State of the Air Website Lets you Know about Air Quality

Do you ever wonder about the quality of the air that you’re breathing day in and day out?

A website run by the American Lung Association called State of the Air might be able to help.

State_of_the_AirWhile the site wasn’t able to give me any concrete information on the area where I live, probably because it’s a little too rural, it was able to give me a report card on the air quality in King County where I work.

Report_CardCheck out the area where you live to see how clean your air is and then see how you can help make it better.

 


Silicone Wristbands Monitor Exposure

With millions of chemicals and hazardous substances in use around us every day, with flame retardant chemicals sprayed on our curtains and furniture, with toxins in the air that we breathe do you ever wonder exactly how much of this stuff you’re actually being exposed to?

Well the Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology and College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University might just be in a position to answer that question for you.

Bracelet

Worn like any other bracelet, most of which are worn to show our support for some cause or person, these silicone bracelets are actually sampling your exposure to “a diverse set of compounds including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), consumer products, personal care products, pesticides, phthalates, and other industrial compounds ranging in log Kow from −0.07 (caffeine) to 9.49 (tris(2-ethylhexyl) phosphate).”

By using chromatography (a procedure that breaks samples down and identifies the individual atoms present), this procedure can let you know what your exposure has been.

Pretty cool!

You can read more about it on the Environmental Science and Technology website.

 


Keep Track of Air Quality

A friend of mine recently, for the first time in her life, started having allergy issues. Her eyes felt irritated and itchy and she thought she might have an infection or something primarily because she had never, in the 32 years she had lived so far, ever experienced seasonal allergies. A trick to the eye doctor confirmed the fact that she was starting to react to something in the air.

Whether we are talking about pollen count, smog or any of the other contaminants that float around in the air around us, air quality matters. I have spoken on this blog about indoor air quality, about how bad it often is and how to improve it (See “Indoor Air Quality Still a Major Issue” and “Pesticide Drift Poses Health Hazard this Time of Year“) but indoor air quality is only part of the picture. Outdoor air quality can often become a major issue as well.

Fortunately, the digital age gives us access to some great ways to track outdoor air quality:

  • For Pollen Count go to the weather channel’s allergies and pollen count page. Type in your zip code to find out what the current and forecasted levels of pollen are.
  • Airnow.gov gives you a great way to track the AQI (Air Quality Index) for your area. It also gives you a forecast for the next 24 hrs.
  • www.stateoftheair.org, sponsored by the American Lung Association grades the air quality for you on Ozone as well as Particle pollution. It also provides information specific to certain groups at risk (asthma, bronchitis, etc…)
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service website www.weather.gov/ag/ gives you a way to track ozone levels across the USA.
  • Finally, you can head out to the EPA website and download a number of different reports on “Our Nation’s Air – Status and Trends through 2008

It isn’t necessarily the flu!

One of the problems with the flu season, including the H1N1, is that a lot of things are going to be blamed on the flu that have nothing to do with the flu.

Foremost among these are issues with indoor air quality. As the weather gets colder and wetter, doors and windows stay closed and issues with indoor air quality which might have gone unnoticed during the warmer weather start to resurface (or surface for the first time, if conditions have changed). When symptoms appear, they often look like cold or flu symptoms and so might take a while to be correctly diagnosed.

Among the factors that can effect indoor air quality air:

  • Toners
  • Cleansers
  • Mold
  • Adhesives that have been used to glue down carpet
  • Fire-retardants (furniture, curtains, upholsteries and carpets)
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Perfumes and colognes
  • Dust and particulates from construction
  • Other issues

As you can see from the above list, many of these problems may appear for the first time as the fall season sets in. Indoor air ventilation may not be adequate to deal with these and so respiratory problems and allergies may start to become a problem.

If you symptoms continue or keep coming back, it might be time to get an IH in to do a little indoor air quality testing.


Spring Cleaning Hazards to be aware of

Last weekend was beautiful, sunshine, warm weather… That meant open windows, gardening and spring cleaning at my place.

Yesterday we talked about the health hazards involved in getting back outside when the weather turns nice in the spring and today we are going to look at the health hazards involved in staying indoors when you decide to clean house.

For household cleaning, you need to be aware of the fact that air quality tests have shown that one of the most hazardous places for your health can be your own home. In fact, the EPA has determined that indoor air can be 2 to 5 times more polluted than the air outside. Why? Here is a list of the possible hazards inside your home:

  • Dust and Mold – Rather than go into a detailed analysis of the dangers of mold, I will point you to a great article by Bruce Bley on The Serious Dangers of Mold and Mildew in Your House.
  • Carpets – Now I know that they feel nice on the toes when you are barefoot but they are full of mites, dirt, dust and a lot of other things that you don’t really want in your home. Additionally, many carpets “off gas” formaldehyde and other chemicals that they are impregnated with during manufacturing. Carpets are so unhealthy, in fact, that the American Lung Association recommends eliminating them from the home altogether; go for good hardwood floors and tiling instead. Throw rugs that can be properly cleaned are a great substitute.
  • Tobacco smoke, second hand smoke and third hand smoke – Yes, you read that right… third hand smoke. Recent studies have found that even the gases and particles that cling to smokers clothing and hair can have long-term hazardous effects on others around them. It may even be present in homes where smokers have lived and smoked for a long time, even years after they are no longer there.
  • Cleaning chemicals – When was the last time you look at the chemical content of the cleaners you use in your home? Here’s the rub… not only are they bad for you but, in the process of cleaning you spray them and turn them into a mist that carries all through the house and into your lungs and your families lungs. The problem is that we believe all those commercials about the smells of cleaning chemicals. My wife and I used to sell a line of cleaning products (we still use them in our home) that use microfiber cleaning clothes and cold water to clean (check them out online at Enjo.net) and one of the main reasons that people had a hard time adapting to this far superior method of cleaning had to do with the fact that they had learned, over a lifetime of cleaning, to associate the smell of chemicals with “clean”. If they didn’t smell that toxic smell they didn’t feel like their house was clean. There are much better ways to clean the home (again, check out Enjo.net) that are not only superior but faster, easier and much cheaper (even though the clothes cost something up front, you are no longer purchasing cleaning chemicals and you’d be surprised to find out how much of your paycheck actually goes to cleaning supplies).
  • Air purifiers – It’s ironic that the very instrument that is supposed to help clean the air is, in fact one of the sources of indoor air pollution. The problem? Many indoor air purifiers produce ozone and ozone, even in small amounts is not something that you want to be breathing in (Just do a google search on “Dangers of Ozone” to read more about it). While I get nothing from this referral, I recommend the Shaklee AirSource 3000.
  • Furniture and Countertops – Like carpets, a lot of the furniture, cabinets and countertops in your home is “off gassing” formaldehyde and other harmful chemicals. Pressed wood is usually the culprit some purchase solid wood, high quality furniture as well as other natural products like leather, hemp, etc…

While the EPA regulates outdoor air quality they aren’t going to do a thing about the quality of the air in your home, that’s your responsibility.