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.
It seems as if this year’s long, widespread flu season should be coming to an end, but parents—especially those with younger children—should stay diligent when it comes to spotting influenza symptoms. There could be a second wave of the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In the CDC’s most recent weekly report, the organization says that though the overall percentage of influenza activity is decreasing, the proportion of influenza B viruses is increasing, and there were more reports of the influenza B than influenza A during week 11 of this year. For the majority of the flu season, which began in October 2017, most cases reported were influenza A, but in the past week, 59 percent of all confirmed cases were influenza B.
What does all that mean? Parents should be aware that even if their kids were diagnosed with influenza A, they could still get sick with the influenza B virus. “We know that illness associated with influenza B can be just as severe as illness associated with influenza A,” CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund told CNN. “We also know that influenza B tends to be more severe for younger children.”
The possibility of another round of the flu isn’t good news, but it’s also not that surprising. “We often see a wave of influenza B during seasons when influenza A H3N2 was the predominant virus earlier in the season,” Nordlund told the network. “Unfortunately, we don’t know what the influenza B wave will look like.”
The CDC reports that there have been 133 pediatric deaths as a result of this year’s flu season, with five deaths reported in the past week alone. Young children—as well as older adults and pregnant women—are at a higher risk for contracting the flu. According to the CDC’s website, annual vaccinations are the best way to prevent the flu and the “potentially severe complications” the virus causes in children.
Suspected Legionnaires’ disease in a patient at Erie County Medical Center prompted testing that found slightly elevated levels of Legionella bacteria in the hospital’s water system.
The Grider Street hospital late last week began imposing temporary water-use restrictions as a result.
It’s not clear how the patient, diagnosed about one week ago, developed the disease — whether the patient came into the hospital already sick with it or whether there is a link to the water system, said Peter Cutler, the hospital’s vice president for communications and external affairs.
“So far, it’s a case of unknown origin,” he said.
The hospital tested for the bacterium in 12 locations at the medical center and found slightly elevated levels in three of them, he said, leading officials to impose the restrictions on the use of tap water.
“We put the water restrictions in place out of an abundance of caution,” he said.
The medical center also has been installing filters on faucets, shower heads and ice machines, as well as distributing bottled water throughout the facility. It’s skilled nursing facility, Terrace View, relies on a different water system and was unaffected.
Hospital workers received notices to avoid using tap water starting on Sept. 29, Cutler said.
Legionnaires’ disease is caused by a type of bacterium called Legionella that is named after a 1976 outbreak at a Philadelphia convention of the American Legion at which 29 attendees died from the illness.
Legionellosis is a bacterial disease associated with two distinct illnesses: Pontiac fever, an influenza-like illness, and Legionnaires’ disease, a severe type of pneumonia. People can get Legionnaires’ disease when they breathe in small droplets of water in the air that contain the bacteria, which can thrive in warm water.
Most healthy people exposed to Legionella don’t get sick, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which received about 6,000 reports of the disease nationwide in 2015. But the disease, which is treatable, can pose serious risks to those with increased risks, such as the elderly, those with lung disease, and patients with weak immune systems.
There were 63 reported cases in Erie County in 2015.
The ECMC patient is in stable condition, Cutler said. He said hospital operations have not been affected.
The medical center, in a project unrelated to the situation, is in the process of replacing its water tank system.
About 3% of Legionnaires’ disease cases were determined to be “definitely associated with a healthcare facility,” with 17% of cases listed as “possibly associated.”
More than 76% of Legionnaires’ disease cases acquired from Legionella exposure in healthcare facilities can be particularly harsh, including possible fatal risks to patients, according to a report released today from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Legionnaires’ disease is a serious type of pneumonia caused by bacteria, called Legionella, that lives in water. Legionella can make people sick when they inhale contaminated water from building water systems that are not adequately maintained.
The report’s findings, which were a part of the CDC’s monthly Vitalsigns publication, are based upon exposure data from 20 states and New York City. According to the CDC, the analysis was limited to these 21 jurisdictions because they reported exposure details for most of their cases, which allowed the CDC to determine how Legionnaires’ disease was associated with healthcare facilities.
About 3% of Legionnaires’ disease cases were determined to be “definitely associated with a healthcare facility,” with 17% of cases listed as “possibly associated with a healthcare facility.”
“Determining Legionnaire’s disease causation is not simple since the mere presence of Legionella in a water system or device is not sufficient to cause disease. The bacteria must ultimately be inhaled or aspirated into the lungs of a susceptible person to cause disease,” says Michael Patton, member of ASHRAE Committee SSPC 188. “Since people with conditions that have reduced their ability to fight off infections are especially susceptible, it is not a surprise the report found patients in healthcare facilities to be at risk. It’s vitally important all buildings incorporate good design, operations, and maintenance procedures that prevent growth and spread of Legionella as these are regarded as the best methods of preventing disease.”
The incorporation of a Water Management Plan will reduce the chance of heavy colonization, amplification, and dissemination to people. With this in mind, ASHRAE developed ASHRAE Standard 188: Legionellosis: Risk Management for Building Water Systems to assist designers and building operators in developing a Water Management Plan that includes practices specific to the systems that exist in a particular building, campus, or healthcare facility. (ASHRAE Standard 188 can be previewed at no cost on the ASHRAE website.
Based upon this ASHRAE standard, the CDC developed a toolkit entitled “Developing a Water Management Program to Reduce Legionella Growth and Spread in Buildings: A Practical Guide to Implementing Industry Standards.” The document (initially released in 2016 and updated on June 5, 2017) provides a checklist for facility owners and managers to help identify if a water management program is needed, examples to help identify where Legionella could grow and spread in a building and ways to reduce risk the of contamination
Employees at Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton, Wash., are working to eliminate Legionella bacteria from the hospital’s water supply after a patient contracted Legionnaires’ disease — a virulent type of pneumonia — in December, according to a report from the Kitsap Sun.
After confirming the Legionnaires’ case, the Washington State Department of Health, Kitsap Public Health District and workers at the hospital conducted an investigation to determine the source of infection. Samples extracted from the hospital’s water system in January tested positive for Legionella. On Feb. 3, Kitsap health officials issued an order to the hospital to address the health risk. The order contained recommendations, which the hospital is following.
The hospital’s parent company, Tacoma, Wash.-based CHI Franciscan Health, issued a statement saying hospital staff, patients and visitors are being provided bottled water until the issue is resolved.
“CHI Franciscan Health and Harrison Medial Center implement rigorous safety protocols above and beyond government and industry standards to keep our patients and staff safe,” said David Schultz, market president of the Peninsula Region at CHI Franciscan Health, in a statement provided to Becker’s. “When we detected Legionella pneumophila, we immediately contacted county and state health authorities and began an investigation to find the source with an intention to eradicate it. There is no indication of any threat to the public or patients at Harrison.”
No additional cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been reported at the hospital.
We all love our comfortable safe homes. That place we gather with our families and loved ones after long hectic days. The place that keeps us sheltered from the elements. In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives sometimes we are so busy we can overlook little hidden dangers. Small spots of water, little leaks and even our sponges and countertops. These are the obvious places where mold can grow, however there are other more hidden places where mold growth cannot as easily be seen and most homeowners won’t notice until there is an odor or moldy patches start to appear.
Molds can spread fast and usually grow in the span of 24-72 hours. They feed on dry wall, wood and any other organic material inside the house. For this reason it can be a huge threat to us and our families if we do not take it seriously. No one wants to live in a house full of molds and the hazards they can create.
Mold can put our health at risk. After lots of researches, it has been found that too much exposure to molds can create health problems, especially in the upper respiratory system. Infants, children and the elderly are at a greater risk due to their immune systems and can be easily infected when exposed to molds. Those people currently suffering from a respiratory ailment can suffer even more severe health problems. The results from mold exposure vary widely but can include:
• Flu like symptoms
• Pulmonary injury
• Hematologic and immunologic disorders
• Hepatic, endocrine and/or renal toxicities
• Pregnancy, gastrointestinal and/or cardiac conditions
There is also a certain type of mold namely, “Stachybotrys” which can start with the simple itchiness of your eyes, sneezing, cough which if not checked and diagnosed, could possibly damage your lungs permanently, which could eventually end in death. This is only likely to occur in the most extreme cases but why would you want to put your family at any unnecessary risk.
It can destroy everything inside the house. Little by little, if not dealt with mold can destroy every part of the home. It does not discriminate between your important documents, frames, ceilings, wood beams, floors or furniture. These microscopic organisms will destroy it all. We may not be able to notice it at first glance, but later on when the mold patches are visible, the harm it has caused to your home is already evident. Mold generally starts from a small spore that then grows into clusters. These clusters can spread easily if not discovered early.
We cannot say whether our home is mold-free or not if our home does not undergo a home inspection. Home maintenance is an essential procedure in making sure that there is no mold growth in our home. There are professional mold inspectors available who will gladly come out and test your home. Having this done can help guarantee your home is safe, and that your family is living in a heathy environment. It is always better to let the professionals handle our concerns before it becomes a serious problem putting ourselves at risk.
If you want to know more about mold prevention, check out https://funguyinspections.com/.