Monthly Archives: December 2011

Guest Blog: 4 Common Indoor Air Quality Problems

This guest blog comes from Jim Gates, CAFS.

A number of different environmental factors that can result in common indoor air quality problems. These air pollutants and contaminants can be found in a wide variety of locations and can cause various health effects that could be very dangerous. Here are four of the most common causes of indoor air quality problems and information on how these issues can be remedied.

 

1. Environmental Tobacco Smoke

Environmental tobacco smoke is one of the most harmful air pollutants found in indoor air, containing more than 40 compounds that are known to cause cancer in humans or animals according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Health risks associated with exposure to environmental tobacco smoke include lung cancer, pneumonia, bronchitis, frequent ear infections, and asthma. The best ways to reduce contamination from environmental tobacco smoke is to ensure that the area where the smoking is taking place is well ventilated or to eliminate all smoking in any indoor areas.

Dog

2. Biological Pollutants

There are many different types of biological pollutants that may be contaminating the indoor air that you breathe, including animal dander, dust mites, mold, bacteria, pollen, and viruses. Health risks associated with breathing in these contaminants include allergic reactions, asthma attacks, infectious illnesses, difficulty breathing, and digestive problems. The best way to reduce the number of biological pollutants present in indoor air is to invest in a high quality air filter with a high MERV rating for the buildings heating and cooling system that can trap many of the biological pollutants and remove them from the indoor air.

3. Pollutants from Indoor Combustion Sources

Indoor combustion sources, such as wood stoves, fireplaces, and gas space heaters, release harmful pollutants like carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and acid aerosols into the indoor air when used. Exposure to these harmful contaminants can result in disorientation, excessive fatigue, lung disease, certain cancers, and increased risk of respiratory infections. It is important to use these items in well-ventilated areas to prevent the accumulation of these harmful contaminants and installing a high quality air filter containing activated carbon in the building’s heating and cooling system will remove many of these gaseous pollutants from the indoor air.

4. Chemicals and Pesticides

Household chemicals and pesticides are widely used across the nation to make our homes more pleasant to live in, but the pollutants released from these items can be very harmful to the health of everyone exposed to them. Common health issues associated with exposure to chemicals and pesticides include irritation of the eyes, nose, or respiratory tract, muscle twitching, visual disorders, memory impairment, damage to the central nervous system, and certain types of cancers. Exposure to chemicals and pesticides should be kept to a minimum and these items should only be used in the amounts recommended by the labeling while the area being treated is well ventilated.

(1) U. S. Environmental Protection Agency – Publications and Resources – The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality – http://www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/insidestory.html

About the Author

Jim Gates, CAFS, is the brand manager for Quality Filters, Inc. (http://qualityfilters.com), a leading manufacturer and distributor of high quality home and commercial air filters. The company’s products are available online at BuyFilters.com (http://buyfilters.com).

Wendy Stackhouse is the Online Community Manager for AirTek Indoor Air Solutionsand our affiliate Alliance Environmental Group. We welcome your comments! For more news and tips or to ask questions of our experts, Like us on Facebook and followus on Twitter! For updates on environmental services like mold remediation, lead removal and pest control including bed bugs, Like us at Alliance Environmental on Facebook or follow Alliance on Twitter!

And thanks, Jim!

Indoor Air Can Be Much More Dangerous than Outdoor Air

 

In a study of typical homes near the Arizona-Mexico border, scientists found 586 chemicals in the indoor air, 120 of which they couldn’t even identify.

Does that sound healthy to you?

Phthalates, the chemicals given off by plastics, were especially high, but they also found DDT, which has been banned in the US since 1972, and other pesticides.

Indoor air quality is partly a reflection of the outdoor air quality where you live, so some would say, “Move!” But that’s not necessarily a practical solution. If you choose to stay in your home, improve the indoor air by:

Choosing Products Carefully

    • Use exterior grade pressed wood products in construction for lower emissions from resins.
    • Ask about the formaldehyde content in new cabinets and furniture so that you can make smart choices.
    • Opt for solid wood whenever you can.
    • Better floor coverings are carpets made from wool or, better yet, solid wood or bamboo.
    • Look for low-VOC or no-VOC paint to use on interior walls.
    • Be careful about drapes, upholstery and mattresses, which can contain flame-retardant chemicals. There are other options today, especially mattresses made with wool or Kevlar materials.
    • Try an alternative to nonstick cookware—when you cook with nonstick pans, particles enter the air at high levels.
    • Switch to greener cleaning products like baking soda, vinegar and hydrogen peroxide.

Cleaning the Air

  • Use air conditioners or air filtration devices to clean particles out of your air.
  • Run a dehumidifier to prevent the growth of mold and spores entering your indoor environment.
  • Increase ventilation—be sure to open your windows 5-10 minutes each day, even in winter.
  • Get some houseplants! Many common plants clean formaldehyde and other toxins out of your and are easy to maintain and beautiful!
  • Replace your furnace filter.

 

Prevent Indoor Air Pollution

  • Vacuum frequently with a HEPA filter cleaner. Ordinary bag or bagless vacuums can actually make the air quality in your home worse.
  • Give up powders—talc stays airborne for a long time and can cause breathing problems.
  • Hang dry cleaning outside for a day or two before putting it in the closet or switch to a greener cleaner.

 

You know that great “new car smell?” Well, it’s full of chemicals that you really don’t want in your car or your home. We spend 90% of our time indoors. The air we breathe there is important!

AirTek Indoor Air Solutions offers many services to improve the indoor air in your home or commercial building including: commercial and residential duct cleaning,kitchen exhaust hood cleaning, dryer vent cleaning and power washing. Contact our experts for advice on any indoor air issue you have at your residence or commercial property!

Wendy Stackhouse is the Online Community Manager for AirTek Indoor Air Solutions and our affiliate Alliance Environmental Group. She welcomes your comments! For more news and tips or to ask questions of our experts, Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter! For updates on environmental services like mold remediation, lead removal and pest control including bed bugs, Like us at Alliance Environmental on Facebook or follow Alliance on Twitter!

New Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Released

There was big news in air quality yesterday as Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson announced new regulations for mercury and other air toxins.

From Ms. Jackson’s statement, “By cutting emissions that are linked to developmental disorders and respiratory illnesses like asthma, these standards represent a major victory for clean air and public health– and especially for the health of our children.”

What Are Air Toxics?

Air toxics are contaminants that may cause cancer, birth defects or other serious health problems like asthma, reduced fertility and neurological disorders. Mercury, along with asbestos, arsenic, nickel, cyanide, dioxin and other compounds, is classified as an air toxic.

How Are We Exposed to Air Toxics?

In addition to breathing polluted air, air toxics like mercury can be deposited in water or soil where they can enter the food chain by being ingested by animals.

Humans are exposed to air toxics through:

    • Breathing polluted air
    • Eating food products contaminated by toxics
    • Drinking contaminated water
    • Eating contaminated dirt (common behavior in small children)
    • Touching contaminated dirt, water or dust

Where Do Air Toxics Come From?

Air Toxics come from natural sources like volcanoes and forest fires, but mostly are human-made: combustion engines, power plants, construction materials and solvents.

How Do the New Rules Affect Air Toxics?

The new standards will reduce air pollution from power plants through the use of existing technology that is already being used in newer coal-fired plants. The power plants have 3 years to come into compliance, with a possible fourth year for special problems.

The EPA expects that new rules will prevent up to 4,700 heart attacks and 11,000 premature deaths per year in the US. They will also prevent 130,000 childhood asthma cases as well as 6,300 cases of acute bronchitis in children.

These new standards will eventually seriously curtail our exposure to mercury and other toxic compounds which are causing thousands of deaths and tens of thousands of illnesses every year in the US.

AirTek is committed to cleaner air, indoors and out. If your commercial building or residence needs to improve its indoor air, please contact us for help cleaning your ducts, vents and exhaust hoods.

Everyone at AirTek wishes you a happy, healthy and safe holiday season!

Wendy Stackhouse is the Online Community Manager for AirTek Indoor Air Solutions and Alliance Environmental Group. She welcomes your comments! For more news and tips or to ask questions of our experts, Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter! For updates on Asbestos, Bed Bugs, Mold, Lead and other environmental issues, Like us at Alliance Environmental Group on Facebook!

VIDEO: Secondhand Smoke and Kids

The Indoor Air Quality Association published a new video recently about the dangers of environmental tobacco smoke, especially as it relates to children’s health.

Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) is commonly known as secondhand smoke and it is the smoke from the burning end of a cigarette, cigar or pipe as well as the smoke exhaled by a smoker.

Environmental tobacco smoke contains over 4000 different compounds and 40 known carcinogens. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that ETS causes between 150,000 and 300,000 respiratory tract infections every year in children under the age of 18 months and older children can have lower lung function.

Our blog was not yet live during November’s Lung Cancer Awareness Month but we don’t want to neglect this important indoor air health issue just because we’re a little late. If you smoke, please take it outside. If you need help to quit smoking, check out these resources from SmokeFree.gov.

There are so many dangerous things out there we can’t avoid. Let’s all make an effort to avoid the ones that we can!

Happy Holidays!

Wendy Stackhouse is the Online Community Manager for AirTek Indoor Air Solutions and Alliance Environmental Group. She welcomes your comments! For more news and tips or to ask questions of our experts, Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter! For updates on Asbestos, Bed Bugs, Mold, Lead and other environmental issues, Like us at Alliance Environmental Group on Facebook!

BREAKING NEWS: Our office in Anaheim is Open!

LED Christmas Lights

We have so much going on at AirTek these days, I think it’s a good time for an update!

  • New Office

Although we have already been serving customers in Orange County, now we have an office in Anaheim to provide “locally-based expertise, easier accessibility and quicker response times to meet the needs of our customers,” says CEO Joe McLean.

We are very excited about the new office at 760 East Debra Lane in Anaheim and look forward to many years of helping our Orange County neighbors with commercial and residential air duct cleaning, kitchen stove hood cleaning, dryer vent cleaning and other indoor air challenges!

If you are in Orange County and need to consult with one of our experts, please contact us!

  • Toy Drive

You only have a one more day to participate with us in the We Care East LA Toy Drive for their Community Holiday Event on December 17th. We will be volunteering at the event on Saturday and are really looking forward to seeing all the smiling faces and knowing that we helped make many children’s holidays happier.

If you would like to help in this effort, please drop off a new, unwrapped toy at any of our offices and we will make sure that they get to these amazing kids!

  • Spare the Air

If you live in the Bay Area, served by our office in Santa Clara, you should know about Winter Spare the Air alerts. During an alert, you are not permitted to use fireplaces, wood stoves or outdoor fire pits. Unless a wood stove is your only source of heat you could get into trouble!

You will only be warned the first time, but if you are caught burning wood or wood pellets a second time the fine is a hefty $400 and goes up from there.

Soot pollution is a big problem in the winter months. Follow us on Twitter to get current Spare the Air alerts!

There is no alert today, December 15, 2011.

  • Have you switched to LED lights?

If you are concerned about your energy use and your carbon footprint—and aren’t we all!—today’s LED holiday lights use 90% less power and take a long, long time to burn out because they have no filament inside.

If you are putting lights on your real tree or your home, please consider making it a “green” Christmas by using LED lights instead of incandescent bulbs!

Everyone at AirTek wishes you a happy and safe holiday season!

Wendy Stackhouse is the Online Community Manager for AirTek Indoor Air Solutions and Alliance Environmental Group. She welcomes your comments! For more news and tips or to ask questions of our experts, Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter! For updates on Asbestos, Bed Bugs, Mold, Lead and other environmental issues, Like us at Alliance Environmental Group on Facebook!

VIDEO: Radon Gas!

 

I came across this video explaining the dangers of Radon gas from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Radon is an odorless, invisible gas that is given off by the decay of radioactive minerals found in the soil under a house or commercial building. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer deaths (second to tobacco use).

Today is a good day to talk about Radon for two reasons:

  • Winter Weather—We generally seal up our homes as well as possible against the cold air and to keep in the heat. With less ventilation, Radon gas that enters your home gets trapped inside where it can continue to affect your lungs and your health.
  • Radon Awareness Month—January 2012 will be National Radon Awareness Month in the US and now is a great time to test your home so that you can get started with mitigation plans now and get the work done after the New Year.

http://youtu.be/JHLmQ5MB9r8

Improving the air in your home makes a great New Year’s resolution, but you have to know if you have a problem. A recent Harvard University study found that 100% of homes studied had at least one indoor air quality issue and most had more than one.

Radon gas is easy to test for and eliminate from your indoor environment, but awareness is key.

AirTek Indoor Air Solutions offers many services to help you improve the indoor air quality in your home or business, including: commercial and residential duct cleaning, kitchen exhaust hood cleaning, dryer vent cleaning and power washing. Contact our experts for advice on any indoor air issue you have at your residence or commercial property!

Wendy Stackhouse is the Online Community Manager for AirTek Indoor Air Solutions and Alliance Environmental Group. She welcomes your comments! For more news and tips or to ask questions of our experts, Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter! For updates on Asbestos, Bed Bugs, Mold, Lead and other environmental issues, Like us at Alliance Environmental Group on Facebook!

There’s More to Maintaining a Power Plant than You Might Think!

In fact, keeping the nuclear material — or whatever fuel supply — at the core of a power plant cool is absolutely essential and so maintenance of those huge cooling towers we see in photos and news stories is incredibly important.

Since the catastrophic nuclear power plant damage in Japan earlier this year from an earthquake and tsunami, power plants have been more in the news than usual.

The meltdown in Japan occurred mainly due to loss of power to the cooling systems at the plant.

Types of Cooling Towers

Open Cooling Towers – water in these towers comes into contact with the outside air and can pick up contaminants and pollutants.

Closed Loop Cooling Towers – the water in these towers does not come into contact with the outside air.

Forced Draft Cooling Towers – this type of tower has a fan at the top and other fans in the body of the tower to force air through the system.

Mechanical Draft Cooling Towers – connected to a chimney, fans keep air moving.

Factory Assembled Cooling Towers – these towers are shipped almost completely assembled. I’d like to see that truck!

Field Assembled Cooling Towers – these are shipped in their component parts and assembled on site.

All cooling towers need regular maintenance and cleaning.

The water used in cooling towers collects whatever contaminants that can be found in the outside air: dirt, pollen, bacteria, mold; and since power plants are often built near the ocean, they can also collect salt and algae. The frequency with which a cooling tower needs to be cleaned depends on the level of contaminants in the air where it is located.

Keeping in mind that cooling towers are pretty efficient at cleaning the air, they will still accumulate particles of contaminants in the basin which collects the water droplets left after going through the cooling system. How fast these particles accumulate determines how often the cooling tower must be cleaned.

Possible Effects of Improperly Maintained Cooling Towers

If a cooling tower is not cleaned on a proper schedule, the results can range from lower efficiency to environmental disaster.

  • A nuclear power plant’s cooling system already uses a tremendous amount of energy. If scale, salt or dust affect the “fill,” which provides the water droplets for cooling, it takes even more energy to run the cooling system.
  • Proper cleaning will keep a nuclear power plant cooling system running for more years, amortizing the tremendous cost of building and maintenance.
  • Legionnaire’s Disease is a real danger from unmaintained cooling towers. There is a 50% chance of any cooling tower containing these deadly bacteria, even if it is kept clean!

Methods of Cleaning Cooling Towers

There are a few main ways of cleaning nuclear plant cooling towers:

Draining

In this method, the basin which collects the water droplets is drained fully and the technician goes into the basin to shovel out or otherwise remove the deposit of bacteria, silt and mud that has collected there. The technician must wear protective garments and a full-face shield or respirator.

This method is wasteful of water, since all of the water in the basin is discarded and it has to be entirely refilled with hundreds of thousands of gallons.

Vacuuming

Using the vacuuming method means the technician can stay out of the basin itself and only involves draining about 25% of the water, which can be discarded or re-used. This method is less dangerous to the operator and less wasteful of water — an important and limited resource.

Scuba Diving

“Diving the tower” can be accomplished while the cooling tower is at work. Wearing a dry-suit — which is completely sealed and attached to tube for air and communications — divers use a vacuum to clean the tower basin, or inspect and even repair the tower while it is running!

In Conclusion

The San Onofre nuclear power plant here in Southern California does not have cooling towers. It uses ocean water to cool the nuclear fuel and a lot of it — plants with cooling towers use 5% of the water that ocean cooled plants use and that is a big savings in resources. The cost of building the cooling towers has been a consideration in the decision about whether to change the cooling system at San Onofre.

AirTek Indoor Air Solutions offers many commercial and residential services, including trained and certified cleaning of cooling towers. Please stop by our website at www.Air-Tek.net!

Our affiliate Alliance Environmental Group offers commercial and residential pest control, mold remediation, asbestos removal and many other services. Please stop by our website for assistance and blogs with tips on eliminating bed bugs and other pests, working and living with asbestos and other environmental services challenges.

If you have any questions for our experts, please feel free to contact us or leave a comment! If you ask an interesting question, we can answer it on the blog!

A big Thank You to the NADCA for helping with this article!

Wendy Stackhouse is the Online Community Manager for AirTek Indoor Air Solutions and Alliance Environmental Group. She welcomes your comments! For more news and tips or to ask questions of our experts, Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter! For updates on Asbestos, Bed Bugs, Mold, Lead and other environmental issues, Like us at Alliance Environmental Group on Facebook!