The ACAC Introduces the Council-certified Environmental Thermography Consultant (CETC)

October 25, 2010

What is a CETC?
A Council-certified Environmental Thermography Consultant (CETC) investigates structural and environmental issues in the built environment using infrared thermography. For example, a CETC can identify mold and moisture issues during a commercial investigation or a home inspection that may be invisible to the naked eye. A CETC has verified knowledge of thermal and infrared physics as they apply to the building sciences. A CETC has verified knowledge of the selection, calibration and operation of thermal imaging equipment. Finally, a CETC knows how to apply the principles and equipment of infrared thermography to a building investigation.

Each CETC has demonstrated at least eight (8) years experience conducting field investigations involving infrared thermography. Field experience documentation is reviewed by the CETC certification board.

To earn the Council-certified Environmental Thermography Consultant (CETC) designation, every candidate must:

•Demonstrate at least eight (8) years of verifiable field experience in environmental thermography

•Pass a rigorous examination based on broad industry knowledge rather than a course curriculum

•Earn the unanimous approval of the CETC certification board

•Re-certify every two years

•Participate in 20 hours of professional development activities each year

•Maintain the highest ethical standards

The CETC certification is accredited by the Council for Engineering and Scientific Specialty Boards (CESB), a nationally recognized independent accreditation body. ACAC certifications are the ONLY designations in the indoor air quality field to earn CESB accreditation.

What is a CETI?
A Council-certified Environmental Thermography Investigator (CETI) investigates structural and environmental issues in the built environment using infrared thermography. For example, a CETI can identify mold and moisture issues during a commercial investigation or a home inspection that may be invisible to the naked eye. A CETI has verified knowledge of thermal and infrared physics as they apply to the building sciences. A CETI has verified knowledge of the selection, calibration and operation of thermal imaging equipment. Finally, a CETI knows how to apply the principles and equipment of infrared thermography to a building investigation.

Each CETI has demonstrated at least two (2) years experience conducting field investigations involving infrared thermography. Field experience documentation is reviewed by the CETI certification board.

To earn the Council-certified Environmental Thermography Investigator (CETI) designation, every candidate must:

•Demonstrate at least two (2) years of verifiable field experience in environmental thermography

•Pass a rigorous examination based on broad industry knowledge rather than a course curriculum

•Earn the unanimous approval of the CETI certification board

•Re-certify every two years

•Participate in 20 hours of professional development activities each year

•Maintain the highest ethical standards

The CETI certification is accredited by the Council for Engineering and Scientific Specialty Boards (CESB), a nationally recognized independent accreditation body. ACAC certifications are the ONLY designations in the indoor air quality field to earn CESB accreditation.

•John P. Lapotaire, CIEC
•Certified Indoor Environmental Consultant
•Microshield Environmental Services, LLC
www.Microshield-ES.com http://www.CFL-IAQ.com


Healthy Homes Specialist (HHS) Credential

October 25, 2010

Recognizing the important connection between housing and health, the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) created the Healthy Homes Specialist (HHS) Credential for health and housing professionals in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Persons with the HHS Credential have shown that they understand the connection between health and housing, and take a holistic approach to identifying and resolving problems that threaten the health and well being of residents.

The HHS Credential was developed in partnership with the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) and the National Healthy Homes Training Center and Network (“Training Center”).

The NCHH and the Training Center offer the Essentials of Healthy Homes course, followed by an exam, and award the HHS Credential to those who pass.

The following is adapted from NEHA’s HHS Credential Page:

Is this credential right for you?

Healthy Homes Specialist (HSS) Credential – Eligibility

To be eligible to obtain the Healthy Homes Specialist Credential, you must complete the Application for Healthy Homes Specialist (HSS) Credential and meet the following criteria:

•Be at least 21 years old;
•Have five years of experience in housing, environmental health or public health;
•Achieve a score of 70% on the qualifying examination; and
•Successfully complete an on-line assessment exercise.

If you are a professional in one of the groups below, you may be interested in attaining the Healthy Homes Specialist (HHS) Credential:

1) Individuals certified or licensed as lead risk assessors, radon measurement professionals, or mold professionals—These individuals have developed expertise in a specific environmental hazard in the home and are interested in expanding their capabilities and services.

2) NEHA Registered Environmental Health Specialists seeking to demonstrate their experience and expertise in housing.

3) Public health nurses seeking to expand and document their expertise related to healthy homes.

4) Health department and housing agency staff seeking to establish their expertise in healthy homes or better position their agencies to receive U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Healthy Homes grants.

5) Licensed pest management professionals seeking to expand their services—Resolving pest problems using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques relies on a knowledge base similar that of the Healthy Homes Practitioner.

6) Certified home inspectors seeking to expand their business by adding healthy homes criteria to their standard services.

7) Home performance specialists

8) Home energy raters

9) Weatherization professionals

10) Remodeling and rehab professionals

For more information visit NEHA’s HHS Credential page.

• John P. Lapotaire, CIEC
• Certified Indoor Environmental Consultant
• Microshield Environmental Services, LLC
www.Microshield-ES.com


Healthy Home Basics – Duct Cleaning

October 25, 2010

By John Bower

Ducts can get extremely dirty. This generally happens for two reasons: 1) the ducts are leaky, and pollutants get sucked into them from dusty, contaminated attics, crawl spaces, and building cavities, and 2) pollutants from the living space are pulled through the entire duct system because of inefficient filtration. Well-sealed ducts in a forced-air heating/cooling system fitted with a high-efficiency filter can often pass a white glove test as long as two years after installation.

A Canadian study recommended that if supply ducts are dirty, they could be contaminating the indoor air, so duct cleaning is probably a good idea, and if return ducts, the air-handler fan, and the coil are dirty, the dust could be affecting performance and should be cleaned.

In a typical forced-air system with leaky ducts and an inefficient filter, the ducts are usually contaminated with a wide variety of particulates and microorganisms—all directly exposed to the air being breathed by the occupants.

Whether the cleaning of ducts actually results in improved indoor air quality is still being debated. While the heating/cooling system’s performance is often better after cleaning, it is more difficult to say if the indoor air is cleaner. This is because there are often other factors that contribute to indoor air quality, such as indoor pollutant sources, occupant activities, and outdoor air quality. Metal ducts can generally be cleaned fairly well, but with duct board, which is lined with porous fiberglass, thorough cleaning is impossible. One study found that microbial contamination of duct board returned to precleaning levels within 6 weeks.

The EPA suggests that you should consider having your ducts cleaned if there is substantial visible mold growth inside the ducts or other components of the heating/cooling system, if the ducts are infested with vermin, insects, or rodents, or if the ducts are clogged with excessive amounts of dust or debris, or if there are actually particles being released into the air. They also point out that there is no evidence that cleaning ducts will result in improved health for the occupants. Still, it makes sense that you would want the air you are going to breathe to be passing through clean ducts.

Many cities now have businesses that specialize in duct-cleaning. They typically have large truck-mounted vacuums connected to long hoses that are run indoors. Sometimes they agitate the ducts, or use rotating brushes or air hoses, to loosen the accumulated debris, then the powerful vacuum draws the pollutants out into the truck. Vacuuming alone isn’t nearly as effective as mechanically agitating the ducts with a brush, but brush/vacuuming can cost up to 4 times as much money. Be sure no small pets are loose during this process because the vacuum can be powerful enough to pull them into it. This type of cleaning is usually sufficient to remove the majority of contaminants, but a few hypersensitive people have found it necessary to dismantle their duct system and thoroughly clean the residual pollutants wedged in small cracks and crevices.

Some duct cleaners like to spray a cleaning chemical, sealer, encapsulant, or disinfectant inside the ducts. These may or may not be recommended, because they can be pollutant sources themselves.

• John P. Lapotaire, CIEC
• Certified Indoor Environmental Consultant
• Microshield Environmental Services, LLC
www.Microshield-ES.com


How Pollutants Get Into Houses

October 25, 2010

By The Home Ventilating Institute (HVI)

Indoor air quality is often characterized by pollutants in the air. Clearly, if the sources of pollutants are minimized, the air will be easier to keep fresh, clean and healthy. In order to determine the best indoor-pollution control strategy, it is helpful to place airborne indoor contaminants into three categories:

1.Those released from materials inside the house;

2.Those brought into the house by air pressure differences; and

3.Those released by people.

Pollutants released from materials in the house

Many cleaning products and household furnishings release contaminants directly into the indoor air. Formaldehyde is often given off by kitchen cabinets. Wallpaper is treated with fungicides. The odor associated with some flooring materials may consist of over a hundred different volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Disinfectant and pesticide aerosol sprays typically contain hazardous ingredients.

The good news is that there are many alternative products on the market that are much more benign that can be used to build, furnish, and maintain our houses.

For pollutants that are unavoidable, a mechanical ventilation system that removes and expels them outdoors is essential to minimize their negative effect.

Pollutants brought indoors by air pressure differences

Some air pollutants originate outdoors but get brought indoors by air pressure differences. For example, when you turn on a clothes dryer, it blows a certain amount of air out of the house. This creates a slight negative pressure in the house, and an equal volume of air gets sucked in (infiltrates) from the outdoors through small gaps and cracks in the house. When a house is depressurized, the infiltrating air can bring in radon, termiticides, and biological pollutants such as mold. Particles or gases from insulation can also be sucked indoors by air pressure differences.

Combustion gases often migrate into the living space from a furnace, water heater, or wood stove, even though they are supposed to be expelled through a chimney. If the air pressure indoors is less than that outdoors, the gases will have difficulty going up the chimney and can remain in the house.

Pollutants released by human and animal metabolism

Human beings and pets give off a wide variety of pollutants. Our exhaled breath contains dozens of chemical compounds. These are normal by-products of our metabolism, and they all contribute to indoor air pollution. The best way to counteract the pollutants given off by people is to dilute the pollutants with ventilation air.

The concentration of “people pollutants” in a house depends on the number of people inside a house, the size of the house, and the behavior patterns (frequent showers, activity levels, and so on). People also bring pollutants indoors attached to their bodies, such as cigarette smoke, VOCs, perfume, and exhaust gases. Once contaminated clothing and bodies are indoors, the pollutants will be released slowly, contributing to indoor pollution. People can also track pollutants indoors on their shoes (e.g. lawn chemicals, animal waste, road dust containing asbestos, lead, rubber, etc.), and deposit those pollutants in carpeting and other surfaces.

Exchanging the air in a house is important to dilute the concentration of pollutants found in the indoor air. If indoor-pollutant concentrations are too high, they can negatively affect the health of occupants. Indoor air quality is improved by reducing or eliminating the source of pollutants, filtering, and supplying oxygen-rich, fresh air through mechanical ventilation.

With proper attention to reducing the sources of pollutants, the indoor air quality will be improved. The Home Ventilating Institute recommends the exclusive use of products which are HVI-Certified. Consult with your builder or contractor for appropriate HVI-Certified product for your application.

Adapted from: Understanding Ventilation: How to design, select, and install residential ventilation systems by John Bower © 2010 The Home Ventilating Institute (HVI).

• John P. Lapotaire, CIEC
• Certified Indoor Environmental Consultant
• Microshield Environmental Services, LLC
www.Microshield-ES.com


Your Indoor Air

October 25, 2010

Though invisible, it is the most basic, life-sustaining feature of your home. Preventive measures, ventilation, and daily habits play a role in protecting your home’s precious supply.

THREATS TO THE BREATHING SPACE (or ‘Things to Worry About’)

1. Dirt and Dust: Outdoor soil can contain fertilizer, pesticides and more. Tracked in, it becomes part of the indoor dust, which already holds dander, dust mites, plastics, possibly lead or asbestos from indoor sources, etc. As dust becomes airborne, these substances may enter the body and cause symptoms ranging from asthma and allergy _are-ups to even nervous system damage and cancer.

2. Mold: Airborne mold spores and mold fragments can trigger asthma and allergy episodes.

3. VOCs: Volatile organic compounds are found in cleaning liquids, paints, solvents and many more household supplies. They volatize or “o_ gas” into the air. Not all are harmful, but at high levels, many can cause a range of symptoms from short-term irritation to more ominous organ damage and cancer. The impact of lower levels and of mixtures of VOCs is under discussion or unknown, but reducing exposure is generally a good policy.

4. Formaldehyde: This VOC is used in a wide variety of household products. Manufacturers have scaled back — but in many cases not eliminated — its use. It is a known carcinogen and may also trigger asthma attacks and irritate the eyes and respiratory system. O_ gassing can continue for years, decreasing over time.

5. Asbestos: Found in some insulation, _reproo_ng materials, acoustic tile and “popcorn” ceilings, these tiny particles can cause lung-tissue damage and cancer. Asbestos containing materials are harmless as long as they stay intact, but disintegration frees the _bers to enter the airspace and the lungs.

6. Lead: Damaging to the nervous system, lead can enter the air as dust. Blood lead levels have dropped dramatically since the 1980s, indicating that unleaded gasoline and strategies regarding lead paint and lead pipes are working. Continued vigilance in the home is recommended, especially if your home is older.

7. Moisture: Water leaks and high relative humidity encourage mold growth, dust mite proliferation and increased formaldehyde emissions from building materials, furnishings and other household items. These irritants can trigger allergy and asthma symptoms.

8. Carbon Monoxide: Fuel-burning appliances and idling cars in attached garages can release carbon monoxide into the home, causing about 500 preventable deaths each year. The gas causes thousands more to become ill.

9. Radon: Radioactive gas can cause lung cancer — no smoking necessary. The EPA estimates radon causes 21,000 preventable deaths each year. Radon testing is quite inexpensive and almost effort-free.

3 ACTION PRINCIPLES (or ‘The General Idea’)

1. Eliminate; Often, the most reliable method of protecting yourself from unhealthy exposures in the home is simply to make sure harmful materials and contaminants are not present. Building or furnishing carefully with less hazardous materials, as well as proper cleaning eliminates many health threats.

2. Separate; When removal is not advisable or not possible, reduce exposure by creating a sealed barrier. For example, tight wall construction keeps potentially hazardous insulation particles out of the living space.

3. Ventilate; Reduce remaining air contaminants by regularly letting stale air out and fresh air in. Balancing in and out airflows in this process provides fresh air for your family and prevents a vacuum from forming and drawing air from a dangerous source like the furnace exhaust.

From the Healthy House Institute and the Home Ventalation Institute.

• John P. Lapotaire, CIEC
• Certified Indoor Environmental Consultant
• Microshield Environmental Services, LLC
www.Microshield-ES.com


Toxic schools: Grand jury laid out mold problem

October 21, 2010

By Denise-Marie Balona, Orlando SentinelIn,

A grand jury blasted the Broward County school system for taking too long to get rid of mold in classrooms and failing to repair leaky roofs and faulty air conditioners.

The panel outlined its concerns in a 44-page report, strongly recommending changes the state of Florida needed to make to force school districts to improve indoor-air quality while underscoring that children were especially vulnerable to the potentially harmful effects of mold.

Although Broward schools have since spent millions of dollars trying to fix its problems, the more sweeping statewide grand jury recommendations have been largely ignored.

A handful of South Florida lawmakers introduced bills in 2004 that would have required schools to aggressively monitor and address mold problems and even file progress reports with the state.

But the legislation never went anywhere. A Senate analyst pointed out that repairs would be expensive and Florida would be setting itself up for lawsuits if it identified its air-quality problems.

So, today, there still are no statewide rules in Florida governing how public schools should monitor, detect and handle air-quality problems in one of the hottest, most humid states in the country.

And years after the grand jury report, Florida schools continue to battle chronic mold and water-intrusion problems, according to an Orlando Sentinel investigation.

Wolfgang Halbig, a former risk manager for Lake County schools who is now a school-safety consultant, argues that if the Florida Legislature does not make districts fix mold problems, they will get worse.

The situation, he warned, is already being exacerbated by districts’ attempts to save money by raising the temperature in schools and shutting off the air conditioning in at least some portable classrooms at night, on weekends and during kids’ winter and summer vacations.

In recent years, Central Florida teachers, parents and others have filed thousands of complaints about indoor-air quality in schools — blaming their runny noses, headaches and respiratory distress on mold discovered in classrooms, cafeterias, media centers, locker rooms and even nurses’ quarters.

• John P. Lapotaire, CIEC
• Certified Indoor Environmental Consultant
• Microshield Environmental Services, LLC
www.Microshield-ES.com


Broward schools improve at fighting mold but problems persist

October 21, 2010

By Akilah Johnson and Denise-Marie Balona, Sun Sentinel

At Croissant Park Elementary in Fort Lauderdale, some of the classrooms were so humid and sticky, they created the perfect breeding ground for mushrooms that eventually grew from the floor tiles.

When custodians went to remove them in 2009, they discovered a mass of fleas living in the fungus below.

South Florida’s steamy climate makes fighting mold and mildew a never-ending battle. In the past 2 1/2 years, the Broward County School District handled 432 indoor-air complaints for problems ranging from 30 pounds of grits destroyed by mold, to water leaks, to students, teachers and office workers suffering mold-related allergies, sinus problems and rashes.

But that’s a big improvement over seven years ago, when a statewide grand jury blasted the Broward School District over its inability to curb rampant mold in scores of schools, and its lack of urgency in responding to complaints of illness by students and staffers.

Today, the district uses a two-pronged approach to combat mold that has received two national awards of excellence from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It involves identifying minor issues before they balloon as well as quickly responding to events when they do.

“A quality program is not the absence of issues,” said Jeff Moquin, executive director of support operations at Broward Schools. “That’s a misconception. Pipes burst. Water goes everywhere. Mold goes everywhere.”

Among the reported problems the district has dealt with from July 2008 to October 2010 are:

Lloyd Estates Elementary in Oakland Park: Mold was found on toys and desks, rust appeared on scissors and ceilings, and water-stained and rodent-chewed cardboard boxes were found in a pre-school classroom in August 2008. The year before, the room sat vacant because of a malfunctioning air-conditioner, causing mold and mildew issues.

Bethune Elementary in Hollywood: Strange smells were reported and mold was found in closets, classrooms and hallways, resulting in an itchy and ill staff, in May, August and October 2008. At times, the air-conditioner issues caused slightly elevated carbon dioxide levels.

Cypress Bay High in Weston: Three teachers suffered health issues, which doctors verified, caused by their portable classrooms in March of 2009.

Martin Luther King Elementary in Fort Lauderdale: A leaking air conditioning pipe caused mold and high levels of humidity in the cafeteria area in October 2008. The school had similar problems in 2005 and 2007.

Charles Drew Elementary in Pompano Beach: Water damaged a sink backsplash and stained ceiling tiles, and resulted in a musty smelling classroom in May 2008.

Moquin, who worked for the district when the grand jury issued its scathing report in 2003, admits the system had “a Big Brother, we know what we’re doing” mentality back then that didn’t fully take into account the community’s concerns.

In its report, the grand jury recommended 31 improvements that included remediating entire schools with mold problems, not pieces and parts; identifying and verifying problems at schools and informing the public about how each school is being cleaned. The jury also slammed the district for reusing architectural designs before anyone knew if they had flaws and using design features like cupolas that made buildings attractive but leaked and added nothing to the functionality.

Broward officials said they voluntarily addressed most of the recommendations before the report was issued and the rest afterward.

Moquin said the district now has a system to deal with a crisis as well as help keep small things from becoming full-blown catastrophes. More importantly, he said, the district’s attitude toward indoor air quality has improved.

He points to the district’s lackluster response to issues at Country Isles and Riverside elementaries, which helped spark the grand jury investigation. Riverside opened in the mid-’80s with 41 roof leaks and the moisture problem was so bad electrical outlets didn’t work.

Anthony Aliseo, then a 6-year-old student at Riverside, suffered headaches, pressure between his eyes, labored breathing and occasionally vomited in class. His mother, Cara Aliseo, said mold caused him to endure more than 70 allergy shots, two CAT scans and two surgeries to drain his sinuses.

She moved Anthony to another school and says his health problems vanished. But her fight with the district did not. She and a small group of parents fought to have the school repaired and procedures implemented, testifying before the grand jury and suing the district.

Anthony is now “a healthy 15-year-old who just got his driving permit and plays the drums,” she said.

Broward County School District district has since spent millions of dollars on repairs and more than 200 of its schools use the EPA “Tools for Schools” program to help them to identify, correct and prevent indoor air quality problems.

In Broward County, school staff are trained in autumn to maintain healthy indoor environments and fill out an online, multiple-choice survey in the winter that discusses cleanliness, temperature, humidity levels and where mold and mildew growth have been seen.

Each complaint is triaged. Problems are corrected immediately, some by school custodians, others by maintenance workers.

In the spring, an assessment team visits each school to validate the survey complaints and to make sure they are taken care of.

“By the time [students and staff] come back next school year, all these things should be fixed,” Moquin said, noting the exception would be “large-scale projects requiring design and construction work.”

The district expects to have all of its more than 230 campuses and administrative buildings — about 14,000 classrooms and more than 37,700 million square feet — using the program by next year.

“This is one of the few things since I’ve been here where we’ve taken lemons and made lemonade,” Moquin said. “There is a huge emotional issue associated with this. You have to manage that issue along with the maintenance issue.”

Mold problems are an issue in other districts as well. During the 2009-10 school year, administrators in Palm Beach County schools handled 977 maintenance work orders to address indoor-air quality problems ranging from “sewer odors” to high humidity to water leaks. The district there has also won EPA recognition for its pro-active response to addressing mold issues.

Some air quality problems require easy fixes by school custodians, such as improved dusting and cleaning. Others, such as replacing ceiling tiles or carpet, require district maintenance staff. Most of the district’s work orders are for air-conditioning repairs.

Bernie Kemp, president of the Broward County Council of PTAs/PTSA, said he hasn’t heard any concerns about the indoor air-quality of schools from the council’s 45,000 members.

“I remember it was a major issue and it was a major concern, but I think the district, in my view, did a major overhaul in going into these schools and trying to resolve these problems,” Kemp said. “You get isolated incidents, but nothing major.”

Despite the improvements in Broward, a number of the grand jury’s recommendations for statewide changes never happened.

As a result, problems persist in Central Florida, where a haphazard approach exists from school district to school district. An Orlando Sentinel investigation found moldy classrooms and other indoor air-quality issues which had sparked thousands of complaints over the past three years from teachers and students. In some cases, mold led to the wholesale evacuation of children from classrooms.

Richard J. Shaughnessy, director of The University of Tulsa Indoor Air Program and one of America’s foremost air-quality experts, said the situation might not change statewide unless the public pushes the issue.

“It has to start,” Shaughnessy said, “with parents becoming involved and demanding that schools address these types of problems across the country.”

• John P. Lapotaire, CIEC
• Certified Indoor Environmental Consultant
• Microshield Environmental Services, LLC
www.Microshield-ES.com


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