Toxic Mold

What Toxic Mold Is

Mold or fungus are considered toxic if they cause one or more of the following health problems (www.cdc.gov). First, are burning or irritated eyes. Second, is runny nose, coughing, sneezing, wheezing, or a few other upper respiratory problems. Third, are headaches or fatigue. Fourth and last, are nausea and cognitive (brain) problems.Types That Are Toxic

Black Toxic Mold

Black toxic mold refers to a genus or type of mold called Stachybotrys. Further, it typically refers to a species called chartarum. But how did it get this famous reputation? Firstly, it is well known because of highly publicized court cases. Secondly, it was identified in a few highly publicized public health cases. And, finally, the media has given it a lot of attention. As a matter of fact, it received so much attention that some people believe it is the only toxic fungus. But, that is simply not true! (https://www.escflorida.com/mold-myths/)

Mold behind Baseboard

Other Mold that is Toxic

There are lots of other types or genera of mold which are toxic. This is well documented in the scientific literature. Some of the common ones are Penicillium, Aspergillus, Cladosporium, and Chaetomium. These grow actively both outside and inside buildings.

Causes of Toxicity

These types of mold are toxic because their spores, toxins, or chemicals can cause one or more of the health problems above. These problems may only involve one person in a building with hundreds of occupants. However, that one person experiences a definite health problem from the mold.

Why does that mold not cause a health problem for that same person outside the building? First, the mold population may be much larger inside. Second, there may not be enough fresh air ventilation inside. Third, the mold may be forming colonies on building materials or contents close to that person.

The difference inside is usually due to water. Firstly, the water can come from leaks around windows, doors, roofs, ice makers, and more. Secondly, the water can come from the air conditioner not running or malfunctioning. This can result in elevated humidity, condensate drain pan overflows, and more. Third, the water can come from floods. This may be from weather outside, toilets, and more. As a result of this water in a building, the mold grows and becomes much different in its population and the types.

Certain types of mold are toxic because they cause health problems for some people. There are many types of such mold in addition to the black mold. Water is usually the cause of the unique mold inside a building. In any event, ESC can help determine the cause and the solution for your toxic mold. Feel free to contact us today

Conclusions

Environmental Safety Consultants, Inc.
Here to Serve You

There are many types of mold which are toxic besides the well known black mold. ESC has Florida licensed mold assessors and a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) on staff to help you. Contact ESC today (https://www.escflorida.com/contact/). ESC strives to reply to all contacts promptly!

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CONSTRUCTION CONTROLS

NPDES Stormwater Pollution

Topics for Construction Controls of Stormwater Pollution

drainage weir for construction control of stormwater pollution
Drainage weir for construction control of pollution from stormwater runoff
  • Background of Construction NPDES Stormwater
  • Types of Pollution
  • Types of Construction Controls
  • Selection of Construction Controls
  • Inspect & Fine Tune
  • Conclusion

Background for Construction NPDES Stormwater

This is the third post in a series on Construction NPDES Stormwater Permits and stormwater plans and it deals with different types of construction controls for stormwater pollution (see https://www.escflorida.com/construction-stormwater-npdes-permits/ & https://www.escflorida.com/construction-pollution-npdes-stormwater/). First, we discussed the permits in detail. Second, we discussed the types of pollution which can occur on construction sites. Third, we now turn to discussing the controls.

Types of Pollution

In our last post on construction pollution, we identified the following main types of pollution. First, are particles created by digging, grading, drilling, and dewatering. Second, is existing contamination from past usage and it includes gas, diesel fuel, oil, hazardous wastes, and agricultural materials. Third and finally, is the type of pollution which comes from construction activities on site. It may include gas, oil, diesel fuel, paint, solvents, grease, fertilizer, pesticides, and sewage.

Types of Construction Controls

The types of controls are as different as are construction sites. However, they fall into four groups. Firstly, are barrier controls which block, divert, or filter stormwater runoff. This group includes black silt fence, earthen berms, vegetated screens, sand bags, turbidity curtains, and hay bales. Secondly, are drainage controls. In this group are pipes, swales, ponds, ditches, settling basins, drainage weirs, and sediment traps. Thirdly, are covers. Included are seed, sod, straw, mulch, pavement, geo-textiles, sidewalks, and curbs. Fourthly and finally, are practices and procedures. Included in this group are housekeeping, hazardous material storage and usage, portable toilets, fuel tanks, oil, grease, paint, waste disposal, and solvents.

Selection of Construction Controls

The selection of controls depends on several factors. First, is the size of the site. Second, are the development plans for the site. For example, if there are 500 acres to be clear cut, there will be site-wide erosion and sediment controls compared to disturbance of 1/2-acre of a 5 acre site. Controls in the latter case will be more limited and confined to that portion of the site being developed. Third, is the construction schedule. A very short schedule will minimize the time for controls to be in place. On the other hand, a long schedule will require long-term controls, maintenance, and most likely replacement. Fourth and finally, are miscellaneous factors such as the numbers of workers, subcontractors, and equipment on the site; the nature of soil disturbing activities; waiting time for regulatory inspections; quantities and locations of hazardous materials; and many, many more.

Inspect and Fine Tune

From the start, embrace controls as ongoing and requiring maintenance and possible replacement. Complete weekly and post-rainfall inspections as required by your stormwater plan (https://www.epa.gov/npdes/stormwater-discharges-construction-activities). This plan (SWPPP) is mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).

Conclusion

Environmental Safety Consultants, Inc.
Ready to
Serve

In conclusion, address construction controls while designing the project. Then, continue addressing them during all construction and until the site is stabilized. However, continue monitoring the site until it is occupied. Then, if you need any assistance, ESC is here. Further, the firm holds a Florida engineering business license and has a licensed Professional Engineer (P.E.) on staff. In addition, ESC’s staff scientists and engineer hold bachelors and masters degrees and have over seventy (70) years of combined experience in the stormwater, surface water pollution, and environmental permits field. Furthermore, ESC has been providing NPDES stormwater permits services to its clientele for over thirty (30) years. Finally, ESC has the credentials and experience to help you with your stormwater permits related needs. Contact ESC today (https://www.escflorida.com/contact/). ESC strives to reply to all contacts promptly!

CONCERN WITH SILICA

Sudden Concern with Silica

Increasing Use

Why the sudden concern with silica? Silica is a major component of planet Earth and has been from the beginning of time.  As a result, mankind has always been exposed to silica. However, exposure is higher than ever. This is because of increased activity in the construction and industrial areas.

ready-mix concrete plant with sand aka silica
Ready-mix concrete contains silica

Lower Limits

OSHA’s (U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s, https://www.osha.gov) silica limits are now lower due to the sudden concern with silica a few years ago.  To explain, these limits are OSHA’s Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs).  Because of the sudden concern with silica, OSHA lowered the PELs for three sectors of workers. Explaining further, those sectors are general industry (29 CFR 1910), maritime industry (29 CFR 1915, 1917, & 1918), and construction (29 CFR 1926).

Disease, the Real Concern with Silica

In the 1930’s, the United States became concerned with silica and the resulting disease silicosis. It is unknown why it suddenly came to the forefront. However, read on for more information on silicosis.

Silica Defined

Silica is a chemical compound, which by definition means there are at least two chemical elements. Firstly, is silicon (Si) which has metallic and non-metallic properties and makes up a large part of the earth’s crust. Secondly, is oxygen (O), which we all know human beings need to survive. Thirdly, comes the chemical reaction where one atom of silicon combines with two atoms of oxygen. Silicon dioxide or SO-2 is the resulting compound. Silica or sand is the common name. Silica makes up quartz, sand, and other substances. Finally, silica occurs in concrete, granite, slate, sandstone, and sandpaper, among other things.

Concern with Silica & Workers

Exposure Routes

Silica can enter the body via three routes. Firstly, it can enter through the skin, known as dermal exposure. Secondly, it can enter through the mouth and digestive system, known as ingestion. Finally, silica can enter the body through the respiratory tract, known as inhalation. Of those three routes, inhalation is the most significant and worst route, because it can end up in the worker’s lungs. As a result, the worker can develop silicosis. Even more important, the greater the exposure the greater the likelihood of silicosis.

Effect on the Body

Silicosis is the respiratory condition that can result from breathing in silica. It is a terrible disease which affects countless workers exposed to silica dust. Here is a link to OSHA’s video on silicosis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HAByIIzQSuU .  It is short and to the point. It makes a strong point for avoiding silica exposure.

Testing Workers

ESC has lots of experience testing for silica. The firm has tested at various construction job sites under real and worst case conditions. Typically, this is done where concrete is being cut, milled, or drilled.

ESC has tested at manufacturing plants where granite counter tops are made, concrete products are constructed, roofing shingles are manufactured, and fertilizer is compounded, plus at a college where pottery is made.  ESC’s Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH, http://www.abih.org) works with ESC’s staff level industrial hygienists in designing testing projects, interpreting the results, and preparing the report. More information is available on ESC’s web site.

Environmental Safety Consultants

Conclusion

Contact ESC (https://www.escflorida.com/contact/) for silica testing or more information. ESC has been providing such testing in the industrial hygiene area for over thirty years and has a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH). The staff has the credentials and experience to help with all silica testing and consulting needs. ESC strives to respond immediately to all inquiries. Contact ESC today!

CONSTRUCTION POLLUTION

NPDES Stormwater & Construction Pollution

Topics

  • Introduction
  • Suspended Particles
  • Existing Contamination
  • Construction Pollution Chemicals
  • Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP)
  • Conclusion

Introduction – Construction Pollution

Clearing and developing construction sites disturbs soil and other materials, creating construction pollution. This pollution may be from the site itself, or from the procedures and materials used on the site. Stormwater runoff from rainfall can carry these materials off site. As a result, these materials pollute receiving surface waters. This is because the runoff may be toxic to fish, wildlife, and plants in the receiving water. However, Construction NPDES Stormwater Permits (see our recent blog article at https://www.escflorida.com/construction-stormwater-npdes-permits/) minimize this construction pollution and these impacts.

Suspended Particles

construction pollution in receiving water
Construction pollution in receiving water

Digging, grading, drilling, and dewatering operations create particles from soil, clays, sand, organic matter, and debris. Stormwater runoff picks them up, then they become suspended. As a result, in the receiving surface water these suspended particles block off sunlight from plants and deplete oxygen. Once that occurs, the receiving water can become polluted and devoid of life. However, turbidity measurements determine if the suspended particles are excessive and capable of causing pollution.

Existing Contamination

In comparison to susended particles, construction operations do not cause existing contamination. On the contrary, existing contamination is caused by past usage of the site, legally or illegally, and includes several types of pollution. These types include gasoline, diesel fuel, oil, agricultural materials, or hazardous wastes. The contamination’s location and its concentration may be well documented and the contractor can be forewarned. On the other hand, it may not be and the contractor may discover it after disturbing it. Therefore, the contractor must prepare a plan to handle unknown pollution, including a list of emergency response contractors.

Construction Pollution Chemicals

These chemicals may come from developing the site, working on the equipment, or construction of buildings. For example, they may include, gas, oil, diesel fuel, paint, solvents, grease, fertilizer, pesticides, and sewage, and come from several sources including ordinary use, misuse, storage, leaks, spills, or vandalism.

Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans

Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans (aka SWPPPs) prevent construction pollution and eliminate or reduce the impact on receiving waters in several ways. Firstly, they identify operations which will cause pollution. Secondly, they result in a change of the operations. Thirdly, they identify effective controls and provide a schedule for implementation. Most importantly, prepare an effective SWPPP using resources such as the web site of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (https://www.epa.gov/npdes/stormwater-discharges-construction-activities).

Conclusion

Environmental Safety Consultants, Inc.
Environmental Safety Consultants, Inc.

Stormwater runoff from construction sites does not have to pollute receiving surface waters. If you need any assistance, ESC is here. The firm holds a Florida engineering business license and has a licensed Professional Engineer (P.E.) on staff. ESC’s staff scientists hold bachelors and masters degrees and have over seventy (70) years of combined experience in the stormwater, surface water pollution, and environmental permits field. ESC has been providing NPDES stormwater permits services to its clientele for over thirty (30) years. We have the credentials and experience to help you with your stormwater permits needs. Contact us today (https://www.escflorida.com/contact/). We strive to reply to all contacts promptly!

CONSTRUCTION STORMWATER

NPDES PERMITS

Topics

Construction stormwater runoff from this site must be controlled to prevent pollution of surface water.
Typical Construction Stormwater Permits Site.

Introduction – Construction NPDES Stormwater Permits
Stormwater Plans (SWPPP)
NPDES Stormwater Permits Application
Erosion & Sediment Controls
Inspections
Stabilization & Permit Termination

Introduction

By design, Construction NPDES Stormwater Permits reduce or eliminate polluted stormwater leaving construction sites. These permits started in the early 1990’s (see one of our previous blogs on environmental permits, https://www.escflorida.com/esc-services/environmental-permits-testing/ ), by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, www.epa.gov/npdes/stormwater-discharges-construction-activities).

Subsequently, the EPA delegated the stormwater NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permits program to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). As a result, contractors, developers, and owners must obtain coverage under the Construction NPDES Stormwater General Permit and comply with all requirements during construction at a site.

Stormwater Plans (SWPPP)

Prepare Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPP, as explained in our other blog
https://www.escflorida.com/category/npdes-stormwater/ ) before the construction contractor requests coverage under the NPDES General Permit. After that, incorporate the SWPPP elements into the construction plans. To explain further, these SWPPP elements on the plans include sediment and erosion controls.

Components

The following are the main components of SWPPPs:

  • Site & Project Description
  • Significant Soil Disturbance Activities & Pollutants
  • Controls – Erosion & Sediment
  • Construction Schedule
  • Site Stabilization
  • Certifications of Owner, Contractor, & Subcontractors
  • Inspections

Construction NPDES Stormwater Permits Application

Complete a Notice of Intent form to apply for coverage under the General Permit for construction sites. Mail it to the FDEP with a check for the permit fee. After that, follow up with the FDEP to confirm receipt and coverage under that stormwater permit.

Construction NPDES Stormwater Permits Inspections

To start, install a rain gage, prepare a log book, start monitoring rainfall daily, and record it in the log book. Next, complete inspections weekly and within twenty-four (24) hours of rainfall events of at least ½ inch of rain. To do so, select an inspector with the proper training and qualifications. Then, equip the inspector with an inspection form. Further, require the inspector to fill out the form for each inspection and take pictures of conditions which could pollute stormwater runoff. Next, review each inspection form as soon as possible and sign it as the Site Stormwater Manager. Finally, correct faulty conditions as soon as possible.

Stabilization & Permit Termination

Stabilize the site after completing all significant soil disturbing activities. To explain, seed disturbed areas, sod where needed, and remove temporary controls no longer needed to control erosion and sediment. After that, stop coverage under the NPDES Stormwater Permit by completing a Notice of Termination with the FDEP. The Notice does not require a fee, but you do need to confirm receipt of the Notice by the FDEP.

Environmental Safety Consultants, Inc.

So there is a discussion of Construction NPDES Stormwater Permits. If you need any assistance, ESC is here. The firm holds a Florida engineering business license and has a licensed Professional Engineer (P.E.) on staff. We also have staff scientists with bachelors and masters degrees with over seventy (70) years of experience in the stormwater and environmental permits field. ESC has been providing NPDES stormwater permits services to its clientele for over thirty (30) years. We have the credentials and experience to help you with your stormwater permits needs. Contact us today (https://www.escflorida.com/contact/). We strive to reply to all contacts promptly!

DON’T PAY TOP DOLLAR FOR MOLD TESTING. . . .

Unless You Want It Done Right!

Now you know the rest of the story!  This paper explains why the bargain basement price for mold testing is not necessarily the best.  There are reasons why the price is so low.  Read on.

Ask Why the Mold Testing Price is So Low

Mold TestingThe low price results from several factors.  First of all, the personnel may not have the extensive education, training, and certifications that the higher priced testing companies do.  Second, they may not have to adhere to a code of ethics of a professional certification board.  Third, the types and numbers of samples may be different.  Finally, the report and consultation budget may be cut drastically.  In conclusion, it is a case of apples and oranges – the two cannot be compared.

Mold Testing Prices

The prices can be significantly different.  For example, in our market the low price is $300 for a “mold test” in a small to medium size home or office.  The realistic price to test properly is $750 to $1,150.  That is quite a difference!  It is, but the devil is in the details.  First, the low price work is:

  • 2 air spore traps inside & 1 outside
  • brief report with lab results
  • scant or no interpretation of results

In comparison, the realistic priced work includes:

  • 2 air spore traps & 2 air culture samples inside + 2 of each outside
  • 2 surface tape samples in AC system
  • temperature & relative humidity at same 4 air stations
  • inspection for water intrusion & visible mold
  • moisture mapping with infrared camera & moisture meter
  • American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA, aiha.org) accredited lab analysis
  • detailed report with interpretation of results & consultation

That is quite a difference!

Credentials

The low priced company’s staff most likely does not stack up to the realistic priced company.  The staff members may not all have 4 year degrees and if they do, the degrees are not necessarily in biology or a related field.  Both companies should have Florida licensed Mold Assessors (required by law & officially called Mold-Related Services Assessors).  However, the low priced company’s staff will not have a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH, American Board of Industrial Hygiene, www.abih.org).  The credential is extremely difficult to get but courts recognize CIHs as expert witnesses.  That means their work is court defensible which is extremely important in today’s litigious society.  No one plans to go to court, but many end up there!

Final Note

ESC is not the low priced company and it does mold testing right.  The firm has taken over more than one job from owners who realize they just threw their money away on low priced testing.  There is even more information in papers on our web site.  They are in our blog section and can be found by clicking on  https://www.escflorida.com/esc-services/building-testing/

Environmental Safety ConsultantsSo there is a discussion of point counting building materials for asbestos.  If you need any assistance, ESC (www.escflorida.com) is here.  On staff, we have a board Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) and three Florida licensed Mold Assessors.  ESC has been providing mold testing services to our clients for over thirty years.  We have the credentials and experience to help you with your asbestos needs.  Our firm is just a telephone call (800-226-1735) or an e-mail away (escinc@verizon.net).  Contact us today!

ASBESTOS POINT COUNTING

Asbestos Point Counting Defined

Point counting is a detailed laboratory method that determines the actual asbestos content of friable building materials.  It shows if the content is greater than 1%.  The federal asbestos regulations for building renovations and demolitions allow point counting.

The actual regulation is found in Chapter 61.145 of Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations, otherwise known as 40 CFR 61.145.  Chapter 61 contains the NESHAPs rules (National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants).  NESHAPs covers quite a few hazardous air pollutants and asbestos is addressed in Subpart M of Chapter 61.  NESHAPs is enforced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, www.epa.gov).  State agencies such as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (www.floridadep.gov) also enforce it.

When to Asbestos Point Count

Do point counting when the material is friable and the initial results are less than 10%.  This more detailed procedure tightens the statistics, providing a more accurate concentration.

Options

What are the options?  First, assume the initial results are correct and the material contains more than 1% asbestos.  Next, abate it prior to disturbance (renovation or demolition).  Otherwise, point count it.

Asbestos point countingThe decision involves money.  The cost of point counting a few samples is a few hundred dollars.  But, the cost of abatement is a few thousand dollars.  In either case, removing the material can cause an inhalation hazard for the workers and occupants.  This is true even for asbestos concentrations less than 1%.  That number is a regulatory number, not a safe, no exposure number.

Decision

Like a lot of construction issues, point counting is a business decision.  The building owner and occupants make the decision, with the building contractor, licensed asbestos consultant, and licensed asbestos contractor.  Consider the potential outcomes.  For example, the owner and occupants may say they want it removed properly by a licensed asbestos contractor whatever the concentration is.  Alternatively, they may not care about the potential exposure and opt for the building contractor to carefully remove it it if it contains less than 1% asbestos.

Environmental Safety ConsultantsSo there is a discussion of point counting building materials for asbestos.  If you need any assistance, ESC (www.escflorida.com) is here.  On staff, we have a Florida Licensed Asbestos Consultant and board Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH).  ESC has been providing asbestos consulting services to our clients for over thirty years.  We have the credentials and experience to help you with your asbestos needs.  Our firm is just a telephone call (800-226-1735) or an e-mail away (escinc@verizon.net).  Contact us today!

Can I Reuse My N-95 Masks?

Introduction

This paper is the fourth in a series on the pandemic disease, COVID-19. The first paper focused on safely reopening your business.  The second one concerned face masks, the primary PPE (personal protective equipment). The third paper involved examining the exposure routes. Finally, this one will discuss the reuse of N-95 masks. This has been of great importance during the current pandemic.  That is due to shortages of N-95s and the need to protect everybody.  Further, health care workers and other front line workers must be protected from infected and asymptomatic carriers of the SARS-CoV-2 novel corona virus.

N-95 Masks Not Designed for Reuse

Do not reuse N-95s. Wear them one time and throw them away. Their paper cloth-like material does not stand up well when washed or disinfected. The filtration can be reduced and put the wearer at risk. The elastic bands and the filter material may become distorted.  Then the mask does not seal properly to the face or fit properly. This allows air leakage and defeats the purpose. Also, viruses, bacteria, and physical particles can become trapped on the outside of the filter material and lead to infection when touched.

Short Supply has Forced the Issue

Necessity is the mother of invention! And because the N-95 has come into such demand, we have been forced to explore reuse of these disposable masks. The scientists and regulatory agencies have explored various options and made emergency concessions for the reuse of N-95s. Federal agencies involved include the Center for Disease Control (CDC, www.cdc.gov), Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA, www.osha.gov), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA, www.fda.gov).

N-95 Masks Reuse Guidelines

The simplest method is to store the N-95 in a closed paper bag and not reuse it until 5 days later. This is not true disinfection but it banks on the virus dying outside of the body, which is typical of most micro-organisms. The CDC identifies the following disinfection methods:

  • Moist Heat (think autoclave)
  • Ultra-violet Light
  • Hydrogen Peroxide

Only trained scientists and medical personnel can use these disinfection procedures. Examine the masks for distortion and damage, then fit test them on personnel.  Just remember – when in doubt, throw it out!

As the Virus Turns

That sums up reuse and disinfection at this time. But stay tuned, because new information and data come in every day!

Environmental Safety ConsultantsSo there is a discussion of reusing N-95s. If you need any assistance, ESC (www.escflorida.com) is here. We have a board Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) on staff and have been providing respiratory protection services to our clients for thirty years. ESC has the credentials and experience to help you with your respiratory protection needs. We are just a telephone call (800-226-1735) or an e-mail away (escinc@verizon.net). Contact us today!

HOW DO I GET COVID-19?

Introduction

This paper is the third in a series on the pandemic disease, COVID-19. The first paper focused on safely reopening your business.  The second paper concerned the issue of face masks which have become the primary PPE or personal protective equipment to prevent the disease. Additional protective measures which everybody is familiar with are frequent and thorough (at least 20 seconds) hand washing and social distancing where every person is no closer than six feet to the next person. And we cannot forget protective clothing, gloves, and face shields, depending on the situation. So, with that introduction, let’s dive into exposure!

Exposure Routes

The SARS-CoV-2 novel corona virus which causes COVID-19 is no different than any other biological airborne contaminant when it comes to exposure routes into the body. It may enter the body through inhalation, injection, or ingestion. Inhalation is obvious because you breathe it into your body. Injection covers all other routes except ingestion. So if the virus gets on your hands and you touch your eyes, it can enter your body. If you touch your nose inside, you have injected it, but then you inhale it. I am not aware of it entering the body through cuts, but as we all know, we learn more and more about this virus every day! The same can be said for ingestion, that is you swallow it. Supposedly, the acidic nature of the stomach renders it harmless, but once again, stay tuned!

Inhalation of the Virus

So, by the process of apparent elimination, we are left with inhalation as the primary exposure route for SARS-CoV-2. And what you typically breathe in are respiratory droplets which contain the virus. If it were the virus alone, we would all be in trouble because of the virus’s size. The virus is approximately 0.1 micron (micrometer or 1/1,000,000th of a meter) in diameter, which is like 1/1,000th the size of an average hair (70 microns in diameter). Or, it is 0.00000393701 inches! It is very small! And, from our last paper, it would pass through the material of an N-95 respirator (certified by NIOSH, the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health, which is a part of the CDC, the Center for Disease Control, www.cdc.gov) because it only stops particles which are 0.3 microns or larger in diameter.  But an N-95 does stop respiratory droplets because they are 5 microns and larger.

So, you ask, why bother? Because, typically the route of infection is via those droplets according to the World Health Organization (WHO, www.who.int), not via airborne transmission of the virus alone.  And, if the N-95 is sealed to your face properly, it stops those droplets coming to you from others and it stops your droplets from reaching them. The reason is that the respiratory droplets are 5 microns and larger, which are much larger than the 0.3 micron threshold for N-95 respirators.

COVID-19 - Surgical MaskThat cannot be said about surgical masks, cloth masks, masks made of other materials, handkerchiefs, or neck gaiters. Those all pretty much stop your droplets from getting out, but because they do not seal properly to your face, your droplets can get out and reach others.

N-95 Use and Care for COVID-19

So, now that you are convinced an N-95 is best, how do you use it? Reuse it? Clean it? Disinfect it? Stay tuned and those questions will be answered in our next paper!

Environmental Safety ConsultantsSo there is a discussion of how you get COVID-19. If you need any assistance, ESC (www.escflorida.com) is here. We have a board Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) on staff and have been providing respiratory protection services to our clients for thirty years. We have the credentials and experience to help you with your respiratory protection needs. We are just a telephone call (800-226-1735) or an e- mail away (escinc@verizon.net). Contact us today!

Face Masks and COVID-19

Introduction 

This paper is the second in a series on the pandemic disease, COVID-19. The first paper focused on safely reopening your business. The current paper will concern the issue of face masks. These face masks are part of PPE or personal protective equipment which has become an everyday term since the pandemic began in this country last year. It is refreshing to be able to discuss PPE without the listener’s eyes glazing over! Of course, PPE can include gloves, suits, hearing protection, face shields, hard hats, steel toed boots, and more, but this paper concerns face masks for respiratory protection. 

Face Masks and COVID-19 Primer 

The face masks used to protect people from breathing in SARS-CoV-2 (the novel corona virus which causes the disease COVID-19) have included surgical masks, N-95 masks, handkerchiefs, face shields, neck gaiters, and more. None of these actually filter out the virus (which is approximately 0.1 micron in diameter), but rather, they filter out respiratory droplets that are expelled when people exhale, talk, sing, laugh, cough, sneeze, etcetera.

Of the masks above, N-95s offer the best protection. To explain, the N stands for non-oil proof, so they do not work in an oily environment – anywhere there is oil in the air, typically as a mist. Next, the 95 means that they filter out 95% of particles 0.3 micron in diameter. Dioctyl phthalate is the chemical used to test the respirators. If they pass the test, the manufacturers can deem them N-95 respirators after meeting other certification requirements of NIOSH (the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health, which is a part of the CDC, the Center for Disease Control, (www.cdc.gov). Once they meet the certification requirements, they can display N-95 labels. 

How to Wear the N-95  Face Mask

The N-95 face mask has two straps, a lower, and an upper strap. Firstly, put it on the lower strap by putting it over the head and then lowering it so it rides along the back of the neck. Secondly, put the upper strap over the head and rest it on the crown in the back.  Thirdly, seal the face piece snugly over the nose, down the face, around the mouth, and beneath the chin. Finally, bend the part that goes over the nose so it fits closely over the bridge and down the sides. By following these steps, the N-95 will be sealed to the face so no air comes through cracks, which means the mask filters the air inhaled and exhaled. Which brings up a point that exhalation valves do not filter exhaled air. People can inhale the germs, so exhalation valves are not recommended.

What if you Can’t Get an N-95 Face Mask for COVID-19 Protection? 

If you cannot get an N-95 face mask for COVID-19 protection, use a surgical mask. If one is not available, use a cloth filtering mask. The other types of masks are on down the list. 

How often Can I Wear the Face Mask? 

The face mask is not designed to be worn over and over. Throw it away after each use or disinfect it if possible. As with everything else, consult the manufacturer. 

Tell Me More about Inhalation Exposure from the COVID-19 Virus

Inhalation exposure from the COVID-19 virus is the topic of our next paper. We will discuss airborne exposure of the virus itself and exposure to respiratory droplets. Stay tuned! Environmental Safety Consultants

So there is a discussion of face masks and protection from the SARS-CoV-2 which causes the disease COVID-19. If you need any assistance, ESC (www.escflorida.com) is here. We have a board Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) on staff and have been providing respiratory protection services to our clients for thirty years. ESC has the credentials and experience to help you with your respiratory protection needs. We are just a telephone call (800-226-1735) or an e mail away (escinc@verizon.net). Contact us today!