Wall lining is no threat when intact
We recently were told that some of the interior walls in our 80-year-old house might be lined with a building material, made only in Hawaii, called Canec. Canec is made from sugar cane stalks treated with arsenic, but we could only find information about it being present in the ceilings of old schools, never private residences. Does it pose a health hazard if it's not deteriorating? How can we find out if it's in our house, and how do we remove it if necessary?
Answer: Unless the Canec is rotting and "powdering away," there shouldn't be any danger to your family, said Leslie Au, a toxicologist with the state Department of Health's Hazard Evaluation and Response Office. And unless it is deteriorating, he advises leaving it alone.
"If you leave it well enough alone, then the arsenic won't come out," he said.
Canec was a popular, cheap building material used in Hawaii decades ago, not just in schools, but homes as well, he said. Au remembers growing up in a house that was built with Canec.
If your home is 80 years old and its walls are "soft" and you can make a groove in it just by scratching it with your fingernail, then Au says it's more than likely to be Canec.
The old Hawaiian Cane Products plant in Hilo manufactured Canec from bagasse -- the fiber that's left after sugar cane stalks are crushed for their juices -- from 1932 to 1963. It hasn't been manufactured in decades.
Part of the process involved treating Canec with arsenic as a deterrent to insects and mildew, Au said.
Even if the Canec gets wet, "it's not a hazard," he said. And, "unless they're gnawing on the walls," he said your children shouldn't be in danger.
There might be some concern if the Canec was deteriorating and falling to the floor. In that case, little children crawling along the floor might pick it up on their hands, then stick their fingers into their mouths. But even then, while it's possible for them to ingest some arsenic, it's "very unlikely," Au said.
If you have any more questions, call Au's office at 586-4249.
Q: The state Department of Transportation has scheduled overnight freeway closures as part of the H-1 widening. Will it be repairing/filling in the many potholes along the Pearl City-Halawa section of the freeway that could/should be tended to during the closure?
Last night "hopefully" was to be the last of the major night closures, said transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa.
The project involved pouring concrete to connect the existing and widened portions of the freeway.
The freeway had to be closed to allow the concrete to settle properly, he said.
Otherwise, vibrations from vehicles would have affected the concrete pour, he said.
As for the potholes, Ishikawa said he would pass on your complaint to the Road Maintenance Division to tend to.
Got a question or complaint?
Call 529-4773, fax 529-4750, or write to Kokua Line, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu 96813. As many as possible will be answered. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
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