tropical storm west coast

Indoor Air After Disasters

With Northern California (and our sister company Alliance Environmental Group) dealing with the aftermath of the largest earthquake since 1989 and both coasts awaiting tropical storms that could develop into hurricanes, we thought it was a good time to talk about the indoor air after disasters like storms and other natural events.

The Indoor Air Quality Association did, too! Here’s a very informative video they published this week:

Your house might survive a storm, but the damage can still be great to your indoor environment from floods and leaks.

Protect your indoor air after disasters by by:

  • Repairing leaks as quickly as possible
  • Drying wet belongings promptly–mold spores only need 24 to 48 hours to take hold
  • Replacing wallboard and flooring as needed–porous materials will not recover on their own and will get moldy if left in place
  • Cleaning up contaminants brought in from outside by flooding–flood waters aren’t all rainwater. Chemicals, viruses, and bacteria proliferate in floods, all of which contaminate your indoor air
  • Staying away from any asbestos exposed by a storm or earthquake–one exposure can be lethal–call in a professional
  • Peeling paint on an older home or building can contain lead–don’t remove it yourself

In California’s Napa Valley, they are dealing with some other cleanup challenges: broken glass and wine rather than water, but wine will mold quickly and so will the building materials if it is not dealt with right away.

It looks like Tropical Storm Marie is not going to hit California, but it’s only a matter of time before the California coast is once again suffering from storms, wind and lots of rain. Someday our drought will end and the days of flash floods will return. Being proactive and taking safety precautions after a storm or earthquake are essential to maintaining healthy air and a healthy environment, indoors and out.

Workplace: Occupational Asthma

This past week we have been focusing on indoor air quality in commercial buildings and in the workplace. According to a study by The American Lung Association, “Over 127 million people live in counties that received an F for either ozone or particle pollution. Nearly 4 in 10 people in the United States live in counties that receive an F for air quality because of unhealthy levels of ozone air pollution. That is the outside air and now keeping the indoor air is as important since we spend most of our time indoors. Occupational Asthma is the most common occupational lung disease in the United States.

Several contaminants found in the workplace can affect the air quality. According to OSHA, “An estimated 11 million workers in a wide range of industries and occupations are exposed to at least one of the numerous agents known to be associated with occupational asthma.” There are different components that can cause irritation to individuals in different industries. Occupational asthma results from exposure to allergens or irritants on the job. These exposures can lead to new cases of asthma or worsen existing asthma. The condition can cause wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and coughing.Exposure control and reducing or eliminating airborne irritants can help reduce exposures to safe levels.Partnering with a professional technician to create an indoor air quality management plan can help improve the indoor air quality in a workplace to create a comfortable environment for employees.  AirTek is dedicated in creating cleaner, healthier, and more energy-efficient indoor environments for 25 years.

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infographic provided by lung.org

 

Sansevieria

Workplace Air Quality: What are you breathing?

With Americans working longer hours in the quest for greater productivity, we are spending more and more time indoors at our workplaces–offices, factories, restaurants, hospitals. What are we breathing all that time?

The US Department of Labor defines good workplace air quality as air with: “comfortable temperature and humidity, adequate supply of fresh outdoor air, and control of pollutants from inside and outside of the building.”

How do I know if my workplace has good indoor air quality?

This is a difficult question to answer, if there are no discernible problems. Workplace air quality challenges tend to come with some circumstantial evidence like:

  • Unexplained odors
  • Stuffiness
  • Symptoms that disappear when workers go home, like allergies, irritated eyes or throat, headaches, fatigue

Those are the small annoyances. Particularly bad indoor air can cause:

  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pneumonia
  • Asthma attacks

What kind of contaminants are affecting workplace air quality?

Photocopy machines and other electronic devices can emit ozone.

Ingredients in the toner used by copy machines and printers contains chemicals that can irritate and evaporates into the air.

Other typical office supplies that pollute the air include glue, rubber cement, inks, carbon paper, and correction fluid. Good thing we don’t use as much of those these days.

Cleaning products used by maintenance staff can have harmful Volatile Organic Compounds.

Furniture and cubicle walls in office buildings are often made of laminates and the adhesives used to make these materials are polluting the air.

Have a garage in the basement? Car exhaust may very well be entering the building.

Contaminants in the ventilation system itself, like mold and bacteria can be circulated throughout a building.

What can I do to improve the indoor air at work?

Do some research about your building. Talk to the maintenance department about what products they use and when they do work that might have a greater effect on indoor air. Request that big projects be tackled on the weekends, when fewer people are in the office.

Get a plant! A bit of green on your desk is not only beautiful, it can clean some of those chemicals out of your indoor environment. Today, we have been recommending Sansevieria or Mother-in-Law’s Tongue. It doesn’t take up a lot of space but it absorbs formaldehyde, chloroform, benzene, xylene, and trichloroethylene.

If the ventilation system in your building is not being cleaned on a regular schedule, find out why. Good maintenance is the key to a healthy building!

Ensure Good IAQ in Commercial Buildings

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Have you ever walked into a newly built building and the air smells.Sometimes it is because of the fresh paint or new carpet. The indoor air quality concerns can be an issue in big buildings and small buildings. To ensure proper indoor air quality for employees and those who are inside owners of commercial buildings can work with a professional technician that will ensure proper IAQ is in these buildings. There are several simple steps that the technician can partake to ensure proper IAQ is met in the buildings and below is a list of examples:

  • Technician will ensure there is proper ventilation and make sure the system is properly designed and operating correctly. This will make the system operate fresh intakes and exhaust systems.
  • Check the filters constantly and change them when needed.
  • Maintain coils and drain pants. Odors can come from drain pants that are not draining. Fix and maintain HVAC system.
  • Make sure the levels of fresh air are distributed through out a building when there are new renovations or carpets are installed and paint is freshly painted.
  • Check for any moisture or water damage in the building and outside the building so no mold grows and affects the air quality of the building.

These are simple steps that a professional technician will perform to ensure that the air quality inside commercial buildings are good. It is simple to take these steps but it take a whole team to maintain proper indoor air quality levels maintain. Educate staff and employees and ensure that if they see any mold or smell any unpleasant odors they can communicate with a manager. Combining the help of a professional technician and the help of employees will benefit the overall environment of a building. AirTek provides several services for commercial buildings and have been doing so for over 25 years.At AirTek, we have the experience to handle the complex system requirements and regulations that are unique to large facilities. Keeping your employee and customer areas safe from fire hazards and replenished with clean air is our top priority.If you will like to set up a time to talk about the services we can provide for you, please contact us.

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Disinfectants: A Double-Edged Sword

Do you always choose anti-bacterial cleaning products? Or never?

Dr. Patricia Hunt of the Center for Reproductive Biology–and the researcher who discovered the dangers of BPA in plastics–has published an article in Nature Science Journal reporting on the health hazards of disinfectant agents found in common household cleaning products.

Dr. Hunt discovered that the fertility of the mice in her lab had decreased dramatically in connection with the disinfectant used to clean their cages. And the residue from the chemicals lingered for months after the use of the chemical was discontinued.

What is in disinfectants?

The villain here is called quaternary ammonium (quats).

“Quats are the chemicals that enable you to have a little dollop of conditioner and let it easily glide and be distributed throughout your hair. They also have anti-microbial properties and are commonly used as preservatives.” Chemical of the Day

Sounds good, right? Let’s go deeper.

From the Chemical Safety Database:

“Exposure to diluted solutions can cause mild and self-limited irritation. Concentrated solutions of quaternary ammonium compounds are corrosive and can cause burns to the skin and the mucous membranes. They can produce systemic toxicity due to their curare-like properties. They can also cause allergic reactions…Other signs may include: nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, anxiety, restlessness, coma, convulsions, hypotension, cyanosis and apnoea due to respiratory muscle paralysis; death may occur within 1 or 3 hours after ingestion of concentrated solutions.”

So we know we don’t want to touch that stuff, but…

What are quats found in?

Shampoo and conditioner have already been mentioned. Other products include disinfectant sprays and toilet bowl cleaners. Disinfectant wipes on counters leave chemical residue behind to get on your hands, in your food. Chemical cleaners kill germs, but leave behind worse things.

But what about the germs?

Most germs can be killed with simple soap and water. Vinegar, borax and some essential oils kill the bacteria found in a typical home. Washing in hot water and drying on a hot setting kills just about anything. Unless you know a dangerous bacterial agent has made its way into your home, you probably don’t need the kind of disinfection offered by quat-containing products.

A healthy immune system will be made healthier by exposure to common bacteria, like those brought into the house by pets. Common sense cleaning and conservative use of disinfectants can do the trick in a typical home.

What are MERV Ratings?

merv rating example

When you live in an apartment complex you don’t really have to worry about different areas that make your building run like the furnace or a water heater. Another system that is important is your HVAC system. When you own your own property or home, regular maintenance is important on your HVAC system is important to avoid issues in the future. While doing your research on components of your HVAC system you might have come across a term called, MERV Ratings. MERV stands for Minimum Reporting Value. This simply means how effective is your air filter. Filters are tested to trap pollen, dust, dust, pet dander and other particles.

The MERV rating ranges from 1-20. If the rating is higher that means that these type of particles and other contaminants can pass through it and indicates higher filtering performance. Filters with higher MERV ratings should be changed frequently to avoid your system to work inefficiently because of restricting air flow through the system. Each building has different types of MERV ratings. Below are examples of the ratings of different locations and their value on the MERV Rating Chart:

  • Residential Homes:1-4 Controls pollen, dust mites, sanding dust, textile fibers, carpet fibers.
  • Commercial Buildings/Industrial Workplace: 5-8 Controls Cement Dust, Mold Spores, Dusting Aids, 3.0-10.0 pm Particle Size.
  • Better Commercial Buildings/Hospital Laboratories: 9-12 Welding Fumes, Auto Emissions, Lead Dust, 1.0-3.0 pm Particle Size
  • Smoking Lunges/Hospital Inpatient Care/General Surgery: 13-16 Most Tobacco Smoke, All Bacteria, .30-1.0pm Particle Size
  • Carcinogenic Materials/ Radioactive Materials/Cleanrooms/Pharmaceutical: 17-20 All Combustion Smoke, Carbon Dust, 0.30pm Particle Size.

It is important to choose a filter that your unit will allow for maximum air flow.Changing your filters regularly and using the most efficient filter will allow to control the air quality in your environment and maximize the lifetime of your HVAC system.  If you need assistance in indoor air quality issues you may contact a professional company like AirTek. AirTek has over 25 years of experience, and our technicians are certified by the National Air Duct Cleaning Association to ensure your air ducts, coils, vents and other equipment meet national health and safety standards

dryer vent nest

Why Cleaning Your Clogged Dryer Vent Needs to be a Priority

Nothing about a clothes dryer seems dangerous. It doesn’t have exposed flames, unlike an oven or stove. It doesn’t expose users to intense heat, unlike a space heater, clothes iron or a toaster. It doesn’t have any sharp blades, unlike a blender, garbage disposal or lawnmower. By all means, clothes dryers are seemingly safe.

However, appearances are deceiving. Clothes dryers are among the most dangerous appliances in a household. Many of the dangers stem less from the machine itself and more from the dryer vents, the extended tube that transports the hot air and lint away from the machine. When cleaned and clear, the vents release hot air and lint outdoors with no problems. When unclean and clogged with lint, the blocked vent causes the machine to improperly release fumes and retain heat, thus becoming a serious safety hazard. 

Here is a look at some of the problems that arise from having clogged dryer vents.

1. Moisture

The mildest problem is moisture buildup. The clogged dryer vent will prevent the moisture in the wet clothes from exiting. Instead, the moisture will stay inside the dryer, causing clothes to take much longer to dry than normal. The moisture might also seep out from the machine, creating a damp laundry room and a mold risk.

2. Machine Malfunction

Because the heat will also not be able to release from the dryer, the machine will struggle to function properly. It will take longer amounts of time to dry clothes. The machine will overheat, sometimes even feeling hot to the touch on the top and sides.  The machine might stop operating mid-cycle.  While overheating, clothes can come out of the machine unusually hot. The inefficient machine will increase electricity bills because it burns more power.

3. Fire

Extending from point No. 2, when the machine is unable to release heat, it becomes a fire hazard.  Clogged dryer vents are one of the leading causes of house fires, with low estimates around 15,000 per year. They wreak $100 million in property damage annually. 

4. Toxic Fumes

Natural gas dryers have another unique need for adequate ventilation. The gas that is used for heating produces toxic fumes that must be transported outdoors. If the vent is blocked, the fumes will become trapped indoors, presenting a serious health risk.

Other Issues

Apart from the clogs, ventilation professionals are sometimes necessary to solve other vent related problems. For example, many homes do not have vents that connect outdoors, but instead only go to the attic or a garage. Again, this is a safety risk. Some vents are made of non-metal materials, which pose another series of dangers because they will easily fall apart. And finally, vents that aren’t secured with a screen or flap at the end can end up with animals finding their way inside, as seen when a mouse travels into the tube or when a bird makes a nest at the mouth of the vent. Not only can pest issues result in blockages, but they can also leave dead animals within.

Clogs aren’t visible from the exterior, which is why it is important to have them inspected and cleaned by professionals. This is especially true of longer vents that extend several yards in length, which would be difficult for the average person to clean on their own. The health and property hazards are too risky to not invest in vent cleaning.

If you have more questions about cleaning your dryer vents, click here to contact us or inquire about a free estimate. 

 

Pros and Cons on HEPA Filters

There are several contaminants in your home that can affect someone who might have allergies or asthma. Pollen, dust, pet hair are some air contaminants that can commonly be found in a home. An air purifier might be a good idea if you suffer from respiratory problems. An air purifier is simply defined as a device used to remove air contaminants from an indoor environment. However there are pros and cons on purchasing a HEPA Purifier. Depending on why and what type of device you want will either have a positive or negavitve aspect.

  • Pros: High efficiency particulate air(HEPA) filters can clean circulated air.
  • The HEPA filters are able to remove 99.97 percent of any particle bigger than 0.3 microns.
  • Simply will keep away any debris or dust away from your lungs.
  • Cons: HEPA filters however cannot trap other pollutants such as gases, fumes, chemicals and odors.
  • Can be costly when replacing filters. Replacing filters can become costly depending how many times you change the filter.
  • Shape and compactness of the unit depends on what type of air purifier you have. Some filters might be washable others are not.

Having an air purifier in your home is a great idea and keeping your HVAC system maintained can help your indoor air environment. If you need assistance in indoor air quality issues you may contact a professional company like AirTek. AirTek has over 25 years of experience, and our technicians are certified by the National Air Duct Cleaning Association to ensure your air ducts, coils, vents and other equipment meet national health and safety standards.

*Take a look at the infographic below if you are planning on purchasing an air purifier.

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Infographic by Modernairplus.com

 

 

 

 

Overuse of Hand Sanitizer Worse Than Dirty Hands

Hand sanitizer

There are bottles of hand sanitizer in every classroom. Not only that, but teachers are asking for families to donate more so that everyone can keep their hands clean and minimize the spread of germs, which is a noble cause. But they may be doing more harm than good.

Hand sanitizers are “germicidal products contain both fragrance and ingredients which are registered pesticides.” That doesn’t sound good. American Chronicle

According to Physicians for Social Responsibility hand sanitizers “contain chemicals which are recognized as respiratory and/or neurological irritants, known to cause coughing and headaches, and to trigger asthma attacks.” Not good, either.

When should you wash your hands?

From the Centers for Disease Control:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After touching garbage

Isn’t hand sanitizer just as good as soap and water?

Simply put, no it is not. Hand sanitizer does not kill all germs and it does no good at all for dirty or greasy hands.

Stopping the spread of bacteria and viruses is important at school and elsewhere and hand washing should be an essential part of everyone’s routine, not just after using the restroom, but throughout the day. Hand sanitizers are a good option–when necessary, but they do bring their own risks. If you have access to soap and water, use it!

Wendy Stackhouse is the Online Community Manager for AirTek and our parent company, Alliance Environmental Group, which offers residential and commercial cleaning, pest control, demolition, structural pasteurization and many other enviromental challenges. Check out our new website!

Indoor Air Quality Issues in Hotels

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The hospitality industry is growing rapidly in the tourism spectrum. According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in the United States tourism was up five percent from last year. International air traffic to and from the US totaled 44.8 million passengers. As indoor air quality issues become widely known it is important for hotel management to make indoor air quality a top priority because it impacts many areas of their business. Employees and guests can also be impacted by poor indoor air quality. There are several ways that hotel management can keep the quality of the indoor air quality healthy for guests:

  • Developing a plan to improve and maintain the air quality of the facility: Highlight any concerns that guests and employees may have and also highlight the goals that you want to contribute to maintain a clean environment.
  • Eliminate any mold or mildew: Fix any leaks, watch for wet spots and dry and clean any area that is wet or damp quickly to ensure that mold does not grow.
  • Properly vent areas in the hotel like the kitchen and laundry that often has high humid areas.
  • Maintain HVAC systems: Contact a professional to inspect your system so that all air filters, coils, exhaust fans, vents and all other parts of the system are clean.
  • Make the building smoke free.

As more individuals travel hotels need to make sure that the air quality is one of their top priorities. Not only will it create a comfortable environment for their guests but it can affect their profit. Consumers want to stay in a comfortable hassle free environment and serving that to guests can bring them back for another stay. We all might have gone through an experience where our stay could have been better. The best way for hotels to do that is to start with a indoor air quality plan. At AirTek, we understand that the hospitality industry is dependent on ensuring that guests have a comfortable experience and we have the experience to handle the complex system requirements and regulations that are unique to the hospitality industry.If you have any hotel concerns we have a different services that can ensure your hotel is a safe environment for your guests. You may contact us here and at our social media sites as well.

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