Sunday, December 15, 2013

Bioremediation of Fracking water with Dr. Larry Wackett

Dr. Larry Wackett

Dr. Larry Wackett gave a talk on bioremediation of shale Fracking water at our University of Minnesota staff retreat.  He uses bacteria encased in a filter media to breakdown a wide variety of chemicals into carbon dioxide and water.  He is looking for a partner to scale it up for on site application.

The U of MN news service also provided a feature article on Cleaning up water from Fracking 

Summary of Dr. Larry Wackett's Talk 

Turning wine into water with Doc Hendley

CNN reports on a former bartender, Doc Hendley's efforts to turn wine into water.  He takes money earned through tips and wine tasting events  and his website and uses it to buy and install filters for water in war ravaged or disaster plagued countries such as Syria and the Philippines.  He also personally travels to the areas at considerable risk to personal safety.

Wine to Water

Doc Hendley's TED Talk

Friday, December 13, 2013

Mold Remediation Course April 22 - 23, 2014- cancelled - U of M Minneapolis, MN

The U of MN School of Public Health is offering a 16 hour Mold Remediation course starting on April 22, 2014. - Cancelled

The course is a good refresher for public health specialists, hospital facilities managers, property managers, mold remediation specialists, building inspectors and indoor air quality professionals.  Students will learn how to conduct an inspection for mold in a building and  how to respond to a water event.  Hands on training includes sampling techniques for mold identification, use of  thermal imaging and moisture meters.  Individuals will also have the opportunity to suit up and construct a containment barrier.

Click on the highlighted text for more information on the mold remediation training.  Cost for the two day workshop is $400.  Class size is limited to less than 14 people.

Example of training provided at the workshop on contact agar and tease tape sampling.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Victims of Fungal Meningitis Still Struggling

NPR reporter Nancy Shute interviewed Dr. Thomas Kerkering about patients recovery from the injections of fungal contaminated steroids from the NECC.

The numbers:

751 contracted fungal meningitis
64 died.

Symptoms: strokes, back pain, headaches fevers.

Read the full article in the New England Journal of Medicine: Fungal Infections Associated with Contaminated Methylprednisolone Injections  N. Engl. J. Med. 2013; 369:1598-1609 October 24, 2013.

Meningitis Outbreak in the US Nov 2012

IRSST Publication - Sampling Guide for Air Contaminants in the workplace 8th Edition

IRSST Publication - Sampling Guide for Air Contaminants in the workplace 8th Edition is available for free download. 

In the nonregulated ROHS section I have some concerns.

Be careful when using it to interpret standards.  The level listed for isoflurane is 80 mg/cubic meter based on a Swedish study.  More recent NIOSH recommendations are 2 ppm as either a STEL or an 8 hour TWA.

The spore limit is listed at 13 spores per cubic meter and there is no reference given for this number. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Carbon Dioxide Plume Geothermal Technology or CPG

A Minnesota Daily article covers Heat Mining Company' purchase of the CPG technology from the University of Minnesota.

Carbon dioxide from coal fired or natural gas fired power plants is injected into a saline aquifer with a geothermal reservoir.  The heated carbon dioxide produces electricity through an expansion turbine.

I reported on this earlier in 2011.  Dr. Martin Sarr was using geothermal compressed carbon dioxide to produce electricity.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Storm related electrical grid interuptions increase by a factor of 10 from 1992 to 2008

Increasingly Vulnerable: the number of incidents caused by extreme weather has increased 10-fold since 1992. Weather-related events are more severe, with an average of 180,000 customers affected per event.
Source: Energy Information Administration, U.S. Global Change Research Program.

Local AIHA Professional Development Conference November 21, 2013

The local AIHA annual professional development conference will be held on November 21, 2013 in Minneapolis, MN.

Early Bird member egistration price of $100 is available at the Upper Midwest AIHA website.    Limited space is also available for vendors.

One of the featured presentations will cover an update by G. Ramachandran, U of Minnesota, on the MN taconite Workers Study.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Tesla vehicle catches fire
On October 1, 2013 in Kent, Washington a Tesla vehicle caught fire after hitting an object in the road.  The driver pulled over and was able to escape the blaze unharmed.  The fire was confined to the front of the vehicle.  The flames were extinguished by a local fire department.


July, 2014 - In two separate accidents the Tesla drivers survived two dramatic crashes including one where the Tesla split in half


3 minute News video

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Printed silicon nanocrystals for circuits and solar cells

Printed silicon covered with chlorine atoms may be a low cost solution for computer chips and solar cells imbedded into roofing shingles.

A plasma reactor is used to produce these chlorine covered silicon nanocrystals printed on a circuit.
Uwe Kortshagen, a professor of mechanical engineering at the U of Minnesota is working on a patent pending process to produce low cost, highly durable and printable circuits made out of silicon and chlorine.  - U of MN News.

Plasma Reactor production on silicon nanocrystals

Wind to hydrogen to ammonia at U of MN Morris

The U of MN West Central Experiment Station by the University of Minnesota Morris has begun converting wind power to produce both hydrogen and ammonia

This pilot project allows for the production of ammonia fertilizer where it is needed an eliminates the cost of shipping the product from factories primarily based in Texas and the gulf cost through rail cars or pipelines.
Ammonia fertilizer use in the United States
NREL's Wind resource map of the United States


Ammonia production in the US



Thursday, August 1, 2013

MDH to hold School IAQ and Environmental Health Training Aug 2013

IR photo of a steam pipe leak
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is holding four ‘School Indoor Air Quality Coordinator and Environmental Health Trainings’ this August. The training will prepare school officials to assess their buildings and policies, and implement plans to address identified issues. After completion of the training, attendees will receive a certificate.

Where and When:

St. Paul: August 19, 2013
8:30 am – 12:00 pm

Mankato: August 20, 2013
10:00 am - 2:00 pm

St. Cloud: August 27, 2013
10:00 am – 2:00 pm

Bemidji: August 28, 2013
10:00 am – 2:00 pm

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Carbon Monoxide and Boating

Death from carbon monoxide exposure on boats typically occurs at the rear of the boat near the motor or individuals towed immediately behind the boat.

Kare 11 news offered a July 12, 2013 report on a 4 year old Maple Grove Minnesota girl who suffered excessive carbon monoxide exposure from riding behind and at the back end of a boat.
These reports have a personal resonance with me as I nearly died from carbon monoxide exposure while riding in back of our family car while we pulled our camper trailer. 

Carbon Monoxide Symptoms

Two illustrations of the station wagon effect.
West Marine has information on the placement of carbon monoxide detectors in a boat.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Working on a journal article for JOCHS

I am working on a Journal Article with respect to preventing water losses in buildings for the Journal of Chemical Health and Safety with Kelly Mullane.

Moisture trapped under a plastic chair mat above carpet attached to slab on grade.
These are some of the formatting guidelines.

Proper ACS format of References
from Penn State

Penn State Libraries ACS Quick Guide.

Chapter 14 U of MN only.

JOCHS guide for authors

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Tips to protect yourself during a mold inspection

ABC news produced an excellent mold inspection report on different contractors inspecting the same home without a mold problem.

A real mold problem with a sink cabinet. - N. Carlson

A mold inspection will involve an thorough visual inspection of obvious mold locations.  It may involve progressively more intrusive inspection if moisture sources are found.

Bottom line:   It is important to check references.  They should answer questions and show you how the equipment works.  A mold inspector certification may not be a good way of determining if the person is qualified. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

MN Tree blossoming dates

May 3, 2015 - N. Carlson

N.Carlson - April 15, 2012

Over the past 10 years or so I have been taking a photo of the first blossoming of the crab tree in our front yard.  The blossoming appears to be more temperature related than to the amount of available sunlight.  So far no pattern yet.  2012 was a very warm spring 2013 and 2014 were very cold springs.

2018                 May 12, 2018
2017                 May 5, 2017
2016                 April 29, 2016
2015                 May 3, 2015
2014                 May 23, 2014
2013                 May 20, 2013
2012                 April 15, 2012
2011                 May 18, 2011
2010                 April 28, 2010
2009                 no data
2008                 May 16, 2008
2007                 May 3, 2007
2006                 May 2, 2006
2005                 no data
2004                 no data
2003                 May 8, 2003
2002                 May 21, 2002

May 16, 2008 - N. Carlson

April 29, 2016 - N. Carlson

May 5, 2017 - N. Carlson

May 12, 2018 - N. Carlson

Monday, May 13, 2013

Solar power next to wind turbines

7,040 Panel Solar PV set up near Slayton, MN - on grid in 2013
The 2 Megawatt solar powered system is now connected to Xcel Energy's grid.  Ecos Energy is attempting to pair the solar system with a nearby wind turbine in the hopes of balancing out the electrical load.  Wind tends to blow more strongly at night than the day. 

A full article on the Solar PV is available at the Star Tribune.

The solar panels are manufactured by Slayton, Minnesota Solar Panels Website: SolarPanels-Energy.

A Minnesota 2020 article The Northern Sunshine State points out that solar panels as currently designed operate more efficiently at colder temperatures making Minnesota's solar energy resources comparable to those in southern states.

The Rural Minnesota Energy Board provides a pdf on Utility Scale Solar Energy in Minnesota comparing solar and wind energy production. 
 Click on the link above for an article in the Worthington Daily Globe.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Is there a link between Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and mycotoxin exposure?

Brewer, J.H.; Thrasher, J.D.; Straus, D.C.; Madison, R.A.; Hooper, D. Detection of Mycotoxins in Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.Toxins2013 no. 4: 605-617.

The abstract and full article are available through the Toxins website.

Past exposure to a water damaged building was correlated to elevated urine concentrations of mycotoxins in the urine of 93% of chronic fatigue syndrome patients (N=104 of 112).  Mycotoxin levels were below detection limits for ochratoxin, aflatoxin, or macrocylic trichothecenes in a control population (n=55) with no history of exposure to a water damaged buildings or moldy environments.

Aspergillus ochraceous - produces ochratoxins

Aspergillus flavus produces Aflatoxins

Stachybotrys spp. can produce macrocylic trichothecenes
In the past, researchers have had difficulty establishing cause and effect with respect to airborne mycotoxin exposure and human health.  This paper shows an association that suggests the need for further study.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Rhizomucor spp.

The zygomycete Rhizomucor spp. is an evolutionary mashup of Rhizopus spp. and Mucor spp.  The root structure is much less well developed than with Rhizopus spp.  Several sporangiophores will often converge and not have a rhizoid structure at the base. 

The organism grows well on MEA at both room temperature 25 degrees C. and body temperature 37 degrees C.

Identification by spore trap sampling would be very difficult. 

Rhizomucor spp. - photo N. Carlson

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Fungal mounting fluid stain recipes

Two rather simple stains make it easier to see the cell walls when preparing a slide to view under a microscope


Add 0.1 grams of acid fuchsin stain to 100 milliliters of 85% lactic acid.  On occasion I find this stain may be a bit strong and diluted it 1/10 with 85% lactic acid. 

Reference: Charmichael, J.W. 1955. Lacto-fuchsin a new medium for mounting fungi. Mycologia 4:611.

85% Lactic Acid

Straight 85% lactic acid is useful for getting a true color image of the fungal spore and structures without staining.  This is helpful for some of the darker colored organisms.

Stacybotrys spp. and Ulocladium spp. lacto fuchsin stain
Stacybotrys spp.  85% lactic acid

Monday, March 25, 2013

Neosartorya spp.

While teaching a class on fungal identification March 19 - 20th, I came across a mislabeled culture.  The organism was classified as Aspergillus fumigatus.  The colony color and growth were all wrong although the microscopic growth was very similar to Aspergillus fumigatus.  The organism is Neosartorya spp. I will attempt to let the colony grow and produce ascospores. 

The conidia would be classified as Asp/Pen like on an Air-o-cell cassette sample.

DG-18 Agar and MEA agar growth of Neosartorya spp. 25 degrees C.
DG-18 agar and MEA growth of Aspergillus fumigatus 25 degrees C.

Neosartorya spp. 85% lactic acid each small tick (2.5 microns)
Neosartorya spp. 85% lactic acid each small tick (2.5 microns)

Aspergillus clavatus

This unassuming Aspergillus spp. colony produces a very recognizable club shaped vesicle.  The spores are unremarkable and would be categorized as Asp/Pen like for an Air-O-Cell cassette samples.  The conidia are produced on a uniseriate head.  The vesicles become more club shaped as the colony grows older.

Aspergills clavatus on DG-18 agar

Aspergillus clavatus at 100x Acid Fuchsin stain N. Carlson

Aspergillus clavatus 400x (scale: 25 microns between 1 and 2) Acid Fuchsin stain N. Carlson

Aspergillus clavatus - 85% lactic acid stain 400x - N. Carlson

Aspergillus clavatus - lactophenol cotton blue stain 400x - N. Carlson

Friday, March 15, 2013

Syncephalastrum spp.

The zygomycete organism Syncephalastrum spp. can often be initially confused for an Aspergillus spp. under the microscope for people starting out in fungal identification.  Aspergillus spp. are differentiated from this organism because they have phialides and sometimes metulae supporting conidia.  The sporangiophores of Syncephalastrum spp. have vesicles producing long tubed merosporangium containing typically five to ten merospores that break apart as they mature and the merosporangium dissolves.
If the merospore clusters were intact with five or spores linked it may be possible to identify this organism with an Air-o-cell sample.  Otherwise the spore shape would be difficult to differentiate from others.   The organism grows well on MEA at 25 degrees Celsius. The light colored colony and moderate growth makes it difficult to identify by only viewing the colony.
Syncephalastrum spp. growth on MEA at approx. 7 days.
Mature Syncephalastrum spp. merospores - N. Carlson

Syncephalastrum spp.[ heads at various stages of maturity ] merosporangium on vesicles - N. Carlson 400x

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sustainable Federal Budget

I've been interested in approaches that bring the Federal Government on a more sustainable path.  France's approach to tax millionaires at 75% appears to be a non starter.  We may need to come up with some new sources of revenue that don't cause people to spend more time avoiding the increase in taxes.

Will Smith - God Bless America
I'd be open to a tax that rate that doesn't care about the source of revenue.  For instance if the maximum tax rate is 25%.  Tax income, corporate, and investment income at the same rate.  This leaves the decision about taxes out of the equation and people are free to focus on the best rate of return for their time and money.

Senator Tom Colburn, MD has produced a very large 600 plus page detailed document Back in Black noting ways the Federal Government can trim the budget without inflicting undue pain on the populace. 

Fix the debt is another group attempting to creatively tackle the problem of an unsustainable government where revenue is not covering expenses. 

I am optimistic that people can work the problem and turn this around. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Industrial Hygiene job postings

Nationwide posting for industrial hygiene jobs is available at the American Industrial Hygiene website.

Additional listings are available at EHS

This is a list of LinkedIn industrial Hygiene jobs.

What is an Industrial Hygienist? 11 minutes
AIHA - Industrial Hygiene careers - 8 minutes

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Class on fungal recognition and identification

March 19 and March 20, 2013 - St. Paul, MN, USA Click here for registration information U of MN School of Public Health

This one and a half day training will provide you with an opportunity for concentrated skill development in recognizing and identifying fungi. Using intensive hands-on lab sessions, case studies and presentations, you will learn a systematic procedure for conducting critical analysis of spores in both aerosol samples and in bulk cultures. You will receive one-on-one instruction in laboratory sessions using microscopes to identify fungal samples. You will also receive a photo disk of cultures and the textbook identifying Filamentous Fungi to use for future reference.


1. Describe proper procedures for microscopic examination and identification of selected fungi.

2. Discuss a range of fungal types and potential human health effects.

3. Correctly identify selected fungi under the microscope from both air samples and cultures

Instructors: Neil Carlson and Kelly Mullane

Friday, February 8, 2013

Stachybotrys spp.

The mold, Stachybotrys spp. does not grow well on DG-18  as it needs a higher moisture content.  It has somewhat restrictive growth  on MEA and PDA. When a colony of Stachybotrys spp. is growing in a damp environment the spores are held together in a mass at the top of the conidiophore and do not release well into the environment.  When the spores are dry they are able to be more readily released usually with the help of mechanical forces.

The organism prefers to grow on wet cellulose material.  It prefers an area that has repeated intermittent water damage.  It is often found on a ceiling tile underneath an intermittent roof or  plumbing leak.

The spores are typically approximately 10 -13 microns long by 4 to 5 microns wide.  These spores will settle out rather quickly in the environment and much faster than Aspergillus spp. or Penicillium spp. spores.  Because of this, lower counts of this organism will trigger an investigation to find the source in the environment.

Air-o-cell cassettes or spore trap samplers will work well for sampling Stachybotrys spp. in the environment.  The spore shape (a miniature rugby football) and its dark graphite color make it easy to identify directly under the microscope. 

Stachybotrys spp. dissecting scope  low power
Stachybotrys spp. growing in culture
Stachybotrys spp. growing on paper from sheetrock.
Stachybotrys spp. conidiophore in culture 400x each division is 2.5 microns wide
Stachybotrys spp. spores on a spore trape (Air-o-cell cassette) sample

IAQ video network - Stachybotrys chartarum facts.
Life cycle of Stachybotrys video