Wednesday, November 29, 2017

California Fire Recovery Lengthened by Hazardous Waste Removal

Before Northern California can begin to rebuild after last month's devastating
wildfires, EPA must clear hazardous household waste.

Victims of California's wildfires last month still have another hurdle in their way of rebuilding. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must remove hazardous waste from the charred remains of homes before renovation projects can commence.

Damaged containers of fuel, paints, solvents, pesticides, fertilizer, and ammunition are the priority of EPA's hazardous waste collection project ongoing in Napa and Sonoma counties. These common backyard items can seep into soil, penetrate groundwater, and contaminate vital water systems. These hazardous household wastes can also give off toxic fumes and destroy building foundations if not properly removed.

Over 250 workers are in Napa and Sonoma counties working on what EPA has called phase one of debris recovery.

"Here in Sonoma, there's over 7,000 properties, of which we've done about a third as of Wednesday night. Over in Napa, there's in excess of 700 properties, and we're a few days away from being about halfway done over in Napa," Steve Calanog, EPA incident commander, said in a recent press release.

After phase one, the US Army Corps of Engineers will remove remaining debris and ash for consenting homeowners. This phase is voluntary, so affected homeowners are encouraged to apply for the debris recover.

"If they [homeowners] look at, we do have the application there to fill out. That can actually tart their process to have the government come in and start removing the debris from the property," Veronica Verde, FEMA external affairs officer, said in a recent press release.

In addition to registering for the second debris cleanup, Verde encourages all victims of the wildfires to apply for financial assistance through FEMA. In Sonoma county, more than 2,700 impacted homeowners have applied and received more than $4 million in assistance.

EPA expects to remain in the impacted counties until all hazardous household waste is removed from the area. 

To learn more about the EPA's ongoing project in Napa and Sonoma counties, visit their website. To learn more about hazardous waste removal and how to get involved in this career, visit Zack Academy's website.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Five Tips to Lower Your Energy Bill This Winter

Property owners don't have to overhaul their heating system in order to
save money on energy bills. These five energy-efficient tips are
simple and cost-effective ways to save money this season.

Every winter, property owners are tasked with the challenge of keeping energy bills down as the need for indoor heating rises. Often times, homeowners and landlords fear they must overhaul their entire heating system in order to see savings, but there are usually several energy-efficient solutions available. With the weather only getting colder, here are five tips for property owners to increase energy performance and save money on fuel costs:
  1. Insulate. Replacing or improving the insulation in homes can make a huge difference in energy costs. Proper insulation will retain heat in a structure and reduce the need for all-day, all-night use of the heater. Recycled and eco-friendly options have made insulation cheaper than ever before, so auditing your property for insulation deficits is worth a shot. 
  2. Replace the boiler. Many beautiful, historic homes have equally aging boilers to complement them. Built during a time when fuel was abundant and cheap, old boilers can be a massive source of power consumption. Servicing or even upgrading an inefficient boiler can drive down energy bills. 
  3. Sealing windows and doors. Cracked windows and old doors allow precious heat to escape from properties during the window. Fixing the seals on windows and doors is much cheaper than a new heating system - but it can often times save homeowners just as much money in the long run. 
  4. Heating controls. Energy-efficient thermostats, radiator valves and other heating controls can allocate heat to the areas that need it instead of wasting energy by heating the whole property. Newer models can even be set with a timer so that if homeowners are gone during the day at work, heat won't be wasted on an empty house. 
  5. Energy-efficient lighting. Low-energy fluorescent light bulbs or light emitting diodes give maximum brightness with minimum impact on the energy bill. As heater use is inevitable during winter, homeowners should look at reducing their energy consumption in other areas, too. 
With these five energy-efficient solutions, homeowners can spend more time enjoying the season and less time worrying about their next energy bill. Review your home's energy performance and see the savings in your own wallet.

To learn more about energy auditing, visit Zack Academy's energy efficiency homepage.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

High Levels of Lead, Cadmium Found in Decorative Glassware

Researchers at the University of Plymouth found that improper handling
of enameled glassware can expose consumers to dangerous
levels of lead and cadmium.

New research from the University of Plymouth warns that drinking from enameled glassware can cause lead poisoning. In the study, researchers identified that dishwashing or stacking decorated glassware can cause enameled decorations to peel, exposing dangerous amounts of lead and cadmium-based paint.

The research comes right before one of the biggest feasts of the year, Thanksgiving - a time when many will break out the special dining ware for guest-use only.

Researchers at the University of Plymouth conducted 197 tests on both new and second-hand glassware. Lead was found in 139 tests and cadmium was found in 134 tests. The toxic metals were present on both the surface and rims of glasses - sometimes with concentrations 1000 times higher than the limit set by the U.S. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.

"The presence of hazardous elements in both the paint and glaze of decorated glassware has obvious implications for both human health and the environment," Dr. Andrew Turner, lead researcher for the study, said in a recent press release.

Lead poisoning in particular is cumulative, which means the most severe symptoms come from repeated exposure. Lead exposure is known to cause neurological and developmental complications, as well as blood and bone disorders. Very high exposure to lead can be fatal.

In the report, researchers advised consumers that enameled dining ware should not be washed in a dishwasher to avoid eroding the decorative finish. Researchers also advised against stacking decorated glassware as this can also cause paint to peel or chip.

"I believe consumers should be made aware of this, while retails and the glass industry have the responsibility to eliminate toxic metals from decorated products," Dr. Turner said in a recent press release.

To read the study in full, visit Science Direct. To learn more about lead paint certifications and how to get involved in this field, visit Zack Academy's lead home page.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Season of Lungs

Have you ever wondered why there is an increased focus on lung health in the Autumn? The answer is not as arbitrary as you may think. According to traditional Chinese medicine, the Five Element Theory, which comprises of our connection to nature, also includes our organs. Within the framework, each vital organ is organized into a web of interconnected relationships between each other along with their respective connections to the seasons, certain foods, and more. The lungs help the body maintain a healthy immune defense against pathogens and with Autumn being most associated with the beginning of flu season and other common ailments, it is during this time that lung-related holidays are present. 

Lung Awareness Holidays (Autumn) 
Beginning in September, there is Mesothelioma Awareness Day (MAD) - a day that focuses on the rare disease that has caused over 40,000 deaths in the United States since 1999. Following MAD is Healthy Lung Month in October, and finally Lung Cancer Awareness Month in November. Since we are in the transitionary period between the two awareness months, we wanted to discuss correlations between the two since some hazardous materials can cause cancer.

Why It’s More Than Cigarettes
While we can protect our kidneys, heart, liver, and spleen from most harmful substances by avoiding ingesting toxic items or increasing a workout regimen that strengthens organs like the heart, the lungs are more complicated. Respirable particles that are invisible to the naked eye are a constant threat to lung health and the solution is not as simple as staying away from carcinogens found in tobacco products. In fact, there are several factors other than smoking (though it is a huge offender) that can contribute to the continuous attack on the respiratory system, such as gases and chemical fumes, silica dust, and asbestos. 

Who Benefits From This Information?
Lung health is important for everyone, but the people most likely to come into contact with these hazardous materials are industry workers who work closely with products that contain the aforementioned carcinogens. Zack Academy provides accredited training to those who work in these fields to help improve their health and safety while on the job and supervising projects. Three of the training categories that Zack Academy provides corresponds with lung health and safety in the areas of asbestos, chemicals/fumes, and lead. To better understand the importance and need for these trainings, an in-depth look into the three toxins are laid out below.

  • Asbestos 
Across several fields, such as construction, workers have to be mindful of asbestos, which causes a deadly cancer called mesothelioma. Though it is not harmful while contained, once the fibers are damaged or released into the air they become respirable. While lung cancer is one of the most common cancers because of smoking, asbestos is the number one cause of occupational cancer in the United States. Despite regulations, there is no safe amount of exposure, which is why it is best to have the proper training in handling it to avoid any and all possibilities of inhalation.

Zack Academy offers over 30 different asbestos courses, the most popular is focused on asbestos removal. If you would like to remove, encapsulate, enclose, repair or disturb friable or non-friable asbestos, you will need to register for a 4-day Asbestos Worker/Handler course. If you would like to supervise Asbestos Workers, performing the duties listed above, you will need to then complete a 5-day Asbestos Contractor/Supervisor course. It’s important to remember, both of these courses require refresher training (Asbestos Worker Refresher & Asbestos Supervisor Refresher) to maintain your license and keep abreast of new removal methods.

Asbestos Inspector Initial and Refresher are another pair of popular asbestos courses. As you can guess from the name, it certifies home inspectors to test for - but not remove - asbestos.

  • Chemicals
Industrial cleaning agents pose a threat to workers when there is a lack of ventilation or respiratory protection from the fumes they emit. When workers are left too long in an area where the fumes hang in the air they run the risk of the fumes causing acute or chronic inflammation to their lungs. Chemical pneumonia is associated with this type of exposure and the symptoms can vary greatly depending on the level of inhalation. Being in an open area with a pool can have minimal effects on the body such as burning eyes, whereas a smaller area with higher levels of chlorine or another toxic substance can cause respiratory failure and death. 

It would take a seriously long blog post to review all the hazardous chemicals (and their associated courses) that could affect your lungs. Instead, let’s focus on the more popular HAZWOPER courses that will prepare you for many hazardous and potentially dangerous encounters and will help to keep you working safely at your workplace. Zack Academy offers basically every HAZWOPER course there is, be it 8-hour, 16-hour, or 24-hour. Each course is more intensive and goes into great depth to show students exactly how to handle hazardous chemicals.

  • Lead
The ingestion of lead paint is not the only form of exposure that can harm you. Similar to asbestos, when lead is disturbed it creates either fumes or dust that make it harder to identify and more difficult to avoid. When lead enters the respiratory system it gets released into your bloodstream and spreads throughout your body. 

As the leading provider of lead paint training on the Internet, Zack Academy offers several courses, which are vital for contractors, construction professionals, and DIY enthusiasts. If you perform any renovations, repairs, or paintings in a pre-1978 home or child occupied facility, you must become a certified lead renovator. This requires registering for a Lead Renovator Initial (and later on Refresher) course AND signing up your company as a Lead-Safe Firm. As a lead renovator you CANNOT bid on lead abatement/removal jobs - in order to do that you must register for a Lead Abatement Worker or Supervisor course.

It goes without saying, all of these courses are required and if the EPA notices your company is negligent, they will fine you. But, you should not look to attain a certification because of a fine. As contractors, and other professionals working with hazardous materials that affect air quality it is vital you remember the very real consequences that can arise if you do not handle lead, asbestos, and other hazardous materials properly. Not only are you putting yourself at danger for lung disease, you are also risking your family’s health. If you work with lead paint dust and then wear those same clothes home, your child can easily breath in that dust and get stuck dealing with irreparable damages. 

Long story short - be safe, take the proper courses, and treat hazardous materials with a health respect.