Friday, October 31, 2008

Unified Command Continues To Make Great Strides in Aftermath of Hurricane Ike

Pasadena, TX - Oct. 23, 2008 - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), Texas General Land Office (TGLO) and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) have made great strides as the Unified Command in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. From the outset, the four agencies have been committed to identifying, assessing, and overseeing the cleanup of post-hurricane pollution hazards throughout southeast Texas.

“By tapping into the strengths and resources of the agencies that make up the Unified Command, we’ve been able to achieve a great deal in a limited time,” said Incident Commander Althea Foster. “Our mission is to ensure the environmental health and safety of affected communities. We are out in the field every day, doing just that.”

Through air, land and wetlands operations, the Unified Command has been able to reach the common goal of minimizing environmental impacts from the release of oil and hazardous materials. EPA’s ASPECT aircraft has been essential in pinpointing and targeting areas that were hard hit by the hurricane. Through the equipment in ASPECT, detailed chemical information on possible chemical releases can be safely obtained and quickly provided to first responders. In 15 flight missions, totaling 63 hours of flight time logged in the air, EPA’s ASPECT aircraft collected digital aerial photographs, infrared imagery and video. This information gave EPA a clear picture of storm-affected areas. Nearly 900 facilities, including chemical facilities, oil and fuel storage facilities, crude and gas collection and processing facilities, water treatment and wastewater facilities and other facilities falling under EPA jurisdiction, were assessed.

Unified Command ground operations identify and remove orphan drums and containers that may contain hazardous substances. Special attention is given to removal efforts in wetland areas, to ensure minimal impacts on these sensitive environments. More than 28,000 containers have been collected throughout southeastern coastal Texas. A toll-free hotline helps the communities affected by Hurricane Ike report orphan drums and containers. The communities’ assistance has been invaluable to the Unified Command and has helped speed recovery efforts.

The Unified Command has also visited over 1,500 wastewater and drinking water facilities to ensure each facility continues to function properly. In addition, more than 250 oil incidents have been assessed and responded to through ground and air patrols. The Unified Command has identified more than 4,600 “targets” for assessment and removal. Targets are defined as containers or debris lines.

The skills and strengths of each of the four agencies make the Unified Command a strong and effective force in hurricane recovery. Through reconnaissance work, assessments, containment and recovery, much has been accomplished, and the work carries on. For more information on the hurricane response, visit:


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Problem with Indoor Mold?

Have a Problem with Indoor Mold? -

As per the USEPA ( ) The problems of moisture and mold in building structures have increased for many of the same reasons that Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) has become a more significant problem. Molds can trigger asthma episodes in sensitive individuals with asthma and can also trigger allergies in sensitive individuals. Floods, broken pipes, roofs or other shell leakage problems can now result in higher moisture levels and more mold inside buildings. Since all molds require water or moisture, the key to preventing or controlling mold growth is to remove the source of water or moisture. If you have a mold problem and would like to know what to do, EPA has an excellent guide on its Mold Resources web page.

Source: USEPA

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sampling for Mold as Per OSHA

Sampling for Mold

Is it necessary to sample for mold? In most cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary. Air sampling for mold may not be part of a routine assessment because decisions about appropriate remediation strategies often can be made on the basis of a visual inspection.

Your first step should be to inspect for any evidence of water damage and visible mold growth. Testing for mold is expensive, and there should be a clear reason for doing so. In many cases, it is not economically practical or useful to test for mold growth on surfaces or for airborne spores in the building. In addition, there are no standards for “acceptable” levels of mold in buildings, and the lack of a definitive correlation between exposure levels and health effects makes interpreting the data difficult, if not impossible.

Testing is usually done to compare the levels and types of mold spores found inside the building with those found outside of the building or for comparison with another location in the building. In addition, air sampling may provide tangible evidence supporting a hypothesis that investigators have formulated. For example, air sampling may show a higher concentration of the same species of mold when the HVAC is operating than when it has been turned off. This finding may convince the investigators that the mold is growing within, and being disseminated by, the HVAC system. Conversely, negative results may persuade investigators to abandon this hypothesis and to consider other sources of mold growth or dissemination. If you know you have a mold problem, it is more important to spend time and resources removing the mold and solving the moisture problem that causes the moldy conditions than to undertake extensive testing for the type and quantity of mold.

If you are in doubt about sampling, consult an industrial hygienist or other environmental health or safety professional with experience in microbial investigations to help you decide if sampling for mold is necessary or useful, and to identify persons who can conduct any necessary sampling. Due to the wide difference in individual susceptibility to mold contamination, sampling results sampling may have limited application. However, sampling results can be used as a guide to determine the extent of an infestation and the effectiveness of the cleanup. Their interpretation is best left to the industrial hygienist or other environmental health or safety professional.

Sampling for mold should be conducted by professionals with specific experience in designing mold-sampling protocols, sampling methods for microbial contaminants, and interpretation of results. For additional information on air sampling, refer to the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists’ document, “Bioaerosols: Assessment and Control.” In addition, sampling and analysis should follow any other methods recommended by either OSHA, NIOSH, EPA, the American Industrial Hygiene Association, or other recognized professional guidelines. Types of samples can include: air samples, surface samples, bulk samples, and water samples from condensate drain pans or cooling towers.

Microscopic identification of the spores/ colonies requires considerable expertise. These services are not routinely available from commercial laboratories. Documented quality control in the laboratories used for analysis of the bulk, surface, and other air samples is necessary. The American Industrial Hygiene Association offers accreditation to microbial laboratories (Environmental Microbiology Laboratory Accreditation Program (EMLAP)). Accredited laboratories must participate in quarterly proficiency testing (Environmental Microbiology Proficiency Analytical Testing Program (EMPAT)).

OSHA's A Brief Guide to Mold in the Workplace- Safety and Health Information Bulletin

Monday, October 27, 2008

EPA Funded Studies Link Dampness and Mold to Significant Respiratory Problems and to High Costs of Medical Treatment

EPA Funded Studies Link Dampness and Mold to Significant Respiratory Problems and to High Costs of Medical Treatment

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory conducted a meta-analysis which suggests that building dampness and mold are associated with increases of 30%-50% in respiratory and asthma related health outcomes. EPA funded this study, and a related analysis which estimates that 21% of asthma in the US is linked to exposures to mold and dampness in homes, and that this costs the nation an estimated $3.5 billion annually in treatment costs.

Access the Articles and Read the Abstracts online

Meta-analyses of the associations of respiratory health effects with dampness and mold in homes W. J. Fisk, Q. Lei-Gomez, M. J. Mendell, Indoor Air July 2007

Public health and economic impact of dampness and mold D. Mudarri and W. J. Fisk Indoor Air 17:3;226-235, June


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Wipe Out Lead Poisoning - National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week

Release date: 10/20/2008

Contact Information: (news media only) Dale Kemery, 202-564-4355 / (Other inquiries) Priscilla Flattery, 202-564-2718 /; En espaƱol: Lina Younes, 202-564-4355

(10/20/08) National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, October 19-25, is set aside to educate parents and children about the dangers of lead exposure, especially lead-paint hazards in housing. As part of the observance, many states and communities will conduct education and awareness events.

The theme for this year’s lead week, “Let’s Wipe Out Lead Poisoning – Renovate Right!” highlights EPA’s March 2008 rule requiring the use of lead-safe practices during renovation, repair and painting activities. Under the new rule, beginning in April 2010 contractors performing projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities, and schools built before 1978 must be certified and follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination.

To view a Green Scene podcast on this subject, please visit:

For additional information on Lead Poisoning Prevention Week and events in your area, please visit:

To learn more about lead renovation go to:

Saturday, October 25, 2008

EPA fines six Arizona charter school operators for asbestos violations Schools failed to have inspections completed and asbestos management plans

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently fined six Arizona charter school operators a combined total of $11,600 for Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act violations.

In April 2007, EPA inspectors discovered that all but one of the school operators failed to conduct inspections to determine if asbestos-containing material was present in school buildings and all had failed to develop asbestos management plans. The schools have since completed inspections or otherwise obtained the appropriate documentation to establish that no asbestos-containing material is present in their school buildings. All of the schools have developed asbestos management plans.

“All schools, including charter schools, need to conduct asbestos inspections and have asbestos management plans,” said Katherine Taylor, associate director for the Communities and Ecosystems Division in EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. “Asbestos in schools has the potential for endangering the health of students, teachers, and others, including maintenance workers.”

The schools are:

* Valley Academy: The operator Valley Academy, Inc. was fined $2,400.
* Paradise Education Center: The operator, Paragon Management, Inc. was fined $2,100.
* Horizon Community Learning Center: The operator Horizon Community Learning Center, Inc. was fined $2,100.
* Happy Valley School: The operator Happy Valley School, Inc. was fined $2,100.
* Edu-Prize Charter School: The operator Edu-Prize, Inc. was fined $2,100.
* Challenge School: The operator Challenge School, Inc. was fined $800.

Federal law requires schools to conduct an initial inspection using accredited inspectors to determine if asbestos-containing building material is present and develop a management plan to address the asbestos materials found in the school buildings. In certain circumstances, an inspection is not required if the school has a signed statement from the architect or builder stating that a new building was constructed with no asbestos-containing materials.

All six schools established that no asbestos-containing materials were used in their school buildings. Schools that do not contain asbestos-containing material must still develop a management plan that identifies a designated person and includes the architect’s statement or building inspection and the annual notification to parents, teachers, and employees regarding the availability of the plan.

The EPA’s rules also require the school to appoint a designated person who is trained to oversee asbestos activities and ensure compliance with federal regulations. Finally, schools must conduct periodic surveillance and re-inspections, properly train the maintenance and custodial staff, and maintain records in the management plan.

Local education agencies must keep an updated copy of the management plan in their administrative office and at the school, which must be made available for inspection by parents, teachers, and the general public.

For on asbestos in schools visit:


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Mold can cause adverse health effects - FEMA

Mold is an ever-present problem following storm flooding and can be a significant health risk if care is not taken, warn officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA).

They urge residents and owners of flooded property to take action now to identify mold and take steps to clean it up and not wait until inspectors arrive.

Health officials say problems from exposure to mold can follow if it is disturbed through improper cleanup procedures. Also, mold is easily transferred from one surface to another. Infants, children, immune-compromised patients, pregnant women, individuals with existing respiratory conditions (allergies, multiple chemical sensitivity, and asthma) and the elderly appear to be at higher risks for adverse health effects from mold.

Symptoms can include nose and throat irritation, wheezing, coughing, asthma attacks in individuals who have asthma, and lower respiratory tract infections in children. People with pre-existing respiratory conditions also may be susceptible to more serious lung infections.

Mold growth is a common occurrence in flood-damaged homes and damp environments. Mold can become a problem in your home if there is enough moisture available to allow mold to thrive and multiply. Mold discoloration comes in a variety of colors from white to orange and from green to brown or black. Whatever color, it characteristically gives off a musty or earthy smell.

There is no practical way to eliminate all mold spores in the indoor environment, but there are many ways to help control moisture and mold growth. Care must be taken to clean and completely dry any areas of the home that have gotten wet from floodwaters to prevent structural damage and adverse health effects from mold.

The following are a few suggestions to help in preventing mold:

  • Rebuild or retrofit with water-resistant building materials such as tile, stone, deep-sealed concrete, galvanized or stainless steel hardware, indoor/outdoor carpeting, waterproof wallboard and water-resistant glues.
  • Clean fabrics such as curtains and upholstery often and keep them dry. Store clean fabric items in well-ventilated areas.
  • Consider having air ducts cleaned and inspected professionally or replaced.
  • Reduce moisture in the air with dehumidifiers, fans and open windows or air conditioners.
  • Do not use fans if mold already exists; a fan will spread the mold spores.
  • Routinely check potential problem spots. Disinfect often with a 10 percent solution of bleach - about 1-1/4 cup of bleach to a gallon of water. Don't add ammonia as mixing bleach and ammonia will create toxic fumes.

For more information, contact the following sites online: Federal Emergency Management Agency at or U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at

Individuals also may obtain a free copy of FEMA's publication, Mold & Mildew: Cleaning Up Your Flood-Damaged Home, Publication No. 606, by contacting FEMA Publications at 1-800-480-2520.

FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Clean Mold Thoroughly and Safely - FEMA

AUSTIN, Texas -- Disaster recovery specialists caution that mold and mildew can begin to grow within 24 hours after a flood and can be found throughout the house, including the attic, basement and crawl spaces. Health officials encourage those who realize they have mold to act quickly to eliminate the problem. Taking steps to clean up mold properly ensures a healthy home, especially for those who may suffer from allergies and asthma.

All materials are likely to become moldy if they are wet for too long. Thus, the first step in the mold cleanup process is to consider the condition of all items in a flooded area:

  • Wood furniture and other porous materials can trap mold and may need to be thrown away.
  • Harder materials, such as glass, plastic and metal, can be cleaned and disinfected.
  • Carpeting is a problem because drying it out does not remove mold spores. Carpets with heavy mold and mildew need to be discarded.

All wet surfaces should be cleaned, disinfected and dried as quickly as possible. Specialists offer the following suggestions to ensure safe and effective cleanup:

  • Open windows for ventilation and wear rubber gloves and eye protection for cleaning. Consider also using an N-95 rated mask if heavy concentrations of mold are present.
    Wash all areas and washable items that came in contact with floodwaters with a non-ammonia soap or detergent.
  • Rinse thoroughly and disinfect the area with a solution of 10 percent household bleach and 90 percent water. Never use bleach with ammonia. The fumes are toxic.
  • Cleaned areas need to dry for several days. Heat, fans and dehumidifiers help.
  • All odors should be checked out. It is possible for mold to hide in the walls or behind wall coverings. Find all mold sources and properly clean them.
  • Materials that cannot be cleaned, such as wallboard, fiberglass and cellulose insulation, should be removed and discarded. Then clean the wall studs where wallboard has been removed, and allow the area to dry completely.

Additional information on cleaning up after a flood is available at the following web sites:,,,, and

FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Website Links For Mold Resources and Information

Indoor Air - Mold This page provides information about mold resources.URL:

Mold Resources This page discusses how mold is produced and the associated risks to human health and property.URL:

A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home This guide provides information and guidance for homeowners and renters on how to clean up residential mold problems.URL:

Sources of Indoor Air Pollution - Biological Pollutants Provides information about biological pollutants.URL:

Indoor Environment Management Branch: Children's Health Initiative: Toxic Mold Outbreaks of the fungi Stachybotrys atra (S. atra) have been identified as being associated with the deaths of infants in Cleveland, Ohio.URL:

Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings This document provides information about mold remediation in commercial buildings and schools.URL:

Asthma Triggers - Molds Molds can trigger asthma episodes in individuals with an allergic reaction to mold.URL:

IAQ Tools for Schools Kit - IAQ Coordinator's Guide: Appendix H: Mold and Moisture Provides information about mold and moisture.URL:

Healthy School Environments: Mold and Moisture Provides information about mold and moisture in schools.URL:

Building Air Quality: A Guide for Building Owners and Facility Managers: Appendix C: Moisture, Mold and Mildew Provides information about mold, mildew and moisture.URL:

Monday, October 13, 2008

Building Air Quality: A Guide for Building Owners and Facility Managers

The Building Air Quality, developed by the EPA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, provides practical suggestions on preventing, identifying, and resolving indoor air quality (IAQ) problems in public and commercial buildings. This guidance provides information on factors affecting indoor air quality; describes how to develop an IAQ profile of building conditions and create an IAQ management plan; describes investigative strategies to identify causes of IAQ problems; and provides criteria for assessing alternative mitigation strategies, determining whether a problem has been resolved, and deciding whether to consult outside technical specialists. Other topics included in the guide are key problem causing factors; air quality sampling; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems; moisture problems; and additional sources of information.

The entire document can be found at

How Do You Know When You Have Fnished Remediation/Cleanup

How Do You Know When You Have Finished Remediation/Cleanup?
As per the US EPA's website
  • You must have completely fixed the water or moisture problem.
  • You should complete mold removal. Use professional judgment to determine if the cleanup is sufficient. Visible mold, mold-damaged materials, and moldy odors should not be present.
  • If you have sampled, the kinds and concentrations of mold and mold spores in the building should be similar to those found outside, once cleanup activities have been completed.
  • You should revisit the site(s) shortly after remediation, and it should show no signs of water damage or mold growth.
  • People should be able to occupy or re-occupy the space without health complaints or physical symptoms.
  • Ultimately, this is a judgment call; there is no easy answer.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings

The US EPA has a documented entitled "Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings". As per the US EPA's website -

Concern about indoor exposure to mold has been increasing as the public becomes aware that exposure to mold can cause a variety of health effects and symptoms, including allergic reactions. This document presents guidelines for the remediation/cleanup of mold and moisture problems in schools and commercial buildings; these guidelines include measures designed to protect the health of building occupants and remediators. It has been designed primarily for building managers, custodians, and others who are responsible for commercial building and school maintenance. It should serve as a reference for potential mold and moisture remediators. Using this document, individuals with little or no experience with mold remediation should be able to make a reasonable judgment as to whether the situation can be handled in-house. It will help those in charge of maintenance to evaluate an in-house remediation plan or a remediation plan submitted by an outside contractor. Contractors and other professionals who respond to mold and moisture situations in commercial buildings and schools may also want to refer to these guidelines.

Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any organic substance, as long as moisture and oxygen are present. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, foods, and insulation. When excessive moisture accumulates in buildings or on building materials, mold growth will often occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or unaddressed. It is impossible to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment. However, mold growth can be controlled indoors by controlling moisture indoors.

Molds reproduce by making spores that usually cannot be seen without magnification. Mold spores waft through the indoor and outdoor air continually. When mold spores land on a damp spot indoors, they may begin growing and digesting whatever they are growing on in order to survive. Molds gradually destroy the things they grow on.

Many types of molds exist. All molds have the potential to cause health effects. Molds can produce allergens that can trigger allergic reactions or even asthma attacks in people allergic to mold. Others are known to produce potent toxins and/or irritants. Potential health concerns are an important reason to prevent mold growth and to remediate/clean up any existing indoor mold growth.

Since mold requires water to grow, it is important to prevent moisture problems in buildings. Moisture problems can have many causes, including uncontrolled humidity. Some moisture problems in buildings have been linked to changes in building construction practices during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. Some of these changes have resulted in buildings that are tightly sealed, but may lack adequate ventilation, potentially leading to moisture buildup. Building materials, such as drywall, may not allow moisture to escape easily. Moisture problems may include roof leaks, landscaping or gutters that direct water into or under the building, and unvented combustion appliances. Delayed maintenance or insufficient maintenance are also associated with moisture problems in schools and large buildings. Moisture problems in portable classrooms (see IAQ Design Tools for Schools - Portable Classrooms for more information) and other temporary structures have frequently been associated with mold problems.

When mold growth occurs in buildings, adverse health problems may be reported by some building occupants, particularly those with allergies or respiratory problems. Remediators should avoid exposing themselves and others to mold-laden dusts as they conduct their cleanup activities. Caution should be used to prevent mold and mold spores from being dispersed throughout the air where they can be inhaled by building occupants.

This exerpt was taken from

Friday, October 3, 2008

OSHA Asbestos Information Page

Asbestos is well recognized as a health hazard and is highly regulated. An estimated 1.3 million employees in the construction and general industry face significant asbestos exposure on the job. Heaviest exposures occur in the construction industry, particularly during the removal of asbestos during renovation or demolition. Employees are also likely to be exposed during the manufacture of asbestos products (such as textiles, friction products, insulation, and other building materials) and during automotive brake and clutch repair work.OSHA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asbestos rules are intertwined.

The site provides links to information relevant to asbestos in the workplace. Go to source link below for more information: