Weird News Video #25 — Buyer Beware

Episode #25: “Buyer Beware”, from True’s 23 November 2008 issue.

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Buyer Beware

The Illinois state Environmental Protection Agency is looking into a manufacturing plant that was turned into office space without adequately ensuring it was clean and safe enough for people to work in. Sure enough, despite a multimillion-dollar renovation, the people who work there now complain of headaches, breathing problems, and other illnesses, and blame the building’s history as a manufacturing plant for electrical equipment. The federal EPA fined the previous owner for improperly disposing of the carcinogen PCB. Asbestos and mold have been found inside, and a leaky benzene tank was discovered buried on the property. Purchase paperwork is so unclear that it’s not really known if the seller or the buyer “really” owns it. The buyer: the State of Illinois, and the building is the Illinois EPA’s headquarters. One employee who works in the building said that if it was a private sector building, it “would never pass” the agency’s review process. (Springfield State Journal-Register) …But you can be sure the purchase paperwork very clearly says the state is responsible for cleaning it up.

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2 Comments on “Weird News Video #25 — Buyer Beware

  1. I particularly like this story as all the symptoms listed are consistent with a problem known as ‘sick building syndrome’ which is common with buildings that have had major renovations, furniture refits or very new. I once worked in a place that had this and did some research, the main cause is the many toxins used in the production of new and cheap office fittings and furniture; the more plastic or compressed wood products the higher the level of the toxins. The toxins are due to the glues and other chemicals used in the manufacture producing fumes, these fumes are very heavy in the first year the materials are fully exposed to air.

    The most common toxin is the formaldehyde released from many composite wood products (commonly used in the compounds to help the wood particles bond together), and these can easily be removed by letting the materials air easily for some months or put lots of living plants through the office to remove them from the air.

    Yes, there is plenty of proven scientific and medical evidence for this, and the plants do help remove the toxins. Also the problem goes away in time as the level of fume emissions drops and the toxins drop below the problem level.

    The extra fun in this is the problem may or may not have been due to the claimed reason.

  2. I used to work for the U.S. EPA at the Waterside Mall location, which was well known for having employees with “sick building syndrome”. I started there in 1991, shortly after the carpeting had all been replaced because of asbestos, but my favorite thing was that I was working in the “Blue Lagoon”. Sounds like a lovely place, but it was dank, dark, and smelled like car exhaust because it had previously been half of the parking garage! I think it’s a perfect example of: “Doctor, heal thyself.” lol (p.s. I got out of there… fast!)


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