WHAT ARE BIOHAZARDS? | HazForce

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WHAT ARE BIOHAZARDS?

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Biohazard refers to any biological materials that pose a threat to the health of living organisms. HazForce is qualified to carefully remove potentially infectious materials from your site and dispose of the waste to a licensed hazardous location. Common types of biohazards are:

  • human blood
  • animal waste
  • human bodily fluids

What are biohazards?

Animal waste from rodents, bats, birds, and otters are the most found pests in attics, crawlspaces, and out-buildings. These animals urinate, defecate, and lay after-birth inside buildings.

Hantavirus is found in some field rodents. In BC, it is typically deer mice. Exposure to hantavirus can happen if you breathe in the virus from an infected rodent’s urine, saliva, or droppings. Hantavirus is more common in rural or semi-rural areas, but any area with a pest problem is a potential hazard.

Histoplasmosis are infections caused by inhaling fungus found in bird and bat droppings. It mainly affects the lungs. Most people show no effects or only minor flu-like symptoms. Yet it can be fatal if it spreads to other parts of the body. If you work or live around birds or bats, you may be at risk.

As mould grows, it releases airborne spores and fragments of hyphae (filaments) that can affect a person’s health. Workers or occupants could inhale the airborne spores and hyphae (filaments). People with allergies, asthma or a weak immune system are most at risk. Mould grows quickly on almost any damp material.

Blood and certain body fluids can be infected with tiny organisms that can cause disease. Blood-Borne diseases such as HIV, and Hepatitis A, B, and C can be contracted when mishandling used needles, condoms, bodily fluids, and feces.

Marijuana grow operations and clandestine synthetic drug labs pose great dangers to people who live near them, first responders, and operators of the labs.

How common is biohazard in your building?

Moulds are everywhere. All they need to grow is water and a source of food, such as cardboard or wood. As mould (mold) grows it releases spores. Mould thrives where there is prolonged dampness. Bathrooms, basements, ceilings, and water-damaged walls are all potential hosts for mould.

Used needles and condoms have increasingly been found in public areas, streets, alleys, empty lots, front yards, parks & beaches, public washrooms, and abandoned buildings. Drug users habitually place used needles in hidden locations inside buildings, such as down heat registers, inside covers for ventilation fans and wall cavities.

Marijuana grow operations and clandestine synthetic drug labs are everywhere and both pose different and significant risks. Most Marijuana grow operations and clandestine synthetic drug Labs are set up in residential or commercial rental properties. Often the buildings are altered to accommodate equipment required to grow marijuana.

Marijuana grow operations can be a danger to public health and safety.

  • Fire: The use of enormous amounts of electricity combined with illegal tampering with electrical systems can lead to fires. The hazard often extends to neighbouring buildings.
  • Health: The high humidity and temperatures necessary for a grow room lead to the formation of damaging mould and fungus. This situation poses serious health risks to the residents.
  • Electrocution: Electrical bypasses and rewiring performed by unqualified individuals results in dangerous electrical hazards.
  • Poisonous gas and chemicals: The chemicals used in the production of marijuana are left to circulate inside the residence. These sometimes mix with air that has been re-vented from the furnace and/or water heater.
  • Violence: The occupants of a Marijuana grow operation are more susceptible to extortion and home invasion. These operations are targeted by criminals who commit home invasions to steal the crop (“grow rips”). The presence of a grow operation increases the threat of violence to the neighborhood.
  • Booby traps: Since Marijuana grow operations are targets for “grow rips”, booby traps are sometimes used to injure or kill unsuspecting visitors and inadvertently first responders.
  • Children at risk: Children who live in or visit a Marihuana grow operation home are subject to physical dangers and the many health and safety hazards listed above. Common signs

Common signs of a Marijuana grow operation

  • Rental buildings (residential and commercial) are often used so criminals avoid damage to their own property.
  • Residents may only be in the home occasionally for short periods of time.
  • People access the residence only through the garage.
  • Unusual visitor behaviour ranging from no visitors to frequent visitors for short periods of time.
  • Windows covered with dark plastic or newspaper.
  • Condensation forms on windows due to high humidity levels inside. This may also result in lack of snow on the roof in winter.
  • The skunk-like odour of growing marihuana can occasionally be detected outside.
  • Unusual garbage: little or no garbage or unusual items (e.g. pots and soil, fertilizer containers, wiring, PVC piping).
  • Electrical equipment inside creates humming sounds.
  • Hydro meter is often tampered with or bypassed.
  • Grow operations may use other “props” to deflect suspicion. Some of these include outdoor and/or indoor lights, radio and/or TV on for 24 hours, flyers left in a mailbox or on the front steps, children’s toys & bikes outside without children living at the residence, Realty signs posted.
  • A “Beware of Dog/Guard Dog” sign may be used to deter trespassing, protect against theft and avoid detection by police.

Clandestine synthetic drug lab risks include:

The hazards often extend to neighbouring occupants & buildings.

  • Fires and explosions: The use of solvents or a high concentration of gases can lead to fires and explosions. Chemicals used can ignite when exposed to air or water. Leaking and/or damaged compressed gas cylinders, damaged and leaking chemical containers all add to the risk.
  • Health: The chemicals used in the production of synthetic drugs when improperly handled lead to poorly vented and poisoned air, oxygen deficient or toxic atmospheres, contaminated walls, contaminated well water due to toxic chemicals.
  • Electrocution: Electrical bypasses and rewiring performed by unqualified individuals results in dangerous electrical hazards.
    Exposure to very strong drugs
  • Booby traps: Stores of drugs and money on hand are incentives for criminals to steal from each other and booby traps are sometimes used to injure or kill unsuspecting visitors and inadvertently first responders.

Clandestine synthetic drug labs are often found in:

  • Upscale single-family and multiple-family dwellings
  • Farms
  • Rural properties
  • Automotive shops
  • Warehouses
  • Car trunks
  • Truck boxes

Common signs of the manufacture of synthetic drugs include:

  • Pungent smells, such as black licorice and ammonia or vinegar acetic taste/odor.
  • Windows are covered, blacked out, or with the curtains always drawn.
  • Staining around vents, extreme corrosion, and/or unusual coloured vapor emitting from vents.
  • Extensive security measures or attempts to ensure privacy including cameras set-up, several locks on exterior doors, and “beware of dog” signs.
  • Large quantities of chemical containers, bottles, metal drums, fiber (cardboard) barrels.
  • Labels from containers have been removed or spray-painted over.
  • Landscaping may have burn pits, stained soil, or dead vegetation indicating dumped chemicals or waste.
  • Large amount of empty cold medication containers containing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine.
  • Red stains on countertops, bathtubs or sinks/toilets.
  • Laboratory glassware and equipment including cookware (Pyrex) or frying pans with powdery residue and bottles with rubber tubing attached to other chemicals.
  • Coffee filters with white pasty substances or shiny white crystals (or reddish-brown substance).
  • Excessive amounts of kitty litter used to soak up chemical spills.
  • Residents are either only home occasionally and for short periods of time or seem to always be home and never leave the house.
  • They avoid contact with neighbors and only access the residence through the garage to load and unload material.
  • Appear secretive about their activities and display paranoid or odd behavior.
  • Garbage is rarely put out or put out in another neighbor’s collection.
  • Residents may also wait for the arrival of the garbage truck to bring their garbage to the curb.
  • Visitors arrive during odd hours and for short periods of time.
  • Foundation walls may be drilled to facilitate illegal wiring, other electrical rewiring/tampering in the home.
  • Tenants may be reluctant to allow landlords to inspect the property and may insist on paying rent in cash.

Tips for Landlords

Most Marijuana Grow Operations & Clandestine Synthetic Drug Labs are set up in residential or commercial rental properties. Often the buildings are altered to accommodate equipment required to grow marijuana and manufacture synthetic drugs.

How to protect your property:

  • Obtain a credit history.
  • References should be mandatory and followed up.
  • Check the property regularly. Check your property regularly:
  • A marijuana crop may take two to three months so signs of an operation may not be evident right away. Checking your property every four to five weeks is recommended.
  • Look out for all the common signs of a Clandestine Synthetic Drug lab. A lab can be set up and running quickly.
  • Let common sense be a guide and you will easily develop a feeling that something is not quite right. If you suspect drug activity in your neighborhood or on your property, do not investigate. Contact your local police.

"HazForce is qualified to carefully remove potentially infectious materials from your site and dispose of the waste to a licensed hazardous location."

Jon Sperber

Operations Manager

250-510-4757 | jon@hazforce.ca

A deeper dive.

Graduated from the University of British Columbia in Civil Engineering, Jon is a certified AHERA Building Inspector with years of experience working with hazardous material abatement of asbestos, lead, mould, and biohazards. His efforts are focused on residential, industrial, commercial, institutional (ICI) and Demolition projects.