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Hair stylists who use certain products may harm their health.

Hair stylists who use certain products may harm their health.

NEW YORK – All a receptionist at Salon Zoë hair salon wanted to do was make her fellow employees aware of health hazards associated with products containing formaldehyde that were regularly used by haircutters and stylists at the business in the Riverdale section of the Bronx.

Her employer responded by firing her.

As a result, the U.S. Department of Labor is suing the business and its owner, Kristina Veljovic, for discrimination, and seeking redress and compensation for the worker who exercised her rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

“This firing was illegal and inexcusable,” said Robert Kulick, regional administrator in New York for the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“It’s against the law to fire or otherwise retaliate against an employee for informing colleagues about possible health hazards in their place of employment. Such behavior not only intimidates workers, it also can deny them access to knowledge that will protect them against workplace hazards.”

The suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York says the worker began to experience respiratory distress in December 2011, including difficulty breathing and an impaired sense of smell. She sought medical attention on multiple occasions over the next several months. During this period, she also told her employer that she believed the salon’s hair-straightening products, which contain formaldehyde, were causing her health problems.

On June 27, 2012, she informed fellow employees of the presence of formaldehyde in the salon’s products and provided several co-workers with copies of an OSHA fact sheet* detailing the dangers of formaldehyde exposure.

Two days later, Kristina Veljovic terminated her employment. In July 2012, a physician confirmed that the worker’s respiratory distress resulted from her formaldehyde exposure at work. She subsequently filed an antidiscrimination complaint with OSHA, which investigated and found merit to her complaint.

“No employee should be fired for raising awareness of a potential workplace health hazard,” said Jeffrey Rogoff, the regional Solicitor of Labor in New York. “Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Labor Department has the authority to file suit against employers who retaliate against employees and it will do so when the case warrants. This is clearly one of those cases.”

The department’s lawsuit asks the court to affirm the discrimination charge and permanently prohibit the defendants from illegally retaliating against employees in the future.

It also seeks payment of lost wages as well as compensatory, punitive and emotional distress damages to the employee, an offer of reinstatement with full benefits and seniority and the removal of all references to the matter in the worker’s employment records.

It would also require the employer to prominently post a notice that she will not discriminate against employees.

In a related action, OSHA’s Tarrytown Area Office conducted an inspection of Salon Zoe and cited the company in December 2012 for lack of a chemical hazard communication program and for not providing the salon’s employees with information and training on formaldehyde and other hazardous chemicals.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower* provisions of the OSH Act and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, worker safety, public transportation agency, maritime and securities laws.

Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government.

Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the secretary of labor to request an investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available here.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

Source: OSHA

Remove dangerous chemicals in salons and spas

Hair salons, beauty centers and spas often use products that can contain and emit harmful chemicals and fumes.

Electrocorp's CleanBreeze 3 was conceived specifically for salons and spas

Electrocorp’s CleanBreeze 3 was designed for beauty salons and spas

These substances can affect worker health and well-being, especially after long-term exposure.

Electrocorp has designed a wide range of air cleaners for the hair styling and beauty industry, which help remove harmful fumes, chemicals, particles, odors and other contaminants from the ambient air.

Other air purifiers, such as Electrocorp’s CleanBreeze3, comes with a source capture attachment that can be positioned close to the head where the treatment is being used and helps remove harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde before they spread.

For more information and a free consultation, contact Electrocorp by calling 1-866-667-0297 or writing to

Longtime exposure to contaminated air can affect workers' health and well-being.

Longtime exposure to contaminated air can affect workers’ health and well-being.

Workers exposed to combustible dust and other hazards at Illinois cornstarch processing facility

PARIS, Ill. – Workers were exposed to combustible cornstarch dust, dust particles in excess of permissible exposure limits and other hazards at Septimus Inc.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the company for 21 serious safety and health violations, carrying proposed penalties of $46,400.

A complaint prompted the inspection at the facility, which processes cornstarch for use in laundry detergent and other products.

“Combustible dust can burn rapidly and explode with little warning, putting workers at risk for severe injury and death,” said Thomas Bielema, OSHA’s area director in Peoria.

“OSHA’s inspection found that Septimus used potential ignition sources, like forklifts and electrical equipment, in areas where combustible dust was present.”

OSHA’s April 30, 2014, inspection found workers were exposed because processing and dust collection equipment lacked protective covers.

If this dust is suspended in the air in the right concentration, under certain conditions, it can become explosive.

The inspection found the company operated powered industrial vehicles in poor repair that were not rated for use in environments where combustible dust was present.

These vehicles, along with numerous electrical violations, provided potential ignition sources for the dust. The force from such an explosion can cause employee deaths, injuries and destruction of buildings.

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board identified 281 combustible dust incidents between 1980 and 2005 that led to the deaths of 119 workers, 718 injuries and numerous extensively damaged industrial facilities.

Workers were also exposed to airborne concentrations of dust in excess of the permissible exposure limit, which can cause respiratory illness and lung disease. The company failed to implement administrative and engineering controls to reduce exposure limits.

Additional serious violations involved amputation hazards and included lack of machine guarding, failure to implement specific lockout/tagout procedures to prevent machinery from operating during service and maintenance, and workers exposed to fall hazards of 7 feet or greater from unguarded working platforms.

The company also failed to train workers about hazardous chemicals in use at the facility and to mark exit routes clearly and ensure they were free of obstructions.

A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Septimus has a contract with Tate & Lyle to extrude, dry blend and package cornstarch. The company is owned by The Faultless Starch/Bon Ami Co. of Kansas City, Missouri.

Septimus has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees.

OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

Source: OSHA

Concerned about airborne dust and chemicals at your workplace? Electrocorp has designed complete air cleaning systems with activated carbon and HEPA that can help remove airborne contaminants before they spread. Contact Electrocorp for more information and a free consultation.

The warehouse has been closed and workers sent home until further notice.

The warehouse has been closed and workers sent home until further notice.

A Walmart returns processing center in Indianapolis is contaminated with a toxic substance, and hundreds of workers at the evacuated facility are now undergoing medical testing to see if they were exposed.

The contamination involves a massive warehouse, where logistics company Exel processes merchandise returned from Walmart retail stores.

The warehouse now sits empty after Exel ordered nearly 600 full-time and contract workers to evacuate the processing center on August 20.

On that day, supervisors met with employees at 3:45pm to announce the facility was shutting down immediately.

During the meeting, employees were not told the reason for the shut-down, only that they would continue to receive their normal pay and benefits and would not return to work until further notice, according to a longtime worker who asked not to be identified.

Five days later, Exel managers again met with employees at a nearby hotel to explain Walmart discovered the presence of a strange substance within the facility.

Testing showed the substance to be PCBs or polychlorinated biphenyl, a synthetic organic chemical compound that is highly toxic and classified by the US Environmental Protection Agency as “probable human carcinogens.” The EPA says studies in animals provide conclusive evidence that PCBs cause cancer.

Over the past two weeks, Exel employees have been reporting to an east-side medical laboratory for blood tests, which Exel hopes will shed light on which employees were exposed to the PCBs and what impact – if any – the exposure might have on their health.

“It’s a situation that continues to evolve, and we’re working diligently with Walmart to understand it more,” said Exel Vice President of Communications Lynn Anderson.

“We took an overly cautious role and decided we wanted to get out of the building right away. We are really trying to understand the extent of the contamination and the exposure and what it means for the future and the facility.”

A Walmart company spokesperson says that Walmart made a joint decision with Exel to close operations “out of an abundance of caution.”

“Walmart immediately hired an environmental consulting firm after a contractor servicing a return center we lease discovered the presence of PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls. Additional testing confirmed PCBs were present in the building, which is operated by a contractor, Exel Inc. We made a joint decision with Exel to close the facility out of an abundance of caution.

“Both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) have been informed and are investigating this matter. We are cooperating with the investigation, and early indications suggest that the contaminant is in the building materials.

“We have made arrangements for returned products from our stores to be sent to other return centers.”

Unusual particles discovered

Anderson says the contamination was discovered by accident, while equipment was being moved inside the plant. That’s when workers found an unusual residue and “particles that didn’t look right.”

Walmart hired a third-party company to test the residue, and according to Exel, the testing revealed the presence of PCBs.

How much PCBs and where did they come from? Exel and its employees are still looking for answers.

Exel plans to begin its own independent testing at the abandoned warehouse this week. In the meantime, it is actively looking for another facility to resume its operations. Exel has not ruled out the possibility of returning to the contaminated facility, but says that is unlikely – at least in the short-term.

Since the evacuation, Exel has hosted two face-to-face meetings with affected employees to provide them with information, and another meeting is scheduled for early October.

At the last meeting, workers were encouraged to take advantage of free blood tests.

PCBs are considered very dangerous to human health, and they are very hard to destroy. Banned in the United States for decades, they were commonly used as coolants and stabilizers in products such as fluorescent light ballasts, transformers, paints, cements, electrical components, pesticides, lubricating oils and sealants.

A known carcinogen, PCBs are linked to other serious health concerns including negative impacts on the immune, reproductive and neurological systems.

Source: 1340 AM WBIW

Concerned about chemical exposure at work? Long-term exposures may affect employee health, well-being and productivity. Electrocorp offers easy-to-use and effective carbon + HEPA air filtration units for a wide range of applications. The air purifiers can remove airborne chemicals, gases, odors, fumes, particles, dust, allergens, mold, bacteria and viruses. Customized options available. Contact an Electrocorp IAQ specialist for more information.


Workers in the beauty industry may be exposed to formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.

A whiff of formaldehyde, anyone?

Better skip it.

Federal agencies such as OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) have issued public hazard alerts about exposure to formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde is a cancer-causing chemical that is used in many industries, including the health and beauty industry (in hair straightening treatments, for example), in the funeral and embalming industry, in mortuaries and laboratories for tissue preservation etc.

Workers who may be exposed to formaldehyde are covered by the OSHA Formaldehyde standard (29 CFR 1910.1048) and equivalent regulations.

The permissible exposure limit (PEL) for formaldehyde in the workplace is 0.75 parts formaldehyde per million parts of air (0.75 ppm) measured as an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA). There are also higher short-term exposure limits for a maximum of 15 minutes.

Exposure to formaldehyde has been deemed a risk because it is an irritant that can affect eyes, nose and throat and can make people cough or wheeze.

Continued exposure to formaldehyde fumes has also been linked to severe allergic reactions and asthma-like respiratory problems. In high concentrations, formaldehyde can be fatal.

At many small to medium workplaces, it is difficult to enforce the standards because of a lack of awareness of the dangers and mislabeled products, according to OSHA.

Formaldehyde “hides” in many products under the names methylene glycol, formalin and oxomethane.

Beauty and hair salons have been racking up citations for violating the formaldehyde standard, but funeral homes and crematories are also guilty of violations.

Source: Business Insurance 

Use activated carbon air scrubbers for better indoor air quality

In most buildings where formaldehyde is used, the existing ventilation system won’t be enough to provide adequate fresh air exchanges.

Who hasn’t been assaulted by the strong chemical smells upon entering a hair or nail salon?

CleanBreeze 3: A powerful air cleaner with source capture.

Electrocorp provides strong and stand-alone air cleaners with many pounds of activated carbon plus HEPA filters to circulate clean and fresh air indoors.

Activated carbon is the safest and most effective filtration media to remove airborne chemicals, gases and fumes, and the other filters in the units also take care of dust, particles, bacteria, viruses and mold spores.

In their series of air cleaners for beauty salons and spas, Electrocorp offers source capture units with a flexible arm that can be placed right over the head of clients as treatments are applied.

The CleanBreeze 3 features up to 28 pounds of carbon in a very deep bed as well as a micro-HEPA filter and pre-filters.

Electrocorp’s RAP1224 FX8 is an even stronger source capture air cleaner with a 43 lb. carbon filter, a HEPA filter and pre-filters.

The units are equipped with long chords and wheels so that they can easily be moved from one workstation to the next.

Electrocorp also offers air cleaners for funeral homes and embalmers.

Contact Electrocorpfor more information and options.


Art restoration and conservation can be impacted by indoor and outdoor air pollutants.

Some artists’ masterpieces have survived long decades or centuries and wars, but they are now facing a much graver threat: Damage from air pollution.

One such example is Da Vinci’s Last Supper in the refectory of Santa Maria Delle Grazie Church in Milan, one of Europe’s most polluted cities.

In order to conserve the painting and keep pollution to a minimum, officials installed a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.

University of Southern California researchers were called to monitor the air quality at the site because their air samplers are quite and compact and don’t disturb visitors.

The monitoring showed that air pollution inside the church has been dramatically reduced, especially with respect to fine and coarse particulate matter. These were reduced by 88 and 94 percent respectively, from corresponding outdoor levels.

The next challenge will be indoor sources of pollution, the researchers warn, which often comes from the visitors themselves.

Even though the number of visitors and the length of visits is strictly regulated, the airborne lipids coming from visitors skin still appeared in significant quantities around the painting. They can mix with dust and soil the masterpiece, the authors warn.

The painting itself may also emit tiny particles of wax that was used in previous repair efforts.

 Source: University of Southern California

Stand-alone air cleaners for art conservation and restoration

For paintings and collection pieces at risk of soiling or damage from indoor air pollutants, Electrocorp has designed highly efficient portable air cleaners for art conservation and restoration, with a flexible arm and source capture attachment to keep the air as clean as possible.

Electrocorp's CleanBreeze 2

The air cleaners remove a wide range of indoor air pollutants, including chemicals, VOCs, gases, fumes, particles, dust, bacteria, viruses and molds with an activated carbon + HEPA filter combination.

Exclusive carbon blends are available to target specific contaminants and the units feature many other customizable options that can help conserve the artifacts.

Contact Electrocorp for more information: 1-866-667-0297.


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