Environmental Issue & Sick Building Syndrome Blog

          Lead dust or lead in drinking water can easily rob a child of 10 IQ points, or be the cause of behavior problems. These problems last a lifetime and there is no remedy or cure, only prevention.

          The damage done to a child is damage done to all of us. We need to be responsible to avoid lead hazards. For an article I wrote about what you can do about lead in the home, got to http://www.envirospect.com/Lead


Health Effects of Lead in Children According to the EPA

Damage to the brain and nervous system

Behavior and hearing problems

Lowering of IQ

Slow physical growth



Health Effects of Lead in Adults According to the EPA

Nervous system effects

Cardiovascular effects

Decreased kidney function

Reproductive problems

Miscarriage and premature birth in women

Keeping Your Home Lead Safe

  • Keep all surfaces well painted. HUD suggests no more than 1 square inch of peeling paint
  • Repair the causes of peeling paint such as leaks promptly
  • Keep the home dust free
  • Wet mop wood floors that may contain lead
  • Wet wipe friction areas such as where windows and doors rub
  • Do not use steel wool or friction pads on surfaces that may contain lead
  • Run water for 30 seconds before using for drinking or food preparation to reduce lead in lines
  • Use only cold water to prepare foods
  • Teach children to wash hands and remove shoes after playing outside
  • Use lead safe procedures for hobbies that use lead such as ceramics, stained glass, fish lures.
  • Do not use sweepers with beater bars of mops with scrubber strips on finishes that contain lead
  • Do not shake or beat carpets in homes that may contain lead dust.

Testing for lead

Physicians can test for lead in blood. This is a simple test that should be conducted if there is any possibility that lead exposure could occur in the home, school, daycare or any other place a child may spend time.   

Surfaces can be tested for lead using 3M Lead Check Swabs. These EPA approved tests determine of lead is on the surface of tested finishes and are available from 3M directly or other retail outlets. Call 800-949-3552 or go to www.leadcheck.com/contactus to order  

Layers of paint can be tested using EPA approved D-Lead test systems. These tests use a punch tool and allow testing of all of the layers of paint at a location. These can be used for applying the EPA RRP rule. Locate a distributor at www.esca-tech.com or call 414-962-3006

XRF standing for X-Ray Fluorescence is a HUD approved methodology that would only be available from a highly trained and licensed lead assessment professional.

Posted in:Lead Poisoning and tagged: LeadEPApoisioning
Posted by Dan Howard on October 19th, 2018 8:03 PM

We all know the philosophical question:
"If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? The whole sick building question is pretty much the same question: If nobody is sick in the building, is it a sick building?

            Health reactions to a building environment are dependent upon the occupants.  When it comes to potential environmental problems, we are each the sum of our genetics, health history and current health. The buildings don’t get sick, the people do.   

            It’s like Mr. Rogers of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood would say at the end of every show: “There's no person in the whole world like you”. That also goes for your health and what factors can influence your health.


            As an example, Legionella has a 5% infection rate. That means that 95 out of 100 occupants of a building harboring the bacteria will not get Legionnaires Disease. That could mean that the building may never be identified as a “Sick Building”         

What can Make the Occupants of a Building Sick?

            It can be mold, off-gassing from the thousands of new and untested products we put into homes, combustion or industrial gasses or the myriad of bacteria, viruses and other contagions that can be brought into any building. That complexity of possible causes of illness complicated by individual occupant reactions to different exposures makes environmental investigations “CSI for buildings” 

Environmental Risks and Hazards are not a New Problem

              We shouldn’t ignore the old issues of centuries ago. Leviticus 14 of the Bible discusses mold in homes. World history includes plagues and diseases that almost wiped out major segments of past civilizations.   

            We can only eliminate environmental hazards that can affect people when we identify them. We need to put up our hands and demand assessment and testing when health reactions lead us to suspect them.

            We now know that water problems can be a source of mold. Sewage can harbor the diseases that devastated civilizations. We have developed understanding about those issues, but still often fall short in avoiding these contaminants in individual cases.

            Lead is credited as a major factor in the fall of the Roman Empire, yet we have lead in the water supply of major cities like Flint and Pittsburgh. Imported dark color plastic toys, decorations, mascara, china dishes and crayons are still often sources of toxic lead.

             Asbestos was a miracle product as fire retardant, and we still have it in our homes, schools and businesses. Old plaster, popcorn ceilings, suspended ceilings and imported eye liner are a few of the examples of asbestos that can still be a deadly health risk that an average person can’t identify by appearance.
Posted by Dan Howard on February 25th, 2018 9:33 PM

Take the School Lead and Asbestos Awareness Test…… The Kids are Counting on You to Pass Before we Talk Other Less Known Indoor Air Problems 

The Last Day of the School Year Can be the Beginning of Worst Time for the Health of a School Building and Returning Students in the Fall

I bet you have heard the ditty: “No more classes No more books No more teacher’s dirty looks.” Yeh, sure, I know, you never said those words………but you know them.

What happens in the time between the “yippy yea” of end of school and the excitement of a new school year is important. For most students, even if you consider summer breaks, school is the second most important environmental exposure for students after the home. It is in first place of you are looking for the most time spent where the parents don’t have control of the building where their children have exposures. 

The problem is that as the students joyfully run out the front door, there is a set of workers rushing through the back door. They are coming in with deadlines and challenges galore.

It is Complicated

Time limits, budget restrictions, the “surprises” found while projects are being, a lack of knowledge of prior conditions and materials and contractors and staff jostling for access and priorities are all challenges to preventing environmental problems from the work being conducted. 

The staff and contractors have until the students come back to build, paint, remodel, change and manage the building. Their tasks are often from one end of the building to the other and are done without the benefit of a full history of the building and list of all the materials used in prior construction, remodeling and maintenance efforts.  

Unknown or Unrecognized Environmental Hazards

Most parents recognize that lead paint can be a hazard. HUD and the EPA have done excellent work on raising public awareness of this issue. Lead poisoning can affect the brain and neural system of children and leads to permanent damage. It can affect behavior and damages to ability to learn.

Most of us know that most paints before 1978 have lead. What many people do not know is:

·         It was a ban on paint used for residential applications only

·         Lead was still used in commercial paints after that date

·         Lead was in varnish and other finishes in buildings

·         Lead continues to be found in imported painted furnishes and children’s toys    

·         Lead has been found in drinking water

·         Lead dust can accumulate on books stored in closets with peeling paint and other secondary sources.

·         Lead can be found in imported plastic products.

Asbestos is another material that most of us recognize as a potential health risk. Parents know that asbestos is a killer that lurks for decades and can then cause lung cancer. We get that part.

You may picture white powdery cloth like insulation on heating pipes as asbestos. Another source you may think of is old floor tile. You may not know:

·         In the name of public safety, there were laws mandating the use of asbestos as a fire retardant

·         Asbestos fibers were mixed into plaster

·         Suspended ceiling tiles has asbestos fibers added to meet fire retardant requirements  

·         Asbestos was added to paints

·         Panels of asbestos were used as fire breaks above boilers

·         Asbestos insulation was used in building attics and poured into block walls

·         Asbestos was used in roof shingles

·         Asbestos was used in drywall compound

·         Asbestos tape was used to seal ductwork and at openings in fire walls    

·         Some of the floor tiles manufactured today have asbestos in certain colors

·         Asbestos was used in stoves, furnaces, hot water tanks and as wire insulation  


The point is that each of the environmental risks in a school or other building for that matter may not fall into the list of commonly recognized potentially harmful risks.

We just looked at two areas of environmental hazard. Mold, odor and indoor air quality are every bit as important to our nation’s children. MUCH LESS IS KNOWN BY THE PUBLIC AND WORKMEN ABOUT THESE ISSUES. 


Remember the workman running through the back door into the building? Professional assessment of the environment can save the health of our kids and avoid costly cleanups.

Give us a call.  Understanding the indoor air environment and keeping people and buildings healthy is what we do.         

Posted by Dan Howard on May 17th, 2017 10:06 PM

The issue of needing healthy classrooms concerns most of us. They are essential for quality comprehension and education as well the welfare of your youth.


One of many examples is lead poisoning. The ingestion of lead from peeling paint affects the soft tissue of a child. It can permanently affect the IQ of a child and cause behavioral problems that affect them the rest of their life. Ingestion can be secondary from hidden causes. It could be dust from the paint in the closet where classroom books are stored over the summer.  Lead dust can come from peeling paint scrapings when a cafeteria is painted or on china plates used to serve lunches. The source can be imported plastic toys in a kindergarten. There are a host of other potential issues including pesticide residues, radon, fumes from idling buses, mold, CO or CO2.    


We know that there are classrooms and school buildings that are making our children sick. Parents and teachers often do not know where to start to identify or correct the situation.


That is nothing new. We tend to think that today’s problem is a new problem, and often it isn’t. The quote below “says it all” in that regard.   


“In the construction of buildings, whether for public purposes or as dwellings, care should be taken to provide good ventilation and plenty of sunlight….schoolrooms are often faulty in this respect.  Neglect of proper ventilation is responsible for much of the drowsiness and dullness that….make the teacher’s work toilsome and ineffective.”

-Health Reformer, 1871

Posted in:Schools and tagged: MoldLeadhealthyschool
Posted by Dan Howard on May 8th, 2017 10:52 AM

The EPA states that there are so many sources of indoor air pollution in childcare facilities that the air is considered to be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air.

We want to select daycare facilities that are aware of these risks and have an active program to reduce the chance of your child being hurt by exposures. Look for a daycare that: 

  • Implements a regular testing and green treatment program for mold and allergens. Look for a regular service providers notice of treatment


  • Has an infection control program that includes all of the best practices including washing, dis-infection, avoidance of risky sharing of items that have not been cleaned, supply of tissues and proper control of diaper changing and bathroom activities


  • Has a cleaning service that utilizes green products as opposed to harsh chemicals


  • Has paints, finishes and materials in good condition without peeling paint or wear


  • Provides toys and other materials manufactured in the US and free of the lead as often found in imported colored plastic and paint finishes


  • Has the mechanical systems regularly serviced and tested and has smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.


  • Has been tested for radon and asbestos and remediated if necessary


  • Had safe and non-toxic chemicals used If pest control is necessary for the facility
Posted by Dan Howard on December 12th, 2016 10:07 PM

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) tells us that the presence of contaminants in water can lead to adverse health effects. These illnesses include gastrointestinal illness, reproductive problems, and neurological disorders. They further say that infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people whose immune systems are compromised because of AIDS, chemotherapy, or transplant medications, may be especially susceptible to illness from some contaminants.


The CDC Top 10 List of Diseases Caused by Outbreaks in Public Water Systems*






Copper (http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=205&tid=37)


Hepatitis A


E. coli, excess fluoride (tie)

Posted by Dan Howard on April 2nd, 2016 10:36 PM

          If you listen to the news, Americans care more than ever about what we put in our bodies.  Fats, additives, cholesterol, too much sugar, and on and on have become big media and legislative issues. We are paying a lot of attention to what is eaten

            On the other hand, we don’t spend much time thinking about the water we drink.  Make no mistake about it, we are way ahead of previous generations and past civilizations in the safety of our water. History is full of whole armies, societies and populations that have been decimated or even ended by drinking water contaminants and diseases. We are a far cry from that state of affairs, but not completely safe. 

           If you think about it, the amazing and at the same time disgusting fact is that the water in your spigot may contain water treated by an upstream sewage plant, and yet we drink it.

           America has one of the safest water systems in the world. On the other hand, we have seen serious brain damage and other health problems can occur in places like Flint Michigan. The scary part is that the damage to many lead poisoned children is now a health and developmental problem that will live with them and those around them all of their lives.

         The rest of the story in Flint Michigan is that even if the water quality is corrected, the pipes themselves are now chemically damaged and will continue to leech lead into the drinking and cooking water of the residents. Digging up and replacing the underground main service line pipes, hot water tanks and damaged pipes in homes has been estimated to have a cost of between 20 and 200 million dollars in that city of 100,000 residents.  Many of those residents can simply not afford to do the needed work in their individual homes. Cost of replacing the damaged underground municipal system is claimed to be 1.5 billion dollars.

        If the water of Flint was properly treated, the poisoning and permanent physical damage to the people drinking the water would have never occurred. The big question to ask as you stare at your own glass of water from your tap should be: Is my water safe?

         The EPA requires that each municipal water treatment system provide an annual “Consumer Confidence Report” (abbreviated CCR) and make that report available to the consumers of the water.  It only took minutes for me to look up the report for the local water authority that supplies our home. The good news is that the water was pretty good……in this case. The bad news is that I had never checked that information on the water we drink before today. All of us need to take a look at the report for our homes.

Click for download of full PDF article      http://goo.gl/BM9Skv

Posted by Dan Howard on April 2nd, 2016 10:27 PM



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