Recent Indoor Air Quality & Mold Projects

 

Environmental Inspection and Construction Project to Support Overflow of COVID-19 Patients

 

Hygieneering has been recently involved with a team of professional construction and MEP contractors as well as other state and federal agencies to support converting a former Hospital in the Chicagoland Suburbs into a temporary overflow facility to ease the COVID-19 cases in the area. The campus is to be used as an overflow site for non-acute hospital patients and possibly non-acute COVID-19 patients who do not require an ICU bed or other urgent care.

 

The existing building required support to identify potential mold and moisture issues, Indoor Air Quality and environmental concerns (asbestos and lead) to support the limited demolition and re-use of building systems and building materials. The facility had been previously vacated for over a year.

 

To support the project, Hygieneering, Inc. conducted a moisture survey and assessment to identify areas that may be of concern for microbial growth. This was done using visual inspection, moisture content readings and thermal imaging cameras to delineate areas of concern. Any identified areas were remediated using a professionally trained Mold and Microbial remediation contractor following current EPA and City of New York Guidelines.

 

Hygieneering also inspected and tested renovation impact areas for the presence of asbestos and lead paint with state-licensed Building Inspectors and Risk Assessors to ensure that workers did not disturb regulated materials during this fast-moving project.

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Occupational Histoplasmosis Litigation Support
Our Director of Indoor Air Quality and Microbiologist, David Zeidner, recently worked on a litigation project to review worksite environmental conditions and worker activities in an evaluation of risk factors that may have lead to a worker being diagnosed with Histoplasmosis. 

 

Chloramine Air Monitoring in High School Pool Area

One of our school district clients had an issue in their pool area.  In response to some odor and irritation complaints by users of the pool, Hygieneering was engaged to sample the air for nitrogen trichloride during an active pool use time.   Nitrogen trichloride is the chloramine compound associated with the ‘chlorine odor’ and upper respiratory and eye irritation.

 

Hygieneering collected several air samples in the pool area during an approximate 2.5-hour period.  The sampling was conducted at a ‘worst-case’ time in the pool area during the most active period and at the end of a day of full use.  The air sampling sites were adjacent to the pool, approximately 1.5 feet off the floor (Photograph 1).  In addition, some reference samples were also taken located away from the pool area. The samples were collected and analyzed for nitrogen trichloride in accordance with a method developed by Galson Laboratories, an American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) accredited lab.

The air sampling results indicated chloramine levels to be elevated above current general recommended guidance for preventing irritation.  Reduction of the presence of chloramines in the air is a mix of ensuring proper pool water chemistry, managing pool user effects, proper ventilation and other factors.  Hygieneering provided a report of results with recommendations concerning:
  • professional HVAC review of the room to confirm operation in accordance with ASHRAE

  • educating the swimmers on the need for showering prior to entering the pool and reinforce the concern of urination in the pool (leads to chloramine production)

  • review of pool maintenance and “shocking” procedures

  • tracking of complaints and follow-up testing

 

Office Odor Investigation – Spray Foam Insulation
 

Our client had a particular office area within their building that occupants complained of an unusual odor that would come and go.  The facility engineers investigated and could find nothing unusual.  They increase air movement and added charcoal filters to the HVAC system in an attempt to help, but the odor complaints continued.

 

Hygieneering was engaged to conduct an indoor air quality odor assessment.  It was discovered in the investigation that the area was renovated within the last couple of years and a spray foam insulation was installed in the exterior wall.  Based on some of the details of the odor occurrence, its unique smell and Hygieneering’s experience with a couple of other spray foam odor cases, this wall system became suspect.

 

We conducted an invasive assessment with the help of the building engineers (Photo 1).  We utilized a photoionization detector (PID) as a screening tool for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the wall system.  The results indicated the wall system/insulation to be a source of VOCs (Photo 2).  Bulk samples of the insulation were taken and submitted to a lab for detailed VOC emission analysis (Photo 3).

 

Based on the field assessment and laboratory analysis, the odor is most likely from the spray foam insulation. The odor is most likely due to the presence of triethylamine, a spray foam catalyst, which has a relatively low odor threshold of 0.48 parts per million. Laboratory analysis of the sample indicated that the presence of 1,4 dioxane off-gassing, which is also associated with spray foam insulation.

 

Hygieneering advised our client that the source of the odor, spray foam insulation, can either be removed (i.e.: destructive abatement) or

controlled by the use of engineering/mechanical means (i.e.: slight negative pressure of wall system with venting to outdoors).

 

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Histoplasmosis Case – Investigation
Avian Pathogen PCR Analysis
 

Our client had an individual on their staff that developed histoplasmosis.  Within the building that they worked, an area in the attic was found that contained bat and bird droppings.  Hygieneering was engaged to perform a microbial assessment in the building for the presence of avian pathogen related microorganisms commonly associated with bat and bird manure. 

 

A  sampling plan was devised to collect bulk samples from the attic (Photo 1) and swab samples from numerous surfaces in the remaining portion of the building.  Full personal protective equipment was donned by our field microbiologist (Photo 2).  Sample collection was based on protocol recommended by our lab - EMLab P&K for PCR analysis. 

 

The samples were analyzed for the presence of the avian pathogens. The samples were analyzed for Chlamydophila psittaci, Cryptococcus neoformans, Histoplasma capsulatum. Histoplasma capsulatum is known to cause histoplasmosis.

 

Based on the results of the assessment, Hygieneering prepared a site remediation plan for the clean-up of areas of concern.
 

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Hospital Infection Control Investigation Assistance

 

Hygieneering recently provided air and water sampling services to assist one of our healthcare clients that was conducting a follow-up investigation to a patient that contracted a fungal infection.  Our services included collecting both viable and total mold spore air sampling in the areas of potential concern and reference locations in the facility.  Speciation analysis was provided on the viable mold air samples to provide specific information on the mold type to compare to the patient fungal infection.  In addition, water samples for mold at patient accessible fixtures was also conducted.  The results of our sampling provided needed environmental documentation to complete the hospital infection investigation.

 

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Infection Control Risk Assessment and Implementation in Healthcare Setting

 

Hygieneering recently participated on a hospital renovation team consisting of infection control (IC) staff, hospital safety staff, the architect, the general contractor and the engineering staff.  The team worked together to assist IC staff with the development of the Infection Control Risk Assessment (ICRA) regarding a planned significant demolition of portions of the hospital.  The Joint Commission’s Environment of Care standards require that “when planning for demolition, construction, or renovation, the hospital conducts a pre-construction risk assessment for air quality requirements, infection control, utility requirements, noise, vibration, and other hazards that affect care, treatment, and services”.  Hygieneering brought the following industrial hygiene expertise and perspective to the team:

 

  • Risk identification, assessment, and management of environmental hazards (dust, silica, lead, asbestos, mold, Asperguillus, Legionella).

  • Engineering controls, barrier and containment design to protect susceptible patients from airborne contaminants associated with construction.

  • Understanding the role of ventilation systems for HEPA filtration, contaminant capture and control and maintenance of negative pressure environments.

  • Project design, implementation and environmental sampling (air, surface & water) to assess the efficacy of engineering controls.

  • Unique monitoring techniques including dust monitoring with particle sizing and telemetry with alarm and communication systems built in for the rapid response to an undesirable condition.

 

Documentation of all aspects of the project into a final report as a record of the good practices implemented to control potential exposures to occupants, staff, visitors and the environment.

 

Mold Mitigation Turnkey Services

 

Hygieneering, Inc. was retained to address a mold concern in an occupied Senior Living Assistance facility that was discovered during planned renovations. Hygieneering conducted initial inspection and testing services to determine extent of the mold growth conditions and to help identify the potential root moisture causes. We then developed mitigation work procedures and associated project documents.  We provided contractor retention and daily project management to ensure that mitigation efforts were safely performed in compliance with New York City Department of Public Health “Guidelines on Assessment and Remediation of Fungi in Indoor Environments” and EPA recommended guidelines for mold remediation in schools and public buildings as well as with the facility’s infectious control program.

 

This undertaking needed to be performed with the residents of the facility completely occupying each floor during the mitigation and renovation efforts. Their safety and health were of paramount importance throughout the duration of the project. Careful and constant coordination with the facility’s management and nursing staff, the general contractor and the mitigation contractor was key to the success of the project.

 

All mitigation work was conducted within negative pressure enclosures during mitigation activities through the drywall replacement by the general contractor. During mitigation, to address quality control, Hygieneering smoke tested each enclosure and also conducted aerosol dust sampling both inside and outside of every work area each day of the project. This allowed the continual demonstration and documentation of proper engineering and work methods throughout the project.

 

To further confirm that engineering controls being employed were effective, spore trap air samples were collected before remediation activities began and also during remediation activities while work was being performed.  Hygieneering conducted continuous detailed visual inspections of the work areas following mold mitigation and cleaning activities to verify that the specified mold materials had been remediated and the areas were satisfactorily cleaned.

 

In summary, the results of this mold mitigation project assisted our client in completing their planned renovation of the facility while protecting the overall health and safety of the facility occupants.

 

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Odor Assessment

 

Employees located within a bank branch were concerned with the indoor air quality following the appearance of an unusual odor in the building. The odor was described as “chlorine/bleach-like” and first appeared during construction activities in their building. Hygieneering used a combination of investigative techniques to determine that the source of the odor was from a product used during the construction. Building materials contaminated with the product were identified and the pathway which the odor was spread into the remainder of the building was determined.  The air was tested to ensure that the nuisance odor was not a health issue.

 

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Hygieneering, Inc. | 7575 Plaza Court, Willowbrook, IL 60527 | 630-654-2550 | info@hygieneering.com

© 2016 by Hygieneering, Inc.

Wall System/Insulation Source of VOC