These Cincinnati Environmental Experts are Helping People Breathe Cleaner Air

woman standing outside taking deep breath

212 Environmental rids sites of harmful vapors and helps other companies do the same

As people increasingly consider the environmental impact of their actions, business and purchases, companies across the country are spending more time and money to ensure that new projects and products are made with safety and environmental impact in mind. But what about buildings that were erected far before those environmental concerns were considered? And what happens when a group of people suspect harmful environmental factors are putting them at risk? The experts at Cincinnati’s 212 Environmental are here to solve those problems, and help others do the same type of impactful work.

“We created a consultancy with an expertise in analysis of human health risk and vapor intrusion, which is the process of vapors escaping contaminated sites into homes and buildings,” said Co-Founder and Manager Paul Michalski. “We specialize in big, complex sites where people could potentially be harmed by these vapors. We wanted to create a more streamlined and effective consultancy, modernizing and streamlining all the ways we do our job. We specialize in navigating liabilities for the clients and addressing the underlying issues to fix the problem and make it safer.”

The mission of 212 might sound abstract, but it has very tangible real-world implications. Launched in 2016, the company has worked with a variety of clients to help the actual people that live or work in unsafe conditions. One of the company’s best examples of their work came with a housing development built on top of “millions of gallons of gasoline.” When the residents needed to prove they were living in unsafe conditions, they called 212.

“There were documented fires and other effects inside the homes, but there was a belief that those residents were no longer at risk after decades of cleanup,” Michalski said. “We went in and assessed these homes and identified that there were still significant health risks for the people living there. Then, we created a solution to eliminate those impacts and the risk for residents. It’s a clear case of us demonstrating the harm to those residents and then eliminating it. That’s what we do.”

Helping people who need it and cleaning up an environment rife with pollution is the overarching mission for 212 Environmental. It’s the reason the company is so passionate about its work. Many on the team have a personal tie to the work they do, and Michalski’s comes from his childhood in Syracuse, New York.

“I’m a green entrepreneur, no doubt about that. I started doing what I do because I grew up next to the most polluted lake in the country, Onondaga Lake in Syracuse,” he said. “I lived next to a pristine lake that you couldn’t swim in or fish from. If you went in the lake, you had to wash off immediately. That really made an impact on me. In college I studied oncology before I realized that what I wanted to do was prevent people from getting cancer. I’ve seen the consequences of gross contamination, so I’ve always been passionate about that.”

After two years in business, the company realized that they could do even more good if they passed their techniquest on to others. They launched a second wing of the company, 212 Environmental Products, to share their database management system and other efficiency tools with companies who can use them. That expansion gave them a global reach, increasing their business and their impact.

“There’s a whole world of consultants collecting vapor and other samples, and they’re all doing it in a non-standardized or reproducible way,” Michalski said. “Our solutions offer a repeatable, demonstrable way to collect environmental samples. Our database services are geared to streamline and record that process of collecting data. It takes our business model worldwide, and our business in the United States is expanding as states issue new guidance and laws.”

The company moved to the HCDC’s Business Center in 2018, one of the many Cincinnati- and Ohio-based partnerships they’ve taken advantage of throughout their existence. They’ve worked with multiple Ohio Third Frontier internship and international export programs, and have built strong relationships in Cincinnati. Even beyond the business side, Michalski has found a new home. After coming here for a two-year project in the 2000s, he never left. Now, he’s excited about the  growing and vibrant Cincinnati business scene.

“I find the people in Ohio to be genuine in a way that isn’t always true for everywhere I’ve lived,” he said. “The business environment really made it attractive for a company like ours to get started. The state has always come through for us. You’re seeing more and more companies taking advantage of the business climate here. Cincinnati is trending up and attracting a ton of great talent. Our universities generate a lot of qualified kids, and I’m seeing them want to stay in Ohio more and more. It’s a great time to be here.”

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