Monthly Archives: June 2012

ThermaPureHeat Case Study: Smoke Odor

 

The wildfire in Colorado is all over the news–and Colorado’s citizens are in our thoughts–this week. The evacuees will have a lot to deal with when they get back home. We certainly hope that they have homes to come back to and if they do, those homes will have a very strong smoke smell that no one likes to live with.

Jon Nelson sent me a story of a recent project removing smoke odor from a home after a house fire and the treatment we used would also apply to smoke smells from a forest fire or wildfire that burned near your home.

The project was done by our Moorpark office and used ThermaPureHeat to eliminate the smoke odor.

Heater unit

A small kitchen fire in a Malibu home impacted the entire structure with smoke. We didn’t have to worry about the owner’s personal belongings–they had already been sent out to be cleaned elsewhere. Our client was averse to using chemicals, ozone or encapsulants to restore the home because of his wife’s high sensitivity. Their consultant recommended heat treatment for removal of the smoky smell and when we investigated the situation, we agreed that heat treatment would definitely take care of the problem. It was going to be a big job, but it would work and protect the health of the lady of the house.

We used a variety of equipment including our new electric heaters and hydronic drypro trailer and raised the interior temperature of the house to about 120 degrees and held it there for 15 straight days. This process utilized about 3000 cubic feet of air per minute. We also added moisture to the air to accelerate the process of odor removal.

Happily–and as expected–15 days of heat did the trick. When the client returned to the home, he could not detect an odor and declared the project completed successfully!

We would like to thank Don of our Moorpark office not only for thinking outside the box to use ThermaPureHeat for this necessary service and for taking on a challenging project and making it work!

ThermaPureHeat can be used to achieve success in many situations: bed bugs, termites and other pests; structural pasteurization; construction drying; mold remediation; and odor elimination. If you have any project which could benefit from high temperatures, please contact AirTek for a consultation!

And don’t take any chances with fireworks during your Independence Day celebrations!

Wendy Stackhouse is the Online Community Manager for AirTek Indoor Air Solutions and 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 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!

Houseplants on Steroids!

 

Have you ever seen a living wall? At AirTek, we think these are way cool!

Plants have been shown to remove as much as 75% of volatile organic compounds from indoor air and one of the many things we’ve learned on the AirTek blog is how bad volatile organic compounds are for our health.

Common houseplants can remove such dangerous contaminants as:

  • Benzene
  • Formaldehyde
  • Trichloroethylene
  • Xylene
  • Toluene
  • Ammonia

…among others.
The best research on this topic was done by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and they recommend “15 to 18 good-sized houseplants in six- to eight-inch diameter containers” to help clean the air in an 1800 square foot space. We think a living wall is a whole lot more attractive and really brings the outside in.

Living Wall in Office Building

Types of Living Walls
There are three main types of living walls that can be easily installed into a building during or after construction:

Breathe Living Walls feature plants mounted to vertical surfaces made of various materials including concrete, stone and tile. You can have a panel or an entire wall of plants which can be watered from the top and the plants last about 5 years.
Bright Green Planters can be used to build a living wall made of large plastic units that can hang from any vertical surface.
Florafelt Planters come in more sizes and are lightweight and made from recycled plastic water bottles. They can also be arranged into a framed, free-standing system.

Freestanding living wall

Houseplants are an important part of any home’s ventilation system and we encourage you to bring these lovely living things into your indoor environment. But if you really want to make a statement and add to the level of peace in your building, as well as the level of oxygen, a living wall is definitely a beautiful way to do it!

Wendy Stackhouse is the Online Community Manager for AirTek Indoor Air Solutions and 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 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 Product Emissions Rules Spur Development

 

As more countries around the world begin to take seriously the dangers of indoor air pollution and its causes, manufacturers are creating innovative new products to comply with new regulations and to make our homes healthier in the future.

Along with the dangers of pollution from:

  • Outside sources, unable to escape well-sealed structures
  • Natural gas from cooking
  • Radon
  • Wood burning cooking fires

…indoor air pollution comes from building materials, furniture, paints, flooring and cleaning products.

In fact, a new study done by the University of Sheffield found that the air in a kitchen can be as much as 3 times worse than along a busy road.

France is leading the way in regulating emissions from building and decorative materials and products.  All of these products must be tested for emissions and fall below a set standard.  In Germany, there is a new requirement that “no construction product should cause harm to building occupants,” a rule which puts Germany into agreement with the European Union Construction Products Regulation.

VOCs

The US Environmental Protection Agency has been studying these emissions since the fall of 2010 and started with the idea that “building materials, surface treatments, paints, coatings and consumer products have been shown to emit volatile organic compounds and result in the process of indoor air contaminants.”  The EPA has also been studying the regulations in place in other countries to determine whether their effectiveness warrants similar regulations in the US.

But whether the US decides to regulate or not, the global concern about indoor air pollution from VOCs is causing manufacturers to test their products and develop new ones so that they can participate in the global marketplace and any development of less harmful products and materials is good for all of us!

If you are building or renovating a home, you are using materials that will off-gas a lot of pollution no matter what.  Be sure to keep the area well-ventilated while working and for a few days after you install carpeting or other flooring, drywall, move in furniture or use paint or varnish.  If you need to speed up off-gassing, AirTek can help!  Our structural pasteurization equipment can also use high heat to dramatically reduce the time it takes for new materials to stop releasing dangerous volatile organic compounds into your indoor air.  Contact AirTek anywhere in California for help making your new or renovated home move-in ready!

Hope you had a great Father’s Day weekend!

Wendy Stackhouse is the Online Community Manager for AirTek Indoor Air Solutions and 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 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!

Legionnaires’ Hits Scotland

 

In yet another outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease, one person has died and there are 21 confirmed and 19 suspicious cases already reported, with more expected in coming days.

Robert Air, a 56-year-old father of two, became symptomatic on a Thursday and died the following Tuesday, mere hours after being admitted to the hospital. Many of the patients currently being treated were seen by doctors and sent home assuming they had the flu. Some of those patients are now in critical condition with pneumonia.

Public health officials in Edinburgh do not have a definitive answer to where the bacteria is lurking. Some of the patients had attended the Scottish Cup final soccer game but others had not. All of the patients, however, had been in southwest Edinburgh and the most likely culprit seems to be some poorly maintained cooling towers in that area.

Scotland’s leading bacteriologist, Professor Hugh Pennington, has stated, “This is not an act of God, this is a failure of maintenance by someone and simply should not happen.” Professor Pennington feels very strongly that outbreaks like these are easily avoided through proper maintenance of water systems and we agree.

Since it can take up to 2 weeks for Legionnaires’ to become symptomatic, Scottish officials are expecting more cases to appear in the coming days. Symptoms of Legionnaires’ include

Symptoms include mild headaches and muscle pain, which can develop into high fever, a persistent cough and sometimes vomiting, diarrhoea and confusion. Sadly, these symptoms can easily be misdiagnosed before an outbreak is confirmed.

Read more on our blog about Legionnaires’ Disease and a recent outbreak in New Zealand. You can also read about cleaning cooling towers and why it is important.

If your HVAC system or water system is in need of maintenance, don’t take any chances with the bacteria that cause this potentially fatal illness. In California, contact AirTek and we will make sure that no facility of yours will ever be the source of a Legionnaires’ outbreak by performing a professional pasteurization of your entire system quickly with our highly-trained team.

Wendy Stackhouse is the Online Community Manager for AirTek Indoor Air Solutions and 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 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!

Smartphone App for Asthma Sufferers

 

Almost half of American adults own a smartphone today and by 2016 worldwide smartphone users are expected to reach 1 billion. And there’s an app for almost everything, including monitoring your health.

Approximately 1 in 12 Americans has been diagnosed with Asthma, 8% of our population or about 25 million people. If half of those also have smartphones, this app could really be of use to many, many asthma sufferers.

The app is called AsthmaSense and it is available for iPad, iPhone and Android devices. AsthmaSense offers an opportunity to enter your “action plan” and keeps track of your plan by reminding you of what you are supposed to be doing. You can also keep a record in AsthmaSense of your test results, events, medications and symptoms.

Other features of AsthmaSense include:

  • Record and manage data
  • Set alarms for medications
  • Quickly get emergency contact information
  • Keep a journal of your symptoms

Click here for a link to AsthmaSense on iTunes and here for AsthmaSense for Android.

At AirTek, we are concerned for your respiratory health and hope that this information is helpful in managing your own health or the health of someone you care about!

Wendy Stackhouse is the Online Community Manager for AirTek Indoor Air Solutions and 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 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!

Use of Chemicals in Cleaning HVAC Systems: Part 1-Safety

 

Earlier this week we celebrated our 10th Anniversary as members of the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA). We are proud of our membership and the proof of competence and professionalism that that membership conveys.

The NADCA has published a new Position Paper on the use of chemicals to clean and sanitize HVAC systems and we thought you might be interested in some of the highlights. Today I will be talking about safety considerations. In later parts, we will discuss the many uses of chemicals, the efficacy of chemicals and alternatives to using chemicals for these projects.

The NADCA holds the opinion–and we agree–that the very best way of cleaning ducts is removing the source of any contamination directly. However, there are times when chemicals can be used in the process of cleaning. We will get to whether that is a good idea in a later post.

Bacteria

What kind of contaminants can be found in HVAC systems?

  • Mold
  • Mildew
  • Bacteria
  • Debris from outside
  • Fire damage residue
  • Dust
  • Animal hair and dander
  • Vermin and their droppings

This is not a comprehensive list, but it does indicate that there are different types of contaminants which need to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, depending on the contaminants a duct cleaning professional is dealing with in a particular situation.
What is Source Removal?
Source removal is defined as “the physical removal of contaminants and debris” and is certainly the best way of decontaminating an HVAC system. Using chemicals is not source removal, it is killing any organisms and making any organic material less dangerous. It is not the same as removing it entirely. Unfortunately, although using chemicals can be a quick fix, it also brings risks.
What are the risks of using chemicals to clean HVAC systems?
Because some people are highly sensitive to the chemicals used in duct cleaning, when these are being used, the building may have to be evacuated during the course of the work. Some products require mandatory evacuations.
The professionals who work with these chemicals must wear protective gear and be trained in their safe and proper use.
Irritated eye
Possible risks of exposure to cleaning chemicals:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Respiratory irritation
  • Eye irritation or injury
  • Poisoning from chemicals or their fumes
  • Exposure to cancer causing material

Clearly, there are risks associated with use of chemical cleaning products in duct cleaning, but do the benefits outweigh the risks?

Come back and find out!

Wendy Stackhouse is the Online Community Manager for AirTek Indoor Air Solutions and 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 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!

Control Air Pollution from Your Gas Stove

 

Did you know…a gas stove can produce more nitrogen dioxide than the Environmental Protection Agency says is safe for outside air? I had no idea!

Nitrogen dioxide is a toxic gas that can be produced by your gas stove, but since it usually smells bad at low levels, you can usually avoid it. However, it is corrosive and irritating to the lungs, linings of the eyes, nose, throat, and the entire respiratory system. Low levels of nitrogen dioxide also anesthetize the nose, which could lead to more exposure.

 

How can you minimize exposure to Nitrogen Dioxide?

There are four important things you can do to reduce the levels of nitrogen dioxide present in your home because of a gas stove:

Turn on the fan–Many people do not use the fan over their stoves because they feel it is too loud, but it is an important tool for keeping your indoor air clean and healthy. In a recent study, the fan that was the most effective was also the loudest, and quieter fans used a lot of energy, but if clean indoor air is your priority, use the fan!

 

Use the back burners–Nitrogen dioxide levels were significantly reduced by using the fan and cooking on the back burners of the stove. The study showed that use of the fan while cooking with the front burners reduced the air pollution by 25%, but use of the back burners with the fan reduced it by 50%. That is a significant difference.

 

Make sure your vent leads to the outside–Some vents pump the air over your stove right back into the house and that hurts more than it helps.

 

Clean your ducts–Over years of cooking in any home, the duct from the vent over the stove to the outside gets dirty, greasy and generally less efficient. As it gets dirtier, the ventilation system has to work harder to vent the air, adding to energy costs. Organic material that has collected in the ducts can also breed mold and bacteria that you don’t want in your home’s ventilation system.

 

Homes today are well sealed to save on the energy it takes to heat and cool them, but these benefits are undermined by the fact that the pollution we produce indoors cannot reach the outside and fresh air has a hard time getting in. A clean kitchen vent and duct system, used properly, can help you get some of those pollutants outside where they can disperse safely.

Wendy Stackhouse is the Online Community Manager for AirTek Indoor Air Solutions and 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 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!