Irony: San Francisco EPA Workers Fight Poisonous Air Quality ... at Their Own Building

And the unions aren't happy, either.

Oh, the irony. The bureaucrats at the Environmental Protection Agency cannot even seem to ensure a healthy environment in their own work-space. Testing conducted at the EPA's Region 9 headquarters in San Francisco revealed dangerous levels of formaldehyde, a carcinogen, and caprolactam -- chemicals nearly 100 workers claim are making them physically ill. 

EPA staff members say the air quality in their office building is so toxic that they are unable to do their jobs. Even more ironic is that union members are now fighting the agency over the conditions. NBC Bay Area reports

The irony is not lost on Taly Jolish, a staff attorney for the EPA and vice president of ASGE Local 1236, one of Region 9's three unions. "It just seems crazy to us that someone would be risking their health by coming into the office to work on cleaning up the environment elsewhere," Jolish said.

Testing conducted by Berkeley Analytical, an environmental testing lab hired by the EPA, showed elevated levels of two potentially dangerous chemicals, formaldehyde and caprolactam. The EPA classifies formaldehyde as a "probable human carcinogen" and some studies found long-term exposure associated with certain types of cancer. Caprolactam's health effects are less known, but the EPA notes  long-term exposure increases the potential for adverse health effects. The two chemicals tested above California state standards. The EPA does not believe it's out of compliance with the state because the levels were not sustained over eight hours, but the agency never tested over an eight-hour span of time. That's something the EPA unions want. "Our management is on a learning curve. Their initial response was to push back very hard,"Jolish said.

EPA employees first started complaining of health problems at work in December 2014, when the first phase of the building renovation was completed. Employees say they believe 75 Hawthorne is a "sick building."

Mark Sims, president of the IFPTE Local 20 Union chapter told NBC that he thinks the conditions at the building "meets EPA's criteria in its literature as a sick building" and wants something done about the problem. 

According to EPA literature a "sick building" is one in which inhabitants experience symptoms like "headaches, irritation, dizziness and nausea," -- all of which local EPA employees reported to their union reps. 

139 EPA employees were asked to fill out a union survey about their work conditions. According to the report, 64 percent reported feeling ill. 

​Meanwhile EPA executives are passing the buck, claiming the poor air quality is the fault of the building management company. 

Needless to say the building management, a company named Hines, is also passing the buck. In a statement Hines said it has tried to "resolve any air flow concerns raised" and is conducting an analysis of the building's HVAC system. Union leaders, however, told the network that the process has taken too long without producing real results, which is why they're getting media involved. 

"An agency that's mission is to protect the environment and health has failed to do so in this case," one local union president told the network. 

Indeed it has. And if it can't ensure the health and safety of its own workers in just one of its office buildings, how are we to expect it can protect the entire country from outside sources including so-called "climate change"?

 

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