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Quotes of the Month

Leadership:  "The art of getting someone else to do something you want done, because he wants to do it"

"In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable"

Dwight Eisenhower 

BUYERS BEWARE:  Property Conversion

     When one thinks of a parking garage, limited environmental concerns come to mind related to its potential sale. One possible concern is sprayed-on asbestos fireproofing on the concrete decking (but this is obvious and can be easily verified). A recent project involved a 100 year old building which had been converted to a parking garage. The current owner of the garage was engaged in negotiations to sell the property to a major university. The Phase I site reconnaissance identified a room on the basement level which had been enclosed in concrete block. The block wall was opened, exposing a 900 SF former boiler room where an improperly conducted asbestos removal project was previously performed. There was significant asbestos contaminated debris on the floor surfaces. AET was contracted to develop an asbestos work plan and remove/cleanup the asbestos contamination. During asbestos removal, a second contaminated area (former coal room) was found and subsequently abated. All work was completed prior to the sale.

PRODUCT ALERT: Chinese Drywall (Gypsum Type)     The Florida Health Department (FHD) is investigating complaints from homeowners in southwest Florida concerning strong sulfur odors emitted from drywall, imported from China. This drywall is marked on the back as Made In China or KNAUF (The Chinese Manufacturer). Reportedly, over 10 million SF of drywall was imported to south Florida during the construction boom years of 2004-2005 and into 2006. Problems have also been reported in homes in TN, SC and AL. 

     The sulfur odor is described as the smell of rotten eggs or fire crackers. Reports also indicate corrosion of air conditioner evaporator coils, piping, wiring or other metal components. One home builder has relocated several families and is removing/replacing this drywall and has filed suit against two Chinese drywall manufacturers.

     So far, air quality samples in homes have been taken by private consultants (primarily representing the home builders). Reportedly, about 80 samples have been submitted to the FHD and results have ranged from none detected to 20-25 ppb. Carbonyl sulfide and carbon disulfide have been detected. Odors are also associated with high humidity conditions (> 90%). The FHD is beginning its own testing the week of January 26, 2009. Expect more about this environmental concern in the March Newsletter.

PRODUCT ALERT: Magnesium Oxide Wallboard

     While researching the Chinese wallboard, I discovered magnesium oxide wallboard which is also manufactured in China. This product is comprised of magnesium oxide, magnesium chloride and a binding agent (i.e Perlite). It reportedly has unique use claims such as mold/mildew proof, fire resistant, waterproof, wind and storm resistant, and sound and heat insulation. Reports on the internet link the sulfur odors to the magnesium oxide wallboard. This has not been proven and is one of the items the FHD will be investigating. ITS ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA TO BUY AMERICAN.

North American Gypsum Drywall

     Drywall is commonly known as gypsum board, wallboard, plaster board and sheet rock. It is manufactured in 1/4 - 3/4 inch thickness and is used to finish interior walls and ceilings. The board is composed of a layer of mineral gypsum sandwiched between two layers of special paper which is then dried and finished into panels.  Gympsum drywall provides a measure of fire protection to buildings as it contains large amounts of water bound in the crystalline form.  When exposed to fire, the water in the gypsum board evaporates, the temperature of the panel remains at 212oF until all the water is released, protecting the underlying wood framework.  Even after all of the water evaporates, the gypsum itself will not burn and continues to provide fire protection.

    Millions of tons of gypsum are mined each year in North America.  In addition, up to 20% of the gypsum used in the manufacturing of drywall is recycled from waste generated at the manufacturing plant or at construction sites.  Gypsum is also produced as a bi-product of flue-gas desulferization process at electrical power plants. No adverse odors associated with North American drywall was noted in the literature. 


Asbestos Surveys

     In January, a new client had an OSHA visit to evaluate a non-asbestos complaint by an employee. At the time of the visit, they were also undergoing renovation and construction activities. OSHA asked to see a copy of their asbestos inspection for this facility. Reminder: OSHA's Asbestos Construction Industry Standard mandates building and facility owners to determine the presence, location and quantity of ACM/PACM at work sites before beginning work (for buildings constructed prior to 1981).


Issue: Sufficient samples to confirm negative results

     Per OSHA and EPA regulations, one sample is sufficient to confirm positive asbestos results. However, negative results require mandated specific quantities of individual samples, all which maintain negative results. Negative results for surfacing materials (such as fireproofing) require 3,5, 7 (EPA recommends 9 samples) depending upon the quantity of surfacing material present. TSI (such as piping) require 3 samples when the quantity is >6 LF or 6 SF. Sufficient quantity of miscellaneous materials (such as flooring, roofing, mastics) was left up to the accredited inspector and originally may have been just 1 sample. Revision: In November 2007, the EPA changed its interpretation of the EPA AHERA regulations and requires a minimum of 2 samples to confirm negative results for miscellaneous materials. Check your prior asbestos surveys to ensure at least 2 samples confirm no asbestos content prior to starting your next "non-asbestos" renovation/demolition project. AET's QA/QC policy since 1985 has been to collect a minimum of 3 bulk samples of each homogeneous material to confirm negative results. (YOU SHOULD BE GOOD TO GO IF AET DID YOUR SURVEY).

Issue: PLM vs. TEM

Regulatory Compliance vs. State of Art/Science


     The EPA's Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) and OSHA's Construction Industry Standards for Asbestos require that the analysis of any bulk building material samples collected to confirm/deny asbestos content be conducted by Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM) per EPA Method 600/R-93-116 in an NVLAP Accredited Laboratory. At least 95% of all bulk samples previously collected throughout the US have been analyzed by PLM.  

     Recognized Concern: PLM is not consistently reliable in detecting asbestos in floor coverings and similar non-friable organically bound (NOB) materials such as mastic adhesives and bituminous roofing materials. Asbestos in NOB materials usually exists in low concentrations that are comprised of small diameter or thin fibers which may not be detected by PLM. These fibers can also be obscured by the organic components of the sample, such as tar.  

     Exception #1: Since 1993, the New York State Department of Health has mandated that any sample result for the analysis of NOB material indicating asbestos content ofWHAT'S THAT SMELL?

Carbon monoxide is odorless but kills!

      Headline 2/2/09: 5 Children hospitalized by CO from faulty furnace in Illinois Hotel.

     Headline 2/1/09:

CO scare sends 17 to hospital; Investigators in Philadelphia believe a generator used to run an air compressor that inflated balloons at a children's party at a Community Development Center responsible.

     Headline 1/31/09

:13 family members hospitalized after CO leak from cracked heating vent in Dallas, Texas home.

     These headlines are not unique. Each year in the US, CO poisoning claims approximately 480 lives and sends another 15,200 people to hospital emergency rooms for treatment. CO is the silent killer. It is odorless, colorless and impossible to see, taste or smell. CO is produced whenever any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood or charcoal is burned.

     CO testing is a standard practice in AET's IAQ investigative protocols. AET maintains direct reading instruments which provide instantaneous results of CO in ppm. The OSHA Standard is 50 ppm. Symptoms of mild poisoning include headache, dizziness, chest tightness and nausea and can occur in concentrationsidle your car in the garage, even if the garage door is open to the outside.

  • Don't use a gas oven to heat your home, even for a short time.
  • Don't ever use a charcoal grill in doors, even in the fireplace.
  • Don't sleep in a room with an unvented gas or kerosene space heater, nor use gasoline powered engines in enclosed spaces.
  • Installation of CO detectors with an alarm is a good idea near sleeping areas such as outside bedrooms, but use as a backup and not as a replacement for proper use and maintenance of your fuel-burning appliances.
  • In industrial locations, install an effective ventilation system that removes CO from work areas, educate workers about the sources and conditions that may result in CO poisoning as well as the symptoms that control CO exposure.
  • In working in confined spaces, where the presence of CO is suspected, always test but also ensure the test for oxygen content before entering.

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