Galax clinic to reopen after elevated radon levels detected

The Galax clinic closed because of elevated radon levels will reopen.
See full statement from Carilion here:

The Carilion Clinic Galax Family and Internal Medicine practices will resume regular operations Monday, Oct. 2. The Galax Family Practice walk-in acute care clinic and the Vaughn-Bassett Employee Health Clinic will open on Saturday, Sept. 30, for regular hours and operations.

Patients needing to confirm an appointment can call the Galax practice. Internal Medicine can be reached at (276) 236-6136; the Family Medicine practice can be reached at (276) 236-5181.

After consulting with Carilion’s Employee Health Department, safety experts and an independent environmental consultant, we are confident that the building is safe for our employees and patients.

Since Friday, Sept. 22, Carilion Clinic has been working to address the higher than normal radon levels found in the leased facility in Galax (199 Hospital Drive). Out of an abundance of caution, the practice was temporarily closed.

Earlier this week, an environmental consultant retested the building’s air to confirm that radon levels are at an acceptable level per the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines (below 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L)). On Wednesday afternoon, we learned that the levels are now below the EPA guideline, at 2.2 pCi/L in the downstairs of the facility and 1.0 pCi/L upstairs.

During the closure, we also took the opportunity to test for mold and asbestos as well. Test results, which were received this afternoon, showed no concerning levels of mold or asbestos in the building.

Given the challenges with air quality in the Galax facility over the past year, we have established quarterly air quality testing.

Thank you to the community for your patience and understanding as we resolved this issue.


A medical clinic in Galax is temporarily closed after concerns of air quality inside the building.

A sign on the door tells patients the location is temporarily closed. Carilion made the decision after a staff member here shared concerns of a potential health hazard.

“It’s frustrating for both the employees, it’s frustrating for the patients, it’s frustrating for Carilion in general,” said Chris Turnbull, the public relations manager for Carilion Clinics.

A test conducted a week and a half ago shows an average radon level of 4.3 picocuries a liter. The accepted level by the Environment Protection Agency is four.

“Our concern is really making sure that our staff are in a healthy place to work so we’re going to take the measures that need to be taken to make sure that this place is safe,” Turnbull said.

That could take some time. Environmental professionals are helping the clinic find where the gas is coming into the building. After that’s corrected more tests have to be conducted.

For now, all staff are working out of another Carilion Clinic in Hillsville, about 25 minutes away.

“We’ve expanded some hours. I know the physicians were concerned. We didn’t want to limit the hours that our patients could get there,” Turnbull said.

 The Hillsville locations number and address is on the door referring all patients there. 276-728-7721, or visit 410 South Main Street in Hillsville.

This is the second time this building has been temporarily closed within the last year. In December a mold issue in some rooms temporarily closed the building for a few days.

Carilion tells us it plans to reopen the clinic as soon as possible, but no date has been set.

Brazil’s Asbestos Ban Will Impact US Imports

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

In a landmark decision, Brazil severed ties with asbestos.

The world’s third-largest producer of chrysotile asbestos, also known as white asbestos, ruled last week to ban the production, distribution and use of the toxic mineral.

Brazil’s Supreme Court on Nov. 29 voted 7 to 2 on the measure to ban the substance responsible for deadly mesothelioma and other diseases.

The vote makes Brazil the most populous country to ban asbestos, according to the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS). China, India and the United States — countries with populations that surpass the South American nation — still use chrysotile in some capacity.

According a 2017 study from the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Geological Survey reported the U.S. imported 340 metric tons of raw chrysotile asbestos last year. Roughly 95 percent came from Brazil, with the remaining 5 percent imported from Russia.

In a blog from the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), its co-founder, Linda Reinstein, wrote: “Since 2013, the USA has spent an estimated $4 million buying tons of asbestos from Brazil to be used by chloralkali industry.”

The industry, which uses durable and fireproof asbestos diaphragms in its chlorine manufacturing process, is responsible for nearly all imports.

A total of 62 countries have banned asbestos, according to IBAS. The U.S. remains one of the few industrialized countries without a ban or phase-out plan in place. Of the 10 most populous countries in the world, only Brazil and Japan have passed comprehensive legislation to ban asbestos.

Roughly 10,000 Americans die each year from preventable asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

“This decision will have a global impact on the market. It will create a domino effect,” Fernanda Giannasi, advisor to Brazil’s Association of the Asbestos-Exposed, told BBC Brazil. “If an asbestos-producing country like Brazil is capable of making such a decision, why wouldn’t it be followed by those countries that buy asbestos?”

US May See Spike in Russian Asbestos

With Brazil’s ban, anti-asbestos advocates fear the U.S. may turn to Russia for its asbestos needs.

Russia is the long-standing world leader in asbestos mine production, with 1.1 million metric tons each year — more than 50 percent of the world total. It is also the world’s second-largest consumer, trailing only China.

More than 438,000 Russians depend on asbestos factories and mines for their livelihood, according to the New York Times.

More Countries Moving to Ban Asbestos

Four nations have vowed to ban asbestos in the past 12 months.

Once considered the world leader in asbestos production, Canada remains on track to ban the toxic mineral by 2018. Asbestos is the leading cause of occupational deaths in Canada.

In June, the Ministry of Health of Ukraine announced the country had adopted a ban on the use of all types of asbestos. However, the Ukrainian government has since backtracked on that promise, saying it may delay the implementation of the ban following political and economic pressure from the asbestos industry.

On Nov 27, Svetlana Bolokan — head of Moldova’s Department for Management of Waste and Chemicals — announced the country intends to ban the sale and import of chrysotile asbestos and asbestos-containing products by 2019.

Moldova had previously pledged to phase out asbestos-containing materials by 2020.

Brazil’s ban is monumental because asbestos is still a large part of the Brazilian economy. Reinstein, according to her blog, says the decision reaffirms there is no safe or controlled use of asbestos.

Roughly 125 million people are exposed to asbestos at the workplace, according to the World Health Organization. Scientific evidence has concluded all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic to humans.

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California Mobile Home Park Shuts Down Due to Asbestos

Journey’s End Mobile Home Park will remain closed at least until Wednesday pending laboratory test results of materials found last week in the fire-ravaged community that may contain asbestos, officials said Sunday at a community meeting.

The park, located on Mendocino Avenue just north of Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, was shut down by city officials Friday morning following consultations with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials who are leading a countywide cleanup of household hazardous waste in the wake of fires that destroyed more than 5,000 Sonoma County homes.

The wind-driven Tubbs fire, which raced from Calistoga into Santa Rosa on Oct. 8, incinerated about 140 of the park’s 160 homes, fire officials said last week.

Materials that may contain asbestos were found by EPA crews at 25 sites in Journey’s End, Tom Dunkelman, an on-scene coordinator for the federal agency, told a crowd of about 200 people at the Steele Lane Community Center.

“We don’t know for sure if these materials are asbestos-containing or not,” he said.

The entire park was closed due to concern about public health, said Paul Lowenthal, the city’s assistant fire marshal.

 “It was for your protection,” he told the estimated crowd of about 200.

It’s unknown how extensive the asbestos contamination in Journey’s End may be or how long it could take the clean it up, he said.

The “best-case scenario,” Lowenthal said, is the asbestos is limited to “isolated areas” that can be cleaned quickly, but there are concerns it “could be scattered throughout the mobile home park.”

Test results won’t be known until at least Wednesday, he said, and the Fire Department has determined Journey’s End is currently “an unhealthy place to be.”

Journey’s End had been reopened to residents Oct. 20.

Inhaling high levels of asbestos is known to cause lung damage, including cancer, Sonoma County Health Officer Karen Milman told the crowd.

“It’s definitely a toxin,” she said, noting that most harm is related to prolonged exposure but short-term contact with asbestos is also a concern.

Asbestos is found in construction materials including roofing, pipes and pipe wrapping, floor tile, shingles and attic insulation, according to an EPA bulletin made available at the meeting. EPA crews found no “obvious asbestos” in Coffey Park, where fire leveled more than 1,000 homes in a neighborhood across Highway 101 from Journey’s End, Dunkelman said.

Several residents whose mobile homes survived the fire questioned why they are off-limits.

“Why can’t I go in there and get my belongings?” asked Michele Trammell, a 12-year resident of Journey’s End.

EPA is checking other mobile home parks around the county, but Journey’s End is the only one where possible asbestos has been found, Dunkelman said, adding the trailer park setting is risky because homes are close together.

In an interview after the meeting, Trammell said, “I don’t really care about asbestos. I want to go home and get my stuff.”

Steven Morrow, a resident for two years, asked during the meeting if Journey’s End would be condemned by the city.

“It’s a community, it’s a home. I love these people,” he said.

Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey said the mobile home park will remain “unless the owner decides to do otherwise.”

Louise Smith, an octogenarian who said she is park’s longest-tenured resident at 37 years, said she’s unsure if she wants to return but wasn’t impressed with the asbestos issue.

“I think it’s a bunch of bull— if you ask me,” she said after the meeting.

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Construction prototype for ultra-thin concrete roof

Researchers from ETH Zurich have built a prototype of an ultra-thin, curved concrete roof using innovative digital design and fabrication methods. The tested novel formwork system will be used in an actual construction project for the first time next year.

The self-supporting, doubly curved shell roof has multiple layers: the heating and cooling coils and the insulation are installed over the inner concrete layer. A second, exterior layer of the concrete sandwich structure encloses the roof, onto which thin-film photovoltaic cells are installed. Eventually, thanks to the technology and an adaptive solar façade, the residential unit is expected to generate more energy than it consumes.

Tried and tested to scale

The building technique for the roof was developed by the Block Research Group, led by Prof. Block and senior researcher Dr. Tom Van Mele, together with the architecture office supermanoeuvre, and tested out on a full-scale prototype. The prototype, which has already been dismantled to make space for future experiments, was 7.5 m high with a surface area of 160 m2 (covering an area in plan of 120 m2). The thickness of the concrete has an average thickness of 5 cm varying between 3 cm along the edges of the roof to 12 cm at the support surfaces.

Instead of formwork using non-reusable custom-fabricated timber or milled foam, which would be needed to realise such sophisticated form, the researchers used a net of steel cables stretched into a reusable scaffolding structure. This cable net supported a polymer textile that together functioned as the formwork for the concrete. This not only enabled the researchers to save a great deal on material for construction, they were also able to provide a solution to efficiently realise completely new kinds of design. Another advantage of the flexible formwork solution is that during the concreting of the roof, the area underneath remains unobstructed and thus interior building work can take place at the same time.

Algorithms for controlling the shape

The cable net is designed to take on the desired shape under the weight of the wet concrete, thanks to a calculation method developed by the Block Researcher Group and their collaborators in the Swiss National Centre of Competence (NCCR) in Digital Fabrication. The algorithms ensure that the forces are distributed correctly between the individual steel cables and the roof assumes the intended shape precisely. The cable net weighs just 500 kg and the textile 300 kg; thus, with a total of only 800 kg of material the 20 tons of wet concrete are supported.

The construction of the roof would be inconceivable without state-of-the-art computation and fabrication techniques, but the project also heavily relied on the expertise and experience of several craftspeople. Experts from Bürgin Creations and Marti sprayed the concrete using a method developed specifically for this purpose, ensuring that the textile could withstand the pressure at all times. Together with Holcim Schweiz, the scientists determined the correct concrete mix, which had to be fluid enough to be sprayed and vibrated yet viscous enough to not flow off the fabric shuttering, even in the vertical spots.


Proof that it works

Block’s team built the prototype over the course of six months in ETH Zurich’s Robotic Fabrication Lab. It represents a major milestone for the NEST HiLo project: “We’ve shown that it’s possible to build an exciting thin concrete shell structure using a lightweight, flexible formwork, thus demonstrating that complex concrete structures can be formed  without wasting large amounts of material for their construction. Because we developed the system and built the prototype step by step with our partners from industry, we now know that our approach will work at the NEST construction site,” says Block.

The process to get to this point took almost four years, from the start of the project to the finished prototype, partly because Block wanted to involve several industry partners in development of the prototype. Next year, he plans to build the roof once again at the NEST building in eight to ten weeks. The individual components of the roof structure can be reused as often as needed. The cable net can be dismantled into a few parts that can be quickly reassembled and rehung.

A prototype for an ultra-thin, sinuous concrete roof using innovative design and fabrication methods has been designed and built by researchers from the ETH Zürich. The shell is part of a roof-top apartment unit called HiLo that is planned to be built next year on the NEST, the living lab building of Empa and Eawag in Dübendorf. The penthouse will provide living and work space for guest faculty of Empa. Researchers led by Philippe Block, Professor of Architecture and Structures, and Arno Schlüter, Professor of Architecture and Building Systems, want to put the new lightweight construction to the test and combine it with intelligent and adaptive building systems.

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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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Asbestos found in makeup at Justice tween retail store, report says

A popular retail chain targeted at tween girls may have a dangerous substance in its makeup.

According to an investigation from WTVD, “Just Shine Shimmer Powder” sold at Justice Stores contain four heavy metals and asbestos.

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WTVD worked with Scientific Analytical Institute in Greensboro, North Carolina, and Sean Fitzgerald, the institute’s director of research and analytical services, said that there were tremolite asbestos fibers found in the makeup.

“Fibers like this get into your breathing zone, and when you inhale, these fibers can get into the lung and go to the very bottom of the lung and that is exactly where you have the greatest likelihood of asbestos to cause disease,” Fitzgerald said. “Children should not be allowed to breathe it. If a 10-year-old inhaled this fiber today, when he’s 50 years old, it’s still there.”

According to Fitzgerald, the talc in the makeup was contaminated with asbestos.

Talc is a mineral that is a common ingredient in makeup. Fitzgerald said it “forms in the earth with other minerals and some of those minerals are asbestos.”

Although both asbestos and talc are naturally occurring, the Food and Drug Administration says that asbestos is a “known carcinogen.”

“For this reason, FDA considers it unacceptable for cosmetic talc to be contaminated with asbestos,” the organization’s website said.

According to the National Cancer Institute, it can take 20 years after asbestos exposure for malignant mesothelioma to form.

Teen Vogue reported that the “Just Shine Shimmer Powder” is no longer for sale on the Justice website, but it has not appeared on the site’s recalls section. A link to the product on the website contains the title, “do not sell.” Justice issued the following statement to WTVD in response to the investigation:

“Justice is committed to the safety and integrity of our products. Upon receiving the inquiry from WTVD, we immediately began an independent investigation. We cannot speculate regarding the matter until we have more information. Nonetheless, out of an abundance of caution, we have stopped the sale of this product while we investigate.”

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