The Health Benefits of Green Construction

While green construction is often touted for its ability to save companies a great deal of money on energy costs, the health benefits it offers may have a much greater impact on your business. According to Syracuse University’s Center of Excellence in environmental and energy innovation, insufficient indoor environmental quality (IEQ) costs Americans between $40 and $258 billion each year in lost worker productivity. These poor working environments cause health problems in 30 to 70 million Americans each year.

When a building has poor indoor environmental air quality, its inhabitants often suffer from respiratory problems, skin rashes, nausea, headaches, and allergies and other ailments. These health issues are caused by factors such as poor air circulation, bad lighting, mold, tainted carpeting, dangerously high levels of pollutants, extreme temperature discrepancies from one area of the building to another, pesticides, and toxic fumes from paint and adhesives.

Advantages of Green Construction

Environmentally friendly structures offer a much more pleasant and healthier place for their occupants to work. Two of most highly praised benefits of green construction include:

  • Improved Indoor Air Quality

Improving indoor air quality (IAQ) is one of the main goals of green construction. When a building doesn’t have proper ventilation, it can’t get rid of fumes and odors.  Green buildings are constructed from low-emitting materials, but even low-emitting materials need ventilation. During construction of a green building, 100% outdoor ventilation is used to improve air quality. This helps building occupants to be more comfortable, improves well-being, and results in higher productivity. Improved IAQ can have a great long-term impact for companies, including decreased absenteeism and healthcare costs.

  • No Asbestos Risk

Many older buildings were constructed with harmful asbestos insulation, which can cause a type of cancer called mesothelioma. Individuals often aren’t even aware they’ve had contact with asbestos until they’ve been exposed to the deadly material for years, as it often takes a long time for symptoms to become present. When people opt for green construction, they’ll never have to fear exposure to asbestos. An alternative, blown-in cellulose insulation, made from 80% post-consumer recycled newspaper, is commonly used in the construction of green buildings. There are no known negative health consequences associated with this type of insulation, and it’s also treated to resist mold, fire, and insects.

Going Green with Construction

If you’re getting ready to break ground on a new building, consider the many benefits of green construction. The idea may seem overwhelming at first, as there’s a lot to take in, but you don’t have to do it on your own. Look for a green construction company that can help you through the building process, from the first stages of design to completion. Not only will your new green building be environmentally friendly, it will also serve as a much more pleasant place for your employees to spend their days. The resulting higher productivity and lower rates of absenteeism will yield greater profits for your business.

Brandon Hodzic

Guest Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Brandon Hodzic writes for LEED consultant Gaia Development, which assists businesses and home buyers with green construction projects.

What’s the Big Deal about Asbestos?

March 31, 2012 by  
Filed under Asbestos, Blog, Cancer, Front Page, Health, Slideshow

Comments Off on What’s the Big Deal about Asbestos?

Tiny asbestos fibers from industrial waste cut like glass shards in the lungs. Photo: @Sakura-Fotolia.com

Tiny asbestos fibers from industrial waste cut like glass shards in the lungs. Photo: @Sakura-Fotolia.com

They sound so harmless: tiny mineral fibers, interspersed throughout rock deposits, mined for their natural insulating qualities. Just how bad can these asbestos fibers be?

Just ask any of the 3,000 Americans who are diagnosed with mesothelioma in any given year – or any of the thousands of others diagnosed with different asbestos-related diseases: Asbestos is much more dangerous than it sounds.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is commonly found in old construction materials, such as these broken tiles. Photo: (c)Ichbins11-Fotolia.com

Asbestos is commonly found in old construction materials, such as these broken tiles. Photo: @Ichbins11-Fotolia.com

Found all across the world, including major deposits in Canada, China, Russia and Australia, asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber that can be classified into six different types:

  • Chrysotile
  • Amosite
  • Crocidolite
  • Tremolite
  • Anthophyllite
  • Actinolite

Each of these types of fibers was found to be excellent at fireproofing industrial materials, and they were used in countless industrial products until the 1980s. Inexpensive and readily available, asbestos was a preferred ingredient in insulation, paint, shingles, tiles, caulking and various other construction products.

However, even during the peak of industrial asbestos use, many health professionals were warning companies about the health risks that asbestos industry workers faced. Use of asbestos fibers continued on – unregulated – until the 1980s.

Why is Asbestos Dangerous?

Despite its popularity in the industrial world, asbestos is a class A carcinogen for its association with cancerous diseases.

Since the 1960s, asbestos has been linked to an aggressive cancer called mesothelioma. This primary asbestos cancer is typically terminal, spreading rapidly and causing disabling side effects until it has reached its final stage.

Asbestos is also known to cause ovarian cancer, laryngeal cancer and lung cancer, with up to 4 percent of all lung cancer cases having a link to asbestos. Other several studies suggest a link between asbestos exposure and gastrointestinal cancer and colorectal cancer, while asbestos may also be associated with the following cancers:

  • Kidney cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Gallbladder cancer

In addition to these cancers, asbestos can cause conditions such as asbestosis (a progressive scarring of the lungs), pleural effusions and pleural plaques. Asbestos exposure can also cause lung damage that makes existing cases of COPD worse than they already are.

How Does Asbestos Cause Disease?

Asbestos exposure – when someone either inhales or ingests asbestos fibers over an extended period of time – can lead to the development of these diseases.

Because asbestos fibers break apart very easily and any sort of disturbance can release them into the air, asbestos exposure can occur any time asbestos (in its natural form or in a finished product) is handled.

Once asbestos has been inhaled, the thin, sharp fibers can easily become lodged within the body. Over time, the fibers cause scarring, inflammation and biological changes that can lead to cancerous and non-cancerous diseases.

For some illnesses, these changes can occur over a period of years, with a latency period of up to 50 years for pleural mesothelioma. As a result, anyone who has been exposed to asbestos during their lifetime should consider regular screenings for asbestos-related diseases.

Faith Franz

Guest Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Author bio: Faith Franz is a writer for the Mesothelioma Center. She combines her interests in whole-body health and medical research to educate the mesothelioma community about the newest developments in cancer care.

Related Posts

Toxic Substances Control Act Hearings — A Hopeful Start

Dirty Industries Have a Long Tail of Consequences

 

Dirty Industries Have a Long Tail of Consequences

June 16, 2009 by  
Filed under Asbestos, Asthma, Blog, Cancer, Front Page, Health, Industries

 

HAZ-MAT workers properly dispose of asbestos. Photo: © Bernard MAURIN - Fotolia.com

HAZ-MAT workers properly dispose of asbestos. Photo: © Bernard MAURIN - Fotolia.com

In recent years, there has been a great deal of national attention focused on the improvement of industrial environmental standards. Even as we attempt to rebuild our economy, we seem to be focused on not only restoring industry, but also using this as an opportunity to do it in a way that is not environmentally destructive. This provides us, the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center (MAA Center), and many others the opportunity to improve all aspects of these industries, including the workplace hazards among workers and the all-too-common health hazards affecting members of the surrounding communities.

What many people may fail to realize is that not only does the health of our planet depend on improved environmental standards, but our own health may depend on them as well. Health complications of industry can essentially be divided into two categories, direct and indirect.

Direct health conditions, which have arisen as a result of the burning of fossil fuels, for instance, are increased asthma rates in areas with high smog indices. Even mild cases of asthma can deteriorate overall respiratory capacity over time and leave breathing seriously diminished if the quality of the air people breathe is unimproved. Release of chlorofluorocarbons into the atmosphere has been shown to lower our filtered sunlight, thereby increasing ultraviolet light exposure. Ultraviolet light has been conclusively linked to skin cancer. Perhaps it is no surprise then that skin cancer incidence in countries like South Africa and Australia, where the atmosphere is most diminished, is much higher than in other areas of the earth.

HAZ-MAT use extreme protection when working with asbestos. Photo: © Bernard MAURIN - Fotolia.com

HAZ-MAT workers use extreme precaution when handling asbestos. Photo: © Bernard MAURIN - Fotolia.com

Indirect health consequences include those which can be attributed to antiquated industrial infrastructure, including toxin exposure among workers. Oil refinery workers, for instance, are shown to have a much higher chance of developing mesothelioma cancer — a rare disease caused by exposure to asbestos — than those in cleaner industries. While asbestos was banned for most uses in the late 1970s, several of these refineries and factories are still using pre-ban equipment, which is exposing workers to harmful asbestos fibers.

Asbestos exposure is an even more present danger in countries that lack environmental regulations on par with those of the United States. Several of these countries, including Israel and others in the Middle East, have noted, in recent years, a disturbing trend in the rise of asbestos-related disease. Countries with older or antiquated infrastructures are considered those with the biggest asbestos risk pool, as asbestos can still be found in nearly 80% of all structures built prior to 1980. The generational surge in infrastructure improvements, while good for economic growth and stability, may be endangering contractors and municipal workers who encounter the material.

We must continue to urge national and international institutions to improve asbestos regulations and worker safety standards to prevent this problem from growing.

There is a clear advantage to implementation of cleaner, more sustainable energy policies and environmental attitudes, not only for the health of our planet and our posterity, but for that of the world’s population even today.

Bill Hawthorne
Guest Columnist
Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center (MAA)

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Toxic Substances Control Act Hearings — A Hopeful Start

We noted on Tuesday that the Toxic Substances Control Act would soon be under review. Yesterday was the opening day of the House of Representatives’ hearing: “Revisiting the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976.” The goal of the hearing is to reform the TSCA. The Honorable Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) opened the hearing with the statement that appears below. With this auspicious beginning, we hold out hope that our lawmakers will take bold, yet carefully considered, action to safeguard the health of our nation and our planet.

Yet, this is only the beginning. We must not become complacent and accept mere lip service. We at BPGL urge all Americans to let your congressional officials know that you’re counting on them. All of our lives — and especially those of our most vulnerable citizens — depend on the strength and enforceability of the TSCA. — Julia Wasson

The Honorable Bobby L. Rush’s statement appears below:

Many hazardous chemicals travel our highways in tankers like this.

Many hazardous chemicals travel our highways in tankers like this.

WASHINGTON, DC — “I want to welcome the Members of the Subcommittee to our first hearing of the 111th Congress. I am honored to chair this distinguished subcommittee and I will strive to serve all of its members honorably.

“I truly look forward to working with everyone on a productive legislative and oversight agenda.

“In this regard, our first hearing of the 111th Congress is an ambitious one and represents a new addition to the subcommittee’s jurisdiction. Today’s hearing will explore the major issues surrounding the Toxic Substances Control Act, also known as TSCA.

“TSCA was enacted in 1976 and originally consisted of one title, which remains the heart of the statute.  While Congress, over the years, has added additional titles to TSCA addressing individual chemicals and substances, Congress has done very little with regard to Title I. TSCA and Title I have never been reauthorized or reformed, and very little oversight has been conducted on the statute’s effectiveness.  Today, I hope to start a deliberative process that reverses this Congressional inaction of the past. By most accounts, TSCA is badly in need of reform. While opinions may vary on the degree and nature of the reforms needed, there is a broad consensus among a diversity of stakeholders that TSCA needs to be reexamined.

“The scope of TSCA is very broad, and its intent is ambitious. TSCA is meant to provide adequate data on the potential health and environmental risks of all chemical substances and mixtures in the United States.  Furthermore, the statute is supposed to provide EPA with adequate regulatory tools to protect the public from unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment. Unfortunately, the statute has seemingly been a failure on both of these basic policy goals.

“Critics contend that the TSCA has failed to generate data on the health risks of the approximately 80,000 chemicals currently in use and the approximately 700 new chemicals introduced into commerce every year. Even though Sections 4 and 5 of TSCA authorize EPA to force companies to test their chemical products and generate risk data, the hoops the agency must jump through in order to exercise this authority have proven to be too burdensome. Rulemakings take years to finalize, cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and are subject to constant legal action by companies who do not want to comply. As a former EPA Assistant Administrator once said, “It’s almost as if we have to, first, prove that the chemicals are risky before we can have the testing done to show whether or not the chemicals are risky.”

Asbestos kills thousands of people each year, yet isn't banned by the TSCA.

Asbestos kills 8,000 Americans each year, yet hasn't been banned under TSCA.

“Furthermore, once the EPA has made a determination that a chemical poses a health or environmental hazard, they have been unable to act on this determination. Section 6 of TSCA provides EPA with broad authority to regulate and ban toxic chemicals, but the burden of proof for action has proved so high that banning a chemical is virtually impossible. I think most Americans would be very surprised to learn that asbestos — a known carcinogen that kills 8,000 Americans every year — has not been banned by the EPA under TSCA, because the courts have ruled that EPA did not meet its evidentiary burden of proving that asbestos is an “unreasonable risk” to the public. If TSCA is incapable of providing EPA with the regulatory tools to ban asbestos, then the statutes seem to be in need of serious repair.

“I want to make clear that I believe reexamining TSCA is not only good for public health, but it’s good for business. I do not believe that this hearing should reflect the old divisions of public health versus business, or the environment versus business. I appreciate the innovative spirit of American businesses and further recognize the importance of fostering that innovative spirit, especially during these perilous economic times. But the public’s faith in the safety of its products and the chemicals that make up those products has been seriously shaken. I believe that reforming TSCA and re-establishing that faith will ultimately be a boon for American businesses of every stripe.
“Today’s hearing is only the first in a series on TSCA. Today, we kick off the process in a deliberative fashion, and I hope that we can all work together in a bipartisan fashion.

“I yield back the balance of my time.”

Statement by the Honorable Bobby L. Rush, Chairman
Committee on Energy and Commerce
Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection
Hearing: Revisiting the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976

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