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How Important Is Good Indoor Air Quality?

BLOG-BREATHINGWhen most people think of pollutants in the air, they tend to think of the air outside of the home as being most harmful. However, the quality of the air inside your home may actually be worse than the air outside. This article from Informed Green Solutions, gives you a look at some of the causes for poor indoor air quality and the effects it may have on your family’s heath.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)
Indoor Air Quality is a term used to describe the levels of pollution found in the air in our buildings.  Most people spend up to 90% of their time indoors and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) studies have determined that levels of indoor pollution may be two to five times greater than outdoor levels.  In some extreme cases, levels of indoor pollutants were 100 times higher than outside levels.

What products or factors affect indoor air quality?
Many products affect indoor air quality.  Some of the most common include:

  • Cleaning products and processes used in the building
  • Personal care products used by occupants
  • Heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems
  • Building furnishings and floor coverings — furniture, fabric finishes, adhesives, and carpet may emit formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • Copiers and other office equipment —can emit ozone, VOCs, and other toxic chemicals
  • Construction materials — paints, insulation, pressed wood, and plywood products can emit formaldehyde and other VOCs
  • Pesticides used in or around the building

What are the health effects of poor indoor air quality?

Building inhabitants should not have to be concerned that the air in their homes and buildings could be making them sick. The facts tell us that we do need to be concerned and become involved in order to protect our health and that of our children.

  • Sick building syndrome (which causes occupants to experience acute health and comfort effects) — up to 40% of the population experiences one or more symptoms weekly as a result of exposure to poor IAQ in buildings.
  • Asthma — a recent survey shows that nearly 8% of the US population has asthma. 10 million children under the age of 18 were reported as having been diagnosed with asthma in 2007 and nearly 4 million reported experiencing an asthma episode or attack during the previous 12 months.
  • Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS)— an estimated 5% of the population suffers from severe sensitivity to low levels of chemicals, another 10% to 15% of the population is moderately sensitive.
  • Rhinitis – Rhinitis has increased dramatically over the past 30 years and affects millions of children and adults. School air quality has been implicated in an increased incidence of rhinitis.
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – 5 million children between the ages of 3 and 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD.6 Recent research has found links between exposure to organphosphate pesticides and ADHD.

Carpets, A Better Choice For Indoor Air Quality?

Many people believe that a hard-wood floor or a tile floor is a better choice to have in your home than a carpeted floor when it comes to the air quality inside. It is believed that carpeting contributes to allergens in the air, this is also why many schools do not have carpeting in classrooms.

The truth is, all indoor spaces do contain some contaminates like dust and dirt. It is these contaminates that can cause allergies and asthma in certain people. Indoor spaces that have hard-wood or tile flooring make it easier for things like dirt and dust to redistribute into the air. The carpeting, however, acts almost like a filter, trapping a lot of the contaminates. BLOG-CARPET

Of course you will have to clean the carpeting on a fairly regular basis in order to keep those nasty allergens at bay. A solution of white vinegar and very hot water can be used to steam clean the carpet, or you can mix vinegar and water together, spray onto the carpet and clean with a sponge. And of course you can always hire a great green cleaning service to come as well!

Clean Classroom, Better Grades

Most people realize that green cleaning is the safest way to clean their home. It not only is the wisest choice for the environment, but for your family as well. Traditional cleaners contain harsh chemicals that can have negative effects on you and your family. Everything from nausea, eye and skin irritation, and asthma can be caused by chemical cleaners. The indoor air quality of your home is very important. BLOG-SCHOOL2

The indoor air quality of your child’s school is also very important. Research shows a link between poor indoor air quality, sick students and teachers, and poor academic performance. Each year, children miss more than 14 million days of school due to asthma caused by poor indoor air quality. 14 MILLION DAYS! A major reason for poor air quality can be the kind of chemical cleaners that are used in the school.

Switching form traditional cleaning to green cleaning can help reduce the environmental hazards that may negatively affect children, at home and in school.

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.

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.

 

Wipe Your Feet, Reduce The Dirt

Sometimes, reducing the amount of dirt and grime that you bring into your home is as simple as it sounds. By wiping your feet onto a “welcome” mat (or whatever little greeting the mat may have written on it), will help keep dirt from being dragged into your home in the first place. Even though dirt will still make it’s way into your home through open windows and doorways, the amount that is brought in on the soles of your shoes is far greater.

By having an outdoor mat and an indoor mat, you can double up the effectiveness. The type of material used in the matting also makes a difference. For instance, rubber matting is good for an outdoor mat because it really does a good job of getting dug in dirt, plus it can be easily cleaned by hosing it off. For indoor matting, your best bet is acrylic with either rubber or vinyl backing. These are good because they are also easily cleaned by either being vacuumed or shaken outside.Of course you can always ask people to remove their shoes before entering your home, as well.

The home isn’t the only place that deals with the problem of dirt being dragged inside on the bottom of people’s shoes, businesses also need to reduce the amount of dirt brought in from outside as well. Of course you don’t see many people wipe their feet off before entering an office building or a store, and it’s not likely as a business owner that you would ask people to remove their shoes. Good entrance matting is the answer. The ideal length for the matting should be about six strides (if space allows), and should be by entrances and/or elevators. Good matting can hold double its weight in dirt.

So, whether in the home or at the office, the simple act of wiping your feet can reduce the amount of dirt tracked in and even increase indoor air quality.

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.

Would you vacuum your dog?

More than half of U.S. households now own a pet, and they have become a big enough chore that manufacturers increasingly are introducing products and tools specially designed to clean up after them. This is from an interesting article in today’s Wall Street Journal

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Pet Cleaners Promise Hair Today, Doggone Tomorrow