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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

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

Why Proper Respirator Protection Lets You Breathe Longer (and Breathe Easy)

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Nov 1, 2010 12:56:53 AM

Capt. John DeFillippo, CHMP, EMT-B

The health effects from airborne hazards are a frequent topic in many health and safety courses, especially in hazardous substance and hazardous waste training.  This is because so many of these exposures may not show up as health problems for decades! Consider asbestos. While it’s not harmful to the touch, inhalation can be fatal, but it can take 25-30 years before asbestosis or mesothelioma can develop. Both are chronic and often deadly diseases of the lungs.

The lungs are amazing. It surprises most people to learn that the lungs have the largest surface area of any body organ -- about 80 times more area than the skin, or about the size of a tennis court!  As we breathe, our lungs are in constant contact with the outside world and that is a lot of contact area. They need to be protected.

Over three million American workers are required to wear respirators to protect themselves from hazardous airborne contaminants.  Not surprisingly, OSHA has some pretty strict rules when it comes to protecting our lungs . Despite this , it is estimated that more than half of the respirators worn are not worn in accordance with OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.134

Did you know that…

  • If workers are wearing respirators, a written program is required?

  • A medical evaluation is required for anyone who wears a respirator?

  • A fit test of each respirator worn must be conducted initially AND annually?

  • The workplace must be evaluated to determine the hazard so that the proper respirator (there are many) can be selected?

  • These rules, and others, apply to what many people refer to as “dust masks”?


Proper respirator usage training is also required. Why? Because wearing the wrong type, wrong size, or an improperly fitted respirator can be more dangerous than not wearing one at all. For example:

  1. Wearing a filtering respirator in an O2-deficient atmosphere, or the wrong cartridge, can mislead you to believe that you are protected…when you are not!

  2. A mask with even the slightest poor fit allows contaminates in and may actually increase exposure levels.

  3. Not everyone can wear a respirator. Because a respirator restricts your breathing, people with certain medical conditions can be seriously harmed by wearing them. This is why being medically cleared prior to use is so important, and required.


Not complying with the rules designed for occupational safety can be costly… and not just in fines and penalties. Too many workers have destroyed their health by failing to protect their delicate, vital lungs. And, it’s not just at work. Working around the home and yard can also present respiratory dangers, too. If you are not sure that you need more than a “dust mask” ask someone who can help.

Have you been properly trained to use your respirator and fit-tested to make sure it is actually stopping hazards from reaching your lungs?Are you confident that you are using your respirator properly and that the respirator that you have selected is the best for the contaminants you are exposed to?  How about the person next to you - are they in compliance?  Hopefully you and your workmates can answerYES! to these questions. If you have any questions about respiratory protection, please ask me!
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Topics: OSHA, indoor air quality, Personal Protective Equipment, General Industry H&S, General EHS, Construction H&S, Emergency Response, Homeland Security, H&S Training, Hazardous Waste Management, Hazardous Materials, Compliance, worker safety, Occupational Health, Occupational Safety, Lab Safety & Electrical, emergency response training, Fire Safety, environmental air monitoring, Respiratory, Occupational Training

Water Damage – How to Minimize Mold and Costs

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Oct 4, 2010 5:07:40 AM

Dale Wilson, CIH, LEED AP

When the National Weather service issues a forecast calling for 3 to 4 inches of rain, most people react by wondering how it will affect their plans or travel.  I think about what water damage will occur.

 When heavy rains are forecast, are you ready? Do you know what to do if your building is affected by rain penetration through the roof or walls? What is your plan if your building is flooded by a local stream or river?  Even without bad weather, water damage is always a possible threat if your building has a water line break.  Or worse yet, do you know how to react if there’s a sewage back-up?

Depending on the water source your options for cleaning up and salvaging property vary greatly.  But for all kinds of damage, you need to have a plan in place anticipating what you will do, who you will call, and how quickly they will respond.  Emilcott was recently asked to work in four, very different, water-damaged commercial and/or multi-tenant residential properties.   These events included:

  • Retail and Office Complex – Roof and Façade Leak

  • Office and Warehouse – Broken Water Supply Main

  • Multi-tenant Apartment building – Sprinkler Activation

  • Public Housing Complex – Steam Leak


What did all four projects have in common?  The answer is time.  Lots of time!  Too much time between the initial event, the response and Emilcott’s resulting late involvement!  Time and water combined can grow to be an expensive and time-consuming enemy.  Failure to respond promptly will, very likely, result in mold growth within the building requiring significantly more demolition than if the condition is handled in a timely manner.  What is the definition of timely? As soon as it is discovered!

With the retail complex, we were called in approximately one month after the roof and walls began leaking.  An employee actually complained to their nearest OSHA office and OSHA issued a notice of potential violation to the employer.  Mold was present in a localized area of the store, along with a significant insect infestation due to wet, damp conditions of building surfaces.   Unfortunate results of the delay:  a mold remediation project was required and portions of the retail space were out of use for weeks.

The damage to the office and warehouse operation was more significant.  Water from the broken water main filled the 5400 sq. ft.  office to several inches and made its way to the adjacent warehouse.  The initial response by the building owner seems logical:  removal of standing water, placement of a few box fans to attempt to dry the carpet, and operating the air conditioning 24/7 as cold as the occupants would tolerate.  By the time we arrived just 5 days after the event, sheetrock walls were saturated at the base of every wall and elevated moisture readings were present up to 8 feet above the floor. Relative humidity was close to 70%, carpets had a strong musty odor, and internal wall cavities were impacted by mold growth even though no visible growth was observed on the exterior of the wall.  Final results of a mere 5 day delay in appropriate responsiveness:  the tenant and their sub-tenants loss use of the office area as trailers were brought in to house them while remediation and reconstruction occurred over a two week time period.

A kitchen fire occurred in the residential apartment complex triggered sprinklers to turn on which caused water to run from the sixth floor down to ground level.  Removal of standing water was the only initial response.  When Emilcott arrived 2 weeks later sheetrock walls were still saturated with water, visible mold was appearing in multiple, occupied apartments, and paint was bubbling and peeling from the walls.  Another significant mold remediation project was required, which in turn required relocation of tenants while remediation was in progress.

Finally, the public housing complex had experienced a steam leak for a period of several months.  Tenants in effected units were relocated and those apartments remained unoccupied.  However, an unusual occurrence happened with this steam leak as these apartments had plaster walls.  Mold grew quite well on the painted surface of the walls, something that may be expected, but due to high, high humidity and moisture levels in the plaster for extended periods of time, the analytical laboratory verified that the mold growth penetrated into the plaster from the surface.  This resulted in the demolition of the plaster walls and loss of effected housing units for several additional months.

For each of these properties and water-related circumstances, delayed and improper response increased the magnitude of the problem resulting in increased time that each space was unusable, and increased the total cost of response and repair. What should you do instead?  Bringing in a water-remediation expert immediately to identify the scope of the problem, develop a water response action plan, and implement that plan right away will minimize the damage to building materials and reduce impacts to building occupants.  In each of the four instances listed above, response actions like relocating furnishing away from walls or out of the area completely, immediately removing cove moldings, installing commercial grade dehumidification equipment, installing commercial grade floor fans, selective limited demolition, and actively monitoring and evaluating the drying process would have significantly reduced the duration of the response activity and the overall cost of each event. 

So, how can you reduce the costs of the surprise water problem? My advice is to plan now -- whether it is for rain and flooding that may occur due to weather conditions or for the pipe break that always happens unexpectedly.  Knowing who to call to determine the scope of the problem and who can implement the recommended response will save you significant time, money, property and hassle.
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Topics: OSHA, indoor air quality, health and safety, General Industry H&S, General EHS, Construction H&S, EPA, Air Sampling, Mold, environmental air monitoring, Respiratory, Water Response Plan

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