Deaths attributed to asbestos exposure — within the United States and worldwide — have been significantly underestimated, according to the latest study by the International Commission of Occupational Health (ICOH).
Asbestos is killing more people than anyone thought.
Based on the most extensive study to date, occupational asbestos-related diseases killed 39,275 people within the U.S. and 222,321 people throughout the world in 2016.
Both figures were more than double the commonly used estimates that stem from various governmental and nongovernmental health agencies.
“The asbestos burden is worse than people realize. The older estimates, the ones still being used, are so outdated,” Dr. Jukka Takala, president of the ICOH, told Asbestos.com. “We suspected these new figures would be higher, but the magnitude, the enormity of what we found, was surprising.”
Mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer with no cure, is just the most obvious.
Mesothelioma Is Only the Start
The wide gap between previous estimates and the ICOH numbers stems mostly from better identification of lung cancers caused by asbestos, which Takala still believes are underreported.
Asbestos exposure is the primary cause of mesothelioma, which is most often linked to the toxic mineral.
Asbestos, though, also has been proven to cause lung cancer. Unfortunately, it is tougher for doctors to differentiate between asbestos and other causes in lung cancer cases, leaving many oncologists to simply identify smoking as the culprit.
“The asbestos problem is much bigger than mesothelioma,” Takala said. “Mesothelioma is the most obvious asbestos disease, but it’s not the most common. Asbestos causes six times more cases of lung cancer than it does mesothelioma.”
Asbestos Increases Risk of Lung Cancer
Exposure to asbestos makes smokers more likely to develop lung cancer.
According to the study, U.S. deaths caused by occupational exposure to asbestos in 2016 included:
Lung Cancer: 34,270
Ovarian Cancer: 787
Laryngeal Cancer: 443
“The more we study this, the more we find. The numbers are going up,” Takala said. “We have solid evidence. This is a problem that isn’t going away, either. It’s a problem that needs to be faced, not ignored.”
Worldwide Numbers Are Eye-Opening
The World Health Organization and the International Health Organization use estimates between 105,000 to 110,000 deaths each year caused by asbestos diseases.
The ICOH study puts the figure of annual deaths at 222,321, which Takala believes also is low, primarily because many countries underreport their cancer figures and don’t bother detailing the causes.
“The metrics to appropriately estimate the magnitude of asbestos-related disorders are gradually improving, and the size of the problem is increasing,” the authors wrote. “But most asbestos caused cancers are not reported, recorded and compensated for.”
The ICOH international asbestos deaths include:
Lung Cancer: 181,450
Ovarian Cancer: 6,022
Larynx Cancer: 3,743
There are 62 countries that have banned asbestos, according to the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, leaving more than 100 countries that continue using it, and some still extensively.
More than 2 million tons of asbestos is consumed each year throughout the world, according to the ICOH study.
Many of these asbestos-cancer numbers are estimates based upon percent employment in the industrial sector, asbestos consumption and continental region.
As a naturally occurring mineral, asbestos remains coveted as a building material in many developing countries. It is known for its ability to resist heat, strengthen almost anything and its affordability.
“In too many places, they say, ‘What a marvelous material this is,’ producing and selling things without any real understanding of what they have,” Takala said. “The producers first become rich [by selling it], then look at the consequences later. The production in some countries is more important than the negative impact of the material.”
Response Has Been Inadequate
Takala rejects the opinion that there are no viable alternatives to asbestos in poorer, developing countries, particularly in Southeast Asia.
He also believes not enough is being done with asbestos already in place in more progressive countries in Europe and in the U.S.
The original objective of this study was to detail the magnitude of the problem with the latest evidence for the International Labour Organization and World Health Organization’s joint program on asbestos-related diseases.
The ICOH, which is based in Rome, is the world’s leading scientific society in the field of occupational health with a membership of more than 2,000 professionals from 93 countries.
“Present efforts to eliminate this man-made problem — an epidemiological disaster — and preventing exposures leading to it, are insufficient in most countries in the world,” the study concludes.
At least 15 residents in a West Los Angeles apartment complex were forced out of their homes after asbestos exposure.
The incident happened around 9:48 p.m. in the 1800 block of Prosser Avenue, when authorities determined that 11 of 12 units in the complex were exposed to asbestos. A county hazmat team was sent to the complex and the residents were evacuated.
The residents were decontaminated by Los Angeles Fire Department crews. Officials said no one showed or mentioned signs of illness or injury from the possible exposure.
Residents living in the complex said it all could have been prevented. They said management had been doing some renovations after a tenant moved out and that the contractor doing work did not remove the popcorn ceiling properly, resulting in the health scare.
“Most property owners know that when you’re doing construction you have to do it properly and dispose of it properly. Unfortunately, they just hired whoever. They took it off and disposed of it in our dumpster and exposed us all for the last few weeks to asbestos,” Shannon Streger said.
The hazmat team will determine if the building should be red-tagged. Any vehicles parked in the complex were also taped off and could not be removed.
Residents were provided temporary lodging by the American Red Cross. They thanked the organization for the help and also the city for its prompt response to the situation.
The rise of sustainability in institutional and commercial facilities has created a host of challenges for managers in these facilities. Not the least of these challenges is striking a balance between building design and operation decisions that are environmentally friendly but that also are practical. Designs and operation decisions that tilt too far in one direction tend to create unforeseen problems that divert valuable resources from other areas of the facility. Consider the case of Apple’s flagship store on Michigan Avenue in Chicago.
Winter has struck the store, and the hysteria has begun. With icicles dangling from the store’s ultrathin carbon fiber roof and caution signs and yellow tape cordoning off sections of the store’s outdoor plaza, internet commentators rushed to the judgment that the store is poorly designed for the city in which it sits, according to an article in The Chicago Tribune.
Writes blogger Matt Maldre, “Maybe next time Apple will consider the actual community where their stores are built. Y’know, basic things like in Chicago, the weather gets cold. It snows. The snow falls off the roof. Don’t design a sloping roof where the snow can’t be caught or guttered off somewhere.”
Read: Building design for productivity and sustainability
Point taken. But let’s put this in perspective. Winter happens. And architects often aren’t prepared for it. Such shortcomings undercut their achievements and their credibility as problem-solvers. Yet the faults do not altogether vanquish the value of their designs.
By the myopic standard of the commentators, Frank Gehry’s snaking BP Bridge in Millennium Park is a failure. The bridge has a wood deck. In the past, when snow piled up on it, it had to be closed lest the metal blades of city snow plows gouge holes in its forgiving wood surface. Substitute concrete for wood on Gehry’s bridge and you would have a far more ordinary span. It would be open 365 days a year, but the journey across it would be less easy on the feet and less lifting to the spirit.
Learn more about the role of sustainability in resilient facility design.
There are times when it is advisable to bend the narrow rule of form following function in favor of a broader perspective that considers the trade-off between the two and how that trade-off affects what ultimately counts — how buildings and the rest of the built environment shape human experience.
Not that getting conked on the head with the icicle is acceptable. Apple spokesman Nick Leahy says the building’s architects, London-based Foster + Partners, had designed the glass-walled store with winter in mind but had been foiled by a technical malfunction.
“The roof has a warming system that’s built into it,” he says. “It needed some fine-tuning, and it got re-programmed today. It’s hopefully a temporary problem.”
In its 16th year now, National Healthy Schools Day seeks to inform the public of health risks that can affect children in educational and child care settings
April 3, 2018, Clearwater FL — The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reported that 50% of all schools have problems with indoor air quality (IAQ). IAQ issues can be comprised of a complex mix of sources including aging facility infrastructure, deferred maintenance, fouled HVAC systems, dirty ducts, and the use of toxic products for cleaning, among other contributing factors. Every year since 2002, National Healthy Schools Day mission is to inform the administrators and public on these vital issues in an effort to bring awareness and change to the maintenance and safety of educational institutions across the country. The EPA urges schools to “Use the day to take the necessary steps to effectively manage the indoor air quality in your schools, ensuring you are providing your students and staff with a healthy learning environment.”
The focus of National Healthy Schools Day 2018is lead. According to the EPA, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the American Academy of Pediatrics there is no safe level of lead for any child. Like many other indoor environmental hazards common to schools, lead has long been ignored. However, more schools and child care facilities are becoming more proactive on lead, especially in drinking water. But the fact remains that lead is ubiquitous throughout an educational environment such as in building and instructional materials, as well as other products and even the soil on the property’s grounds.
“It is time to put children first and end lead and other risks to all children in school and child care,” said Claire Barnett, Executive Director of Healthy Schools Network, the national not-for-profit that co-founded and hosts Healthy Schools Day. She added, “For the 16th annual Day, we thank all the education and health leaders and staff in the states who have recognized the high cost of lead and other toxics to the future of children and are taking action to find and to reduce risks in school and child care settings.”
The good news is more and more people are becoming aware of the importance of optimal IAQ in the learning environment. This year a record number of 59 NGOs nationwide are engaged in the event.
Who is most affected?
Across the U.S. over 55 million children and 7 million adults occupy 130,000 public and private schools. Add to that another 11 million children in child care facilities. All totaled, over 1/5 of the U.S. population is in one of these institutions on a daily basis. Today there are fewer public schools than in year’s past, but more children in them and with less federal and state funding. Schools in disadvantaged communities are often in the worst condition from an architectural and infrastructure standpoint. This can likely correlate to these facilities having the most lead in their buildings’ paint and water systems.
What can be done to improve IAQ?
The first step to finding and fixing IAQ issues is to have a proactive administrative and facilities team willing to invest in the building health of their education institutions. This means having their facilities regularly tested, not just for lead but for the myriad of factors that can deteriorate the health of the indoor environment.
“One of our main focuses has been creating healthy learning environments so students can achieve higher academic learning in healthy buildings,” says Alan Wozniak, President of Pure Air Control Services, Inc., “Our Building Sciences team is constantly working with both k-12 and higher education institutions to proactively test and report on the IAQ in their facilities. If issues are found, the detailed reports provided are integral in the remediation process to get the building back to an optimal state of operations and a healthy learning environment.”
IAQ testing can encompass the entire building envelope or concentrate on a specific area on interest in a forensic level investigation of an issue. In the case of lead, water, surface and air samples can be taken from the indoor environment and sent to a laboratory for in-depth analysis. The lab can then qualify and quantify what is in the samples to help determine the severity of the issue in the specific locations where the samples were collected. Of course if concentrations are found and report the proper corrective remediation actions must be taken.
IAQ testing can also be conducted for other issues that can affect the health of a building and its occupants. Things like bacteria, dust mites, fungi (mold) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can all proliferate in the indoor environment. They often act as allergy and asthma triggers which can affect student performance and attendance. Dust and debris built up inside of the HVAC system not only contributes to these allergen triggers, but also can decrease the performance of the equipment which can lead higher humidity and CO2 levels within a building. Not to mention higher energy costs.
National Healthy Schools Day is an important advocacy event that helps bring awareness to the importance of good IAQ for educational institutions throughout the U.S. With this in mind, more schools should be encouraged to take a proactive approach to their indoor environment to ensure healthy facilities for their students and staff all year long.
Well Living Lab will undertake a three-year scientific research plan to identify how indoor environments affect five facets of people’s lives.
How indoor environments affect five significant facets of people’s lives—health, performance, stress and resiliency, sleep, and comfort—will be the focus of an extensive three-year scientific research plan conducted by the Well Living Lab. Studies will examine the five factors for homes, workplaces, and independent living communities. A critical component of the research is the interplay of elements such as sound, lighting, temperature, and air quality, all of which can be altered in various combinations to uncover positive, neutral, and negative effects on people.
“Our responsibility is to advance the science by conducting human-centered research that can be used in practical ways,” said Brent Bauer, M.D., medical director of the Well Living Lab and director of medicine for Mayo Clinic’s Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program. “It’s our belief that favorable outcomes can be realized, which will have long term benefits for people’s lives.”
A variety of experiments will be reviewed, approved, and monitored by the Institutional Review Board of Mayo Clinic. Questions to be explored include:
How office workers respond to artificial lighting that simulates natural light, not just at work, but also how it may change their ability to get sufficient sleep at home.
How changes in environmental conditions affect sleep and stress.
What types interventions can increase cognitive performance and improve job satisfaction.
The research will further build on the results of the Well Living Lab’s latest study findings, published in Building and Environment. The study found that temperature, noise, and lighting in open office environments affect employees’ ability to get work done. This was a proof-of concept study that demonstrated the strength of living lab methodology in measuring realistic occupant responses to select environmental changes in an open office. Specifically, it indicated that employees are most sensitive to thermal conditions, followed by work-related noise such as conversations and lack of natural light from windows when working in open office environments.These factors affected work environment satisfaction, productivity, and even carried over into the mood of employees and their sleep.
The study consisted of eight working age participants who spent 18 weeks in a simulated work environment in which acoustics, lighting, and temperature were manipulated in numerous combinations, and the findings were based on occupant responses to surveys and in-depth interviews.
“We want to understand the effect of environmental conditions and combinations of conditions to improve health and well-being, including performance, comfort, stress and resilience, and sleep,” said Dr. Bauer. “This study is just the beginning. We will continue to explore the relationship of environmental factors in the workplace and at home.”
The direction for this scientific exploration was solidified by Mayo Clinic and Delos, as well as the lab’s scientific advisory board with members from academia and governmental institutions including Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Carnegie Mellon University; National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive & Kidney Diseases; Stanford University; University of California; UC Berkley; US General Services Administration and University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands.
“We know that passive design elements in our homes, offices, and buildings can contribute to our health and well-being,” said Peter Scialla, COO of Delos and co-chair of the Well Living Lab’s Joint Steering Committee. “This research will further advance change for the building industry and result in innovative design, products, materials, and technologies.”
The General Services Administration (GSA) has doubled down on its promise to find the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) a new home and pledged by the end of the year to give Congress a “workable solution” for consolidating the bureau’s headquarters.
Michael Gelber, acting commissioner for GSA’s Public Buildings Service, recently said “Yes, sir” when asked by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) if he would deliver a plan within 120 days.
Richard Haley, chief financial officer and assistant director of the facilities and logistics services division at the FBI, chimed in with “absolutely,” when asked the same question during a recent hearing of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works.
“It is clear from today’s testimony that the FBI needs a new headquarters. Fixing up the Hoover building with its $100 million backlog of maintenance needs makes little sense,” Barrasso said. “The elaborate plan to swap the Hoover building for a new headquarters facility was, in hindsight, not the best option. We need a new, cost effective and achievable plan to get the FBI into a new headquarters facility.”
Some of the committee members also expressed their concern for both the welfare of workforce in the building and impact the outdated structure could have on national security.
“We can all agree that there is an obvious need to move the FBI out of the Hoover Building to a new location and to consolidate other FBI locations,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) “Simply put, the Hoover building is an aging building that no longer meets the needs of the FBI. It suffers significantly from deferred maintenance, and the employees bear the brunt of that lack of investment.”