PS29 Construction

Construction Dust

Click the link below to see the Cleaning Procedure employed by Adams on a daily basis to prevent the dust from entering the building on the outside, and what they are doing to keep our school clean on the inside




* Inspect each morning for dust.  Check windowsills and other nearby areas.

* If dust is found, wipe down with a WET cloth.

* HEPA vacumm all classroom rugs.

* Ensure that only the uncovered window is opened from the TOP ONLY during the day.

* Run the AC on air INTAKE during the day.

* Please remember to CLOSE ALL windows at the end of the school day.


Dust is major problem from all types of construction.  Dust can contain silica, lead, PCB’s and asbestos.  The work that was undertaken at PS 29 the week of April 16th involved “raking” the mortar in between the bricks.  This did not contain asbestos.  However, it did result in large of amounts of airborne dust which was found inside some areas of the school, and was also found througout the schoolyard.

Whether the other materials such as lead, PCB’s or silica are present is less important than minimizing dust exposure. The fine particles in dust are able to penetrate deep into airways and can cause health problems, including silicosis (to workers exposed to years of dust) and asthma. Children are more vulnerable than adults because they consume proportionally more air.  The long term health consequences of childhood exposure to dust are not known.


Separating Dust From Occupants

There are several ways to separate the dust from the occupants. First, perform the work generating dust when no one is present; either at night or during school breaks.  Second, minimize dust generation during construction.  Third, erect barriers to prevent dust entry.  Fourth, police the environment to evaluate if the first three means are working.

Perform the Work When School Is Out

While the contractor can schedule other work to move some of the dustiest portions of the program to another time, as is being done with the raking, dust will still be generated by all construction activities. This is a large renovation and will continue for several months.

Minimizing Dust Generation

All construction work is performed in areas that are physically separated from the inhabitants. There will be separate bathroom facilities and separate emergency exits. The workers will not enter the school. The contractors will use HEPA vacuum attachments to power tools during masonry work. These vacuums are attached to the grinders, capturing the dust and trapping it into the HEPA filter. They will wash down the exterior of the building at the end of each work day and remove the wet dust collected at the base of the building.

Barriers To Preventing Dust Penetration

The asbestos abatement work is specifically regulated under Title 15 and calls for specific work rules which will be found under the Asbestos Abatement sectin of this website.  The following preventions relate to the other dust producing work being performed at the school primarily raking.

For non-asbestos jobs, large plastic sheets will be placed over the exterior of every classroom window but one. The air conditioners will be covered from the exterior during work and uncovered after work is completed. The air conditioner filter will be replaced monthly. Teachers are encouraged to open the unenclosed upper (not a lower) window during the school day, because the entry of new air is needed to provide adequate air exchange inside the building. Air conditioners should be run on a setting that brings fresh air in the room for the same reason. Materials that could catch dust and complicate removal should be moved away from the windows at night and can be replaced in the morning. Those materials include stuffed animals, carpet, books, and bins. “Walk off” mats at entry points can reduce dust entry as the inhabitants enter the building.

Police the Environment

A 6am walk through of every classroom is necessary to look for dust. The dust is usually visible to the naked eye. Copious amounts of collected dust need to be reported immediately. If a fine layer of dust is found near the windows, then it can be wiped down with a DAMP cloth (not a dry cloth, which will simply send the dust up into the air). Carpets can be HEPA vacuumed often to remove dust.  Do not use NON-HEPA vacumm cleaners as this only serves to send dust back into the air.


  • Environmental Protection Agency –
  • The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
  • The Buildings Department  DOB) –
  • The School Construction Authority –
  • The Department of Education –
  •  The nonprofit – The 1,100 schools in NYC alone require an estimated $30 billion in repairs. This organization is highly critical of common practices. Their website lists enormous practical advice, including handouts and a checklist for concerned parents. Claire Barnett is the director.
  • You – we need volunteers. The custodial staff have a lot on their plate. Although we’ve brought in additional help (thanks to Melanie Woods and the SCA), warm bodies to police the process, check for dust, vacuum a rug (or two) are desperately needed.
  • 311 is New York City’s main source of government information and non-emergency services.


Over the course of the last four days calls were made to the EPA and NYC-DOH regarding the necessity for air purifiers within the classrooms during construction.  While many of you received it via email there still seems to be some uncertainty.  We wanted to make sure everyone is on the same page.

In the interest of being thorough in our research, we consulted the above agencies in addition to doctors, construction experts, and building maintenance companies. We found out that in this particular instance purifiers are will not be of benefit. It won’t do harm, but it won’t necessarily help.

According to the EPA (212/637-3458) and NYS-DOH (800/458-1158) this is what can, and will, be done:

  • install “walk off mats” – the very sticky blue ones that collect excess dust as you enter the building
  • sealing the windows
  • remove all objects off the window sills to facilitate cleaning them thoroughly every morning before school
  • clean, use a damp cloth, not a dry one, as the dry one will just recirculate the dust
  • use a 99% HEPA vacuum cleaner to remove dust
  • enclosing the windows
  • covering the air conditioners during work hours
  • cleaning daily, and visual inspections are all the right things to do
  • if the classrooms look too dusty (i.e., small piles of dust in the corners, “you’ll know it if you see it”), then

In addition, after the bi-weekly meeting with the SCA (School Construction Authority) on Wednesday they have agreed to continue and/or add the following measures:

  • hosing of the scaffolding, netting, windows, sills every night after work
  • wet HEPA vacuuming on the ground level afterwards
  • a dedicated Project Officer on site every night, assigned only to our project, to monitor work and clean up
  • 6am walk-throughs of EVERY CLASSROOM with Carlos Hoskings, our custodian, and SCA person to

examine for dust and damp-wipe if any is found

  • SCA will replace AC filters every month
  • they assured us they are already using HEPA vacuums on all power tools


We have also formed a committee especially to advocate for those children with existing respiratory issues.  Nurse Pumpkin has found that many are worried that their children’s respiratory problems are dust related. Right now she is finding pollen related respiratory issues are extremely common right now and pollen counts are sky high. You can check the pollen count daily at: . Treating your children accordingly will make her better able to assess and act on respiratory inflictions.

3 Responses to "Construction Dust"

Who is working with the SCA on obaining HEPA vacuums (one per floor) and the “walk off mats”?

How can I help?


Hi Mia, Dawn Pender would we the best person to ask as we believe the vacuums are already at the school. Thanks.

Howdy committee: I had a meeting at 8:15 am this morning in my son’s classroom. There was no visible dust (with thanks to the parents who did the early-morning walk-through). However, after 10 minutes in the room I could feel a little dust in the back of my throat, and my son’s teacher reported that students have been coughing and sneezing more than usual. For that reason, I’d like to support the purchase of an air filter for his classroom. Has any progress been made on possibly purchasing a number of units at a discount? Or should I just proceed on an individual classroom basis? Many thanks. Julie

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