Sunday, December 13, 2015

"Americans Spend 90% of Their Time Indoors"



While sitting on your couch, how often does the question 'I wonder what this couch is really made of' come to your mind? Well, it has never been brought to my attention either to even consider what went into making the best couch I've ever owned. To be honest, I never really knew that I had to worry about something like that. However, in order to protect homes from catching fire, a long time ago certain products were being used to make couches "safer." Some companies are still using these products and there have been studies that show that these products are in fact causing other forms of harm, such as causing women to have miscarriages.

Since "on average, Americans spend 90% of their time indoors" it is important to understand the different products that are used in the places that we are spending the majority of our time. By refusing to purchase things that aren't safe, it will require the companies who make them to make them with safe products. 

To learn more about potential harmful chemicals found in your couch at home before it's too late, please visit the link below.

Indoor Air Pollution Causes More Deaths Than You Think

In an article from scidev.net, they talk about an article that was posted in a medical paper around indoor air pollution causing a number of different diseases, and ultimately causing 4.3 million deaths in 2012. Indoor air pollution is mostly found in developing countries because of the lack of innovation and money for home appliances. Certain stoves and heaters that are used in households is said to be increasing both children's and adults risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is a disease usually found in people who smoke.

The study found the disease mostly in young children and women from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, and this is because they are spending the majority of their time in the household breathing in fumes. Although they offer some solutions toward the end of the article, in the end it is really going to come down to these families being able to afford safer appliances for their homes, or potentially some sort of better ventilation system that doesn't cause the fumes from the stove and the heater to circulate throughout the house.

For more information on this study, visit http://www.scidev.net/global/pollution/news/indoor-air-pollution-kill-4-million-year.html.

Want to get involved? Visit the Volunteer Forever site to see if volunteering abroad might be a good option for you: Volunteer Forever.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

"Check Out" Your Air Quality Beginning in 2016

With an increase in gas infrastructure imminent for the future, we are facing more risks for the air that we breathe in our homes, at our jobs, and even outside.

Illah Nourbakhsh, a professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, recognized this and worked to combat the possible side effects. Illah's location in Pittsburgh is especially important, as it is where a lot of early fracking took place.

“When fracking started, people didn’t know if they were being harmed by their water and air. Their tap water could be set on fire. Their horse’s hair might be falling out. People felt completely disempowered,” he said (UTNE).

Rather than having people wait on air monitoring agencies to measure the air and examine the data, Illah and his colleague, Beatrice Dias, decided it was time for people to take monitoring into their own hands. Using grants from Heinz and the Fine Foundation, they invented the Speck air monitor.
  
The Speck Monitor is the size of an alarm clock and provides easy-to-interpret readings.


The Speck Monitor is noted for its ability to measure the amount of PM 2.5, or fine particulate matter. This particulate is notorious for causing inflammation throughout the body and for exacerbating diseases of the heart and lungs.

Great, I can monitor my air - but what's it going to cost me?

Nothing.

That's right. Nothing. "To facilitate community access and collaboration, Nourbakhsh and his cohorts created a pilot public library program in Pittsburgh, donating several Speck monitors to be loaned like books" (UTNE).

Sometimes it can feel as if only the rich are able to keep themselves healthy, whether it's with expensive medical care or through expensive gadgets such as the Speck Monitor. Nourbakhsh and Dias's insight into this problem allowed them to make the monitor available to anyone and everyone.

The best part is that, even if it takes you a couple months to get your hands on one (community demand is expected to be high), communities can check neighbors' monitors on SpeckSensor.com, a website that shows user uploads of their own home monitor levels. The idea is that communities, especially in places with a lot of apartments or shared homes, can get an idea of the levels they are facing before getting an exact reading.

UTNE

Mold Cleanup In Your Home

Be sure to wear a face mask and gloves when scrubbing mold off surfaces.
Molds can have an impact on your indoor air quality. What should you do? How can you remove the mold? Well, you can clean up the mold if the size of mold is less than about 10 square feet which is less than roughly a 3 ft. by 3 ft. patch. 

The tips and techniques that should help you with your mold problem. Mold may cause staining and cometic damage, so it may not be possible to clean an item so that its original appearance is restored. When you fix a plumbing leak and other water problems, be sure to dry all items completely. Be sure to scrub mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water, and dry completely. Absorbent or porous materials, such as ceiling tiles and carpet, may have to be thrown away if they become moldy. The mold can grow on or fill in the empty spaces and it may be difficult to remove the mold completely. Lastly, the bathroom is always often a place that is damp and can be hard to maintain completely free of mold. Be sure to increase ventilation, for example, running a fan or opening a window and cleaning more frequently will usually prevent mold from recurring, or at least keeping the mold to a minimum. 

For more information:

Interactive mold house tour

Friday, December 11, 2015

Idaho Worst In Nation

Second only to California Idaho has the worst air quality in the nation. Due to a rise in fires and air changes Idaho’s air quality has dropped to an all time low. Neighboring states Montana, Wyoming and Oregon have better air quality. 



Air quality may not always mean something to everyone, but it does to those who are sensitive. Emergency room visits and deaths rise with bad air quality. Industries that put out toxic air emissions have bought their way out instead of cracking down on proper air emissions use. This has caused problems for many states that are already over populated, and have an overflow of cars and other pollutants.  

http://www.boiseweekly.com/boise/study-idahos-air-pollution-second-worst-in-nation/Content?oid=3672477 http://www.idahostatesman.com/news/business/national-business/article48178440.html

Nation's Service Workers Still Facing Poor Air Quality

California is no stranger to progress. In 1995, the state became the first in the U.S. to ban smoking in all indoor work spaces, including bars and restaurants. There were very few exceptions to the law. Fast forward to 2012 - on November 6th of the year, North Dakota became the 28th state to enact a ban on all enclosed work spaces (most of these states exempt some combination of tobacconists, casinos, or private clubs).

Many states, though they have not enacted statewide bans on all enclosed work spaces, have some form of smoking ban. Only 10 states remain without any form of ban at all - Alabama, Alaska, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

To many of us, a public smoking ban is a no-brainer, but the proof is in the pudding - large portions of the country remain either unwilling or unable to force a ban on tobacco use despite the fact that it puts non-users in harms' way.

A recent study conducted by the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, headquartered in Buffalo, NY, determined that Huntsville, Alabama's smoking establishments were among the nation's worst when it came to indoor air quality. The air quality, tested in eight bars and restaurants around Huntsville, was in fact so bad that, "the only comparable occupational exposure we can find in the United States to this level of particular pollution is for wildland firefighters during frontline firefighting" (AL.com).

Some quick numbers - the researchers spent at least 30 minutes in eight establishments around Huntsville, finding an average of 18.8 cigarettes within these windows and a "level of particle air pollution 224 times higher than outdoor air in Huntsville" (AL.com).

Now, many will say, "Sure - but visiting a bar or restaurant that allows smoking is up to you." And yes, outside of the 10 states that haven't enacted a smoking ban, that's true. The issue at hand, though, is whether the lack of a ban is ethical when you consider the workers who must face these conditions for hundreds of hours every month, year in and year out. Again, there is choice involved in employment, but the reality is that many workers, if even aware of the dangers presented by working in such conditions, may not have other employment options.

We are trending towards a healthier America - as the percentage of smokers goes down in the United States, the percentage of bars with a ban on smoking rises. There is hope that one day there will be very few establishments that allow actions posing a risk to others. In the meantime, we must continue to educate and look after each other.

AL.com Article
List of Smoking Bans in the United States

European Commission Suing Countries

The European Commission is bringing court cases against many countries such as Germany, Spain and Sweden, Bulgaria and Poland. Poland is being accused of low standards with levels that are too high. Even so the levels are not helping to bring about an even keel for air quality.
40,000 Poles die due to lack of access to heat and poor air quality. Garbage and coal are often burned in Poland as a source of heat. It has left Poland as one of the most polluted places in all of Europe. Now the Commission aims to crack down and get Poland to aid in the effort to change air quality. 

Red Alert

Usually red is lucky in Chinese culture, this time, it's not. China is finally putting up the alerts for toxic air filling the city. Late November saw Northern China smothered in toxic air pollution. They are a word of warning what could happen to the United States and other countries in a few years.

The red alert was issued in response to many asking why only an orange alert has been issued for such toxic conditions. Finally, an alert was put up on China's English-speaking twitter account. They first posted on December 1st:

 Another post was issued with an actual alert:


To learn more about the smog crisis in China click on the link below. The New York Times has been following the growing crisis: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/08/world/asia/beijing-pollution-red-alert.html

Climate Change Disputes Come To Standstill

As the world is slammed by abnormal weather world leaders meet in France. Talks to reduce air pollution have been tense. The talks have gone overtime in hopes that intense disputes will be settled before agreements can be reached. Bigger countries like China and India are now being held accountable for reaching a deal and enforcing what ever new rules are being agreed upon.
Specialists don't believe that the talks going into the weekend are a bad sign. The leaders are having a long talk about issues that should have been talked about a long time ago. Now reaching critical levels it's now or never. Life as the human race knows it is in crisis with air quality and weather changes at an all time critical level.
The talks come at a critical time for the host Paris, who was recently attacked by ISIS. The need for going through with the talks was greater than anything else.

Underlying Methods

Contrasting Forms of Life 

"So you are saying that human agreement decides what is true and what is false?" – It is what human beings say that is true and false; and they agree in the language they use. That is not agreement in opinions but in form of life.” Wittgenstein PI 241 

  What follows will be a brief compare and contrast in the themes of the propositional attitudes of indoor air quality, the comparison lies in ‘developing forms of life and first-world forms of life'. In developing countries the issue of indoor air quality is much more serious than first-world concerns – while counties like Germany, France, and the USA have passed laws banning the volumetric usage of certain abstract scientific entities (VOCs) – championing science for the ‘cause' to determine what is good. Politicizing the research, approaching the problem backwards. 50% of the world’s population is using inefficient biomass (burnable tender) in rudimentary stoves to survive ordinary life. Exposure to indoor air pollution may be responsible for nearly 2 million excess deaths in developing countries and some 4% of the global burden of disease (Bull World Health Organ) – The most important thing to remember is the passing of a law does not necessitate a change in culture (drug laws being a glaring example) – while showing people new ways of living, adding to the depth and richness of life, does. 
Exploring the Method of the Kenya Smoke and Health Project

  Community participation was the driving force for this project and it is not surprising results far exceeded expectations – the problem was cultural in Kenya, an aspect of the way they lived (and have been living for many years) was damaging their health, however thru education and a methodical re-description in the cultural perspective action was realized. Now compare, that with the history of VOC legislation in the USA: we outlaw ozone depleting compounds, switch to alternatives which produce different VOCs that we later find conglomerate at ground level, begin the process of outlawing the volumetric usage of certain alternative VOCs – in response to this we go to still more alternatives which in many cases are not better from a factual standpoint  – methods used in Kenya did not go about like this. 

  Five common themes ran thru the method used by the Smoke and Health Project – (i) ‘That the community is the main actor in any development initiative’– (ii) ‘That the outsider’s role is basically supportive to the local efforts’ – (iii) ‘That the development activities should be oriented towards needs as perceived by the community’ – (iv) ‘That indigenous knowledge has an important role to play as a basis for action, support and strengthening’ – (v) ‘That the key challenge is to tap the potential interaction between indigenous knowledge and that of outsiders.’ 
  I show method here to tease out a contrast – if one can read (i-v) and agree that this is a reasonable approach, then ask why is it rarely employed domestically, how is the cultural shift present in the Kenya Smoke and Health Project not the same thing we are looking for? How does scaling the problem all of a sudden displace a viable method? How does the outsider (Science) seem to act so differently in the respective contexts? In short, the answer rather pessimistic  – perhaps the Kenyan people were more genuine than the first-world on this occasion?! 

     The community involvement and willingness to instill and uphold a practice was crucial. The goal of this post is to resonate and show how a small village in Kenya can understand and act on improving indoor air quality using (i-v) in ways that first-world attempt but many times fails, remaining unsuccessful in creating sustainable change change. Questioning and examining the underlying methods of approach is interesting and illuminating. 

More on the Kenya Smoke and Health Project: 



Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Masked Children Of India



The masked children of India are suffering from the pollution not just outside but in their classrooms. During rush hour is usually the peak of pollution, but imagine it in your school and in your class. This is a very large concern for India, they are looking for ways to help the problem. The children are now suffering from many lung issues. One in every ten children suffer from lung problems. India's  children have really weak lungs. During the winter months is usually the worse time for pollution in India. In those winter months many children don't play outside they stay indoors to not be put in high risk.
Some of India's solutions for the pollution, besides cutting back on driving, is air purifiers. India has a high demand for these filters. They make purifier companies thousands of dollars a year. Clean air in India comes at a price, so with India having a high poverty rate many children are still at risk, especially in the capital. The children are the ones suffering. Some people can afford different ranges of air purifiers but tests have shown that some of the cheaper products can push out pollution into the air. So its a counter productive product but according to the market guidelines in India they are still allowed on the market. So who is actually protecting the children, will India have a next generation? 

For More Information:

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

How Does the Government Work to Protect Americans?

One thing that we have to consider when we talk about the quality of the air that we breathe is the work that is done to protect people, including people who do not realize how and why they are being protected.  The Occupational Health and Safety Act passed in 1970 to “assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women” and healthy air quality is included in those conditions.  Most of us are familiar with OSHA, or the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, and some of us may be familiar with the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH).  These are two agencies that were created by the law to protect workers.  OHSA creates standards and regulations on safety, and conducts inspections to ensure compliance with those regulations.  NIOSH conducts research into workplace safety hazards to increase knowledge and proficiency in protecting people.  Since 1970, myriad changes have taken place to protect both the immediate and long-term health of American workers.  The American Lung Association also works to protect students of all ages; whether it’s working to make colleges and universities tobacco-free, or limiting the time that buses are idling outside of schools, or one of many other strategies to protect kids and teachers. 

To learn more about how the government is working to protect workers and students, or what steps you could take to improve on these issues in your community, check out the websites below. 


'Cabin Fever' Might Mean Something Else These Days


Traveling can be quite relaxing, you're on your way to your next adventure or important meeting. Either way you are sitting on a plane full of strangers or maybe new friends. Have you ever thought about where those people have been or if they are sick? These are things I ask my self as I get on the plane but have we thought about the air quality in the cabin? This is what I have learned on cabin air quality.

Cabin air is circulated with air thats in the cabin and the air thats coming from the engine compressors. The air that comes from the engine is bleed air. The bleed air is then run through a cooler because the compressed air is really hot, it then comes in through the cabin through the Ac units above your seats. Although majority of the time it is very clean air and it gets filtered before coming into the cabin the air is still at risk for contamination. If the plane is over fueled or the seals are not tight enough, the air can get contaminated and some of the fumes can't be detected. What are the dangers of these fumes you ask.

The fumes can lead to nausea, vomiting and fever. It can also make you very drowsy. These are symptoms that many people confuse with catching a bug from one of the other passengers. What are airlines doing to fix this issue? Nothing. The filters and detectors they would need for the planes would cost airlines thousands of dollars so thats why they haven't done anything about the situation. The staff are more at risk because they are in the fumes for hours at a time. This can lead to memory loss and many other symptoms. Even if they had a detector to detect the fumes once in the cabin, it wouldn't get them far because some of the fumes can't be detected. Many flight attendants and pilots have gone through this while on a flight. The pilots are some of the first to smell it if there is a smell and it can put the whole plane at risk because of the drowsiness it causes.

There are more airlines doing research now on their flight crew but it might take time for the airlines to make some healthy changes. So make sure to read more about your airline the next time you travel.

For More Information:
http://www.askthepilot.com/questionanswers/cabin-air-quality/
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/aviation/11427509/Warning-over-toxic-fumes-in-plane-cabins.html
http://www.bbc.com/news/health-32786537

Monday, December 7, 2015

You Better Watch Out, You Better Not Light

It’s the holiday season, which means smells are going to be on the rise.  A favorite during this time of year are scented candles; pine trees, cinnamon, cookies, and many more smells are going to be making an appearance in homes across the country.  Incense, potpourri and oil lamps are also a source of the ever-so-desired smells.  This presents a unique set of problems, not including the obvious fire hazards.  It’s quite a sight to look up at the walls and ceiling one day and see how much black soot shows up after a few candles have burned through.  Soot is the result of incomplete combustion of carbon-containing fuels, usually petroleum-based.  It can turn your walls black, and can contaminate the home’s ventilation.  Diesel exhaust and factory emissions have been shown to have health risks, so it’s very likely that candle soot poses similar problems, though there hasn’t been much scientific research done on the subject.  Here are some tips to minimize indoor air pollution from candles:

1. Burn only beeswax or soy candles, which burn cleaner than those made with paraffin wax, which is a petroleum product.
2. Ensure the wick is the correct size for the thickness of the candle. Avoid too thick wicks and those with a wire core that keeps the wick upright. Burn candles with thin, braided wicks that curl over when burned. The wick should burn down evenly with the wax.
3. Avoid multiple wick candles.
4. Trim the wick to ¼ inch before lighting.
5. Keep your candle in a draft-free area. The goal is a low, even flame.
6. Don’t burn your candle in a narrow mouth container, which will cause unsteady airflow or increase flicker. Candles poured into glass jars or ceramic containers can often be problematic.
7. Only burn candles made of hard wax.
8. Avoid highly aromatic candles. Ensure the scent used in the candle is specifically formulated for candles and avoid wax that contains volatile aromatic hydrocarbons.
9. Cease burning any candles that leave sooty residues on candleholders or surrounding surfaces.
10. Increase ventilation in rooms where candles are burning, while avoiding direct drafts on the candles.
11. Extinguish candles after one hour of continuous burning and allow them to cool before relighting.

For more information:



Be Careful When You Paint, You Might Be Affected Longer Than You Would Expect

Painting can be quite a chore; and while it might seem innocuous, it can have serious health implications if the risks aren’t properly mitigated.  Common chemicals in paint can include:
In Flat Latex Paints:
In Alkyd, Oil, and Gloss Paints:
Propylene glycol
Benzenes
Ethylene glycol
Xylenes
Texanols
Naphthalene
Butoxyethoxyethanol
Heavy alkanes
Butyl propionate

Alcohols

Aldehydes
I’ve personally experienced side-effects from painting during my time working at the PSU Rec Center, without realizing what was happening and why.  Often I would be painting an office or conference room without thinking twice about ventilation masks or keeping the room ventilated.  This had a direct effect on me, but it also can continue to affect those who used the room for up to six months after application.  When new paint is drying, indoor volatile organic chemicals (VOC’s) can be 1000 times higher than outdoor levels.  Paint manufacturers may market their products as “No-VOC” or “VOC-free” but this is a misleading claim.  The United States Environmental Protection Agency has done studies of these paints and found that there can be VOC emissions even still. 
Read more here if you would like to know more about specific VOC levels in various paint types. 

New Marijuana Laws Could Have Hidden Health Effects

Oregon is a special state in regards to its marijuana laws.  On July 1 2015, Oregon’s Measure 91 went into effect, and residents over the age of 21 are now able to use marijuana in private residences, as well as grow up to four plants per residence.  While the measure does not affect current landlord/tenant laws, there are potential health issues that present themselves if residents begin to grow and smoke marijuana in the home.  This is particularly true of residential buildings with many tenants.  While this isn’t common for cigarettes, marijuana is smoked indoors regularly and often without regard for the health issues.  This introduces a smoke hazard that might not normally present itself.  Along with smoke pollution, growing marijuana plants can create issues with chemical fumes and the development of mold; many residential buildings are not properly ventilated to accommodate for growth of marijuana, particularly if multiple residents are growing plants in a single building.  Read more to find out what health hazards you could be facing. 


Importance of Ventilation

One of the easiest, yet harder to implement, solutions to poor indoor quality is ventilation. Proper air ventilation is the first step to cleaning up the air in your home. Most homes have poor ventilation which contributes to a lack of clean air coming in and preventing bad air from leaving. Basic solutions include opening windows, running fans in the attic or other areas, using kitchen and bathroom fans. A spendy solution to poor air quality is to install advanced ventilation systems in your home.
These include:
Filtering: Contaminants are a filtered and fresh air fills the home. Filters need to be replaced periodically.
Preconditioning: Humidity control for warmer climates and colder climates that use heating in the winter.
Booster fans: May already be in your home, but these booster fans control moisture in the bathroom in kitchen when using appliances.
Another draw back to an advanced ventilation is that when installed to your home you must have proper education and ventilation to the systems.
It is important to be aware of the ventilation in your home and to understand how proper ventilation can affect your health and the health of your family. Old HVAC systems or poorly maintained ventilation can lead to serious health problems.
 
Read More:

Hookah Lounges May Not Be the Place For You


Hookah lounges may be relaxing but that environment is not relaxing for your lungs. Although many hookah shops are popping up in many cities, you would be surprised to know that indoor hookah shops are actually more harmful than indoor cigarette lounges. Just because the tobacco is being smoked through a water pipe doesn't mean it's healthier. It has been compared to smoking a pack of cigarettes per hookah pipe. In fact they produce more indoor air pollution than any other types of indoor smoke lounges. The air quality in a high percentage of the hookah lounges are at an unhealthy level. This is not just a risk to the customers but the employees and staff too. What solutions have been made to control the air quality?

It's interesting that the lounges have yet to find air purifiers or systems to help keep the air quality at a healthier rate. This will at least make it safer for those that work there to not be put at such a high risk for lung damage and second hand smoke. Even putting such lounges outdoor would help to keep a better balance. Although we know that smoking is unhealthy, it doesn't mean that it will make people stop smoking. So make sure the next time you go in to a hookah lounge its outside.

To find out more:
http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2014-06-11/health/bs-hs-hookah-air-quality-johns-hopkins-20140611_1_hookah-lounges-carbon-monoxide-air-quality
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3477955/
http://www.torontosun.com/2014/05/30/hookah-bars-home-to-dangerous-air-pollution-study

More Plants Better Air Quality

        Being from Portland and traveling to different states, I have learned to cherish the fact that we have phenomenal air quality. Although I am not a fan of the extreme amounts of rainfall that we receive in our winter days, they are much needed in order to create the beautiful green trees that purify our air and make it fresh. Recently I relocated from Portland to California and it has made me appreciate our air quality in Portland even more. Whenever I meet someone they always mention the fact that Oregon is known for their trees. In that case lets not just stop at that, trees are not only meant to purify the outdoors but we can also benefit by using plants in our homes to improve our quality of air indoors. The top plants to use indoors are the Aloe plant, English Ivy plant, and Rubber tree plant. All of these plants serve different purposes in order to reach the same goal, better air quality.




Aloe Plant: This plant is most known for it's ability to supervise the air and eliminate pollutants, specifically chemicals used for cleaning. When there is an overkill of these pollutants the plant reacts by leaving brown spots on its leaves. In short this plant can be a measuring tool to notify you when you are using to many chemicals that may be harmful to your health. 




English Ivy: This plant has been proven to absorb the organic compound known as Methanal. It purifies the air and eliminates this pollutant. This is also good to have in your home in order to improve your overall air quality. 




Rubber Tree: Lastly this tree contributes to cleaner air because of its ability to rid the air of toxins. This is important because toxins are harmful to your health. The duty of this plant is to clear the air so that it is toxic free and purified. With these three plants you can ensure that your home is pollutant, methanal, and toxic free. These plants can guarantee to improve the air quality inside your homes and most importantly improve your health. 

To learn more about other plants and their benefits go to the following websites;

http://www.mnn.com/health/healthy-spaces/photos/15-houseplants-for-improving-indoor-air-quality/a-breath-of-fresh-air

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/07/29/best-houseplants-destress_n_2964013.html

http://www.livescience.com/38445-indoor-plants-clean-air.html

Sunday, December 6, 2015

What Air Conditioning is Doing For Real Estate



What do we look for when looking for a new home? Does air conditioning make it or break it for the buyers? Do we think about our health when looking at a home? These questions may cross our minds, but it usually doesn't determine our decision. The new real estate trend is air quality in the home. This is a concern for some folks and soon will be the majority. More and more are researching what the benefits are to having air conditioning in the home. So lets take a look at some of the benefits.

Pros:


  • The heat has an effect on intellect and physical activity, air conditioning can help to make us more efficient.
    • If the air conditioning is installed correctly and well maintained, it can renew and improve air quality.
    • It can improve job performance. 
    • A lower temperature reduces insects and parasites.
    • A clean air conditioning system helps to keep allergens out.
    These are just some of the benefits of air conditioning, but will the cons out way the pros. Let us take a look at some of the cons.

    Cons:
    • Your lungs can be effected by the sudden changes in temperatures. 
    • It can also dry our your skin and nose.
    • The air circulation can spread disease and infections.
    • Throat irritations and hoarseness has been associated with air conditioning.
    Now that we had a look at some of the pro's and con's, we can see that the key to air conditioning is balance in the home, it's up to you to make the best of what you have. Having knowledge on air conditioning can really improve your way of living in the home. So when looking for your next home insure that you have a good air conditioning system, because it can go a long way. Realtors will be working to point these tips on your next open house, because not only do we want an efficient home but efficient air for our bodies and minds.

    For more information check out:

    Saturday, December 5, 2015

    Health Concerns at the Gym?


    For most Americans going to the gym is done in a effort to maintain a healthy lifestyle but can this being bad for your health? Surprisingly, the simple answer is yes. The main reason for this being is that gyms experience a high concentration of indoor air pollution. One cause of indoor air pollution in gyms would be from mold. Mold in gyms can be common in gyms because of the moisture in the air stemming from things like the sauna, the showers, and from sweat. Breathing in mold found in gyms can lead to a large range of negative health effects including cough, asthma, pneumonia, and infections in the lungs. Also, researchers from the University of Lisbon and the Delft University of Technology experimented by putting air-quality monitoring equipment in gyms throughout Lisbon. Their findings showed high levels of airborne dust, formaldehyde, and carbon dioxide, all of which exceeded most accepted standards of indoor air quality. The tests showed that the indoor air was at its worst during peak hours and during aerobics and cycling classes where people exhale large amounts of carbon dioxide with every breath. High levels of formaldehyde can lead to asthma and respiratory problems and high levels of carbon dioxide can lead to bodily fatigue and cognitive fogginess. Considering mold and the high levels of airborne dust, formaldehyde, and carbon dioxide a visit to the gym could potentially make you weaker. The best way to avoid this is to work out outside if at all possible. Another way is to talk to your gym and ask them about their ventilation and cleanliness level. 

    For more info check out:

    Speck: A Device to Monitor Indoor Air Pollution


    Illah Nourbakhsh, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s “CREATE Lab,”  recently developed a new device for monitoring types of indoor air pollution. The Speck is an indoor air quality monitor that detects fine particulate matter that are between 0.5 microns and 3.0 microns in size. It then uses this information to estimate PM2.5 levels in the air and reports on these particle concentrations that informs you about the changes and trends of particle concentration within your home. It is not to be mistaken that the Speck can measure carbon dioxide, carbon dioxide, and VOCs although they are working on it as we speak. The issue is that measuring the levels of the compounds previously stated is not a cheap process. What the Speck does measure inexpensively and reliably, however, is fine particles which are directly linked to asthma, cardiovascular disease, and arrhythmia as well as many other adverse health effects. And Speck can detect unhealthy levels of particulates cheaper and more precisely than any other product. The Speck is enabled by Wi-Fi where your data is uploaded to a free website where it stores it and provides analytical tools. The website then provides you with ways in which the indoor air pollution within your home can be improved. Speck is available online for sale and is already be used in Pittsburgh where the air pollution is the worst in the United States next to cities in California. Specks were also bought by libraries in Pittsburgh that are available for rent so people of lower income households, where indoor air pollution is the worst, can benefit from them. If one cannot buy the relatively inexpensive device, they are able to rent one for a couple weeks. Nourbakhsh says that the ultimate goal of Speck is to change behaviors. Since the quality of air can be affected by a variety of ordinary household activities the Speck can help you identify what habits have the most significant effect on indoor air pollution and change it. What Nourbakhsh wants is people to identify how what they do changes the particulate matter in their house and, ultimately, correct it. He says "You start to connect how you feel and what you smell with what you see and pretty soon, you don't need the Speck anymore.

    For more info check out:
    https://www.specksensor.com/
    http://www.gizmag.com/speck-indoor-air-monitor/36575/
    http://www.npr.org/2015/05/24/408786881/a-home-air-quality-monitor-that-can-be-checked-out-from-the-library

    Clarifying Volatile Organic Compounds, part II



    § 1) Clarifying Volatile Organic Compounds, part II 
    This will be an extension of an earlier blog post – found here – which examined the distinction of natural/unnatural and our use of good and bad in relation to these terms. Using a CIRI study along with the Langer piece, an attempt to show that as far as secondary exposure risks or ‘potential reaction risks with ozone’ are concerned – the synthetic or what would be deemed ‘unnatural’ variants of VOCs are of much less risk than natural alternatives (oranges, vinegar) was made. However, much of the current scientific literature and a certain style of cultural nomenclature use reason, research, and resonance to misrepresent facts like these – perpetuating an altogether different kind of picture. 
    Gardner defines changing one’s mind as a ‘shift in one’s mental representation’ – the thought experiment exposes a legitimate (the argument is valid) line of reasoning. However, the thought ends in adducing an informal fallacy: i.e. the misuse of language, misstatement of facts or opinions, and misconceptions due to underlying presuppositions – the error arises from the content or our argument and our mode of presentation (representation in the case of Gardner). Making this a prime target for what Gardener calls ‘skill re-description’ since the particular resistance has already been illuminated. Allowing for “…the reader to shift for herself when she encounters conceptual difficulties.” 

    § 1.1) Spurring the Representational Shift
    The most crucial thing to realize here is the logical form – the way the thoughts link together: solution to the thought experiment – is completely in order. The content and not the form is the issue, that’s why the fallacy is informal. This is because the conclusion appears to be a product of observation and reason – empirical investigation. Retrograding this style of thought using Gardner’s ‘R’s’ will hopefully show how ‘attempts at mind change’ allow for the positing of certain attitudes (ethical perspectives or resonances) without one’s (either the author or readers) realizing it – for example, in the piece‘Scented products emit a bouquet of VOCs’  a study was cited that used gas chromatography to analyze VOCs given off by the products. Testing 25 air fresheners, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, dryer sheets, disinfectants, dish detergents, all-purpose cleaners, soaps, hand sanitizers, lotions, deodorants, and shampoos – finding that a mixture of hundreds of chemicals can be emitted from these products, some of which (limonene) react with ozone in ambient air to form dangerous secondary pollutants. “The ultimate goal is to improve public health,” – recommending cleaning with basic alternatives (simple, natural, pick a synonym) like vinegar and baking soda. However, safe exposure levels for acetic acid (vinegar) suggests a higher toxicity than that of limonene.
    This is the issue – the politicalization of science. Just like the thought experiment we have made a jump (based upon a moral goal, the improvement or security of health) from science – Gardner words it slightly mystically as ‘moving outside of pure rationalism or empiricism, and into the psychology of human motivations’ – the jump is made using a kind of Reductive Naturalism to prop up one’s ethical goals. The point being it is most important to live in agreement with the facts – doing so is to live good, well and ethically – upholders of the problematic style of thought fail to notice what they believe to be the discovering of a fact, is only the proposal of a convention – this convention is liable to turn dogmatic.

    § 1.11 Concluding Remarks 
    The point of the previous blog post was it is not wrong to pick the orange given the circumstances of the thought experiment – it is interesting to examine why one might be inclined to do so: especially in light of what the facts later show. The style of thought we’ve been looking at can be arrived at by different kinds of intelligences and a diversity of lifestyles, it has many roots and not one single root. The point of the current post is this is in part due to the moral-neutrality of Gardner’s ‘R’s’, science and the disproportional use of resonance in our way of life – the goal being to erect a ‘mental signpost’ warning of a false path – the kind of mind change shown here is far from sweeping or world-shattering; its very nuanced and some would say unimportant. In this case a conflation of reason with resonance has been made (in the sense that a formal argument is not the way about on this occasion) – the problem arises from the direct clash between the idiosyncratic features of first person concepts —true, good, bad, natural, unnatural — and scientific uniformity (telling us what is the case). This is just one particular example of a tension which runs throughout topic as a whole.

    further reading:



    Houseplants That Can Reduce Indoor Air Pollution

                Controlling indoor air pollution, although vital in maintaining a healthy life, can unfortunately prove costly. Removing mold from you floors or installing a new HVAC system can cost thousands of dollars. Although growing plants within your home won’t completely fix indoor air issues it can be a cost effective way maintain a healthier household. They’re also very good for offices and schools as well.  Plants help filter out volatile organic compounds by absorbing particles in the air when they consume carbon dioxide, and then they process those particles into oxygen. Numerous studies have shown that plants can reduce indoor air pollution. One study conducted at Pennsylvania State University, which was addressed in an issue of the American Society of Horticultural Science’s journal, proved that when ozone was injected into a chamber with plants it was significantly less polluted than one without plants. It was also found that plants are ligament air purifiers in the NASA Clean Air Study. The science behind the theory is proven, but what plants are best for filtering air? Five of the top plants for filtering indoor air are:

    Golden Pathos
    NASA considered this plant to be the most effective one for eliminating formaldehyde. It is effective, also, because it grows fast and is very hard to kill even if you neglect to water it every now and then. It is also very effective for eliminating carbon monoxide.


    Spider Plant
    The spider plant grows with natural light and bi-weekly watering and grows incredibly fast. It also a very hard to kill plant and is most effective with eliminating carbon monoxide and xylene. It was one of the plants used in the tests done at Pennsylvania State University and can also fight against formaldehyde and benzene. 


    Snake Plant
    The snake plant does well in low light environment as it sucks in carbon dioxide and releases oxygen during the night. It’s an easy plant to take care of and is great for reducing formaldehyde that leaks from your carpet and wood furniture.


    Peace Lily
    One of the more visually appealing plants in the group the peace lily is great for removing lots of pollution. The small but mighty plant removes ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene. It does contribute some pollen and can be toxic so be mindful when around small children.


    English Ivy 
    The English Ivy is particularly useful with homes that have smokers. It is able to purify small areas with its ability to soak up carcinogens from second hand smoke. It doesn’t require much maintenance and has an invasive nature. Researchers also found it useful in eliminating fecal matter particles in the air. 

    For more info go to:


    Friday, December 4, 2015

    Are Vacuum Cleaners Polluting Your Home?

    Dust and bacteria that trigger allergies

    Well vacuum cleaners are suppose to help you maintain a clean environment but as you vacuum your house to get rid of all that dust, dirt, and bacteria it may actually be making things worse, not better. There are certain vacuum cleaners that release a high amount of particles through their exhaust. The dust and bacteria that comes out and back into the air can spread infections and trigger allergies. In fact, the exhaust air (emission) from typical vacuums can be five to ten times as polluted as the (ambient) air in the room. 
    HEPA Vacuum Cleaner


    What are we supposed to do now, knowing that vacuum cleaners is not actually helping us maintain our indoor air? You’re in luck. There are actually some vacuums with High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters that released only slightly lower levels of dust and bacteria than vacuums that do not use these special filters. HEPA filters are supposed to remove 99.9% of the pollen, animal dander, and even bacteria from the air. Cleaning regularly with a certified sealed HEPA vacuum can dramatically improves air quality by reducing the amount of airborne allergens, dust, and harmful chemicals in your home. 
    HEPA Filter

    In order to achieve a healthy vacuum solutions, the first element is to look for a low-emission, health and allergen-friendly vacuum that is a high-filtration disposable bag. A bag limits the operator’s exposure to the harmful particles. The second element that is needed to achieve lower emissions is the additional stages of filtration after the bag to trap the smallest particles, and those that can cause the most harm like dust mites and their feces and pet dander. These harmful pollutants can squeeze through the pores in the bag and must be stopped by HEPA filter. Lastly, to complete the low-emissions process, the vacuum should boost sealed-system design. If leaks exist along the suction paths as it progresses towards the filtration process, the high polluted air is escaping back into the ambient air. In a sealed-system, all dirty air is forced through every stage of filtration before being exhausted into the ambient air. 

    For more information on vacuum cleaners, HEPA filters and solutions to cleaner air, check out these links below:





    odorless, invisible, tasteless, and deadly


    Second only to smoking for the cause of lung cancer in America, radon is an odorless, invisible, tasteless, radioactive gas that emanates naturally from soils and rocks. It mainly enters homes and other indoor air spaces of buildings through cracks and holes in the basement or crawl space. All rocks contain some uranium and it decays to form radium-226, which is the immediate parent of radon. The main source of indoor radon is the uranium content in the soils around and below the house. Higher the concentration of uranium, higher the chance of radon entering the house. Although minimal, other sources of radon can be traced in the water supplies and the ground water.
     

    The primary exposure to radon is the inhalation of the radioactive gas. Its’ most notable health effect is the lung cancer. The likelihood of getting lung cancer is directly related to the amount of exposure to radon. There are studies that show radon’s connection to leukemia, but the chances are very scarce. Children are more vulnerable to radon than adults because they breathe faster and take in more air. Wisconsin has the highest levels of radon but it is still found around the world since every rock has uranium to some level. There are many readily available test kits for radon so test for radon with even the slightest worry for exposure.
     
    For more information: