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Indoor air seminar stresses action.

"Indoor air quality (IAQ) is the next asbestos issue," Carl Borsari RPAIPE of The Building Owners' and Managers' Association of Greater New York, Inc. (BOMA/NY) Board of Directors, told 200 industry professionals attending "Improving The Indoor Air Condition," a BOMA/NY educational seminar co-sponsored by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY).

The four-hour seminar, moderated by Borsari and Kenneth M. Block Esq., of REBNY, was held at the Chemical Bank Building. The featured speaker was Joseph Lstiburek P.E., principal of the Building Science Corporation of Chestnut, Massachusetts, which specializes in IAQ, ventilation and construction technology.

The pressing nature of the IAQ issue, along with such other dangers as radon gas and electromagnetic radiation, have provided the industry with an impetus to "synergize," its efforts, resulting in the formation of the BOMA/New York/REBNY Joint Industry Environmental Task Force, explained Borsari.

While Washington is yet to pass the IAQ Act first proposed to Congress in 1989, it is a "mistake for building owners to wait until there is a comprehensive indoor air quality act," warned Block. "Litigation is the driving force to take action now."

While Federal OSHA Air Contaminant Standards only regulate such hazardous substances as asbestos and certain specified chemicals, they don't cover general air quality. State laws warn of exposure to certain substances and require compliance with ASHRAE Standard 62/1989 air ventilation standards (20 cubic feet/minute) and limit exposure to asbestos, while the city has restrictions on smoking.

Block reviewed the proposed Federal IAQ legislation, which is an outgrowth of the 1986 Superfund Amendments which created "study "legislation," requiring the EPA to report to Congress on IAQ.

This EPA report identifies the following indoor pollutants: radon, tobacco smoke, biological contaminants, volatile organic compounds, asbestos, combustion gases and particles. The resulting health problems from these pollutants affect the eyes, nose, heart, kidney and liver, causing throat irritation, respiratory problems, allergic reactions and infectious diseases.

The EPA has identified indoor air pollution as one of the nation's most important environmental health problems, Block reported. Tens of billions of dollars are lost directly to medical costs, lost earnings for workers due to illness and lost productivity.

Labor costs exceed control costs by 10 to 100 times. Indoor air pollutants pose a serious threat to the public health, reported the EPA to Congress, blaming up to 6500 cancer-related deaths annually on indoor pollutants.

Block reported that the legislation now under consideration would create a "Council on Indoor Air Quality," establish coordinated research programs and demonstrate new contamination-reducing technologies.

With the Clinton Administration, Block expects that this proposed law will soon be enacted, although he is quick to note that with courts applying a strict liability standard (no negligence needs to be proven), in IAQ cases, the industry must move swiftly to address IAQ problems.

Asking everyone in the audience to hold up their looseleaf books entitled, "Building Air Quality: A Guide For Building Owners and Facility Managers," Joseph Lstiburek the main speaker, asked the attendees to take a sniff.

"Volatile Organic Compounds," he announced, explaining that the book's odor, "like the smell of a new car, new furniture, new carpeting and paint and household cleaners stored under the kitchen sink were the result of VOCs. You could make NAPALM or nerve gas with them," Lstiburek added with a dramatic flourish.

"There are 10,000 compounds and substances that didn't exist 30 years ago that today are filling homes and offices," Lstiburek said, explaining that these chemicals were an integral part of most products that consumers buy.

To dramatize the point, Lstiburek reported that a Federal study done 20 years ago to determine the locality with the worst air pollution problem in the U.S. identified Hoboken, while the cleanest outdoor air was found in Tomahawk Wisconsin. However, the indoor air in Tomahawk was worse than Hoboken's outdoor air. The following indoor environmental factors play a major role in tenant IAQ complaints:

* Temperature

* Relative Humidity

* Sound/vibration (many buildings use white noise masking systems)

* Lighting

* Ergonomics (posture, furniture at the wrong height, carpal tunnel syndrome, etc.)

* Psychosocial Stressor (problems at home, etc.)

* Pollutant Concentrations and Odors

Some of the prime causes of indoor air pollution are the major components of the building's internal structure and the mechanical system. Ceiling tile, which often is comprised of ground up newspaper, clay, starch and dirt is a major pollutant, particularly if it becomes wet and breeds unhealthy mold spores.
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Title Annotation:'Improving the Indoor Air Condition' seminar sponsored by Real Estate Board of New York and Federal Environmental Protection Agency
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Mar 31, 1993
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