Archive for December, 2010

Buon Natale ! – Nollaig Shona ! – Joyeux Noël !

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To all of our friends – everywhere – have a very Merry Christmas and an even Happier New Year !!

Fröhliche Weihnachten !!

¡¡ Feliz Navidad

Our Planet Is Fragile ... in 2011, let's try to do a much better job of keeping it healthy !!!

Our Planet Is Fragile ... in 2011, let's try to do a much better job of keeping it healthy !!!

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Thursday, December 23rd, 2010 human environment No Comments

European Union Economic Governance – Too Late For Dithering !

2010-12-22:  November & December 2010 … when the shit really started to hit the international economic fan ! … there has been an excess of hysterical nonsense in the Irish Media concerning growing European Union (EU) Economic Governance … and a perceived erosion of Irish National Sovereignty.  How sad ?!?

Economic Environment … the intricate web of real and virtual human commercial activity – operating at micro and macro-economic levels – which facilitates, supports, but sometimes hampers or disrupts, human interaction in the Social Environment.

Social Environment … the complex network of real and virtual human interaction – at a communal or larger group level – which operates for reasons of tradition, culture, business, pleasure, information exchange, institutional organization, legal procedure, governance, human betterment, social progress and spiritual enlightenment, etc.

However, let me sketch out an altogether different and much more positive picture !

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Thesis – My Argument

[During 2009, I first raised this issue in meetings of the IIEA (Institute of International & European Affairs) Economists’ Group, in Dublin.]

Towards the end of 2010 … we can now see that Inter-Governmental Economic Governance in the European Union has failed … miserably.  This has not only destabilized the EuroZone … but the entire European Union, itself, as a political entity … and will continue to do so … until Economic Governance is brought much closer to, and fully within, the Community Method … which is a lengthy and complex process.

Back in 2009, however, when the Financial Markets were not in such a mad frenzy … it would have been natural to imagine that an interim stage in this process would most probably be to adopt an Open Method of Co-Ordination.  This is no longer an option … being too little, too late, to calm the Markets.

Throughout this process of reform, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the National Central Banks can, and must, retain their independence … as legally mandated in European Union Primary Legislation, i.e. the Treaties.

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Three Concerns I have had for some time …

–  Economists don’t know the Community Method from the Rhythm Method, and they are ill-equipped to deal with matters of Mainstream European Union Institutional Reform ;

–  The use of Economic Performance Indicators in the EU Stability & Growth Pact is simplistic and crude … and, therefore, very problematic ;

–  Economic Performance Indicators must be improved … qualitatively … and be mainstreamed in considerations, and the implementation, of Sustainable Human & Social Development … as legally mandated in the EU Treaties.

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Mr. Olli Rehn, European Commissioner for Economic & Monetary Affairs recently delivered a speech at the Institute of International & European Affairs, in Dublin …

Mr. Olli Rehn, European Commissioner

9 November 2010

Reinforcing EU Economic Governance: Relevance for Ireland

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (39kb)

However … instead of trying to desperately backfill the holes and gaps in the current, failed Inter-Governmental Method of Economic Governance in the European Union … Commissioner Rehn should be clearly identifying the proper target as the Community Method of Economic Governance … and plotting an appropriate course to reach that target … as soon as practicable !

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This is a useful background document … and includes a lot of information about the EU Stability & Growth Pact

European Commission & General Secretariat of the EU Council

June 2007

EU Economic & Monetary Union – Legal & Political Texts

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (2.66 Mb)

Since Ireland joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973 … after 10 years of accession negotiations ! … an ‘informed’ view of European Integration has always been that the different Countries are pooling their national sovereignty, in an expanding range of specific areas, for the greater benefit of all their citizens.  This has certainly been the experience of Ireland.  And … let us also not forget that Irish Politicians and Senior Civil Servants have participated directly – at all stages – in the development of the EMU Legal & Political Texts listed.  There is no such thing as a Domineering ‘Brussels’ Big Brother !

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This is the most recent update of the EuroZone’s Economic Performance Indicators

European Commission, Directorate-General for Economic & Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN)

2 December 2010

Key Economic Indicators for the Euro Area

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (360kb)

It is now widely acknowledged that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is neither a reliable nor an adequate indicator of Sustainable Human & Social Development.  But … that is another story … for another day !

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Community & Inter-Governmental Methods of Governance

The Community Method is the expression used for the most common and effective operating and decision-making mode of institutions in the European Union.  It proceeds from an integration logic, with due respect for the subsidiarity principle … and has the following salient features:

  • European Commission monopoly of the Right of Initiative, with a strong monitoring role in implementation ;
  • should consensus not be achieved, widespread use of Qualified Majority Voting in the Council of the European Union ;
  • an active, participatory role for the European Parliament ;
  • uniform interpretation of EU Law by the Court of Justice.

In contrast to the … Inter-Governmental Method … which proceeds from an inter-governmental logic of co-operation between EU Member States … to a large extent outside the institutional framework of the European Union … and has the following salient features:

  • the European Commission’s Right of Initiative is shared with the Member States or confined to specific areas of activity … with little, if any, monitoring role for the Commission in implementation ;
  • the Council of the European Union generally acts unanimously … and unilaterally ;
  • the European Parliament has merely a consultative role ;
  • the Court of Justice plays only a minor role.

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Open Method of Co-Ordination

The Open Method of Co-Ordination (OMC) developed as an instrument of the 2000 Lisbon Strategy, and provided a new framework for co-operation between the EU Member States, whose national policies could thus be directed towards certain common objectives.

Under this method of governance, the Member States are evaluated by one another (peer pressure), with the European Commission’s role being limited to ‘lite’ surveillance.  The European Parliament and the Court of Justice play virtually no part in the OMC process.

The Open Method of Co-Ordination takes place in policy areas which fall within the competence of the Member States … such as employment, social protection, social inclusion, education, youth and training.

It is based principally on:

  • jointly identifying and defining objectives to be achieved (adopted by the Council of the European Union) ;
  • jointly established measuring instruments (statistics, indicators, guidelines) ;
  • benchmarking, i.e. comparison of the Member States’ performance and exchange of best practices (oversight by the European Commission).

Depending on the areas concerned, the OMC involves so-called ‘Soft Law’ Measures which are binding on the Member States to varying degrees but which never take the form of ‘Hard Law’ Directives, Regulations or Decisions.  Thus, in the context of the Lisbon Strategy, the OMC required the Member States to draw up national reform plans and to submit them to the European Commission.

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Colour photograph showing the last resting place, in Arbour Hill Cemetery Dublin, for many - not all - Executed Leaders of the 1916 Revolution. The Memorial was designed by G. McNicholl. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-10-24. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the last resting place, in Arbour Hill Cemetery Dublin, for many – not all – Executed Leaders of the 1916 Revolution. The Memorial was designed by G. McNicholl. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-10-24. Click to enlarge.

Ireland’s National Sovereignty in 2010/2011 ?

On a beautiful sunny day, this past autumn … I again visited Arbour Hill Cemetery in Dublin … the last resting place for many Executed Leaders of the 1916 Revolution … an event which finally initiated an irrevocable process of terminating a prolonged period of barbaric external imperial domination and cultural cleansing of the indigenous population …

Colour photograph showing, in the background, a latin cross and the Irish language version of the 1916 Proclamation of Independence inscribed on the stone wall, with the simple grass-covered graves of Executed Leaders in the foreground. Detail of the 1916 Revolution Memorial in Arbour Hill Cemetery, Dublin. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-10-24. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing, in the background, a latin cross and the Irish language version of the 1916 Proclamation of Independence inscribed on the stone wall, with the simple grass-covered graves of Executed Leaders in the foreground. Detail of the 1916 Revolution Memorial in Arbour Hill Cemetery, Dublin. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-10-24. Click to enlarge.

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On the wall behind the graves … the 1916 Proclamation of Independence is inscribed in the Irish Language, and also in English …

Poblacht na hEíreann

THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT OF THE IRISH REPUBLIC

TO THE PEOPLE OF IRELAND

IRISHMEN AND IRISHWOMEN:  In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.

Having organized and trained her manhood through her secret revolutionary organization, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and through her open military organizations, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, having patiently perfected her discipline, having resolutely waited for the right moment to reveal itself, she now seizes that moment, and, supported by her exiled children in America and by gallant allies in Europe, but relying in the first on her own strength, she strikes in full confidence of victory.

We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible.  The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people.  In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty:  six times during the past three hundred years they have asserted it in arms.  Standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent State, and we pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades-in-arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its exaltation among the nations.

The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman.  The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.

Until our arms have brought the opportune moment for the establishment of a permanent National Government, representative of the whole people of Ireland and elected by the suffrages of all her men and women, the Provisional Government, hereby constituted, will administer the civil and military affairs of the Republic in trust for the people.

We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God, Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms, and we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, inhumanity, or rapine.  In this supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself worthy of the august destiny to which it is called.

Signed on Behalf of the Provisional Government,

THOMAS J. CLARKE,

SEAN Mac DIARMADA,          THOMAS Mac DONAGH,

P. H. PEARSE,          EAMONN CEANNT,

JAMES CONNOLLY,          JOSEPH PLUNKETT.

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As We Approach the 100th Anniversary of the 1916 Revolution … Ireland has failed to implement and foster the social values so eloquently elaborated in the 1916 Proclamation of Independence … widespread, deeply ingrained corruption infects our economic environment … and the institutions of national governance are dysfunctional and no longer ‘fit for purpose’ … while individuals within those institutions rise in rank according to their own natural level of incompetence.

Politically … Ireland has not yet properly matured as an Independent State.

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Ireland’s Relationship with the European Union … I am more than a little curious as to why Ireland is not associated with Declaration No.52, which is annexed to the Treaty of Lisbon

52.  Declaration by the Kingdom of Belgium, the Republic of Bulgaria, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Hellenic Republic, the Kingdom of Spain, the Italian Republic, the Republic of Cyprus, the Republic of Lithuania, the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg, the Republic of Hungary, the Republic of Malta, the Republic of Austria, the Portuguese Republic, Romania, the Republic of Slovenia and the Slovak Republic on the symbols of the European Union

Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Hungary, Malta, Austria, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and the Slovak Republic declare that the flag with a circle of twelve golden stars on a blue background, the anthem based on the ‘Ode to Joy’ from the Ninth Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven, the motto ‘United in diversity’, the euro as the currency of the European Union and Europe Day on 9 May will for them continue as symbols to express the sense of community of the people in the European Union and their allegiance to it.

Yes … we have a lot to discuss before 2016 !

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Update:  2013-06-03 …

On Friday, 31 May 2013, at the Institute of International & European Affairs (IIEA) in Dublin … I attended the third seminar in a series organized to mark Ireland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union (January to June 2013) … the seventh such Presidency … and 40 years since Ireland officially joined the European Economic Community (EEC), on 1 January 1973 … after a long, long, long accession process …

‘Economic Sovereignty in an Age of Globalization and EU Integration – Economic, Legal and Political Perspectives’

[ For full information about this IIEA Economic Seminar:  www.iiea.com ]

Because the seminar was not only very interesting, but is directly relevant in the context of this post … and the remarks of Mr. Peter Sutherland, Chairman of Goldman Sachs International and the London School of Economics, and former Irish Attorney General, former European Commissioner and former Director-General of the World Trade Organization, caused quite a stir in the printed media on the following day … here is Paper 2 from Seminar Session I … which went to the heart of discussions on the day …

Prof. John W O’Hagan, Dept. of Economics, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

Shared Economic Sovereignty: Beneficial or Not, and Who Decides ?

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (635 Kb)

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Update:  2014-07-04 …

Economists exist and operate in a special bubble … in their own little isolated world of quasi-science and fantasy, where everything in ‘our’ society is seen merely as an input, or fuel, for economic development.  And when they talk about Sustainable Economic Growth … believe me, their notion of ‘sustainable’ is altogether different from our understanding of that word !

European Union Economic Governance

It should come as no surprise to learn, therefore, that economists are blissfully unaware that the EuroZone’s current directionless (and dysfunctional) economic governance is causing enormous instability and harm to the whole political entity that is the European Union …

EU Economic Governance & The European Semester - Who Does What and When, Every Year

Flow chart diagram, in colour, showing how it is proposed that The European Semester will operate … which EU Institution will do what, and at what stage every year.  Source: Council of the European Union.  Click to enlarge.

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This issue is too important for all of us … to be left to economists and national politicians, alone, to muddle through !

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Firefighter Exposure To Smoke Particulates – New U.S. Research

To Properly Consider Firefighter Safety:  It is not ‘sufficient’ just to distribute Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to firefighters … an adequate Fire Service Support Infrastructure is required.  And … it is NO LONGER ethically acceptable to ignore this issue in the design and construction of buildings !

In Europe … it should be noted that part of  Essential Requirement 2: ‘Safety in Case of Fire’ … from European Union (EU) Council Directive 89/106/EEC, of 21 December 1988, on the approximation of laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to Construction Products … states the following …

‘ The construction works must be designed and built in such a way that in the event of an outbreak of fire … the safety of rescue teams is taken into consideration.’

I will return to building design and construction in a later post.

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Now, however … reproduced below is the EXECUTIVE SUMMARY from a recent important Report by Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (USA) … comprising 390 Pages and weighing in at a mighty 10.54 Mb … too large to be presented here !   So sorry !!

As always … we recommend that you download the UL Report yourselves … and have a long, careful read.  It can be viewed and/or downloaded at this address … http://www.ul.com/global/eng/pages/offerings/industries/buildingmaterials/fire/fireservice/smokeparticulates

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FIREFIGHTER EXPOSURE TO SMOKE PARTICULATES

(DHS AFG Grant #EMW-2007-FP-02093)

Final Report

Project Number: 08CA31673 – File Number: IN 15941

1 April, 2010

Prepared by:

 Thomas Fabian, Ph.D., Jacob L. Borgerson, Ph.D, Stephen I. Kerber, M.S., Pravinray D. Gandhi, Ph.D., P.E.

Underwriters Laboratories Inc.

C. Stuart Baxter, Ph.D., Clara Sue Ross, M.D., J.D., James E. Lockey M.D., M.S.

University of Cincinnati

James M. Dalton, M.Arch.

Chicago Fire Department

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INTRODUCTION

The potential for firefighters to experience acute and/or chronic respiratory health effects related to exposures during firefighting activities has long been recognized.  Specific exposures of concern for firefighters, because of their potential respiratory toxicity, include:

  1. Asphyxiants, such as Carbon Monoxide, Carbon Dioxide and Hydrogen Sulphide ;
  2. Irritants, such as Ammonia, Hydrogen Chloride, Particulates, Nitrogen Oxides, Phenol and Sulphur Dioxide ;
  3. Allergens ;    and
  4. Carcinogens, such as Asbestos, Benzene, Styrene, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and certain Heavy Metals.

An additional cardiovascular risk factor that is receiving increasing attention is exposure to respirable particles in the ultra-fine range (particles less than 0.1 micron in diameter), which have been detected in smoke.  Exposure to these gaseous and particulate agents has been linked to acute and chronic effects resulting in increased firefighter mortality and morbidity (higher risk of specific cancers and cardiovascular disease).

Currently, gaps exist in the knowledge concerning the size distribution of smoke particles generated in fires and the nature of the chemicals absorbed on the particles’ surfaces.  Some gaseous effluents may also condense on protection equipment and exposed skin, leaving an oily residue or film.  These chemicals can pose a significant threat to firefighter health directly (via the skin and eyes, or by inhalation) or following dermal absorption.  This fire research study fills gaps identified in previous studies on firefighters’ exposure to combustion products.  The study focuses on gaseous effluents and smoke particulates generated during residential building and automobile fires and subsequent contact exposure resulting from residual contamination of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).

The information developed from this research will provide a valuable background for interpreting fire hazards and can be used by …

     a)  the Medical Community for advancing their understanding of the epidemiological effects of smoke exposure ;

     b)  First Responders for developing situational assessment guidelines for Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) usage, Personal Protection Equipment cleaning regimen, and identifying the importance of personal hygiene following fire effluent exposure ;

     c)  Organizations such as NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health) and NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) for developing new test method standards and performance criteria for respirators used by first responders, and the care and maintenance of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).

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METHODOLOGY

This study investigated and analyzed the combustion gases and particulates generated from three scales of fires:

     –  Residential Building and Automobile Fires ;

     –  Simulated Full-Scale Fire Tests ;    and

     –  Material Based Small-Scale Fire Tests.

Material-level tests were conducted to investigate the combustion of forty-three commonly used residential building construction materials, residential room contents and furnishings, and automobile components under consistent, well-controlled radiant heating conditions.  In these tests, material based combustion properties including weight loss rate, heat and smoke release rates, smoke particle size and count distribution, and effluent gas and smoke composition were characterized for a variety of natural, synthetic, and multi-component materials under flaming conditions.  The results from these tests were used to assess the smoke contribution of individual materials.

Nine full-scale fire tests representing individual room fires, an attic fire, deck and automobile fires were conducted at Underwriters Laboratories’ large-scale fire test laboratory to collect and analyze the gas effluents, smoke particulates, and condensed residues produced during fire growth, suppression and overhaul under controlled, reproducible laboratory conditions.  During overhaul, firefighter personal atmospheres were sampled and analyzed for gases and smoke particles.  Smoke particle analysis included mass and size distributions, and inorganic elemental composition.  These tests also served as a platform for developing and refining the condensed residue sampling techniques for field usage.

Note:  Overhaul … The final phase of firefighting, which involves searching out and extinguishing any hidden fire(s), preserving evidence and restoring the fire scene to a secure state at the conclusion of firefighting operations.

Over a period of four months, Chicago Fire Department designated personnel conducted personal gas monitoring and collected personal aerosol smoke samples at residential fires (knockdown, ventilation and overhaul).  Replaceable personal protection components (gloves and hoods) used by the firefighters during this time period were analyzed to identify the chemical composition of accumulated smoke residue.

Collected data was forwarded to the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine to assess the potential adverse health effects of the observed gaseous effluents and smoke particles on fire service personnel.

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KEY FINDINGS

The key findings of the research were as follows:

General

  • Concentrations of combustion products were found to vary tremendously from fire to fire depending upon the size, the chemistry of materials involved, and the ventilation conditions of the fire.

Material-Scale Tests

  • The type and quantity of combustion products (smoke particles and gases) generated depended on the chemistry and physical form of the materials being burned.
  • Synthetic materials produced more smoke than natural materials.
    • The most prolific smoke production was observed for styrene-based materials commonly found in residential households and automobiles.  These materials may be used in commodity form (e.g. disposable plastic glasses and dishes), expanded form for insulation, impact modified form such as HIPS (e.g. appliances and electronics housing), co-polymerized with other plastics such as ABS (e.g. toys), or co-polymerized with elastomers such as styrene-butadiene rubber (e.g. tires).
    • Vinyl polymers also produced considerable amounts of smoke.  Again these materials are used in commodity form (e.g. PVC pipe) or plasticized form (e.g. wiring, siding, resin chairs and tables).
    • As the fraction of synthetic compound was increased in a wood product (either in the form of adhesive or mixture such as for wood-plastic composites), smoke production increased.
    • Average particle sizes ranged from 0.04 to 0.15 microns, with wood and insulation generating the smallest particles.
    • For a given particle size, synthetic materials will generate approximately 12.5 times more particles per mass of consumed material than wood based materials.
  • Combustion of the materials generated asphyxiants, irritants, and airborne carcinogenic species that could be potentially debilitating.  The combination and concentrations of gases produced depended on the base chemistry of the material:
    • All of the materials formed water, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.
    • Styrene-based materials formed benzene, phenols, and styrene.
    • Vinyl compounds formed acid gases (HCl and HCN) and benzene.
    • Wood-based products formed formaldehyde, formic acid, HCN, and phenols.
    • Roofing materials formed sulphur gas compounds such as sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulphide.

Large-Scale Tests

  • The same asphyxiants, irritants, and airborne carcinogenic species were observed as in material-level tests supporting the premise that gases generated in large-complex fires arise from individual component material contributions.
  • Ventilation was found to have an inverse relationship with smoke and gas production such that considerably higher levels of smoke particulates and gases were observed in contained fires than uncontained fires, and the smoke and gas levels were greater inside of contained structures than outside.
    • Recommended exposure levels (IDLH, STEL, TWA) were exceeded during fire growth and overhaul stages for various agents (carbon monoxide, benzene, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide) and arsenic.
    • Smoke and gas levels were quickly reduced by suppression activity.  However, they remained an order of magnitude greater than background levels during overhaul.
    • 99%+ of smoke particles collected during overhaul were less than 1 micron in diameter.  Of these, 97%+ were too small to be visible by the naked eye suggesting that ‘clean’ air was not really that clean.
  • While not the focus of this research, it should be noted that the ion alarm activated sooner than the photoelectric alarm in every room fire scenario (living rooms, bedroom and kitchen).  This is consistent with results reported in the Smoke Characterization Report for model flaming fire tests conducted in the smoke alarm fire test room.  Carbon monoxide alarm activation lagged behind both ion and photoelectric alarms, furthermore.

Field Events & Controlled Field Tests

  • Concentrations of certain toxic gases were monitored at field events during the course of normal firefighter duties.  These results were analyzed to determine:
    • Average gas concentrations and exposures calculated for the field events, which may be useful for estimating total exposure from repeated exposures during a firefighter’s career.
    • Potential gas concentration and exposures calculated for the field events, which may be useful for planning firefighter preparedness.
    • Gas exposures in excess of NIOSH IDLH, STEL, and OSHA TWA.  These were repeatedly observed at the monitored field events.  Carbon monoxide concentrations most often exceeded recommended exposure limits.  However, instances were observed where gases other than carbon monoxide exceeded recommended exposure limits – yet carbon monoxide did not.
  • Collected smoke particulates contained multiple heavy metals including arsenic, cobalt, chromium, lead, and phosphorous.
    • The NIOSH STEL concentration for arsenic was exceeded at one fire and possibly at a second.  Gas monitors would not provide warning for arsenic exposure.
  • Chemical composition of the smoke deposited and soot accumulated on firefighter gloves and hoods was virtually the same, except concentrations on the gloves were 100 times greater than the hoods.
    • Deposits contained lead, mercury, phthalates and PAH’s.
  • Carbon monoxide monitoring may provide the first line of a gas exposure defence strategy, but does not provide warning for fires in which carbon monoxide does not exceed recommended limits and other gases and chemicals do.
  • The OP-FTIR was difficult to successfully implement in the field and even for the controlled field events in passive mode.
    • While the OP-FTIR could be set-up in less than 2 minutes, it typically took as long as 5 to 10 minutes to start data collection.  This time frame is too long when compared to the aggressive time frames of fire suppression.
    • Poor thermal contrast led to insufficient signal-to-noise ratios.

Health Implications

  • Multiple asphyxiants (e.g. carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide), irritants (e.g. ammonia, hydrogen chloride, nitrogen oxides, phenol and sulphur dioxide), allergens (e.g. isocyanates), and chemicals carcinogenic for various tissues (e.g. benzene, chromium, formaldehyde and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) were found in smoke during both suppression and overhaul phases.  Carcinogenic chemicals may act topically, following inhalation, or following dermal absorption, including from contaminated gear.
    • Concentrations of several of these toxicants exceeded OSHA regulatory exposure limits and/or recommended exposure limits from NIOSH or ACGIH.
    • Exposures to specific toxicants can produce acute respiratory effects that may result in chronic respiratory disease.
  • High levels of ultra-fine particles (relative to background levels) were found during both suppression and overhaul phases.
    • Exposure to particulate matter has been found to show a positive correlation with increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality for general population studies.
    • The high efficiency of ultra-fine particle deposition deep into the lung tissue can result in release of inflammatory mediators into the circulation, causing toxic effects on internal tissues such as the heart.  Airborne toxics, such as metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, can also be carried by the particles to the pulmonary interstitium, vasculature, and potentially subsequently to other body tissues, including the cardiovascular and nervous systems and liver.
  • Interactions between individual exposure agents could lead to additive or synergistic effects exacerbating adverse health effects.
  • Long-term repeated exposure may accelerate cardiovascular mortality and the initiation/progression of atherosclerosis.

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FUTURE CONSIDERATIONS

Based upon the results of this Firefighter Exposure to Smoke Particulates Investigation, the following areas were identified for further research:

1.  Greater in-depth analysis of the obtained results in relation to previous studies such as those of Jankowic et al on Firefighter Exposure, LeMasters et al on Firefighter Cancer Epidemiologies, and the First Responders at the World Trade Center Collapses.

2.  Characterization of potential fire scene exposures including: (a) asphyxiants, (b) irritants, (c) allergens, and (d) carcinogens.

3.  Better definition of the potential long-term respiratory, cancer and cardiovascular health impacts of varied and complex mixes of exposures such as those identified in this report.  Such information could help guide decisions on the selection and utilization of respiratory protection, especially during overhaul activities.

4.  Determination of the relative contribution of respiratory and dermal absorption routes to exposure and adverse health risks of firefighters to combustion products.

5.  Factors determining coronary heart disease risk among firefighters.  Such studies could help elucidate the mechanistic link between ultra-fine particle exposure and coronary heart disease morbidity and mortality, and identify measures to decrease its impact on this population.

6.  Characterization of contaminants accumulated on firefighter protection equipment and the subsequent potential for firefighter exposures to these contaminants and resulting health effects.

7.  Usage and industrial hygiene practices related to firefighter protection equipment, including cleaning patterns, length of use and storage practices.

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Christmas Tree Fire Hazard in Homes & Places of Assembly

For many years, I have been a Member of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in the United States of America … a rich source of fire safety related research and information … vital to the everyday practice of modern fire engineering design.

A recent NFPA Safety Notification will be of interest to Home Owners … and Managers in Places of Assembly/Recreation/Public Resort (Établissements Recevant du Public), e.g. Hotels, Shopping Centres and Restaurants … during the prolonged Irish Christmas period … which is now stretching from mid-December to mid-January every year.

And, to overcome the ‘Recession Blues’ here … many people have already put up their Christmas decorations !

This NFPA and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Video very clearly and dramatically demonstrates the fire behaviour of a Natural Dry Christmas Tree … compared to a Natural Christmas Tree which has been watered regularly …

Link to NFPA/UL Christmas Tree Fire Test on YouTube 

Fire Statistics in Ireland are not reliable … but, to give you some idea of the scale of the problem, a few interesting Facts and Figures are available from across the pond …

  • From 2003-2008 … United States Fire Departments responded to an average of 260 home fires, which started with Christmas Trees, per year.  These fires caused an average of 14 deaths and 26 injuries … with $13.8 million in direct property damage annually ;
  • Christmas Tree fires are not common, but when they occur, they are likely to be serious.  On average, one in every 21 reported fires which began with a Christmas Tree resulted in death ;
  • A heat source too close to the Christmas Tree started one in every five (19%) of these fires.

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Have a Safe Christmas !!

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2010 UNFCCC Climate Summit in Cancún – Smell The Coffee !

The hype is less this year … and I bet that not too many politicians will be appearing in front of the cameras at the end of this 2010 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Summit … which is being held in Cancún, Mexico … from Monday, 29 November until Friday, 10 December 2010.

If you want to follow what’s happening closely … go to the Official UNFCCC WebSite … and check out the Daily Conference Programme, here, at this address … http://unfccc.int/conference_programme/items/5769.php

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Let us not forget that the result of last year’s debacle … the 2009 Copenhagen Accord … was an unofficial, political agreement between a small number of Heads of State, Heads of Government, Ministers, and Heads of Delegation – Brazil, South Africa, India and China (BASIC) and the USA – who attended the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit, which concluded on Saturday, 19th December 2009.  Since then, many countries have made voluntary submissions, i.e. they are not legally binding, to Appendices I and II of the Copenhagen Accord.

An initial overview of the submissions made by Developed Countries, however, revealed the following about the voluntary emissions targets being undertaken …

  • they are highly conditional on the performance of other countries ;
  • they are disappointing, being well below what is required to cap the planetary temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius ;   and
  • there is no consistent emission base year … varying from 1990 and 1992, up to 2000 and 2005.

This is very far from being a signal of serious intent from Developed Countries … and is not … in any way, shape or manner … an acceptance of historical responsibilities.  It would be reasonable, therefore, to surmise that the process of achieving a global, legally binding, consensus agreement on greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets will be long and difficult.  The Climate Change Mitigation Agenda is, to put it mildly, fraught with problems … and has an unclear future in the short term.

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HOWEVER … Back In The ‘Real’ World … GHG Emissions Continue To Rise !

On 24 November 2010 … the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) published its Greenhouse Gas Bulletin No.6: ‘The State of Greenhouse Gases in the Atmosphere Based on Global Observations through 2009′.

The WMO Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) Programme coordinates systematic observations and analysis of atmospheric composition, including Greenhouse Gases (GHG) and other trace species.  Measurement data are reported by participating countries and archived and distributed by the World Data Centre for Greenhouse Gases (WDCGG) at the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Even here … it is clearly stated that there are still uncertainties …

2009 Global Observations of Greenhouse Gases (GHG’s) in the Atmosphere

24 November 2010

UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Greenhouse Gas Bulletin No.6

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (3.37 Mb)

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The latest analysis of observations from the WMO Global Atmosphere Watch Programme shows that the globally averaged mixing ratios of Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4) and Nitrous Oxide (N2O) reached new highs in 2009, with CO2 at 386.8 parts per million, CH4 at 1803 ppb and N2O at 322.5 ppb.  These values are greater than those in pre-industrial times (before 1750) by 38%, 158% and 19%, respectively.

Atmospheric growth rates of CO2 and N2O in 2009 are consistent with recent years, but are lower than in 2008.

After nearly a decade of no growth, Atmospheric CH4 has increased during the past three years.  The reasons for renewed growth of Atmospheric Methane are not fully understood, but emissions from natural sources (from northern latitudes and the tropics) are considered potential causes.

The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Annual Greenhouse Gas Index shows that from 1990 to 2009, radiative forcing by all long-lived greenhouse gases increased by 27.5%, with CO2 accounting for nearly 80% of this increase.

The combined radiative forcing by Halocarbons is nearly double that of N2O.

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Help with the Technical Terms of Climate Change ?

Give it a lash !   Try out the Encyclopaedia of Earth WebSite … an electronic reference about the Earth, its natural environments, and their interaction with society.  The Encyclopaedia is a free, fully searchable collection of articles written by scholars, professionals, educators, and experts who collaborate and review each other’s work.  The articles are written in non-technical language and are useful to students, educators, scholars, professionals, as well as to the general public.

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To Mitigate or Adapt ? – Prioritizing a Strategy for the Built Environment

We are already experiencing the adverse impacts of Climate Change !   And even if sufficient and appropriate Climate Mitigation Measures were succeeding … which they patently are not … the timelag between their implementation and any resulting beneficial environmental impacts is too great … half a century, at least … and full of uncertainty.

BUT … since the minimum period for a Sustainable Building in Use is 100 Years, and nothing less than a Recurrence Interval of 100 years should now be used in design calculations for events such as severe storms and flooding, or deluge rainfalls, etc … anyone involved in the design, construction, management or operation of the Built Environment must think ‘long-term’ … today !

In Dublin … buildings which are 250 or 350 years old still look remarkably good, and are well capable of fulfilling an important function within the social and economic environments of the city.  ‘Politically’ and ‘technically’, therefore, it would be more appropriate for the Built Environment if we were concerned with the Long-Term Climate Change Adaptation Agenda … rather than a problematic, Short-Term Mitigation Agenda.

In terms of a building … is there really a clear difference between measures undertaken for the purpose of mitigation and those undertaken for adaptation ?   For example, measures to incrementally improve energy efficiency and conserve energy, in accordance with short-term legally binding targets, will serve to mitigate CO2 Emissions … but the same measures will also serve to adapt the building to rapidly dwindling supplies of climate-damaging fossil fuels.

The long-term perspective exerts pressure for more radical, but necessary, actions in the short-term.

BUT … should we not already be undertaking these sorts of measures as part of the Mainstream Sustainability Agenda … in order to improve built environment resilience, prolong life cycles … and achieve social wellbeing for all ?

Generally … Climate Change Adaptation encompasses urgent and immediate short, near and long-term actions at local, national, regional and international levels to reduce the vulnerability and strengthen the resilience of the Human Environment, including ecological and social systems, institutions and economic sectors … to present and future adverse effects of climate change and the impacts of response measure implementation … in order to minimize the local threats to life, human health, livelihoods, food security, assets, amenities, ecosystems and sustainable development.

More specifically … Built Environment Climate Change Adaptation means reliably implementing policies, practices, projects and institutional reforms in the Built Environment … with the aim of reducing the adverse impacts and/or realizing the benefits directly/indirectly associated with climate change, including variability and extremes … in a manner which is compatible with Sustainable Human and Social Development.

Wake Up And Smell The Coffee … It’s Time To Get Serious !!!!

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Disability Access Certificates (DAC’s) – Acceptable Accessibility ?

A few weeks ago … in a post dated 20 October 2010 … Japan in April & May 2010 – Accessibility-for-All ! … I discussed some of the many aspects which, together, facilitate a high level of quality in ‘real’, or actually realized, Built Environment Accessibility Performance in Japan … and I illustrated that quality with a number of photographs.

In time, I will add more photographs from my valuable ‘Accessibility in Japan’ Collection !

Note:  Built Environment … Anywhere there is, or has been, a man-made or wrought (worked) intervention by humans in the natural environment, e.g. cities, towns, villages, rural settlements, roads, bridges, tunnels, transport systems, service utilities, and cultivated lands, lakes, rivers, coasts, seas, etc. … including the Virtual Environment.

Note:  Social Environment … The complex network of real and virtual human interaction – at a communal or larger group level – which operates for reasons of tradition, culture, business, pleasure, information exchange, institutional organization, legal procedure, governance, human betterment, social progress and spiritual enlightenment, etc.

Note:  Virtual Environment … A designed environment, electronically-generated from within the Built Environment, which may have the appearance, form, functionality and impact – to the person perceiving and actually experiencing it – of a real, imagined and/or utopian world.

However … many of these aspects are missing in European Approaches to Accessibility-for-All … and, typically, the level of Accessibility Performance which we are used to experiencing, and accepting, is inadequate, sloppy, poor … and to be direct and honest … BRUTAL !!

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As far back as 2001 … in an Introduction to a Page on our Corporate WebSite illustrating the Inaccessibility of European Union Institutional Buildings … specifically, the European Parliaments in Brussels and Strasbourg … I wrote …

‘ Many times each year, our work takes us to Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg.

In spite of all the rhetoric from European politicians, and the extensive body of European legislation actually in force at national and regional levels in every Member State … the inaccessibility of Institutional Buildings is shockingly and unacceptably bad … in some cases, dangerously so !

Yet, these buildings should represent, in built form, the ideals, values and aspirations of the peoples of Europe – as expressed in the EU Treaties.

What a bitter disappointment ! ‘

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Today … France, in particular, continues to be a depressing experience … where Talk is far, far too cheap … and Good Accessibility Performance is still all too rare !!

Last Thursday, 25 November 2010 … I attended a Paris Meeting of the Editorial Team for the CIB W108 Report: ‘Sustainable Climate Change Adaptation in the Built Environment’.  My airline flights from Dublin brought me in and out through Terminal 1 of Roissy Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport in Paris.

A spanking new automatically operated Métro (shuttle) … CDGVAL … connects Terminals 1, 2 & 3, various Multi-Storey Car Parks and Train Stations within the Airport Complex …

Colour image showing the Airport Complex Plan of Roissy Charles De Gaulle in Paris. Note the New CDGVAL Métro ... an important interconnecting transportation system. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing the Airport Complex Plan of Roissy Charles De Gaulle in Paris. Note the New CDGVAL Métro ... an important interconnecting transportation system. Click to enlarge.

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Colour photograph showing the new, automatically operated CDGVAL Métro at Roissy Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. Yet another magnificent example of Sloppy French Accessibility Implementation ! Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-11-26. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the new, automatically operated CDGVAL Métro at Roissy Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. Yet another magnificent example of Sloppy French Accessibility Implementation ! Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-11-26. Click to enlarge.

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IF … you search hard enough on the CDG Airport WebSite, you will find these three highlighted short sentences under content with the title Personne à Mobilité Réduite’ … total rubbish and complete bullshit when you actually see the airport’s buildings and many facilities.  And … as usual, in French, the disability-related terminology is evil … and sucks !

‘Aéroports de Paris assure l’assistance des passagers handicapés et à mobilité réduite dés leur arrivée, et tout au long de leur parcours dans le terminal.

Aéroports de Paris a depuis longtemps entamé une démarche d’équipement et d’adaptation de ses terminaux pour faciliter les déplacements de tous.

Aujourd’hui, les problématiques d’accessibilités sont systématiquement prises en compte dans l’aménagement de nos infrastructures.’

Colour photograph showing the Door Threshold Detail of the new, automatically operated CDGVAL Métro at Roissy Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. In totally new construction ... an unacceptably huge difference between platform height and the shuttle's floor ! This is also now a trip hazard for everyone !! Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-11-26. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the Door Threshold Detail of the new, automatically operated CDGVAL Métro at Roissy Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. In totally new construction ... an unacceptably huge difference between platform height and the shuttle's floor ! This is also now a trip hazard for everyone !! Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-11-26. Click to enlarge.

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Why is this relevant for us now … here in Ireland ?

The new scheme of Disability Access Certification, closely modelled on the existing highly problematic scheme of Fire Safety Certification … is undergoing a normal, introductory ‘teething’ process within this jurisdiction … and many questions about interpretation of the law and its operation are being asked.

Important Clarification:  The Guidance Text contained in Technical Guidance Document M … is not Law … is not Prescriptive Regulation … is not ‘Deemed to Satisfy’ … and … because the guidance is so incomplete, incoherent and inadequate … does not even indicate Minimum Accessibility Performance !

Part M Functional Requirements – Access for People with Disabilities     Second Schedule of the 1997 Building Regulations – As Amended by the Building Regulations (Amendment) Regulations, 2000 – Statutory Instrument No.179 of 2000

Access and Use     M1     Adequate provision shall be made to enable people with disabilities to safely and independently access and use a building.

Sanitary Conveniences     M2     If sanitary conveniences are provided in a building, adequate provision shall be made for people with disabilities.

Audience or Spectator Facilities     M3     If a building contains fixed seating for audience or spectators, adequate provision shall be made for people with disabilities.

Definition for This Part     M4     In this Part, ‘people with disabilities’ means people who have an impairment of hearing or sight or an impairment which limits their ability to walk, or which restricts them to a wheelchair.

Application of This Part     M5     Part M does not apply to works in connection with extensions to and the material alterations of existing dwellings, provided that such works do not create a new dwelling.

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Today in Ireland … Talk IS too cheap … and Good Accessibility Performance IS almost non-existent !!!   Yes … and that even includes the work of those mighty superheroes in the Office of Public Works (OPW).

Furthermore … the big fun will really start when the New Part M Requirements come into operation on 1 January 2012 … and we will enter a surreal Alice’s Wonderland of Accessibility Ambiguity

Part M Functional Requirements – Access and Use     Second Schedule of the 1997 Building Regulations – As Amended by the Building Regulations (Part M Amendment) Regulations, 2010 – Statutory Instrument No.513 of 2010

Access and Use     M1     Adequate provision shall be made for people to access and use a building, its facilities and its environs.

Application of The Part     M2     Adequate provision shall be made for people to approach and access an extension to a building.

M3     If sanitary facilities are provided in a building that is to be extended, adequate sanitary facilities shall be provided for people within the extension.

M4     Part M does not apply to works in connection with extensions to and material alterations of existing dwellings, provided that such works do not create anew dwelling.

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