Chemical hazard training using Simulator Detectors

by Steven Pike, Argon Electronics

The ability to deliver consistent, engaging and true-to-life chemical hazard detection training scenarios relies on regular access to realistic, hands-on equipment.

What’s vital is that these training tools replicate not only the readings and the responsiveness of real detectors, but that they also provide trainees with an authentic experience that recreates the potential challenges that they will face in actual incidents.

Training for CBRNe and HazMat threats

Planning exercises for modern-day CBRNe and HazMat threats has never been more complex, with the need to respond to anything from clandestine laboratory searches to major industrial incidents, chemical improvised explosive devices or terrorist threats.

And key to the success of any training scenario is the capacity for instructors to be able to create compelling training experiences that are straight-forward to set up and easy to repeat.

While training with Live Agents (LAT) can still have a role to play, it introduces a substantial degree of risk to instructors, students, their equipment and the environment – not to mention incurring greater cost, increased administrative effort and a heavier regulatory burden.

Simulant training is often viewed as presenting a safer “middle ground” for CBRNe and HazMat exercises, bringing with it the advantages of a more credible, real-life experience but at the same time reducing risk through the use of smaller, controlled quantities of substances.

But even in the most carefully managed of exercises, the use of simulants brings with it certain disadvantages. It can often restrict the breadth and variety of scenarios – for example, when they are required to be used in confined spaces, or where wind, temperature or training location can impact negatively on the learning experience.

It is also increasingly common for modern detectors to provide limited response to simulant sources, due to their highly developed interference rejection (IR) capabilities.

The good news though is that safe, high-quality and easily repeatable CBRNe/HazMat training needn’t be so complicated.

Simulator detectors for CBRNe and HazMat training

One solution that has revolutionized modern approaches to chemical detection training is the adoption of innovative and safe detector training aids that replicate the functionality of real devices.

These intelligent, electronic training tools place instructors in control, they are environmentally friendly, they can be set up in an unlimited variety of indoor and outdoor locations and they offer powerful after action review features.

Let’s now take a closer look at one specific example of a chemical hazard detector – the Smiths Detection LCD3.3 – and its simulator equivalent – the LCD3.3-SIM, also known in the USA as the M4A1 JCAD and M4A1 JCAD-SIM respectively.

The Smiths Detection LCD3.3

The Smiths Detection LCD3.3 is a person-worn device which is reported to be the most widely deployed chemical detector in use today.

It is used for the detection of Chemical Warfare Agents (CWAs) – including nerve, blood, blister and choking agents – as well as for the identification of a selected library of Toxic Industrial Chemicals(TICs). The detector also incorporates different operating modes ensuring optimal detection capability.

The detector is simple to operate, requires no calibration or routine maintenance and can log up to 72 hours of mission data for further analysis while user replaceable sieve packs reduce the need for factory based overhaul. A key benefit of this detector is its ability to specifically identify CWAs, however this advanced selectivity and makes simulant based training challenging.

The Argon LCD3.3-SIM

The LCD3.3-SIM is a training device that has been designed replicate the features and functionality of the actual LCD3.3.

The simulation detector responds to electronic sources that imitate the effects of chemical vapors, toxic substances and false positives and that realistically replicate the effects of wind direction and temperature, the depletion of sieve packs and batteries, confidence testing and the use of a survey nozzle.

With no requirement for simulants as part of training, there is zero possibility of environmental contamination or health and safety risk to instructors or students.

The device is compatible with a wide variety of other simulators (including simulators for the AP2C, AP4C, CAM, LCD3.2 and the RAID-M100) which means that multi-detector and multi-substance training can take place within the same scenario.

The inclusion of a remote control feature provides CBRNe and HazMat instructors with complete management of the exercise – from deciding on the effectiveness of decontamination drills, to simulating the effects of wind, temperature and persistency and the ability to instantly reset a scenario in readiness for a new exercise.

After Action Review (AAR) enables instructors to confirm that their students have set up and used the detector in accordance with the procedures for the real-life device. In the event of student error, the student performance reporting feature provides a detailed breakdown of their actions to assist with learning.

The use of innovative simulator detector training systems significantly increases personnel safety, as well as enhancing learning and easing regulatory pressures.

Such devices also place the instructor firmly in control of the exercise to ensure you’re delivering consistent, verifiable and measurable CBRNe/HazMat training outcomes.

This article was first published as a blog on the Argon Electronics website.

__________________________

About the Author

Steven Pike is the Founder and Managing Director of Argon Electronics, a world leader in the development and manufacture of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) and hazardous material (HazMat) detector simulators.

When Oil and Water Mix: Understanding the Environmental Impacts of Fracking

Dan Soeder, director of the Energy Resources Initiative  at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, has co-authored the cover article titled “When oil and water mix: Understanding the environmental impacts of shale development,” in the recent issue of GSA Today, a magazine published by the Geological Society of America.

The article explores what is known and not known about the environmental risks of fracking with the intent of fostering informed discussions within the geoscience community on the topic of hydraulic fracturing, says Soeder. Soeder’s co-author is Douglas B. Kent of the United States Geological Survey.

In this paper, Soeder and Kent bridge the gap in consensus regarding fracking, providing current information about the environmental impacts of shale development. The article is open access and adheres to science and policy, presenting a complicated and controversial topic in a manner more easily understood by the lay person.

“Geoscientists from dinosaur experts to the people studying the surface of Mars are often asked by the public to weigh-in with their opinions on fracking. We wanted the broader geoscience community to be aware of what is known and not known about the impacts of this technology on air, water, ecosystems and human health.  A great deal has been learned in the past decade, but there are still critical unknowns where we don’t yet have answers,” Soeder says.

Development of shale gas and tight oil, or unconventional oil and gas (UOG), has dramatically increased domestic energy production in the United States and Canada.  UOG resources are typically developed through the use of hydraulic fracturing, which creates high-permeability flow paths into large volumes of tight rocks to provide a means for hydrocarbons to move to a wellbore. This process uses significant volumes of water, sand, and chemicals, raising concerns about risks to the environment and to human health.

In the article, Soeder and Kent address the various potential impacts of fracking and how those impacts are being addressed.  Risks to air include releases of methane, carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds, and particulate matter. Water-resource risks include excessive withdrawals, stray gas in drinking-water aquifers, and surface spills of fluids or chemicals. Landscapes can be significantly altered by the infrastructure installed to support large drilling platforms and associated equipment. Exposure routes, fate and transport, and toxicology of chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process are poorly understood, as are the potential effects on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and human health.

Schematic diagram illustrating unconventional oil and gas (UOG) development activities relevant to research on human-health and environmental impacts (not to scale): well-pad construction (1); drilling (2); completion/stimulation (3, 4); production of natural gas (5) and oil (6) with well casings designed to protect drinking-water aquifers; ultimate closure (plug and abandon), illustrating legacy well with leaking casing (7); wastewater disposal (8); induced seismicity (9); landscape disturbance (10); and potential for transport pathways from deep to shallow formations (11). Also represented are water supply wells in shallow and deep aquifers (12). Photographs by Dan Soeder.

 

Canadian ban on asbestos and asbestos containing products

In the same week the cannabis became legal in Canada, the federal government announced the prohibition of asbestos and asbestos-containing products, according to a recent study published at DailyCBD.com.  The government action is considered the final step in the prohibition of asbestos and asbestos-containing products in Canada.

These new regulations are part of the government-wide strategy announced in 2016 to protect Canadians from exposure to asbestos. The new regulations prohibit the import, sale, and use of asbestos as well as the manufacture, import, sale, and use of asbestos-containing products, with a limited number of exclusions.

In addition, exports of asbestos and asbestos-containing products are now prohibited, with a limited number of exceptions, and the existing Export of Substances on the Export Control List Regulations and schedule 3 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 were amended to reflect that.

The new regulations and related amendments will come into force on December 30, 2018.  They will protect the health of Canadians by preventing new asbestos and asbestos-containing products from entering the Canadian market.

“This is the final step to ban asbestos in Canada.  We have followed through on our promise to deliver new, tougher rules to stop the import, use, sale, and export of asbestos in Canada. These measures will protect our communities and the health and safety of all Canadians,” stated Catherine McKenna in a news release.

Quick facts

Asbestos was declared a human carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, in 1987.  At the height of its use, asbestos was found in more than 3,000 applications worldwide.

The regulations do not apply to residues left from mining asbestos.  However, these asbestos-mining residues cannot be sold for use in construction or landscaping without provincial authorization, and they cannot be used to make a product that contains asbestos. The mining of asbestos in Canada ceased in 2011.

Risks related to asbestos-containing products that are already in use or installed—such as in existing buildings, equipment, and vehicles—will continue to be managed by existing federal, provincial, and municipal rules and regulations. There are no significant health risks if asbestos fibres are enclosed or tightly bound, in good condition, and left undisturbed.

The use, sale, and export of any asbestos-containing products that exist in inventories but that have not yet been installed are prohibited under the new regulations and related amendments.

The current Asbestos Products Regulations under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act will be repealed as these new regulations are more comprehensive.

Real-Time Global Radon Map

Airthings, a company specializing in digital radon detectors, recently launched RadonMap.com, a live global Radon map.  The map pulls constantly-updating Radon level data from Airthings’ devices all over North America, Europe ,and beyond to provide current localized analysis and advice – ideal for anyone looking to for the risks associated with radon exposure.

Facts about Radon

Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally when the uranium in soil and rock breaks down. It is invisible, odourless and tasteless. When radon is released from the ground into the outdoor air, it is diluted and is not a concern. However, in enclosed spaces, like homes and offices, it can sometimes accumulate to high levels, which can be a risk to the health of the occupants of the building.

Radon gas breaks down or decays to form radioactive elements that can be inhaled into the lungs. In the lungs, decay continues, creating radioactive particles that release small bursts of energy. This energy is absorbed by nearby lung tissue, damaging the lung cells. When cells are damaged, they have the potential to result in cancer when they reproduce.

Exposure to high levels of radon in indoor air results in an increased risk of developing lung cancer. The risk of cancer depends on the level of radon and how long a person is exposed to those levels.

Exposure to radon and tobacco use together can significantly increase your risk of lung cancer. For example, if you are a lifelong smoker your risk of getting lung cancer is 1 in 10. If you add long term exposure to a high level of radon, your risk becomes 1 in 3. On the other hand, if you are a non-smoker, your lifetime lung cancer risk at the same high radon level is 1 in 20.

Radon Map

RadonMap.com aggregates radon level data from Airthings’ devices dispersed all over the world to provide accurate, local radon readings for users seeking current and reliable insight into the dangerous indoor gas and how much exposure they are subjected to daily.

Previously, gaining an understanding of localized Radon readings was only possible through professionally-administered tests or government data, offering a one-time snapshot rather than a constantly-evolving picture. With the introduction of the Airthings RadonMap.com, radon levels and fluctuations can be tracked accurately through a community of user-generated data. RadonMap.com instantly becomes a very reliable and up-to-date information source available for alerting the public about the presence of Radon in their environments and enabling them to take corrective action, if necessary, before a situation becomes critical.

About Airthings

Airthings is a Norwegian tech company that develops and manufactures both professional and consumer facing technology. These products include monitors for radon and other dangerous indoor air pollutants. The company was founded in 2008.

What You Need to Know about Your Written Hazard Communication Plan

by Michael Collins, CIH, CSP, CIEC, GLE Associates

The United States Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) requires employers to maintain a written hazard communication plan that effectively protects workers from potentially harmful chemical exposure in the workplace. On the surface, the requirement sounds simple, yet failure to meet this requirement is the second most commonly cited OSHA violation.

Here’s what you need to know to ensure you comply with this simple, critical OSHA requirement.

Who Needs a Written Hazard Communication Plan?

OSHA regulation 1910.1200 requires all employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplaces to prepare and implement a written hazard communication plan. This applies, according to the regulation, “to any chemical which is known to be present in the workplace in such a manner that employees may be exposed under normal conditions of use or in a foreseeable emergency.”

There are some exclusions to the requirement, including ingredients in food, certain pesticides, and distilled spirits. In most cases, the excluded chemicals are covered by other regulations. For full information, visit OSHA’s hazard communications page.

What are the Key Requirements of the Written Hazard Communication Plan?

Employers are responsible for developing and maintaining a written hazard communication program for the workplace that includes:

  • Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) for each chemical present
  • Lists of hazardous chemicals present, referenced in each case to the appropriate SDS
  • Appropriate labeling of containers of chemicals in the workplace
  • Labeling of containers of chemicals being shipped to other workplaces
  • Preparation and distribution of SDSs to employees and downstream employers
  • Development and implementation of employee training programs regarding hazards of chemicals and protective measures, which must be provided at the time of the employee’s initial assignment, as well as whenever a new chemical hazard is introduced to the work area
  • The methods the employer will use to inform employees of the hazards of non-routine tasks, and the hazards associated with chemicals contained in unlabeled pipes in their work areas

Employers are further responsible for making the written hazard communication program available, upon request, to employees and their designated representatives.

What Hazards Does the Standard Protect From?

Chemicals can pose a wide range of health hazards, including but not limited to:

  • Irritation
  • Sensitization
  • Carcinogenicity
  • Flammability
  • Corrosion
  • Reactivity

The written hazard communication plan helps protect workers from these and other risks associated with exposure in the workplace.

How to Prepare Your Written Hazard Communication Plan

Writing a hazard communication plan is not overly complicated, but it’s critical that you get it right. Start by collecting data on all potentially hazardous chemicals in use at your work site. Make a list of them. Gather SDSs for each chemical, and reference the SDS for each one inside the master list.

Identify which workers experience exposure risk during the course of their workday, as well as in foreseeable emergency circumstances. Develop an information and training program to ensure workers understand the hazards present in their workplace, as well as appropriate protective measures for those hazards. And, conduct personal air sampling for these chemicals to establish OSHA-required Negative Exposure Assessments (NEAs).

Many employers prefer the confidence and ease of hiring an experienced firm like GLE to prepare an OSHA-compliant written hazard communication plan on their behalf and conduct NEAs.

 

This article was first published on the GLE Associates website.  GLE is an integrated architecture, engineering, and environmental consulting firm, headquartered in Tampa, Florida, with offices throughout Florida and the Southeastern United States.

 

Concern about Hazmat Incidents at Canada’s Proposed Spaceport

In a joint venture with several US firms, Halifax-based Maritime Launch Services (MLS) is building Canada’s first spaceport near Canso, Nova Scotia. At a total cost of $304 million—a figure that includes the cost of the first rocket launch and promotional expenses—the launch pad is slated to deliver commercial satellites to low Earth orbit aboard Ukrainian-built rockets on a due south trajectory, and at a cost of $60 million per launch.

Stephen Matier, left, president of Maritime Launch Services and Maksym Degtiarov, chief designer of the launch vehicle at the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau, talk with reporters at a meeting of the proposed Spaceport project team in Dartmouth, N.S. on December 11, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan)

The Canso Spaceport Facility will be 20 hectares in size and is aimed at attracting firms that want to put satellites into orbit for commercial purposes.  The site will include a control centre, launch area and “horizontal integration facility,” where materials will be prepared for the launch and some propellants will be stored

The company would like to launch as many as eight rockets per year starting in 2022.

There are concerns about the spaceport from government experts.  Specifically, concerns related to environmental and health & safety issues.  Recently released documents released by the province detail numerous questions about the planned Canso Spaceport Facility.  Nova Scotia’s environment ministry will not approve the project unless their concerns are addressed.

The specific concerns of the N.S. Environment Ministry is how the company will address an explosion, crash or fuel leak.  According to the recently released government document, a spill would “destroy the impacted ecosystems with no chance of recovery within the next several hundred years.”

According to the Maritime Launch Services proposal, the rockets would use nitrogen tetroxide and unsymmetrical dimenthyl hydrazine, or UDH, for the second portion of their launch into the atmosphere.

A letter from the Canadian Defence Department says the military “does not have sufficient knowledge” to assess the impacts of an accidental discharge of the UDH on the land or surface water, but “suggests an assessment should be completed.”

A professor at the University of British Columbia has raised concerns about an “exceedingly toxic” rocket propellant that will be used at the Canso, N.S., operation. Michael Byers, a political science professor at UBC, said there is a danger associated with UDH — which he said is known in Russia as “the Devil’s Breath.”

Professor Byers stated “If something goes wrong on launch, you know, if the rocket were to tip over and explode, or if there were some kind of spill during transportation or assembly, you’d still have a serious health and environmental concern.”

Other government officials comment that there isn’t enough information in the proposal to assess potential dangers.

Chuck McKenna, a manager with the resource management unit of the provincial Environment Department, says detailed plans on how dangerous goods will be stored and handled weren’t provided.

He says this should include details on the potential effects of a chemical accident, prevention methods and emergency response procedures.

Johnny McPherson, an expert on air quality in the provincial Environment Department, says in his submission that the first stage propellants of a rocket can create “black carbon (soot)” that is “harmful if inhaled because of small particle size and damaging effects.”

The government comments were made in response to the environmental assessment of the project prepared by a consultant.

Nova Scotia Environment Minister Margaret Miller said last week the environmental assessment, submitted in July, didn’t contain sufficient information for her to make a decision on whether to approve the project.

Miller has given the company one year to provide additional information and studies.

The company’s president has said he’s confident the firm will finish the study in response to the concerns raised, and it is “optimistic” it can address the issues raised.

Decades Long Secret of Lead Contaminated Soil in Winnipeg

As reported by the CBC, testing performed on soil in several other Winnipeg neighbourhoods more than 10 years ago showed potentially dangerous levels of lead — but residents were never told about the results because the  government at the time withheld the information, according to documents obtained by CBC News.

Documents obtained by CBC through government sources reveal an extensive round of soil testing was conducted by the provincial government in 2007 and 2008 around Point Douglas, Wolseley, Minto and South Osborne.

Residential boulevards were targeted, as were playgrounds, schools and sports fields.

Two draft reports written 

At least two draft reports detailing the results were written in 2009 and 2011, as well as a draft news release and technical report. For reasons that remain unclear, the government never publicly released the reports.

Of the samples taken in the Point Douglas area, 17 came back positive for lead contamination above acceptable levels and a further 10 residential sites in other areas of Winnipeg also exceeded Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, or CCME, guidelines for lead levels.

Excerpt from the 2011 Report

A chart taken from a 2011 report that details lead levels found in residential boulevards in Point Douglas. A result of 140 ug/g — micrograms per gram, or parts per million — or higher exceeds national safety guidelines for human health protection. (Surface Soil Lead Levels in Winnipeg: 2007-2008)

The acceptable level is 140 parts per million. One result showed 2,240 ppm on Angus Street near Sutherland Avenue in Point Douglas.

According to the report, the possible causes of contamination in the city are historic use of leaded gas, a number of now-shuttered lead smelters, scrap recycling yards, the railyards and metal manufacturing operations.

At the sports field for Weston School — an elementary school located just off of Logan Avenue and 280 metres south of a now-closed smelter site — 19 soil samples came back with results that exceeded CCME guidelines.

Government officials could find no record of the Winnipeg School Division being told about the results or evidence that the sports field had been remediated.

A spokesperson for the province’s Sustainable Development department confirmed the documents were never publicly released by the previous government. He said residents and the school divisions were not informed of the results, according to people still working in the department.

He also said no soil remediation was done in response to the results of the report.

The Archibald Tot Lot, Hespeler Park, Maryland Park, Spence Tot Lot and Lord Nelson elementary school all had a least one sample showing unsafe levels of lead.

Locations of high lead contamination in the soil in Winnipeg Neigbourhoods

Children shouldn’t play in sports field: Professor

Francis Zvomuya, a professor of soil science at the University of Manitoba, wasn’t surprised by the test results but said some of the numbers were particularly alarming, including the high levels in Weston and in Point Douglas.

In the case of Weston School, the lead levels had increased since the 1980s, when the first round of tests were completed. Zvomuya said if no attempts were made to clean up the area in the past 10 years, children should not be playing there.

“The case that is particularly glaring is Weston elementary. When you look at the concentrations at the majority of sites [tested] … out of the 22 they looked at, only two sites were not contaminated,” he said.

“That is concerning when you look at the concentrations.”

He said there are a number of health issues that come with exposure to lead, including impaired neurological development and developmental delays in children, as well as learning difficulties.

Health Canada says even very small amounts of lead in the bloodstream can have harmful health effects and children are especially at risk.

Lead can affect their brain development, behaviour, blood and kidneys. Severe cases of lead poisoning are rare in Canada but can cause vomiting, diarrhea or convulsions.

Children are at risk of ingesting lead if they play in contaminated soil and put their hands in their mouth. Ongoing exposure puts people at higher risk of developing health complications.

“Every time you have a site that is frequented by kids or where kids spend a reasonable amount of time playing, then there is a concern — because then there is a risk of exposure to the contaminants,” Zvomuya said.

New testing in Point Douglas area

A senior official with the current government said that new testing of soil in the Point Douglas will be completed by the end of October.  A report on the results will be completed by December  2018 and publicly released.

Zvomuya was in charge of the soil tests that occurred last year in St. Boniface and will lead the new tests the government has ordered for the Point Douglas area.

The best way to clean up the contaminated soil is to bring in new soil to these areas, he said. He said the clean-up should be concentrated in the areas most frequented by children

“If you have a site where our kids play and where humans spend a lot of hours working or playing or doing recreational activities … then they have to be remediated,” he said.

“It may be expensive but that is the only way we can have people doing activities without facing the risk of lead poisoning.”

Gaps on the movement of dangerous goods in Northern Canada

As reported by the The Canadian Press, the Canadian federal government says it doesn’t know enough about how, when, and where dangerous goods move through the Canadian North, highlighting the potential risks of a major spill or other disaster.

As a result, the possible effects on public safety and the environment are also unclear, Transport Canada acknowledges.

The department is commissioning a study to help fill in the knowledge gaps and improve readiness when it comes to movement of goods ranging from explosives and flammable liquids to infectious substances and radioactive materials.

The effort will focus on regions north of the 55th parallel as well as on more southerly, but isolated, areas in eastern Manitoba and northern Ontario, says a newly issued call for bids to carry out the study.

The overall goal is to fully identify the hazardous substances transported throughout these areas and the major hubs that link to relevant airports, marine ports, ice roads, railroads, mines, refining sites, manufacturing plants and warehouses.

The information will help Transport Canada pinpoint potential risks and make decisions concerning safety regulations and compliance, the tender notice says.

A stark reminder of the difficulty of moving goods in northern Canada came when the only rail line to Churchill, Man., was flooded and it became impossible to deliver freight overland until an ice road was built.

There are also virtually no freight rail lines north of the 60th parallel, except for rail access to Hay River in the Northwest Territories, the notice says. Considering the seasonal nature of ice roads and ports, there are limited routes for movement of dangerous goods in or out of northern Canada and other remote areas, it adds.

The tenuous nature of northern transportation systems mean there are “gaps in information” about the kinds of dangerous goods transported, the volume of shipments and the sort of emergency response systems available.

“We continuously examine ways to make transportation in Canada safer for all and this assessment is part of our effort to ensure even greater knowledge regarding the handling of goods in the North,” said Transport Canada spokeswoman Annie Joannette.

She declined to provide additional information given the competitive tender process underway.

The most valuable element of the exercise could be the educational process of better informing people about the risks of transporting dangerous substances, said Rob Huebert, a northern studies expert at the University of Calgary.

“It’s always about the follow-through,” he said. “Because you can have all these exercises through the ying-yang, but if you’re not setting up the system properly and then maintaining the system, what’s the point of having it?”

Until now, Canada’s emergency preparedness efforts have largely been focused on maritime response and less on land-based accidents, he said.

“I think a lot of people always forget that the North is an area that is just so different from every place else.”

North American Rail Network (Transportation Safety Board of Canada)

Mesothelioma Awareness: Asbestos and Occupational Safety

by Sarah Wallace, Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center

For many years, the natural mineral known as asbestos was used in constructing buildings, insulation, roofing, and homes. Asbestos is heavily regulated in the United States today, but many people are still exposed daily to asbestos containing materials (ACMs) that still exist in buildings, structures, and homes. During demolition, DIY, or renovation projects, asbestos can become friable and people are then susceptible to inhaling the small fibers. When asbestos becomes lodged in the body, specifically in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart, it can lead to lung cancer or mesothelioma.

Even though the use of asbestos has decreased dramatically in the United States since the late 20th century, mesothelioma is still the leading occupational cancer. This is because the disease can take up to 50 years to develop, and those who were exposed to asbestos prior to the 1980s are still being diagnosed today. On top of that, professionals who work in different industries that have a history of asbestos use, such as construction, manufacturing, and shipyard work, are still at risk of exposure they may come into contact with materials and products made before regulations were put in place. Due to the microscopic size of asbestos fibers and ambiguity around where the toxin could have been used in the past, it’s important for workers to stay educated on where asbestos might be hiding and what safety precautions to take on the job.

Occupations most at risk and how to stay safe:

Construction Workers– Because asbestos was used heavily in the construction of homes and other buildings, many construction workers have been exposed to asbestos, and they are still at risk for exposure. With ACMs still existing in buildings, approximately 1 million construction workers could still be vulnerable to asbestos annually. Today, professionals in the construction industry are at risk for first-hand exposure more than any other profession. Workers in multiple trades including roofers, carpenters, electricians, and masonry should be aware of asbestos as they work.

In order for workers to protect themselves, professionals in these fields should take the precaution of wearing the proper masks during any type of construction project. Understanding the age of the building and what asbestos looks like is also important because this could help workers know the risks associated with a certain structure, making them less vulnerable to exposure. Keep in mind that asbestos can exist in a variety of products including drywall, shingles, ceiling tiles, and insulation, so even those participating in DIY projects should be aware of where their health and safety could be at risk.

Firefighters– Asbestos fibers can be released into the air when a building or home catches on fire. This puts first responders like firefighters in danger of inhaling the toxin in the process of putting out a fire. This leaves firefighters at risk to develop peritoneal mesothelioma, which originates in the lining of the lungs after being inhaled.  While the initial danger to firefighters is the fire itself, even after the flames are put out, asbestos could be present in the air as the structure cools off. Firefighter equipment is designed to keep out hazardous materials like asbestos, but many people do not understand that certain risks persist even after the initial fire is put out. Asbestos fibers can attach to clothing, leading to the possibility of second-hand exposure for those who might come in contact with any type of clothing used at the scene of the fire.

In order to limit exposure to asbestos particles, firefighters should wear a certified self-containing breathing apparatus (SCBA) mask that covers the mouth and nose in order to protect themselves while on the job. They should also keep masks on even after the fire has been put out while debris is cooling, because asbestos fibers could still be in the air. To eliminate risks of exposure for family, friends, and colleagues, firefighters should also remove their gear before leaving the scene and wash off before returning home.

 Shipyard Workers– At one time, asbestos exposure was a large risk for laborers and those employed on ships. Due to the mineral’s strong and heat resistant attributes, was often used for things like boilers and steam pipes on Navy ships and shipyards. As a result, many shipyard laborers were exposed to asbestos, especially if they worked as electricians, painters, machinists, or “asbestos insulators.” This is one of the reasons veterans make up about 30 percent of mesothelioma diagnoses in the United States.

Shipyard workers are less likely to be exposed first-hand to asbestos today, but anyone working with older shipbuilding materials or piping should be aware of the possible risks and wear the appropriate masks to limit inhaling fibers. Workers who have been exposed in the past should let their primary care doctor know and stay up-to-date on appointments. Symptoms of mesothelioma specifically can often go undiagnosed because they are similar to symptoms of the flu, manifesting as a cough at first and eventually leading to shortness of breath and fever. If you know that you have been exposed, paying careful attention to your health and communicating with your doctor could lead to an early diagnosis, improving prognosis and life expectancy.

Preventing asbestos-related disease

 If you come across asbestos on the job, contacting a professional who knows how to handle the material will be the best way to move forward. No amount of asbestos exposure is safe, and handling the mineral should be taken seriously before proceeding with a project. Mesothelioma is a deadly but preventable cancer, if the correct steps are taken by employers and employees. Although asbestos has been heavily regulated over time, there is still not a ban on the material in the United States. Taking the time to check labels before using any products and educating others in your industry on how to protect themselves are sure ways to help bring an end to mesothelioma and other health issues caused by asbestos.

 

Nova Scotia Homeowner Fined for not Investigating Leaking UST

The Nova Scotia Department of the Environment recently fined a homeowner in Sydney (located on Cape Breton Island) with failing to obtain the services of a site professional to determine whether a leaking oil tank had caused contamination.

The regulator had issued two directives to the homeowner prior to filing the charge in court. The amount of the fine was $350. The homeowner has been given two years to complete any necessary remediation on his property. Being a homeowner is tough especially when you are moving towards retirement. Most invest in property to rent to get help with their mortgages, some even use their equity release to do this. If you are interested in having your equity released and want to know how much you have you might be interested in something like this equity release calculator for more information.

The Nova Scotia Department of the Environment Homeowner Guide to Heating Oil and Tank Systems provides information on how homeowners can lessen the environmental risk posed by above-ground heating oil tanks. The Province also has a Domestic Fuel Oil Spill Policy.

Fuel oil tanks owned by homeowners can leak and cause environmental damage (Photo Credit: NACHI.org)