The air in buildings can suffer if the soil underneath is contaminated.

Working in the city of Orange just got more dangerous.

Soil testing shows  that the ground underneath one building is contaminated with a toxic chemical – now the OC Employees Association is asking for the evacuation of the building and an adjacent building for fear of toxic air at the workplace.

The tests revealed the presence of the industrial chemical and solvent perchloroethylene (also known as perc) in the soil five and 10 feet below ground. Additional tests are planned.

The levels met EPA guidelines, but the level at 10 feet exceeded the California Human Health Screening Levels.

What is perchloroethylene?

According to the EPA, perc is a colorless, nonflammable liquid.  It does not occur naturally but is produced in large amounts (310 million pounds in 1991) by three companies in the United States.

The largest US user of perc is the dry cleaning industry.

Textile mills, chlorofluorocarbon producers, vapor degreasing and metal cleaning operations, and makers of rubber coatings also use perc.

It can be added to aerosol formulations, solvent soaps, printing inks, adhesives, sealants, polishes, lubricants, and silicones.  Typewriter correction fluid and shoe polish are among the consumer products that can contain perc.

People are exposed to perc when they breathe in the gases. Once in the body perc can remain, stored in fat tissue.

Health effects of perc

While human health effects depend on the individual, the amount of perc and the time frame of exposure, the chemical has been linked to health problems such as

Exposure to perc can cause cancer, experts say.

  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Cancer

Employees in the affected building are worried about their health and safety and have been calling and e-mailing to voice their concerns, the union says.

Source: Los Angeles Times

Keep indoor air safe inside buildings

Airborne chemicals and gases like perchloroethylene, formaldehyde and other substances are not only harmful to human health, they can also become a liability issue for the employer.

Along with sensible health and safety precautions, source control and ventilation, an industrial-strength air cleaner can help keep the indoor air pollution to a minimum.

Electrocorp’s air cleaners feature a large activated carbon filter, HEPA and optional UV filtration to remove the widest range of indoor air contaminants.

Contact Electrocorp for more information and suggestions.