Armed With NASA Data, South Korea Confronts Its Choking Smog

South Korea faces a chronic dirty air problem that makes it one of the most polluted countries in the world. It’s common to hear that neighboring China is to blame, but a joint study by NASA and the Korean government has found there’s a lot South Korea can do on its own to cut the smog.

On many days of the year, a thick industrial haze blankets the capital city of Seoul, where some 25 million people live in the metropolitan area. The health effects can be seen in hospitals, with patients complaining of wheezing and coughing that won’t go away.

Dr. Kim Sang-heon, who practices internal medicine at Hanyang University Medical Center, says since there’s a clear link between pollution and respiratory illnesses, he preaches smog avoidance to his patients.

“I usually say stay home if they hear it is high,” Kim says.

High concentrations in the air of PM 2.5 — fine particulate matter that can get deep in your lungs — are a relatively common occurrence in Seoul. A ranking released in February shows South Korea had the second worst air quality of all advanced nationsin the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, with only Turkey faring worse. South Korea’s air is more than twice as polluted as the other nations’ average.

Seoul’s pollution levels on some days rival those of Shanghai and Beijing, major Chinese cities whose pollution problems are well-documented. In 2016, Seoul’s air quality index was considered unhealthy for sensitive populations (such as children, the elderly and those with existing respiratory conditions) on 78 days.

By comparison, the Los Angeles metro area, which had some of the United States’ highest average PM 2.5 readings in 2016, experienced only two such days, according to an NPR analysis of data released by the Seoul city government and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Beijing, by contrast, experienced average air quality index levels that were unhealthy for sensitive populations, or even more hazardous, during 231 days last year.

Shanghai reached those levels 201 times, according to data collected by the State Department at its embassies and consulates in those cities.

Although China is an easy target for blame, as its industrial dust does drift across borders, South Korea wanted to know more about its own pollution causes.

So its government teamed up with NASA last year for the most ambitious sampling and study of Korean air quality to date.

Last year, NASA flew planes at various altitudes above the peninsula, chasing dust for a month.

This summer, NASA scientists returned to Seoul to begin sharing preliminary results.

“We can’t fly over China. So this is a way to sample China and sample Korea, and the Koreans are very interested in working with us,” said Barry Lefer, a NASA scientist and program manager who took part in the study. The U.S. and Chinese governments are rivals when it comes to many military and security issues, which inhibits flyovers.

The big question vexing South Korea is how much of its pollution is homegrown versus carried over from neighboring countries. The answer is complicated.

NASA sampled the air at a time when trans-boundary pollution was low. It cautions it can only model the Korean peninsula’s air based on the data gathered from its sampling. But its models did point to some interesting answers.

“Our conclusion was that the local emissions are a strong source of ozone and small particles,” Lefer said. “The model said that over half of the air pollution is coming from local sources and the rest is coming from other countries.”

Local sources include vehicle emissions, industrial sites and power plants. Lefer says news that a majority of the pollution here is homegrown is actually good in a key way.

“You can’t do anything about the trans-boundary pollution, whereas you can do something about your local sources,” Lefer says.

The government is taking some action now. South Korean President Moon Jae-in is overseeing a fine dust task force and is shuttering 10 of the country’s oldest and most polluting coal plants. The city of Seoul issues fine dust alerts over mobile phones to better inform residents of dangerous days.

Kim, the doctor, believes growing public awareness of pollution is effective in improving the air.

“I hope and I expect some new change will be given to us,” Kim says.

Armed with more data about South Korea’s pollutants, the battle to curb it can come from a place of knowledge.

HVAC Contractors Prefer to Tackle Mold Via Partnerships

Mold can be found everywhere, both indoors and outdoors. However, it’s usually not a problem until it begins growing indoors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to mold can cause a number of health effects and symptoms, including allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory complaints. Mold can be a serious issue if left untreated, which is perhaps one of the reasons most HVAC contractors tend to avoid it.

“Mold is in virtually every residence over two years old in the U.S. due to improper ventilation and treatment of that ventilated air,” said Joe Kokinda, president and CEO at Professional HVAC/R Services Inc. in Avon, Ohio. “This being stated, one very experienced IAQ [indoor air quality] expert would definitely be required to identify the source and recommend ventilation upgrades. Mold remediation is another issue that HVAC probably would shy away from, just like lead paint or asbestos.”

David Richardson, RNC inside operations manager at Weather Master & Mr. Plumber in Knightdale, North Carolina, said mold is a four-letter word to HVAC contractors.

“Unless you are licensed and certified in mold remediation, it’s in your best interest to have a professional company perform this task,” he said. “Mold can be caused by several contributing factors, and it is wise to have a third party verify where the source of the mold came from before admitting guilt. With homes being built tighter and the lack of fresh air, mold issues seem to be more prevalent today. It only takes three factors to produce mold: moisture; a food source, such as dust or construction debris; and absence of light.”

Richardson said his company prefers to refer clients to a professional mold remediation expert.

“We typically do not get a referral fee, but we use the same company,” he said. “This allows us to have a third party that is going to do a full investigation of the problem and make sure they identify the culprit. Personally, I do not recommend HVAC contractors to investigate the issue if they’re not properly trained and certified as some cases can get costly and may require legal action.”

Martin Hoover, owner of Empire Heating and Air Conditioning in Decatur, Georgia, said he also refers this type of work to other contractors.

“We do provide basic air quality testing and offer solutions relating to dehumidifiers, UV lights, and photocatalytic oxidation as a preventive measure, but we do not participate in remediation once mold has been quantified. We haven’t taken the time to learn that aspect of the business or train and equip our workforce.”

Instead, Hoover has a reciprocal referral arrangement with another contractor to handle those types of services.

“Throughout the years, we’ve developed relationships with high-quality contractors that do this type of work,” he added.

Chris Crawford, general manager of Integrity Comfort Solutions in Conroe, Texas, also has a mutually beneficial arrangement with a local water mitigation and mold remediation specialist, Woodlands, Texas-based Boone’s Restoration Inc.

“We’re very cognizant about making sure we focus on the one thing we’re really good at, and that’s residential HVAC,” Crawford said. “We’re very focused on being the best in our area on the things we know we’re good at. Another reason, at least in Texas, is there are a lot of licensing regulations that cover mold remediation and that type of stuff. We just don’t have that licensing. And, lastly, is the risk exposure to lawsuits and things of that nature. Most liability insurance carriers have an exclusion in their liability insurance for mold development within residential homes. For instance, if we went out and put in an air conditioning system that caused a major water leak in someone’s home and that developed into a major mold issue throughout the house, our liability insurance would not cover any of the damage we happen to do in that home. So, for us to go out and start trying to do that type of work on a regular basis would not be smart, considering we’re not covered under our liability insurance. That’s why we tend to stay out of it. We would rather refer that work out to an expert in that field that has the training, tools, capabilities, and licensing as well as the correct insurance to deal with those types of occurrences.”

“It’s hard to be a jack of all trades,” added Brian Boone, president, Boone’s Restoration Inc. “That’s why you have partnerships with specialists.”

Referrals are a two-way street between the two companies.

“It forms a good, solid relationship between our company and Brian’s company,” Crawford said. “We’re going to be inside a lot of people’s homes this year. Brian’s going to be out in a lot of homes this year, and that gives us a lot of occasions to be able to refer work back and forth to each other. Brian might be in somebody’s house for a water mitigation issue and then happen to notice or talk to the homeowner to find that there is an air conditioning issue, as well. That work gets referred back to us. I also know the type of work Brian’s company does, I know it’s going to be top-notch, and I know my client is going to be taken care of. And, he knows the same thing about us.”

Mold remediation should be handled by experts, said Michael Jacobs, head of public relations for

“Mold is very dangerous and life threatening,” he said. “It is definitely preferable to be taken care of by a company that solely specializes in mold remediation.”

Jacobs added that Service Pros Local receives mold remediation referrals from other companies.

“When customers need something that is beyond the services we provide, we definitely refer them to other companies that cover the customer’s needs and vice versa. These types of agreements are mutually beneficial because you build a strong partnership, which helps to increase the number of customers you work with. Considering that you cooperate with companies that are in a closer niche to your services — like mold remediation and water damage repair — they usually accrue at the same time, and if you don’t cover both aspects, this kind of agreement between companies will definitely help both companies increase the number of customers they may reach.”

Pure Air Control Services Will Demonstrate Connection Between IAQ, Occupant Health and Energy Savings at Florida Association School Business Officials (FASBO) Conference

Pure Air Control Services Will Demonstrate Connection Between IAQ, Occupant Health and Energy Savings at Florida Association School Business Officials (FASBO) Conference

St. Augustine, FL – Pure Air Control Services, Inc. is set to exhibit at this year’s Florida Association of School Business Officials (FASBO) Conference being held at the World of Golf Village in St. Augustine, Florida, October 10-13, 2017. Located at booth 23, Pure Air Control Services will showcase the latest in Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) testing, analysis and remediation. This includes highlighting each of their divisions: Building Sciences, Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory, and Building Remediation Sciences. Also on display will be Building Health Check, LLC and their Do-It-Yourself IAQ Screen Check Testing Kits.

Fasbo conference 2017In its 51st year, the FASBO Conference highlights many educational tracks for executive level school official. Topics include everything from Ethics and HR/Risk Management to Security and Energy Efficiency with many specialized breakout sessions as well. The entire event kicks off with a charity golf tournament, features select vendors, like Pure Air Controls, and ends with the introduction of new officers with the Board of Directors meeting.

For their part Pure Air Control Services Inc. will inform visitors to their booth on the important connection of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) to student performance and absenteeism. More detailed information on that topic can be found in this recent article. Also on display will be the interactive demonstration of the results of PURE-Steam HVAC Coil Cleaning and HVAC New Life Hygienic Restoration that illustrates improvements to air flow which, in turn, increases energy efficiency and can add years of operation life to old or aging HVAC Systems.

Pure Air Controls will also be available to talk about their new cooperative purchasing vehicles through the Panhandle Area Education Consortium (PAEC) and their Florida Buy Program contract no. 18076 as well as The Interlocal Purchasing System (TIPS) contract no. 170602 and 170702. These co-op contracts are available for all Florida schools to use to procure Pure Air Control Services right away, without going to bid. These vehicles make it easier to get started with Pure Air’s specialized and proprietary services.

“Often schools know that they need to improve IAQ and perform preventative maintenance on their HVAC systems, but there are so many different service options available that offer different results” says Frank Santini, IAQ Solutions Consultant for Pure Air Control Services, “These procurement co-ops offer a consistent contract that is based on our thorough specifications so the schools know the exact service and performance to expect, every time”.

Check out Pure Air Control Services, Inc. in person at booth 65 at the 51st FASBO Conference, October 10-13, 2017 at the World of Golf Village, St. Augustine, FL.

Can’t make the conference? For more information on PURE-Steam, HVAC New Life or Pure Air Control Services, Inc. please contact Alan Wozniak at 1-800-422-7873, extension 802 or email

About Pure Air Control Services
Pure Air Control Services, Inc. was established in 1984 as a small, mechanical, contracting firm and has since set the industry standard for indoor environmental quality diagnosis, environmental laboratory and remediation. Pure Air Control Services has serviced more than 600 million square feet of indoor environments in over 10,000 facilities. Pure Air’s nationally performed services include: Building Sciences Evaluation; Building Health Check; a CDC ELITE Environmental Microbiology Laboratory; Environmental Project Management; HVAC New Life Restoration and PURE-Steam Coil Cleaning/Mold Remediation Services, among other indoor environmental services.

Founded in 1965, FASBO Inc., is a professional association of school business management professionals. Our mission is to provide programs and services to promote the highest standards of school business management practices, professional growth, and the effective use of educational resources. FASBO is a network of professionals providing knowledge and solutions.

FASBO represents around 300 school business officials employed in public and private school entities, as well as community and junior colleges and state departments of education. Members include non-instructional employees at the local, state and national levels from specialized areas in school business management, as well as the generalized field of school business administration.


OSHA Extends Enforcement Deadline for Construction Silica Rule

Contracting firms that can demonstrate they are attempting to comply with a new federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration limit on silica dust levels in construction workplaces will have a 30-day grace period before they are hit with penalties.

OSHA did begin enforcing the construction silica regulation on Sept. 23. But Thomas Galassi, Labor Dept. acting deputy assistant secretary, said in a Sept. 20 memo to regional OSHA administrators that, for 30 days, the agency’s compliance officers will not issue penalties to employers that demonstrate a “good faith effort” to meet the new requirements.

Companies that do not appear to be taking steps to comply, however, may receive citations, Galassi said. [View OSHA construction compliance fact sheet here.]

A coalition of construction industry groups has challenged the rule in federal court, saying it is not technically or economically feasible and does not take into consideration the constantly changing nature of construction work.

The coalition, which includes the Associated General Contractors of America, the Associated Builders and Contractors, and the National Association of Home Builders, has asked OSHA to withdraw the rule and work with industry to develop a new standard.

A three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia heard oral arguments in the case on Sept. 26.

Labor unions and worker advocates say that exposure to silica dust causes a host of illnesses, including silicosis and lung cancer, and that technologies to protect workers are available and inexpensive.

OSHA says that the rule will save more than 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year.

The standard, finalized in March, establishes a new eight-hour, time-weighted average permissible exposure limit of 50 µg/m  , approximately one-fifth the previous maximum.

Under the new standard, employers also must develop a written exposure-control plan that identifies tasks that might be expose workers to silica dust and methods used to protect workers.

Additionally, companies must train employees to limit exposures and keep records of workers’ silica exposure and medical exams. The regulation provides flexibility for small businesses, through a table that lists a variety of paths to achieve lower silica exposures.

Industry reaction

Kevin Cannon, AGC’s senior director of safety and health services, says that, although the 30-day extension gives employers more time to better understand how to comply, he is disappointed that it falls short of what industry has been asking for.

“I still think the industry needs more time,” says Cannon, who adds that the new standard “is very complex.” Moreover, OSHA’s compliance assistance seems to be limited to site visits. But “that will only be a few people” to cover the many employers that will need guidance, he says. Cannon adds that AGC has sought to find out the criteria OSHA will use to determine what a “good faith” effort is. But, “at this point, I don’t think they’ve identified what it means to make a good faith effort,” he says, noting that contractors that do nothing can still be cited.

Daniel Annon, a senior industrial hygienist and past president of the American Industrial Hygiene Association, says that though AIHA supports the rule and is eager to see it go into effect, 30 more days to help employers understand how to comply could be helpful in the long run.

Annon says, “If they see that a company is making an attempt that is in line with the expectations [of the rule], but falling short, if their goal is compliance assistance and helping those employers be able to do a better job in the long term of protecting workers, that seems reasonable.”

He notes, however, that “it is unfortunate that there is that pushback from employers” that say the rule is difficult to comply with because “we’ve known since the 1930s that silica causes silicosis…and a lot of the same technologies that we were talking about then are the same ones we are talking about now.”

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Former workers exposed to asbestos urged to sue Japanese government to claim damages

The labor ministry said Monday it will encourage individual former asbestos plant workers who suffered mesothelioma or other health damage, and relatives of such workers who have died, to file damages lawsuits against the government.

The ministry decided to make the unusual move because such lawsuits need to be settled before the government pays damages to the victims.

There are 2,314 workers exposed to asbestos who are believed eligible to receive damages but who have not yet filed lawsuits against the government, according to the ministry. The ministry plans first to send related leaflets to 756 whose names and addresses are known.

In October 2014, the Supreme Court for the first time found the government responsible for asbestos pollution affecting plant workers in Osaka Prefecture, ruling that it was illegal for the government to neglect to oblige asbestos plant operators to install exhaust air ducts.

Following the ruling, the ministry decided to pay damages, under certain conditions, after settling lawsuits with victims.

As of the end of last month, a total of some ¥2.1 billion had been paid to 236 plaintiffs, while 197 others were in the process of claiming ¥1.5 billion.

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