With the rainy season knocking on our door, it is important to make certain construction sites and building materials─wood and plastic alike─are ready for the impending wet weather. Its impacts to building materials can result in fungal growth issues, including toxic molds.
Traditional responses to mitigating fungal growth during construction have involved the use of anti-microbial solutions to clean surfaces. However, as newer plastic polymer plumbing components have become more prevalent in the construction industry, plumbing manufacturers are becoming more aware of potential incompatibilities between their materials and the antifungal solutions commonly used for mold cleanup. These compatibility issues can lead to warranty questions down the road for plumbing companies and general contractors.
To be sure, some plumbing components have pre-existing issues with things like light sensitivity, chlorine in drinking water, permeability, chemical leaching, and dezincification. As plumbing components in existing buildings reach the end of their lifetimes, manufacturers also are becoming aware of premature failures that are being attributed to the use of anti-microbials and other chemicals applied around the plastic polymers used for plumbing.
Industrial Hygienists with EHSI and SoundEarth Strategies can help our clients get in front of these issues by devising recommendations for plumbing-friendly biocides that are compatible with plumbing components already in place or those being suggested for a new construction project.
Ever played a sport on a synthetic turf field? These sporting staples can make for an incredible playing field, but they can also harbor some nasty bacteria. On average, the lifespan of a turf playing field is about 8 years; factors that influence this lifespan include whether the turf is indoors or outdoors and how it’s maintained.
Turf fields are designed to look like grass and infilled with rubber granules. Maintaining turf fields is as much an art as a science, with careful grooming of the infill, and often use of commercial biocides. Field turf can provide many benefits, such as a consistent playing surface in all weather, but it’s also difficult to fully clean. In general, outdoor turf contains less bacteria than indoor surfaces, because the elements and UV rays can breakdown surface bacteria.
A 2013 study out of Webber State University titled “Determination of Microbial Populations of Synthetic Turf Systems” found that in a 14-week sampling period through late summer and fall of football season, a six-year-old turf system had as many as a 104 increase in microbial populations to year old turf. The highest bacterial counts for both one-year-old and six-year-old turf were found at the sidelines. Salt-tolerant bacteria were found in high numbers, indication potential staphylococci (Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis are both commonly found on human skin but can cause opportunistic infections under the right conditions. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is found on approximately 3% of people within the general population, but can cause severe illnesses when introduced through abrasions, broken skin, or even through contact with contaminated water bottles or equipment).
EHSI has industrial hygienists on staff with the microbiological training necessary to assess synthetic turf bacteria (typically through taking samples of infill). There are different types of tests that can be performed based upon the needs of the client. In addition to baseline testing of field turf to determine bacterial load, if a client is using a commercial biocide to regulate their bacterial growth, EHSI can test before and after application to measure effectiveness of the protocol. EHSI can also review any biocides, making certain the chemicals applied are not harmful to the planet or users.
“Infrastructure Week” has certainly been a running joke for the last few years, but we at SoundEarth Strategies and EHS-International are already hard at work on an important drinking water infrastructure study to support funding under the recently passed $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill! Large spending packages like this one are never without controversy, and opinions about government spending are always wide ranging.
Activities are already underway applying sound science, engineering, and economic analyses to better identify and quantify the scope of upcoming infrastructure improvements. EHS-International, a wholly-owned subsidiary of SoundEarth, is currently supporting Green Economics, LLC and the State of Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) in the development of cost estimates for remediation and mitigation of lead-contaminated drinking water fixtures at public, charter, and tribal schools throughout all of Washington State.
Issues Surrounding Lead in Drinking Water and K-12 Schools
Issues surrounding lead in drinking water in homes and communities, along with the particular risks to children, have garnered increased attention and scrutiny nationwide. However, children attending K-12 public schools also may be at risk of lead exposure from drinking water. School drinking water is a daily source of water for the more than 50 million children enrolled in public schools nationwide. School schedules typically include significant periods of limited use during time off, which can contribute to standing water in school plumbing systems. These inactive times can result in increased leaching of lead from aging pipes and fixtures into the water. Many schools have testing programs in place, but a 2018 U.S. Government Accounting Office report estimated that 41 percent of school districts nationwide had not tested for lead in their water over the prior two-year period. Of those that did test, approximately 37 percent found elevated lead in their water. As such, it is no surprise to us that among the infrastructure projects of interest here in Washington is the remediation of public-school water systems.
EHSI Lead in Drinking Water Data Analysis and Remediation Cost Estimation
The drinking water data we are analyzing is from large, medium, and small school districts over the most recent three-year period of lead contamination testing performed by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and independent testing programs. The remediation cost estimates we are helping to develop address relevant technical assistance, design, parts and hardware, labor, contract administration, and project management expenses. Mitigation actions, treatments, and costs also are being considered.
Results Presented to the Washington State Legislature for Planning and Funding Allocation
The results of this work will allow the State of Washington to better plan for and allocate funds to protect the health and safety of our children statewide. Though planning projects like this are less visible elements of large infrastructure packages, they are critical for ensuring that projects are appropriately prioritized and funded. They are fundamental parts of SoundEarth’s and EHS-International’s continued efforts to help improve the environments in which we live and work.