

  • And, best of all, have some or all of the equipment paid for by an outside resource!


EPA’s second end-of-2010 announcement recommends testing for radon, as January is National Radon Action Month.   Radon is a naturally-occurring, colorless, odorless gas that can impact your building’s IEQ if mitigation measures are not in place.  Radon exposure is the leading cause of non-smoking lung cancer.  Winter months such as January are the perfect times to test for radon as doors and windows generally remain closed for extended periods of time and heating equipment is in operation potentially creating a pressure differential between the soil and the building’s interior that would promote the migration of radon into the building’s indoor air. 

To find out if your building is located in an area prone to elevated indoor radon concentrations you can view the EPA Radon Map.  Buildings located in Zone 1 counties (red colored) have the greatest potential for elevated radon, followed by Zone 2 (orange) and, finally, Zone 3 in yellow. 

Two easy ways to start 2011 off on the right foot -- follow the EPA’s recommendation by eliminating two significant and relatively easy IEQ concerns, PCBs and radon, from your building.

Have you participated in a state or federal lighting retrofit program? Did the electrical contractor find anything suspicious? How easy was the process? And, have you tested your home or office building for radon? What were the results?
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Topics: indoor air quality, health and safety, General EHS, EPA, Air Sampling, Exposure, chemicals, schools, environmental air monitoring, indoor environmental quality, radon exposure, radon, fluorescent lighting, PCB

The Future of Air Monitoring: Real-time Particle Size Measurement

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Dec 12, 2010 9:31:15 PM

Bruce Groves

Why do we care about particles floating around in our air? Small, inhalable particles are themselves pollutants that have shown to cause illness and chronic diseases such as asthma and certain types of lung cancer . Particles are also excellent indicators (or surrogates) for measuring other pollutants such as vapors and gases. By measuring the aerodynamic size of particles in our air, it is possible to identify and sometimes “fingerprint” them so that we can reduce or stop local sources of pollution immediately. The goal AND end result are to develop as clean a living and working area as possible.

What are we doing today?


Today, air monitoring is a piecemeal approach that is government-mandated but generally project related. When the project is over, the problem is essentially considered to be gone. Of course, in areas of high population density or industrial activity, continuous, real-time air monitoring of general conditions does not exist. Other than pollen counts, very little information about these pockets of high pollution and high particulates is available to the public or government agencies. And, the data that is available is generally much later and does not present an accurate picture of today’s problem.

What is the future in environmental air monitoring?


As technology has improved, so have particle detectors and the ease of data transmission and analysis. By 2013, small particle size detectors, such as those found in the Greenlight Environmental Monitoring System, will be consistently deployed in high population areas in such cities such as NYC, Tokyo, London and Los Angeles. These particle size detectors will be coupled with wind-speed and direction detectors and web cameras to pinpoint the exact sources of particle emissions (e.g., construction or industrial equipment, idling vehicles or high traffic transportation corridors) that are creating a measurable increase in local air pollution.

This web of detector stations will form an active or “live” map of a city that continuously measures and reports the concentration of various particle sizes. The “map” will be automatically programmed to provide warning levels and alarms to reveal when and where total particle concentrations exceed warning and safe threshold levels. By locating (in real time) the place, the direction of the pollution source and supporting video evidence, private companies and government agencies can take measures to stop or reduce the indicated pollution sources. Constant real-time monitoring, assessment and action will provide continuous improvement in local air quality that will reduce the onset of disease associated with inhaling dirty air. Warning systems set up through websites will enable agencies and individuals to check on their local air pollution conditions using their computer or smart phone.

What is the first step?


At Emilcott, we have been working with particulate monitoring on job sites for over 25 years. As an extension of our field experience, we’re working on a solution that meets the needs of our clients (private companies and government agencies) -- the Greenlight Environmental Monitoring System. With multiple project implementations under its belt, the Greenlight System’s particle size measurement, assessment and reporting capabilities are demonstrating how real-time monitoring is helping projects get cleaner each day – reducing the liabilities of our clients while giving them the information to keep the public and workers safe.

As the Greenlight System’s next phase of engineering development is outlined, our goal is to have a universal system that will provide comprehensive sampling in potentially high pollution areas so that neighborhood air quality can be improved and the incidence of lung disease is reduced. It will be a future watchdog for providing cleaner air locally where no such means of protecting local air quality exists today.

What do you think the future of environmental air monitoring holds? What are the benefits or challenges that you associate with monitoring and mapping pollutants in a broad geographic area?
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Topics: Emilcott, indoor air quality, health and safety, Construction H&S, EPA, Emergency Response, Homeland Security, Hazardous Waste Management, Hazardous Materials, worker safety, Occupational Health, Air Sampling, Greenlight System, Exposure, environmental air monitoring, Respiratory, Public Safety, perimeter air monitoring

New Large Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emission Standards from EPA

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Nov 28, 2010 11:22:41 PM

Megan Grennille

Your next visit to a truck stop may be more pleasant in a few years.  New standards were announced on October 25th from the DOT (Department of Transportation) and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in heavy-duty trucks and buses.  The standards, which are set to be phased in on new vehicles in 2014, will include requirements to improve fuel efficiency which benefits businesses, the shipping industry, and cities and towns.

The large vehicles being targeted by the proposed standards are divided into three categories: combination tractors, heavy duty pickups and vans, and vocational vehicles.  Combination tractors will have a 20% decrease in CO 2 output as well as fuel consumption.  Heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans will have separate gas and diesel standards; by 2018 CO 2 emissions and fuel consumption will decrease by 10% in gas vehicles and 15% for diesel.  Vocational vehicles, such as buses and utility trucks, could see a 10% reduction in fuel consumption and CO 2 emissions by 2018.  

The new regulations bring environmental and economic benefits.  People who live near bus depots, cities, and highways should be happy.  And, on those hot smoggy days near the end of this decade, the air will be a little cleaner.

What do you think of the regulations? Will they impact your business?
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Topics: DOT, indoor air quality, General EHS, EPA, Hazardous Materials, worker safety, Occupational Health, Air Sampling, Exposure, chemicals, environmental air monitoring, Working Green, greenhouse gas emissions

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