Asbestos FAQs

What is Asbestos?  Asbestos is the name given to a group of naturally occurring minerals that are resistant to heat and corrosion.  Asbestos includes the mineral fibers chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite, actinolite and any of these materials that have been chemically treated or altered.

Brief History:  Although the use of asbestos dates back to prehistoric times, the mineral came into popularity during the Industrial Age. Asbestos manufacturing was not a flourishing industry until the late 1800s, when the start of the Industrial Revolution helped sustain strong and steady growth of the industry. That’s when the practical and commercial uses of asbestos, with its myriad applications, became widespread.

Is asbestos hazardous?  Asbestos is harmful if the fibers become airborne and are inhaled. Fibrous asbestos can fracture into fibers small enough that they can penetrate deep into the lungs, where they can interact with the body to cause cancer or other illnesses. Asbestos-containing materials (ACM) that are intact and in good condition are not hazardous to building occupants under normal conditions.

How might I be exposed to asbestos fibers?  Asbestos can enter the environment from weathered natural mineral deposits and fiber releases arising from man-made asbestos products. Asbestos may be found in products like floor tiles; roof shingles; cement; mastic adhesive; automotive brakes and; electrical, plumbing, acoustical, and structural insulation. Asbestos fibers are released into the air when these products are disturbed.

What is my risk of being exposed?  Exposure, generally, is during construction where ACM is disturbed to the point of becoming airborne. While asbestos remains in place and non-friable (cannot be easily broken down and made airborne), adverse health effects are unlikely.

What if I’m exposed?  If you feel you have been exposed, visit your physician. The most common test used to determine if you have been exposed to asbestos is a chest x-ray. The x-ray cannot detect the asbestos fibers themselves, but can detect early signs of lung disease caused by asbestos exposure. Another tool used by physicians, called a pulmonary function test, can also be useful in identifying lung capacity changes. Periodic health examinations by a physician, including a chest x-ray and review of asbestos-based risk factors, can be effective. Asbestos risk factors include levels, frequency, and length of asbestos exposures; period of time since exposures; and smoking history. The combined impact of cigarette smoking and fiber exposures can increase the chances of asbestos-related lung diseases.

How do I avoid exposure?  Pay attention to warning signs around construction sites. Contractors removing asbestos are required to contain these areas so asbestos is not released outside of the work area, to monitor the area for possible exposure, and these areas are to be easily identified with proper signage.

How can I tell if something contains asbestos?  It is not possible to visually determine if a material contains asbestos. The presence of asbestos can only be determined by specific sampling and analytical procedures conducted by qualified individuals.

I have asbestos in my home. Do I need to do anything about it to protect my health?  Most of the time, no. The common materials used in home construction are floor tile, roofing and siding. These materials are very strong and don’t readily crumble and release the asbestos fibers unless they are subjected to strong forces. If you never have the need to disturb these materials, you may be able to leave them alone. But if you know that a needed repair or renovation will disturb the material, you may want to start planning with your consultant to abate the asbestos during the project.

What do commercial property owners/managers have to do with a construction project containing asbestos?  There are regulations in place that require owners to know if there is ACM in the building before commencing construction/demolition work. An asbestos survey must be performed and proof of such survey is required in order to obtain the necessary permits. This work is completed by an Asbestos Consultant, such as ERC. If any asbestos is to be removed, a consultant must provide instructions for safe removal (Asbestos Specifications or Design). Additionally, a consultant provides oversight of the removal with onsite monitoring throughout the project.

Is asbestos hazardous?  It is the unique physical shape of asbestos that gave it many practical applications and also makes asbestos hazardous. Asbestos is harmful if the fibers become airborne and are inhaled. Fibrous asbestos can fracture into fibers small enough that they can penetrate deep into the lungs, where they can interact with the body to cause cancer or other illnesses. Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM) that are intact and in good condition are not hazardous to building occupants under normal conditions.

If asbestos is so dangerous, why was it even used?  Asbestos was so useful because it was incredibly strong and resisted many elements well. It is so strong because of its natural composition. These fibers are extremely durable and resistant to wear. These are the properties making asbestos so attractive for adding to all types of products:

  • Inert: That means they have little or no chemical reaction when blended with other materials. This quality makes ACM stable and seemingly safe to handle.
  • Non-Flammable: Asbestos materials withstand extreme heat and pressure without breaking down.
  • Non-Corrosive: Asbestos fibers don’t rust or corrode when placed in wet and moist conditions.
  • Low Thermal Transfer Rate: Asbestos insulation was considered the best material to control heat loss and gain.
  • Tensile Strength: Asbestos fibers were enormously strong.
  • Lightweight: Some standard products had their weight cut in half when blended with high ratios of asbestos fiber.
  • Flexible: Asbestos fibers bend, twist, and turn while maintaining their strength and without giving up other properties.
  • Durable: Asbestos fibers do not break down, even when exposed to corrosive ultraviolet rays and acids.
  • Readily Available: Asbestos is commonly found in deposits around the world.
  • Economical: Because asbestos is common and lightweight, its mining and shipping costs are low. The savings were passed down to the consumer, along with all the other great features asbestos appeared to offer.

When was it realized that asbestos was a health hazard?  In the early 1900s, Dr. Hubert Montague Murray at the Charing Cross Hospital in London reported on lung disease in an asbestos textile worker. An autopsy confirmed the presence of asbestos fibers in the worker’s lungs. It was not until 1924, however, that the first case of asbestosis was reported in a medical journal. Documents from the 1930s and 1940s reveal that many asbestos manufacturers were aware of the serious health issues surrounding asbestos, but kept the information secret from workers and from the public. During the 1960s, evidence emerged indicating that asbestos fibers posed a dangerous medical risk. The United States federal government began to regulate asbestos in the 1970s through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Wasn’t asbestos banned years ago?  Only a few asbestos products are banned in the United States. You can still easily buy many asbestos products from the local home improvement store.

DANGER Asbestos Removal SignWhat if I work in a building currently under construction and there are asbestos warning signs?  Do not enter the area. Wherever asbestos is being removed (abated) the contractor will put up a containment with warning signs, so any airborne asbestos fibers do not migrate into the occupied areas. This work is strictly regulated and monitored for the safety of the abatement workers, as well as the occupants. Air monitoring is done throughout the abatement to ensure exposure does not exceed a very finite limit set by the Federal Government.

What happens with the ACM that’s removed from buildings?  ACM is carefully contained and transported in a sealed container to a hazardous waste disposal site. Because of its features, asbestos never breaks down and remains in these sites forever, unless removed and transported to a different site. The whole process of removal, transportation, and disposal is very tightly regulated.

 

For more information about asbestos, visit these sites:

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Occupational Safety & Health Agency (OSHA)

Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

In the Swing of the 2020 Storm Season

The Atlantic Hurricane Season runs June 1st through November 30th. Researchers have estimated 6-10 hurricanes predicted during the 2020 season – up to 6 major; with 13 total named storms. Ever wonder where the names for tropical storms and hurricanes come from? And why are they even named in the first place?

Prior to the 1950s, hurricanes and tropical storms were tracked by using the year and the storm’s order in that year. For example, the third tropical storm in 1920 would simply be referred to as “1920 Storm 3”. During the 1950s, meteorologists were having difficulty tracking storms in this fashion and started using names for the storms.

Today, the World Meteorological Organization is responsible for developing the names for both Northern Pacific and Atlantic storms. They use six lists of names for each, rotating them each year. Names of storms which have done tremendous damage such as Katrina, Michael, Sandy, and Harvey, have been retired from the lists and replaced with another name starting with the same letter. More than 80 names have been retired. Not all letters of the alphabet are created equal! Q, U, X, Y and Z have been omitted, leaving only 21 names on each list. And if there are more than 21 storms? Additional storms will take names from the Greek alphabet.

2020 so far:

  • Arthur – Tropical Storm, May 18th, North Carolina
  • Bertha – Tropical Storm, May 27th, South Carolina
  • Cristobal – Tropical Storm, June 7th, Louisiana
  • Dolly – Tropical Storm, June 23rd, NE US Coast (never landed)
  • Edouard – Tropical Storm, July 6, New Foundland
  • Fay – Tropical Storm, July 10th, New Jersey

Next 5 names:

  • Gonzalo
  • Hanna
  • Isaias
  • Josephine
  • Kyle

For the full list, visit the National Hurricane Center. While there, revisit some of the preparations you should take during this hurricane season.

 

AFTER SURVIVING THE STORM… THE BATTLE MAY NOT BE OVER.

MOLD

Mold can cause serious health problems. The key to mold control is moisture control. After the flood, remove standing water and dry indoor areas. Remove and discard anything that has been wet for more than 24-48 hours.

The EPA guide for building managers, custodians, and others who are responsible for building maintenance:  EPA-Mold

RENOVATION AND REBUILDING

Once the mold is remediated, it’s time to rebuild! But wait, there are regulations related to build back activities. Two to keep in mind:

Lead-safe work: By law, contractors need to use lead-safe work practices on emergency renovations on homes or buildings built before 1978. Activities such as sanding, cutting, and demolition can create lead-based paint hazards. Lead-contaminated dust is harmful to adults, particularly pregnant women, and children.

Asbestos: Anyone working on demolition, removal, and cleanup of building debris needs be aware of any asbestos and to handle asbestos materials properly. People exposed to asbestos dust can develop serious lung health problems including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Although the use of asbestos has dramatically decreased in recent years, it is still found in many residential and commercial buildings and can pose a serious health risk.

 

If your organization is affected by a storm and you do not know where to start… CALL ERC!

We offer turnkey services that can get you back up and running as quickly as possible. For those participating in TIPS or Choice Partners cooperatives, ERC holds disaster mitigation contracts designed specifically for this type of recovery.

 

Sam Houston Historic Park Renovations

The City of Houston General Services Department, on behalf of the Houston Parks and recreation Department, contracted with ERC to perform repairs of the historic buildings in Sam Houston Park. A total of eight (8) buildings were identified and a scope of work was prepared based on their unique needs. Although all eight buildings are of the same construction type, wood frame with wood siding, each has its own special set of requirements that needed to be addressed on an individual basis.

Building 6 – Old Place
Building 8 – Nichols Rice Cherry House
Building 10 – St. John Church
Building 12 – 4th Ward Cottage
Building 13 – Yates House
Building 14 – Staiti House
Building 15 – San Felipe Cottage
Building 16 – Pillot House

ERC proudly performed all tasks required and have come to project completion. We look forward to the park reopening and having the public continue to enjoy these historical buildings.

Testimonial

” I appreciate/we appreciate the good work that as occurred in the park. I have been very pleased with the craftsmanship and attention to detail. Thank you again and wishing you and your team health.”

~ Thomas McWhorter, General Services/Design & Construction/Parks Team – City of Houston

https://www.linkedin.com/company/28981459

ERC Remains Strong for YOU!

ERC is closely monitoring the recent events of COVID-19. We would like to assure you that we are fully operational and our commitment to our clients continues unscathed. All necessary precautions have been taken in to place at all of our ERC locations to include heightened personal hygiene and workplace sanitation.

ERC’s continuity plans are set and in place ready to support our clients at any given moment via virtual meetings and secure file sharing. To keep within the best interest of all parties involved, any cancellations or postponements of any kind will be communicated swiftly and efficiently.

As new information comes to light, we will make the proper accommodations as to better serve you. We remain calm and alert as we come together during this time of need and support our fellow communities.

Thanks for doing business with us.

It’s a beautiful thing when a career and a passion come together.

ERC President, Kommy M. Azarpour, was recently invited to deliver a presentation on Mold in Our Environment to the Senior Building Coordinators at Prairie View A&M University. The presentation covered the most common molds found in our environment, sources, locations, prevention and proactive approach. We, at ERC are committed to providing the utmost customer service to our clients and at the same time acting as a source of valuable information to our clients’ faculty and staff. Being able to provide a sense of health and safety awareness is among one of our top priorities at ERC.

Upcoming Event:

Be sure to stop by our Booth and say hello!

“We all require and want respect, man or woman, black or white. It’s our basic human right.” ~ Aretha Franklin

 

Texas is my Valentine!

Go Out With a Bang!

2019 is coming to an end and ERC plans on ushering in the new year with arms wide open! We’ve come a long way this year and will continue to strive for success in everything that we do from start to finish.  As our business continues to grow so will our team; please welcome the newest team members to ERC; Daniel Tibbals – Sr. Field Engineer and William Springer – Jr. Project Manager. Keep an eye out for our 2020 Newsletter to include upcoming projects and a short bio on our newest team members!

 

Our First Harvey Project with the City of Houston

In August 2017, Hurricane Harvey devastated the City of Houston. The city government worked hard to get city services back up and running. With so much work to do, priorities were set. Obviously, critical services, such as water and power, had to come first – get the citizens back to work. In the mix, six (6) Neighborhood Libraries were closed due to damage incurred by the storm. The McGovern-Stella Link Neighborhood Library was one of these affected.

During the summer of 2018, ERC responded to a Request for Proposal (RFP) for this library, one of the first put out by the City of Houston for a project that would be funded through FEMA after Hurrican

Grand Reopening Twitter Post

e Harvey devastated the city. The project included flooring, mill work, minor repairs, and electrical. ERC was low bidder and the process began.

In addition to the renovations for flood damage, ERC was able to coordinate some minor changes unrelated to Harvey and complete them while onsite. This included some wallpaper removal and additional painting – namely to spruce up the place a bit more.

A benefit of ERC’s combined resume of environmental and construction is the ability to see things other contractors don’t. Our project manager noticed mold growth in the back office area and notified the library staff. Since the building sat vacant from August 2017 through January 2019, when renovations started, this was to be expected. Remediation was complete and ERC was able to complete the build back as part of the original contract.

This is a beautiful library on the edge of Bellaire. Thanks to Harvey, it has a fresh coat of paint, new carpet, and refinished woodwork. If you live or work in the area, we encourage you to check it out! The staff are very friendly and more than willing to help. Mostly – they’re glad to be back at work and open to the public.

To see a summary of our work: http://erc-tx.com/portfolio/mcgovern-stella-link-library/

For more information about the library: http://houstonlibrary.org/location/mcgovern-stella-link-neighborhood-library

Benzene – What You Should Know

From the Deer Park Texas Website

On Sunday, March 17, 2019 at approximately 10AM, a storage tank caught fire at the Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) Deer Park facility, located at 1943 Independence Parkway.

Industry neighbors and multiple local agencies actively fought the fire to prevent it from spreading and to extinguish it as quickly as possible.

As of early Wednesday morning, March 20, the fire had been extinguished.”

During the early morning hours of Thursday, March 21, 2019, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo issued a statement…

Early this morning, certain air quality readings were found to be above our very conservative air quality standards. The cities of Deer Park and Galena Park issued shelter-in-place orders.

At this time, air quality readings that we are monitoring are at lower levels, and the city of Deer Park has lifted its shelter-in-place order. Galena Park’s shelter-in-place order is still in effect.

We know these events are concerning, and we are continuing to monitor benzene levels. If you believe you are experiencing symptoms related to benzene exposure, please call a  healthcare professional.”

ERC Teams were called into action early Thursday morning to assist clients with assessing indoor air quality (IAQ) in facilities within the shelter-in-place borders. ERC’s long background with assessing IAQ gives clients confidence that we can help them manage this critical situation.

What are we testing for? Benzene and Toluene. Both of these chemicals were released into the air after the fire was extinguished and clients are looking to make sure their workers/students are safe to return to work/school.

About Benzene: It is a colorless, flammable liquid with a sweet odor. It evaporates quickly when exposed to air. Benzene is formed from natural processes, such as volcanoes and forest fires, but most exposure to benzene results from human activities. It is among the 20 most widely used chemicals in the United States.

The Department of Health and Human Services has determined that benzene is a known carcinogen (can cause cancer). Both the International Agency for Cancer Research and the EPA have determined that benzene is carcinogenic to humans. Exposure to benzene may be harmful to the reproductive organs.

About Toluene:  It is an aromatic hydrocarbon. It is a colorless, water-insoluble liquid with the smell associated with paint thinners. It is a mono-substituted benzene derivative, consisting of a CH3 group attached to a phenyl group. The effects of toluene on animals are similar to those seen in humans. The main effect of toluene is on the brain and nervous system, but animals exposed to moderate or high levels of toluene also show harmful effects in their liver, kidneys, and lungs and impaired immune function.

What Can You Do?

  • Do not touch any substance, residue, or particles from the plume (smoke).
  • Wash your hands and exposed skin with soap and water thoroughly for 3-5 minutes if you have come in contact with residue/particles.
  • Bathe your pet while, wearing gloves, if they have come in contact with reside/particles from the fire.
  • Move your pet indoors to reduce contact with any substance, residue, or particles from the plume.
  • Contact your healthcare provider if you feel you or a loved one are experiencing any related symptoms.
  • Check on elderly neighbors or those who you are concerned about.

(This information and more can be found at ReadyHarris.org – Harris County Homeland Security and Emergency Management.)

If you are a business owner/manager and want to have your facility assessed for these chemicals, please call ERC at 713-290-9444 or through our website Contact Us

Helping with Harvey Recovery…

… One Construction Site at a Time

The Wikipedia entry for Hurricane Harvey reads: “Hurricane Harvey is tied with 2005’s Hurricane Katrina as the costliest tropical cyclone on record, inflicting $125 billion in damage, primarily from catastrophic rainfall-triggered flooding…”

Hurricane Harvey before and after
Harvey – Before and After

Harvey in numbers:

  • $125 billion in damages (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
  • Over 300,000 structures flooded
  • Up to 500,000 cars flooded
  • About 336,000 customers lost power
  • Approximately 40,000 people in shelters (Texas and Louisiana)
  • More than 50 inches (average) rainfall in four days
  • More than 80 lives lost

Recovery has been slow. FEMA, insurance… well, government just doesn’t move very fast and insurance companies have been bogged with claims. The losses were just catastrophic and will take time to get everything back to normal.

 

ERC is helping recover from this widespread catastrophe. In 2018, ERC was awarded the first FEMA-related contract through the City of Houston’s General Services Division. We are renovating the McGovern-Stella Link Neighborhood Library, part of the Houston Public Library System, after flood waters damaged the building. The scope of work includes flooring, electrical, millwork, and painting.

McGovern-Stella Link Neighborhood Library before ERC Renovation
McGovern-Stella Link Neighborhood Library – Before Harvey, Street view.

What makes this project different? The paperwork. In an effort to insure the City of Houston and FEMA are on the same page as to what work is covered and what will be reimbursed to the City, this project’s paperwork was fine-tuned to address this unique situation.

“We are thrilled to be working with the City of Houston,” states Kommy M. Azarpour, CAPM, PE, president of ERC, “We’ve had a long relationship with the City on the environmental side. This isn’t our first construction project with the City, but it is the first in our 2019 focus on our construction division.”

“We want to impress the City of Houston with our professionalism, while at the same time, being easy to work with,” says Max Sanati, ERC’s superintendent of the project.

When the project is complete, we’ll post photos to our website, so please return to see the end result!

If you’d like more information on what Houston is doing to help recovery and their efforts to reduce the risk of this happening again, visit Houston Recovers. If you don’t live in Houston, but want information about your nearby affected area, there are links to get you to your neighborhood information.

It’s a New Year

Happy 2019 New Year

As we enter 2019, we are full of excitement as we continue to grow and the future does, indeed, look bright!

2018 was a good year for ERC:

  • 575 proposals submitted; 55 construction related
  • 350 projects were started; 320 completed
  • 4 new employees: 2 technicians, 1 business development, 1 administrative
  • 6 new “master agreements”
  • 35% increase in gross revenue – WOW!

We are starting this January with the eye to improve these numbers. How are we going to do that? By continuing to work our Guiding Principles:

  • Corporate Sustainability
  • Absolute Integrity
  • Consistent Service
  • Conservative Cost Analysis
  • On-Time Delivery
  • Quality Workmanship

So come on 2019… we’re ready for you!