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October 2009

More on Chinese drywall

We follow-up last week's introductory Health News Digest piece on the topic, with one more; this one focuses on some new developments.

Since there are now at least two confirmed cases whereby "Chinese" symptoms have been identified in domestic drywall, the favored term has become "tainted drywall." Of course, domestic stuff so implicated is a very troubling finding, and no reasonable explanation has yet been proffered.

There are those who believe that sulfide-emitting drywall is ultimately caused by bacteria, and this etiology seems to make sense. Recent studies have shown that samples taken from tainted product will culture as much as 10,000 times more sulfate-reducing bacteria as non-affected drywall. Moreover, the observation that tainted drywall requires somewhat elevated temperatures and humidity to become problematical is what one would expect if he were growing bacteria.

If the cause IS bacterial, then remediation can be effected by treatment with chlorine dioxide, which has the additional property of removing the sulfide smell.

Read the whole article.

What's happened to the Washington Redskins?

I used to be a huge football fan, but these days, not so much. Still, since I'm based in metro DC, all my friends seem to be asking me about the once powerful Skins. Their biggest problem is the owner—Danny Snyder.

I discuss this topic in a recent Mike's Comment, and cover such things as the mythology behind coaching, as well as the undue attention given to play calling.

If you need an introduction to Chinese drywall

Check out my latest HND piece.

Some of the good guys involved with trying to solve this problem are...

Spiderman Mulholland and Michael Foreman.

The new ASTM work group has been formed, to develop a peer-reviewed protocol for home inspection--for Chinese drywall, and this will be followed by an accredited protocol for remediation. We will keep you up-to-date as to our progress right on this blog.

Chinese drywall not just from China anymore

A few more disturbing findings have come out of Florida in this continuing saga.

First, there was the Brincku video, in which domestically-marked National Gypsum product has been shown to cause the typical "Chinese" symptoms. Now, there is a story out of Clermont, FL implicating a Canadian Georgia-Pacific plant.

Let's see what the Gypsum Association has to say about these developments.

Figuring out multiple myeloma

It is always encouraging when we discover more about how cancer works, and I cover some interesting results coming out of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in my latest HND article.

What the researchers discovered here is that certain types of immune cells—specifically Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cells (pDCs)—actually turn rogue in myeloma patients. That is, they help the cancer cells to grow and survive. Fortunately, if these traitor cells are exposed to compounds called CpG oligodeoxynucleotides, they can be reformed into well-behaving immune cells once again.

Clinical trials are expected shortly, and that won't be a moment too soon for sufferers of this often incurable disease.

Interscan gets into the Chinese drywall situation

We at Interscan are now involved in the Chinese drywall situation. For those who are unfamiliar with this very big problem, refer here for a quick introduction.

Essentially, a host of issues have been linked to drywall manufacturered in China, imported into the US starting around 2005. There is no dispute that the drywall will emit certain toxic and corrosive gases (hydrogen sulfide, carbonyl sulfide, and others), which can corrode wiring and HVAC components, and can be unhealthful—especially to sensitive individuals.

A number of testing and remediation protocols are circulating, but at this point, none has been blessed by some learned institution. such "blessing" is necessary if banks and insurance companies are ever going to approve a remediation job. That's why I am on an ASTM committee that will be looking into this, and will be having its first meeting on the topic next week.

As in all residential toxic exposures, there will be malingerers and those who overreact. And, of course, there will be lawsuits, but it is unclear as to who should be the defendant—or better put, who would be the defendant most likely to pay off.

A most troubling aspect is that the gases will permeate out of the drywall, and can be absorbed by studs, concrete, and household goods. Sadly, the bulk of this situation is occurring in Florida, already hit with a stunning drop in real estate values, and tainted homes make it even worse.

Some contractors are claiming excellent results with their remediation methods, but these procedures are very expensive, and are not covered by any insurance. More than that, most odor-laden household goods will either have to be separately treated or simply discarded.

The posture of government is frankly not encouraging, since they fear that a huge bailout is in the making. Therefore, they are hyper-analyzing the situation in terms of testing the materials, but have done precious little testing of affected homes. There have been several photo op visits by government officials to affected homes, however.

Where Interscan comes in is that any "clearance" of a house for re-occupancy will involve gas detection.

A solution may be at hand in terms of chlorine dioxide treatment—similar to what was used on anthrax-contaminated buildings. We will keep you informed.

My take on the Nobel Peace Prize

This topic is covered in some detail in a Mike's Comment.

This, originally the most prestigious of Alfred Nobel's prizes, has become little more than a PC hallelujah chorus—with plenty of cash. As it turns out, the award to Obama does not even come close to as truly bad as this thing has gotten.

The worst awardee of all time, bar none, was Le Duc Tho, although Yasser Arafat was a close second. Check out the piece to see why.

Retroactive (1997)

Pick this one up on video. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

The plot involves a failed hostage negotiator (Kylie Travis), whose car breaks down in rural Texas, and she is "helped" by over-the-top baddie James Belushi. Fortunately, (I guess) as she is running from him, she stumbles upon a secret government lab, where techno-nerd Frank Whaley has a way to travel back in time.

Since traveling back in time could prevent a related murder, Kylie tries it again and again, but the results are worse each time. Can she ever fix the mess?

Although many viewers at the time did not realize it, this one is played for laughs, with purposely cheesy special effects, and outrageous violence and dialogue.

Check it out.

More Reasons Not To Get Fat

That's the title of my latest HND piece, and it covers recent findings suggesting that if you are overweight in mid-life, you will not age well. Of course, some of this is intuitively obvious as most people do not lose weight as they get older.

The study looked at women who were members of the famous Nurses' Health Study

A fairly shocking finding involves the Body Mass Index, or BMI. This parameter is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters. The NIH provides a convenient online calculator, that works in either conventional or metric units. With some limitations, BMI is a good indicator of total body fat.

The study showed that every one unit increase of BMI was associated with a 12% reduction of the odds of healthy survival—a term applied to members of the cohort who reached age 70 with few health issues.

Women who were overweight (BMI ≥25) at age 18 and gained more than 22 pounds between age 18 and 50, had the worst odds of healthy survival.