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Health Risks In Our Hospitals - Duct Fireproofing Materials: Author John Rakic
As a qualified material scientist with a history of working in the building industry, with fire engineers, fire research, and manufacturers I suppliers in Australia I New Zealand, it is very rare for me to review and provide public comment on information proliferated on web sites. However to use the authors of this articles own words "As engineering consultants we all have a duty of care".
The document informs us that serious illness or fatalities can occur from the specifications of inferior product which is of great concern but the author fails to identify which products is at fault or if this article reports a product recall? Given that a paragraph is normally the domain of a single idea or concept, it is alarming that there is no clarity or reference' to supporting documentation. The next paragraph of the article, shifts the focus to hospitals which we all need. The following paragraph notes that 'mechanical services in hospital' construction should use products which do not cause problems in other areas down the tracks'. This is agreed but which products are we concerned about, and what are the health risks from these products?
The following paragraph in the document starts to bring some clarity to the problem, in that more than 100,000 deaths per year from infections occur in USA hospitals. The author of the article, without reference to any source, now links Golden Staph (assuming the author is referring to Staphylococcus Aureous), with some of the products installed during construction works of hospitals. Again, based on the opening paragraphs, this article is warning about the FyreWrap products or other products but is not clear how this link is made. Our own research found from a ,web based source (Wikipedia1) and research journal that insufficient healthcare worker hygiene is the major contributor to Golden Staph in hospitals and that it can survive on polyester '(i.e. hospital privacy curtains) for just under three months2. Further research into fire stop products regarding this link with Golden Staph, was conducted by searching the journal of the FCIA (Firestop Contractors International Association www.fcia.org) which is based in USA. The FCIA specifically focusses on fire stopping (fire rated) materials and equipment for commercial buildings and hospitals. No association between coating systems and Golden Staph or 9ther transmittable infections I diseases has been published in the journal. Given the number of incidents (>500,0001) and number of deaths claimed by the article author, there would be a strong case to identify any links to products responsible for the preservation or transmission of Golden Staph.
In the following paragraph (para 5) of the article, the author of the article makes another unsupported and false claim, that .the cause in hospitals of the Golden Staph issue is the use of "spray applied fireproofing (water based) materials". Originally the preceding paragraphs made claim that other products were responsible. The claim has now shifted to the dry fire-proof spray coatings that are applied during building construction, and cure by drying to form a solid spray coating on the outer perimeter of the duct. Typically these coatings are applied early in the building program, and certainly after the duct has been sealed and erected into place. That is, there are typically no walls, floor coverings, suspended ceilings, or equipment present. The coatings are based on exfoliated vermiculite which is 'virtually' sterile at the time of mixing having undergone a heating process at 500° C and gypsum which holds typically <20%wt crystallised water combined in the gypsum component when fully cured. The moisture content is relatively low and insufficient to sustain microbial forms which require high humidity3. The moisture content, like the wall plaster, internal timbers and materials, on habitation are reduced to the ambient humidity levels within the built environment, typically 50-60%RH and subsequently all materials typically have low water content volumes.
In para 6, the author of the article states that "as far as he can see, fire spray material will spawn the growth of mould which is a known source of deadly pathogens", again there are no pictures, evidence or references provided. This unsupported statement is misleading and unfounded, and appears to be drawing a tenuous and very dangerous association between the presence of mould, all deadly pathogens and Golden Staph, from a person with no medical or biotoxicology background. The USA EPA4 does not appear to support this association claim made by the author; of the article, as there are no warnings regarding Pathogens or Golden Staph , on the warning information for mould in buildings. As previously noted, the conditions required for mould growth requires very high humidity levels (>60% 4) and regular or continuous exposure to moisture which is typically found from incursions of water into the built space, usually not found in habited places.
The author of the article attempts to draw unrelated physical properties of gypsum and vermiculite which are commonly found in water based fire resist ant spray coatings, which have a very long and proven history of effectiveness in fire resistant coatings. The details claimed for vermiculite relate to plant propagation (by the way Rockwool insulation "GROW-WOOL is also used for growing purposes when nutrient and water are present just the same way as' vermiculite) are correct' but not fire resistant coatings. The Gypsum based coatings are specialist proprietary coatings developed of many years with trace chemicals that enhance plasticity, uniform setting (reduced internal stress). surface wetting, surface adhesion, and finish. To make claims that the product is a hard gypsum coating reveals ignorance by the author of the article, to the technology of coating systems. The article provided 110 photographs, direct investigation references, or citations to the claimed failure of spray fire resist ant coatings.
The truth behind the article becomes apparent in para 11 of the article, where the author states that they are now selling a competing product to the spray coatings, known as the FyreWrap. On referring to the FyreWrap , MSDS (material safety data sheets5). the core insulation ,is completely encapsulated in an aluminium foil, with a fiberglass-reinforced scrim covering. Fiberglass is typically glass fibre coated with a polyester resin6. As previously found, polyester can harbour Staphylococcus Aureous (Golden Staph) for up to 3 months2.
The remaining article paragraphs indicate the need to use in hospitals coatings which meet the cleanliness standards of hospitals. The author fails to note that hospitals are air-conditioned and the growth of mould is very unlikely unless the conditions exceed 60%RH continuously4 FyreWrap make a claim regarding the use of the same anti-microbial coatings as hospital walls ,and ceilings with GREENGUARD coating7. This GREENGUARD system resists mould growth if the surface is wet by the incursion of water such as a leaking building8. It appears GREENGUARD certification does not claim resistance to the transfer of pathogens or golden staph, only mould. FyreWrap does not appear to be a certified GREENGUARD product7 as claimed.
The author of the article makes a claim that the coating (polyester) on FyreWrap is the same as that used on the hospital walls and ceilings, which is difficult to accept as being factual, as research has shown that polyester permits golden staph to survive for up to 3 months2. Why would a hospital require that to occur?
1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staphylococcus aureus Accessed 310CT13
2. Neely AN, Maley MP (February 2000). "Survival of enterococci and staphylococci on hospital fabrics and plastic". J. Clin. Microbial. 38 (2): 724-6. PMC 86187. PMID 10655374.
3. http://www.dbh.govt.nz/UserFiles/File/Publications/Weathertightness/ws-mould.pdf Accessed 310CT13
4. http://www.epa.gov/mold/moldresources.html Accessed 310CT13
5. http://www. fyrewrap.com/Fyrewrap-Products. Htm#FyreWrap-MSDS-Center Accessed 31 OCT13
6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiberglass Accessed 310CT13
7. http://www.greenguard.org/en/CertificationPrograms/listingprograms copyl/CertificationPrograms microbialProgram.aspx Accessed 310CT13
8. http ://www.astm.org/Standards/D6329.htm Accessed 310CT13