Skip to content

Tips For A Green Spring Cleaning

BLOG-SPRINGWith today being the first of March (already?), many people are starting to get into spring cleaning mode. Spring cleaning is a great time to get rid of some of the clutter you’ve accumulated over the winter, as well as a good time to give your home a good wipe down. Here are a few tips on how t reduce the clutter and mess, without harming the environment.

“Homemade Cleaning Alternatives”- Instead of going to the store and purchasing a plethora of chemical-laden cleaning products, you can actually take care of almost all household chores. White vinegar, baking soda, salt, lemon and plain old hot water can all be used to clean a number of things. From countertops and tables to windows and floors, all without using harmful chemicals.

“Closet Clutter”- Go through your closet and figure out what clothes you actually still wear. Grab the rest and either donate the unwanted clothes or use them as rags when cleaning. Which brings us to our next tip…

“Go Paper Towel-less”- Instead of using a bunch of rolls of paper towels for cleaning, just use some old clothes for rags. By using rags which can be washed and reused, you will be saving paper, creating less trash and saving money.

“Use Plants As a Natural Air Filter”- By decorating your home with a few plants such as; English ivy, spider plants and rubber plants, you can actually help improve your indoor air.

Use these tips to help usher in a cleaner, greener Spring.

Link Between Asthma And Chemical Exposure

Although the number of people with asthma seems to be increasing each decade (if not each year), many people still believe the cause for the respiratory disease is strictly genetic. In this article from Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, they explain the link between the rise in the number of people with asthma and chemical exposure. If you or a family member suffer from asthma, as I did as a child, you should read this.

 

The number of people in the United States with asthma roughly doubled from 1980 to 1995 and continues to rise.[1] Between 2001 and 2009, asthma prevalence increased 12.3% from 20.3 million to 24.6 million Americans. By 2009, nearly 1 in 12 people suffered from the disease.[2]

Asthma is one of the most common childhood chronic diseases, and a higher percentage of children than adults have asthma. Nearly one in ten (9.6%, or about seven million) children in the U.S. have asthma. Diagnoses are especially high among boys. The greatest rise in asthma rates from 2001 to 2009 was among black children, with a nearly 50% increase in prevalence. Seventeen percent of non-Hispanic black children had asthma in 2009, the highest rate among racial/ethnic groups.[3]

The annual costs associated with asthma grew from about $53 billion in 2002 to about $56 billion in 2007, an increase of 5.7%. These costs include medical expenses ($50.1 billion per year), loss of productivity resulting from missed school or work days ($3.8 billion per year), and premature death ($2.1 billion per year).[4]

The link to chemical exposure

AsthmaThe doubling of asthma rates over the last two decades has prompted researchers to examine the role that various environmental factors may play in this trend. Genetics alone cannot explain such dramatic increases in prevalence over such a short time.

Asthma is highly likely to result from the interaction of a complex mixture of underlying risk factors. Maternal nutrition, exposures to environmental contaminants, and stress can alter fetal lung and immune system development, not only prenatally but also after birth during infancy and childhood. Post-natal exposures to allergens and indoor and outdoor air pollution also can increase asthma risk.[5][6] One theory holds that altered bacterial composition in the intestine and living in environments that are “too clean” can increase risk as well.

But whatever the explanations of this troubling trend, extensive evidence from occupational and general population epidemiological studies and medical case reports documents that hundreds of chemicals can cause asthma in individuals previously free of the disease or can put asthma patients at greater risk for subsequent attacks.[7][8]

A 2007 literature review found 21 studies linking indoor residential chemical emissions with respiratory health or allergy problems in infants or children.[9] The study identified formaldehyde (in particleboard), phthalates (in plastic materials), and recent interior painting as the most frequent risk factors. Elevated risks also were reported for renovation, cleaning activities, new furniture, carpets, and textile wallpaper. Table 3 provides an overview of the indoor sources identified in this study.

A 2004 Swedish study compared 198 young children with asthma and allergies to 202 healthy control subjects. The home environment of every child was examined, with air and dust samples taken in the room where the child slept. The children whose bedrooms contained higher levels of the phthalate DEHP were more likely to have been diagnosed with asthma by a physician.[10] Current studies are reexamining the possible association between phthalates and asthma with more rigorous prospective study designs.

How chemical policy reform can help

Consumers, retailers, and other downstream users of chemicals—including manufacturers and distributors of toys and other products—have a problem in common: they cannot gain access to basic information about the chemicals used to make their products. Because federal law does not ensure the right to know what we are exposed to, we don’t have the information we need to identify all the sources of indoor air pollution that may be causing asthma or triggering symptoms.

How can an expectant mother determine if there is formaldehyde in the particleboard used to make cribs and other nursery furnishings? How does a new father decide which baby shampoo may contain phthalates? Why should new parents have to worry about whether potentially dangerous chemicals are in the products they choose for their newborn children?

To be effective, TSCA reform should include a requirement that chemical manufacturers publicly disclose information on the uses of and health hazards associated with their chemicals, and the ways that people could be exposed in their homes, schools, or places of work.

Why Go Green When It Comes To Cleaning?

While many people are embracing a greener way of life, there are some who still ask the question, “why?”. What are the benefits of going green? What are the risks of using traditional, chemical products? In this article from Facilitiesnet, titled “The Benefits of Green Cleaning”, you get to see not only the benefits of using green cleaning products but also the risks and hazards of using traditional cleaning products. BLOG-GREEN VS. CHEM

The Benefits of Green Cleaning

Green cleaning is catching on quickly. With the help of tools like LEED for Existing Buildings, which makes implementation easier by identifying the chemicals and other products to make green cleaning cost-effective, it is increasingly being recognized as a no-brainer strategy for facilities concentrating on environmental goals.

What makes green cleaning so important? One crucial factor is the potential harm that can be caused by traditional cleaning chemicals. Facility executives should understand the science behind cleaning, and how the chemicals in products can affect human health. That science should inform all decisions about cleaning programs. Properly selecting and using green cleaning products can help safeguard the health and safety of building occupants and the planet.

Science has made it clear that cleaning products can have an impact on building occupants. Some traditional products are known to contribute to health problems such as eye, skin and respiratory irritation as well as asthma and other allergic reactions, which can lead to occupant complaints and hurt attendance and productivity. Replacing these products with those that reduce the potential for harm has numerous advantages and is likely less costly than increasing the supply of fresh air or general ventilation rates.

Also important is the impact on cleaning personnel who have longer-term exposures at higher concentrations to chemical cleaning products. This exposure can sometimes lead to serious chronic illnesses such as cancer, and neurological or reproductive disorders.

The better facility executives understand how chemicals in cleaning products can cause harm, the better they will be able to choose cleaning strategies and products that will provide a healthy high performing building.

To minimize risks, it is important to understand how toxins can enter the body. These routes of exposure include ingestion, inhalation and dermal exposure.

People may ingest contaminants found in drinking water, foods and beverages, and from residues of cleaning products on food preparation surfaces, as well as from poorly cleaned hands.

Another route of exposure is inhalation. According to EPA, indoor levels of pollutants may be two to five times, and occasionally more than 100 times, higher than outdoor levels. Levels of indoor air pollutants may be of particular concern because most people spend about 90 percent of their time indoors.

Poor air quality may come from exterior sources like ozone, radon and automobile exhaust, but also from sources generated within buildings. For example, cleaners dispensed from aerosol cans, fragrances used in products that mask odors and solvents found in polishes all contain ingredients that can have a negative health impact when inhaled. As these chemicals pass from the lungs into the blood stream, they affect the nervous system and other major organs. This can result in symptoms including dizziness, respiratory distress, trigger asthma and more.

The final route of exposure is absorption through the skin. For example, 2-butoxyethanol, which is common in many traditional cleaners and degreasers (commonly called a “butyl cleaner”) , is readily absorbed through the skin and can be toxic to the reproductive system and other major body organs.

Humidifier, The Best Way To Fight The Flu?

Over the past couple of weeks I have been fighting the flu. During this time, I’ve been searching for the best ways to prevent and combat the nasty illness. In fact, the last post I did was about how cleaning your house can actually help fight the spread of flu germs at home. According to an article by The Wall Street Journal, having a humidifier may be one of the best ways to “keep the flu at bay”. It also explains why the winter seems to be the worst time for the flu virus. Here is that article from The Wall Street Journal.

Burning Question | Why Is Flu Common in Winter?

Scientists have struggled to understand the correlation between cold weather and the flu. This winter has seen a particularly severe flu season for a number of reasons. A wintertime spike in flu cases isn’t only because of the chill outside, says Linsey C. Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech. It’s also because of the conditions inside.

The Air Test

The link between the flu virus and air humidity has long been studied, but the results were never definitive. Last year, Dr. Marr, her doctoral candidate, Wan Yang, and Elankumaran Subbiah, a professor at Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, sought to put the question to rest. They figured out the flu kept its virulent characteristics best in human mucus, which Dr. Marr took from the dripping nose of her 1-month-old baby. They spiked droplets of human mucus with live flu virus, and then exposed it to air with varying levels of moisture.

In the study, published in 2012 in the journal PLoS One, the researchers found the virus survived best at humidity below 50%, similar to the conditions found indoors in “a really heated building,” says Dr. Marr. “The virus is happy if the mucus droplet completely evaporates and leaves it floating around” in the air.

“It’s also fine in humidities above 98%, which you find in the rainy season in the tropics,” she says, where the conditions outside resemble the environment the virus finds in the body. “But in between, in a humidity of 50% to 98%, the virus doesn’t survive very well.”

The presence of influenza is quite rare in the spring, summer and fall, when people don’t use indoor heating as much and the humidity tends to be in the comfortable 50%-to-70% range, says Dr. Marr. But in the winter, when air from outside is heated and becomes drier, the flu virus survives well.

In other words, give a virus a dry room heated to 70-to-80 degrees Fahrenheit, and you’ve created the perfect conditions for it to thrive, she says.

As for why this winter’s flu season seems especially bad, Dr. Marr believes it is because of the particular strain of the virus, H3N2, which causes “stronger” symptoms, as well as an early start to the season. “There are many, many factors that affect the transmission of influenza,” she says. “Humidity and the survival of the virus in airborne droplets is just one piece of the puzzle.”

What You Can Do

A humidifier might be the best product to keep the flu at bay, Dr. Marr says. “If you can humidify to about 50%, but not above 60% [which can cause mold], you might reduce your chances of getting the flu,” she says. BLOG-HUMIDIFIER

Dr. Marr uses a digital clock that tells temperature and humidity, so she can adjust the moisture in the air accordingly. That way, she says, “if there is a sick person who comes into my home and is coughing and sneezing, and their droplets are floating all over the place, the virus won’t last very long—hopefully.”

Of course, she says, common-sense measures help, too. Get the flu vaccination in the fall, as soon as it is available. Get out of a dry room where someone is coughing and sneezing. Stay home if you’re sick or have children stay home if they are. And consider wearing a good-fitting mask, with no gaps around the nose or mouth, in public.

 

Getting Rid Of Mold In Your Home

There are few things worse to have in your home than mold. Besides the gross factor of having a living fungus growing inside your home, there are the health risks attached to mold. Mold has been known to cause respiratory problems and aggravate symptoms for people who have allergies or asthma, it has even been linked to depression. Luckily, ridding your home of mold can be done by using natural household items.

Of course, the easiest way of preventing mold from being in your home is taking steps to prevent mold from forming in the first place. Simple things like, cleaning up after something is spilled, letting in fresh air and sunlight by opening a window or door, and keeping fabrics dry will help prevent mold from forming. Since mold grows in warm, humid areas, places like your basement and bathroom are usually the spots you will find mold. You can combat against the growth of mold in these places by purchasing a dehumidifier, fixing any leaky pipes, and replacing shower curtains if they have mildew on them.

If you happen to already have mold, however, here are a few natural ways to rid yourself of the fugus:

“Vinegar”- What I’ve found to be the best natural all around cleaner, can actually kill mold as well. Simply pour some white vinegar into a spray bottle, spray onto the area with mold, and let it sit. After letting the vinegar sit for a few minutes, just wipe off and you’re good.

“Vodka”- As much as it pains me to even suggest wasting booze, vodka does work well on mold. The good news is, the cheaper vodka seems to work better, so you won’t have to waste that bottle of Grey Goose after all. Pour the vodka into a spray bottle, (just like the vinegar) spray on the mold and wait. After letting the vodka work for awhile, wipe down the area with a rag or sponge and the mold should be gone.

If you happen to have a ton of mold in your home, these remedies may not do the trick. You may need to call in a professional mold removal company instead.

Clean Indoor Air, Just As Important As A Clean Home

No matter how clean you may keep your home, the air inside your home may not be as clean. Poor indoor air quality can lead to allergies, nausea and even asthma. According to the EPA, indoor air is often worse than outdoor air, which is pretty shocking if you think about it, (it’s not like you have factory smokestacks or semi-trucks in your living room pumping pollutants into the air) but it’s true. The air inside your home can contain a number of pollutants from a number of things. Dust, mold, lead-based paint, and aerosol sprays can all be blamed for indoor air pollution. Here are a few ways to reduce pollutants and improve the quality of the air inside your home.

“Open Windows”- Sometimes it is as easy as it sounds. By opening a window everyday for even as little as five minutes, can help improve your indoor air quality significantly.

“Houseplants”- Besides their decorative purposes, houseplants are great for improving the quality of your indoor air. The plants basically soak up the toxins indoors as they do outdoors, the process of photosynthesis. They absorb toxins and release oxygen.

“Air purifier”- If you want to go the extra mile for cleaner air in your home, then an air purifier should do the trick. These devices remove dust, pollen, mold, pet dander, etc.. If you happen to smoke tobacco inside your home, then an air purifier may be a smart purchase because some can even reduce or eliminate second hand smoke.

No matter which method you decide to use, any improvement of the air inside your home will greatly benefit you and your family.

The Positive Effects Of A “Green” Home

When most people decide to “go green”, they are usually doing so with improving the environment outside of the home on their mind. By recycling, using biodegradable products, reducing pollution, and just helping to maintain the ecological balance on Earth we can help to create a cleaner, healthier environment. While improving life outside of the home is reason enough to decide to “go green”, it is not the only benefit.

When you think of pollution, most people think of places like the L.A. freeway or The Lincoln Tunnel in New York City. But what you don’t think of is your very own home. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air pollution can sometimes be up to 30 percent worse than outdoor levels. A large reason for this is because of the cleaning products we use to clean our homes and the harsh chemicals they contain, which can pollute the air and even make you sick.

According to research, many common household cleaners contain compounds that can lead to asthma, infertility, eczema, and even some birth defects…..not to mention just poor air quality. The way to combat this problem is to use natural cleaners (such as vinegar, baking soda, etc…) or use green cleaning products (and if you hire a cleaning service, be sure to hire one that uses green products in lieu of harsh chemicals). So, while “going green” not only protects the environment from chemicals and harsh pollutants, it can also keep your home and family safer and healthier.

How To Reduce Allergens In Your Home

Allergy season can be a real pain. The coughing, trouble breathing and sneezing seemed to be especially bad this year do in large part to our very mild winter. Another cause for these symptoms can also be from poor air quality. A home overcome with dust, mold and other common allergens may cause you to sneeze, cough, etc….

Eliminating all of the elements that cause allergic reactions in your home is basically impossible, but you can reduce them. By making sure your air-conditioning and heating systems are equipped to effectively clean the air, and having your home weather sealed are two ways you can combat the allergens getting into your house. Some other ways to lower allergens in your home are:

1. “Monitor humidity levels”-Most allergens are caused by moist, humid air. Using a dehumidifier in moist places in the home (like the basement) can help.

2. “Thermostat levels”- Try to keep your thermostat between 68 and 72 degrees. (Mold grows in warmer temperatures)

3. “Keep a clean house”- Cleaning your house once a week will cut down on dust, pet dander and other allergens.

Asthma, and It’s Link to Conventional Cleaning Products

Speaking as someone who suffered from severe cases of asthma growing up, I can tell you that having an asthma attack is a horrible feeling. With the extreme chest tightness and discomfort, constant coughing, and sensation of breathing through a thin straw, it can be a scary time for child and parent alike. Mold, mildew and dust are all linked to asthma, but now, some household cleaning products may be linked to the disease as well.

Many of the ingredients in conventional cleaning supplies can cause asthma in previously healthy people according to the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics (AOEC). Some examples of the chemicals used which can cause asthma include a class of surfactants called ethanolamines (like monoethanolamine, diethanolamine, and triethanolamine) and a class of antibacterial agents known as quaternary ammonium compounds (like benzalkonium chloride, or alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride). Also, fragrances in the cleaning products are known to be allergens and can cause asthma as well. Conventional cleaning products can also cause asthma indirectly, by releasing volatile organic compounds that form ozone when in the presence of other air contaminants made up of nitrogen and oxygen. Ozone is the main component of smog that triggers asthma.

Help those affected by the Colorado wildfires

 

Via Daily Camera - Click to enlarge

At last report, the Flagstaff fire was at 300 acres and burning in several directions at once.  As of Tuesday night, the fire continued to burn with no containment, however no structures were threatened at that time. Nearly 30 homes have been evacuated along Flagstaff Road and Bison Drive. Pre-evacuation orders went out to 2,416 south Boulder homes in the neighborhoods of Table Mesa, Devil’s Thumb and Highland Park.

Please check the Boulder Office of Emergency Management website and Twitter feed regularly for Flagstaff fire updates.

In Colorado Springs, the Waldo Canyon wildfire spread into the city overnight and officials have ordered the evacuation of more than 32,000 residents.

How you can help

Help Colorado Now is set up to receive financial donations for all wildfires in Colorado.  Visit their website to make a financial donation to the charity organization of your choice.  The American Red Cross Denver Chapter is currently providing support for the Boulder area fire.