A proposed bill that could bring South Carolina one step closer to regulating mold is now one step closer to becoming a reality.
House Bill 3127 is a resolution that will establish a committee that would study the impacts of mold and find the best way to get rid of it.
According to online records from the S.C. Legislature, the bill passed the House on Feb. 12 and then passed the Senate on March 14.
The committee would be called the Mold Abatement and Remediation Study Committee and would look at public policy issues relative to mold in public buildings, focus on the impacts of heath of children in public schools, and propose policy initiatives to remediate and get rid of mold problems.
The proposed legislation comes as many Horry County parents continue to express concerns over mold issues at local schools.
Last week, St. James Elementary School was proclaimed free of amplified mold spores after several rounds of testing and cleaning.
After mold became a concern at St. James, WMBF News put in a request for work orders at Horry County Schools since February 2015 that contained the words mold, mildew, humidity and air quality.
WMBF received about 90 pages worth of documents and some of those work orders contained concerns about mold growing in several different schools.
North Myrtle Beach Middle School, Conway High School, Lakewood Elementary School and Forestbrook Middle School are just some among the more than 30 schools where staff described potential mold and mildew issues over the last four years.
It will soon be possible to reduce common indoor air pollutants using just a curtain. A mineral-based surface treatment enables the new IKEA curtain to break down air pollutants when it gets in contact with light.
Air pollution is a global issue and particularly problematic in megacities. According to WHO around 90% of people worldwide breathe polluted air, which is estimated to cause eight million deaths per year. IKEA has committed to contributing to a world of clean air, by actively reducing air pollutants and also enabling people to purify the air in their homes. The GUNRID air purifying curtain is a new step on the journey.
“Besides enabling people to breathe better air at home, we hope that GUNRID will increase people’s awareness of indoor air pollution, inspiring behavioural changes that contribute to a world of clean air,” says Lena Pripp-Kovac, Head of Sustainability at Inter IKEA Group. “GUNRID is the first product to use the technology, but the development will give us opportunities for future applications on other textiles.”
The curtain uses a unique technology, which has been developed by IKEA over the last years together with universities in Europe and Asia as well as IKEA suppliers and innovators. The way it works is similar to photosynthesis found in nature. The process is activated by both outdoor and indoor light.
“For me, it’s important to work on products that solve actual problems and are relevant to people. Textiles are used across homes and by enabling a curtain to purify the air, we are creating an affordable and space-saving air purifying solution that also makes the home more beautiful,” says Mauricio Affonso, Product Developer at IKEA Range & Supply.
For many years, IKEA has been reducing air pollution from its own operations by phasing out hazardous chemicals and reducing air emissions. Last year, IKEA launched the Better Air Now! initiative, aiming to turn rice straw – a rice harvesting residue that is traditionally burned and contributes heavily to air pollution – into a new renewable material source for IKEA products. IKEA has also committed to becoming climate positive by 2030, reducing our overall climate footprint by 70% on average per product (compared to 2016).
“We know that there is no single solution to solve air pollution. We work long term for positive change, to enable people to live healthier and more sustainable lives,” says Lena Pripp-Kovac.
GUNRID air purifying curtain will be available in IKEA stores next year.
With an unanimous vote, a senate committee on Wednesday approved legislation that would educate schools about the importance of testing for radon, a cancer-causing gas that comes up through the soil and gets trapped in buildings.
The proposal now heads to the full senate for consideration.
Prompted by a Call 6 Investigation into how most schools don’t test for radon, Sen. Eric Bassler, R-Washington, filed Senate Bill 632 that would require the Indiana State Department of Health to distribute a best practices manual to schools for radon testing.
“I think it’s pretty reasonable to get radon on the radar screen,” Bassler told the Senate Health and Provider Services committee.
The American Lung Association, Protect Environmental and Your Environmental Services LLC all showed their support for Senate Bill 632 as the Senate Health and Provider Services committee held its first hearing on the legislation.
“We don’t allow children to smoke, and we don’t allow people to smoke in schools, so why would we allow them to be breathing in high levels of radon gas?” Dawn Coffee, vice president of marketing and operations at Your Environmental Services, a radon testing company in Northern Indiana, said. “Last year 75 Hoosiers died in house fires, and yet 600 Hoosiers died of radon-induced lung cancer.”
Supporters of the legislation testified radon is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.
You can’t see or smell radon, so the only way to know if it’s there is to test for it.
Coffee cited Call 6 Investigates’ findings regarding most schools don’t test for radon.
“96 percent of Indiana schools haven’t tested for radon in the last 10 years,” Coffee said. “Testing in schools is very important so we know what our students are exposed to, and our students and our teachers who spend 6 to 8 hours a day for several years.”
Currently, the state provides guidance on indoor air quality, but not radon, Bassler said.
“Right now, it’s not included in what the State Department of Health gives to school superintendents, so it would simply add radon,” Bassler said. “What this would do is simply recommend to school corporations that they consider testing their schools for radon.”
This EPA map shows much of Central Indiana is in a hot zone for radon,meaning the gas is widespread throughout the soil and buildings in our state.
“We’re just naturally more prone to be exposed based on our geology,” Nick Torres, advocacy director for the American Lung Association, told the senate committee. “We believe that providing schools with some of these regularly updated practices as outlined in Senate Bill 632, would just help ensure that testing is done properly.”
Members of the Senate Health and Provider Services asked questions and seemed concerned about the lack of testing in schools.
“It seems to be a pretty significant issue,” Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, and chairman of the committee, said.
Indiana currently has nothing in place regarding radon in the classroom.
“We are thrilled to see this bill go forward and hopefully we will see schools testing, and we may be able to in the future add to that,” Coffee said. “We’d love to see required testing, but this is a great first step.”
Call 6 Investigates found a dozen other states have already taken action regarding radon in schools — implementing laws or regulations that require or recommend testing.
New Jersey requires new schools use radon-resistant materials and techniques.
In Florida, schools test for radon and report their results to the state department of health.
Illinois has an education law that recommends schools test for radon.
Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, filed Senate Bill 522, which would require public and nonpublic schools to test for radon by July 2020 and at least once every five years after that.
However, Melton’s bill failed to get a hearing this session.
The Indiana State Department of Health does not compile or track which schools are testing for radon.
Call 6 Investigates had to conduct its own analysis to determine most schools haven’t tested for the cancer-causing gas.
Chris Ferguson, project manager with testing company Protect Environmental, wants to add a requirement to SB 632 for the state to compile school testing results.
“At least people are willing to listen, and more than anything that’s what we’re really focused on is starting the conversation,” Ferguson said. “At least people are getting educated and that’s a good place to start.”
With more than a month still to go this winter, many residents of California have relied on their furnace or heat pump to provide warmth at home, school or in the office. Like all mechanical systems in a home or building, a furnace requires preventive maintenance to ensure that it is working properly, efficiently and is providing good indoor air quality (IAQ).
A large percentage of structures in California rely on a central forced-air furnace that is powered by natural gas, fuel oil or electricity to heat air that is then transferred throughout the property through ducts. This type of furnace, if not working properly, could be wasting energy and even threatening the health of building occupants if combustion gases such as carbon monoxide are entering the indoor air. Forced-air furnaces can also cause indoor air quality issues by spreading particulates and even mold or other allergens throughout the property if the system’s air filtration is lacking or if the ductwork has become contaminated over time.
For all these reasons it is a good idea to have the system checked annually by a qualified professional. The following furnace maintenance tips can help provide for optimal operations:
Before the unit is serviced, it is important that any fuel supply and electricity to the unit is shut off.
Furnace filters should be regularly changed. Filters may be located at the furnace or in the air supply return in a wall or ceiling. Some furnaces also have a fresh air intake filter.
The air blower and motor housing should be inspected and cleaned.
Check units with a combustion chamber for any buildup of soot and carbon that should then be removed.
Inspect the flue pipe for any holes, blockages and signs of corrosion. This is an important step to ensure deadly carbon monoxide is not a threat to building occupants.
Furnaces powered by fuel oil should have their oil filter replaced.
A service technician will often use a combustion analyzer to determine the unit’s efficiency and make any needed adjustments.
Finally, the ductwork should be inspected for dust, debris, mold and other substances that could reduce the system’s efficiency and impact air quality.
“California residents who suspect their furnace may be causing IAQ issues can turn to the indoor environmental quality professionals at LA Testing,” said Michael Chapman, Laboratory Manager of LA Testing’s Huntington Beach facility. “With multiple laboratories throughout the state, LA Testing offers air analysis for mold and allergens. In addition, we carry a range of field instrumentation and air monitoring tools to identify potential air quality concerns related to particulate matter and combustion gases such as carbon monoxide. Borescopes and other inspection tools can also be instrumental for checking ductwork and other hard to view places for signs of damage or contamination.”
LA Testing has sponsored an educational video about furnace maintenance and IAQ issues that can be seen at: https://youtu.be/j3NKuIkgdMY.
To learn more about indoor air quality, environmental, occupational, health and safety testing services or monitoring instruments, please visit www.LATesting.com , email info@LATesting.com or call (800) 755-1794. For access to indoor environmental test kits, visit www.EMSLTestKits.com .
About LA Testing LA Testing is California’s leading laboratory for indoor air quality testing of asbestos, mold, lead, VOCs, formaldehyde, soot, char, ash and smoke damage, particulates and other chemicals. In addition, LA Testing offers a full range of air sampling and investigative equipment to professionals and the general public. LA Testing maintains an extensive list of accreditations including: AIHA LAP LLC., AIHA ELLAP, AIHA EMLAP and AIHA IHLAP, CDC ELITE, NVLAP, State of California, State of Hawaii Department of Health and other states. LA Testing, along with the EMSL Analytical, Inc. network, has multiple laboratories throughout California including South Pasadena, Huntington Beach, San Leandro and San Diego.
The average American spends nearly 90 percent of their time indoors, where air pollutants can be two to five times more concentrated than outdoors, putting people at risk for severe health complications, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The World Health Organization reports that every year, more than 2.5 million people die from indoor air pollution caused health complications, such as chronic pulmonary obstruction diseases, stroke, and lung cancer. Volatile organic compounds are hazardous air pollutants often emitted from common household objects, such as disinfectants and paint, and even in offices from copiers and ceiling paneling.
Having better indoor air quality requires better monitoring technology. That’s why Purdue University researchers are developing novel resonant sensors that can detect volatile organic compounds polluting indoor environments at dangerous levels and could potentially prevent the related health complications.
Jeffrey Rhoads, a professor in the School of Mechanical Engineering, began researching resonant sensors for public safety applications nearly 15 years ago. His current work, which is funded by the Center for High Performance Buildings, transitions these sensors from laboratory environments to field-viable products with high reliability and cost-efficiency.
“We started looking at how you can transition this sensing technology from the lab into a practical tool for personal or building-based protection,” Rhoads said. “First, we looked at public safety applications, where we ran into many bottlenecks associated with the lab-to-field transition. Based on the lessons learned, we were eventually able to develop a technology that had a broad purpose.”
Rhoads and his team, which includes postdoctoral research associate Nikhil Bajaj and graduate students Allison Murray and Zachary Siefker, are developing new sensors to specifically identify these hazardous air pollutants.
“The sensor on the market are not small enough, low power enough or sensitive enough to meet the emerging applications,” Rhoads said. “These limits affect public health, because the human body can experience health complications from volatile organic compounds at much lower levels than what many of the existing cost-effective monitors can easily detect.”
Resonant sensors work by vibrating in a set rhythm, but they vibrate at different speeds when a foreign compound enters their environment. To recognize volatile organic compounds, the researchers are equipping these sensors with unique surface chemistries and specialized detection mechanisms specifically designed to detect hazardous exposures.
Rhoads said that he anticipates this technology developing into a smoke alarm-like product that detects volatile organic compounds in homes and commercial buildings. However, the researchers face challenges in making this product reliable and cost-efficient enough to motivate market demand.
“It’s one thing to make a new technology, but to create public interest in a product they’ve never bought before is a non-trivial task,” Rhoads said. “There are constraints in what the market will accept, which leads to interesting research questions about reliability and low-power consumption.”
Other partners on the project include George Chiu, the assistant dean for Global Engineering Programs and Partnerships and a professor in the School of Mechanical Engineering; Jim Braun, the director of the Center for High Performance Buildings and the Herrick Professor of Engineering; and Bryan Boudouris, the Robert and Sally Weist Associate Professor in the Charles D. Davidson School of Chemical Engineering and Department of Chemistry.
“Our work’s goal is developing low-cost volatile organic compound sensors capable of identifying indoor air quality problems and capable of controlling ventilation in response to high indoor emissions,” Braun said. “Sensing indoor volatile organic compound concentrations and then adjusting ventilation accordingly can maintain acceptable levels, but current sensor technologies are much too expensive for this purpose.”
The research team’s technology aligns with Purdue’s Giant Leaps celebration of the university’s global advancements made in health, space, artificial intelligence and sustainability as part of Purdue’s 150th anniversary. Those are the four themes of the yearlong celebration’s Ideas Festival, designed to showcase Purdue as an intellectual center solving real-world issues.
The team is also working on a similar technology that detects carbon dioxide emissions in order to limit unnecessary ventilation when buildings have low occupancy leading to reduced energy consumption and energy bills in homes and offices.
National Radon Action Month takes place during the month of January and is recognized in Puerto Rico and throughout the rest of the United States. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that this is the time to test, fix and save a life.
Both the EPA and the U.S. Surgeon General urge all Americans to protect their health by testing their homes, schools and other buildings for radon. Taking action to test a property is important as the EPA reports that although there are no immediate symptoms from exposure to radon, exposure in the indoor air over time is estimated to cause about 21,000 lung cancer deaths annually.
Lung cancer can occur due to prolonged exposure because radon is a radioactive gas. It comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water, and can get into the air people breathe indoors. Radon can even enter a building through well water. This is due to the fact that radon can dissolve into the water supply according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency states, “While most radon-related deaths are due to radon gas accumulated in houses from seepage through cracks in the foundation, 30 to 1,800 deaths per year are attributed to radon from household water. High levels of dissolved radon are found in the groundwater in some areas flowing through granite or granitic sand and gravel formations. If you live in an area with high radon in groundwater it can get into your private well. Showering, washing dishes and laundering can disturb the water and release radon gas into the air you breathe.”
“Awareness of potential hazards associated with elevated radon levels is not where it needs to be in Puerto Rico and other places in the Caribbean that are susceptible to exposure risks,” said Harry Pena, President of Zimmetry Environmental. “The U.S. Geological Survey has reported that several areas in Puerto Rico have the geologic potential to generate locally high indoor radon levels if housing conditions are favorable for its entry and accumulation. This is why at Zimmetry Environmental we have a licensed radon inspector that can test the indoor air or water from private wells for the presence of radon. If issues are found, there are mitigation techniques to prevent elevated radon levels from accumulating in a property or to remove radon from well water before it enters a building.”
Zimmetry also recently sponsored an educational video about radon and private wells in support of National Radon Action Month. It can be seen at: https://youtu.be/z-ZomIX4wTk
To learn more about Zimmetry Environmental and their radon, indoor air quality, environmental, occupational, and compliance consulting and testing services, please visit www.zimmetry.com, call (787) 995.0005 or email email@example.com.
About Zimmetry Environmental
Since 2002, Zimmetry Environmental has been providing environmental consulting services to building owners and managers, architects, engineers, EHS professionals and Fortune 500 companies. The company is based in Puerto Rico and provides services across the Caribbean and Central America. The professionals at Zimmetry offer environmental compliance, indoor air quality, asbestos, lead-based paint, Phase I ESAs and general environmental consulting services.