Monthly Archives: July 2012

Hot Weather Allergy Tips

Child in outdoor pool

It’s hot out there! In fact, we are on track to having (yet again) the hottest summer on record.

Are your allergies worse this summer?

Some of us suffer more in spring or fall–it depends on what you’re allergic to. But hot weather can make your allergies worse and make you feel worse than you would in a more typical year. Here are some tips for making them less annoying:

  • Swim in an outdoor pool rather than an indoor facility. Chlorine-laden air can irritate your respiratory system and a breezy day outside dissipates the chemicals before you get to breathe them in.
  • Remember to take your medications (and pack them in your luggage for vacation). It’s easy to get distracted when you are out of your normal routine and forget to take medicine until you are already suffering. Set an alarm on your phone or other device to remind you early in the day if you are away from home or not on your regular schedule.
  • Keep track of mold and pollen levels. When levels are high due to humidity or location, especially if you are vacationing in a different region with different plants from your home, you might want to choose indoor activities to avoid allergy attacks. Higher winds can also bring you into more contact with allergens. Good day for a movie?

AirTek hopes you are having a fantastic summer!
Wendy Stackhouse is the Online Community Manager for AirTek and our environmental services division 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!

Using Chemicals in Cleaning HVAC Systems: An Expert’s Opinion

 

We get a lot of great information from listening to the shows at IAQ Radio and this week’s show is no exception.

This week their guest was Dan Stradford from the NADCA talking about using chemicals to clean HVAC systems. We prefer using heat, so we were interested to hear what Dan had to say.

Did you know…

“Right now there is no chemical that has been registered for sanitizing or disinfecting ductwork.”

Chemicals used to clean the coils or the drain pans, “When you use them in the duct system, they are not classified as sanitizers or disinfectants.”

Chemicals called “Stats” can be used to “curb microbial growth” but you cannot disinfect or sanitize with these algistats, fungistats or bacteriostats. Any company that claims to be able to “sanitize” or “disinfect” ductwork in particular with chemicals is putting out misleading information, according to Mr. Stradford.

When you are choosing a company to clean your HVAC system and your ductwork, be sure to ask whether they use chemicals to sanitize or disinfect the ducts. A reputable company will say “No, we can curb the growth but we cannot do those things with chemicals.”

High temperatures, however, can in fact sanitize AND disinfect ducts and AirTek offers ThermaPureHeat treatment to ensure that not only your coils and drain pans, but also your entire duct system are sanitized and bacteria and mold spore free. ThermaPureHeat also has the advantage of leaving no chemical residue or volatile organic compounds behind to pollute your indoor air AFTER cleaning your HVAC system.

If your HVAC system needs to be sanitized and disinfected, heat is your best choice for thorough cleaning and safety.

Dan Stradford

Listen to the entire episode here.

We thank the folks at IAQ Radio for their terrific show this time and every time!

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!

Indoor Air Quality Myths

 

Do you think your indoor air is cleaner than the air outside?

Do you think air pollution is only a problem outdoors?

Are there any sources of air pollution in your home?

Your answers to these questions could reflect belief in some commonly held myths about indoor air quality. We at AirTek would like to put the lie to some of these myths and demystify (or is it demythify?) some others.

Myth #1: Air Pollution is only a problem outdoors

Today’s energy efficient buildings are great at keeping the heated and cooled inside air in, but that is not necessarily the best state of affairs. Pollution from your gas stove or fireplace, volatile organic compounds from paint, carpeting, curtains and cleaning products and even pollutants from outside can get trapped indoors because our homes are so well sealed against escaping heat and air conditioning. Studies show that indoor air can be as much as 12 times more polluted than outdoor air in the same location.

Myth #2: My house is clean, my air must be clean, too

Actually, it could be the opposite. The cleaning products you use have a huge impact on the indoor air quality in your home or building. Choosing “green” cleaners, switching to products or even homemade cleaners based on baking soda or vinegar solutions can work just as well as chemical based cleaners from the grocery store and be much healthier for you and your family.

Paint cans

Myth #3: It’s too difficult to improve my indoor air

Not true! Improving your air could be as simple as opening your windows more often or using greener cleaning products. You can also follow simple rules when replacing things or renovating your home:

  • Keep windows open when using paint, adhesive or other decorating materials that give off volatile organic compounds, as well as for a few days after the project is complete to let the gases escape.
  • Never use exterior paint on an interior surface.
  • Unwrap new furniture outdoors and let it stay outdoors for a few days if you can and in a well-ventilated room if not, before putting it in its permanent home.
  • Choose low- or no-VOC materials whenever possible.
  • Think about well-maintained but previously owned furniture when you redecorate. Older pieces have already had a chance to release the gases they produced when new.
  • You know that new carpeting smell? You want to get that out of the house as quickly as possible. Keep the windows open and fans running for a few days after installation.

Myth #4: I don’t need to worry about my indoor air quality

No, you don’t need to worry. Worry is an awfully strong word. But you do need to think about the quality of your indoor air. We spend close to 90% of our time indoors these days and the air we breathe during that time needs to be healthy and safe. We don’t think you need to worry, but a little thoughtfulness will go a long way!

At AirTek, we want your indoor air to be clean and healthy and we can help you make and keep it that way by cleaning your ductwork and HVAC system without chemicals that could make your indoor air worse, but with treatments that will completely sanitize and disinfect your entire ventilation system, killing any bacteria, mold spores, removing dust and other particles and keeping your home energy efficient and clean. Contact AirTek for more information!

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!

Tour the IAQ House!

Kitchen

I wish we could embed this whole animated movie tour of the Indoor Air Quality house from the Environmental Protection Agency because it is really well done!

But I will give you some highlights–and a link to the video–so hold on.

The tour takes us from room to room in a typical home and points out the indoor air quality challenges in each one. For example:

The Living Room

We spend a lot of time in the living room, consuming entertainment and socializing. So do our pets, leaving hair and dander. We are also tempted to smoke in the living room and it is probably where our fireplace lives.

The Bathroom

The EPA focuses on mold in the bathroom. I would add VOC’s from cleaning products.

The Bedroom

Their main point in the bedroom is dust, but there can easily be VOC’s from carpeting and furniture polluting your air all night long as well.

The Kitchen

This room harbors many of the indoor air hazards in the home. Carbon monoxide from gas stoves with inadequate ventilation ducts and fans, pesticides to kill ants or roaches, and here is where they consider the problem of VOC’s.

Don’t miss the animation in this informative tour. You won’t be likely to forget the ideas presented in this video and their importance to your indoor environment!

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!

 

 

AirTek CEO Joseph McLean Earns New Certification

Joseph W. McLean, Jr.

CEO of AirTek Joseph W. McLean, Jr. has been awarded Certification as a Water Damage Restoration Technician/Applied Strucural Drying Technician (WRT/ASD) by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC), “a nonprofit certifying and standard-setting organization dedicated to raising industry standards through technical proficiency.”

Through many hours of study, Joe has become more expert in concepts of water damage, its effects and techniques for structural drying.  He is fully trained and certified in the procedures for dealing with water loss, sewer backflows and contamination that comes from those events, including mold.

Joe then continued his training in the “effective, efficient and timely drying of water-damaged structures and contents” via both classroom lectures and hands-on activities to enhance his decision-making abilities as well as procedures and protocols.

IICRC Logo

IICRC Executive Administrator Tom Hill said of Joe, “Joe McLean is an example of the type of individual who cares about consumers and their belongings as well as his industry. He has demonstrated the desire to provide customers with thorough, professional and caring service.” What more could you ask for in your damage restoration company CEO?

Certification by the IICRC assures customers that they are going to receive the very highest quality service from their restoration professionals and we congratulate Joe on achieving this new certification! Joe joins the ranks of the true professionals within the cleaning, restoration and inspection industry.

Congratulations to Joe and AirTek!

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!

Dealing with Extreme Heat

 

Last week we were hearing about how hot it was pretty much everywhere but here in our Southern California home.  It was only 77° on the 4th of July where we were–amazing! But of course, this week is a different story.  Even beautiful SoCal is hot and this kind of heat can be dangerous for some.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) here in the United States has a lot of great information about extreme heat and your health.  Here are some highlights:

What is Extreme Heat?

Extreme heat is temperatures and/or humidity substantially higher than usual for a given region.  Ever wonder why they give you that “it feels like” temperature on the evening news?  Because the humidity can make the temperature worse.

Who is in the most danger from Extreme Heat?

The elderly, infants and children and people with chronic ailments are most at risk, but “obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use” can all affect a person’s risk from Extreme Heat.

I’m young and healthy.  Am I at risk?

Yes, even young, healthy people are at risk IF they attempt strenuous physical activity during periods of Extreme Heat.  Especially in high humidity, the sweat on your body cannot evaporate properly and you could overheat very quickly.

glass of water

What can I do to prevent health problems from Extreme Heat?

The CDC has some simple recommendations:

  • Drink cool (non-alcoholic) beverages more often than you normally would.  A good rule of thumb is 8 ounces of fluid per hour, minimum.
  • Pay attention to the news, especially for warnings and air quality information.
  • Air conditioning is your best friend.  If you don’t have air conditioning at home, go to a mall or restaurant and stay indoors.
  • Make sure that your home air conditioning system is clean and unimpeded and the filters are replaced at the beginning of the summer.  Your ventilation system is essential to healthy living in Extreme Heat conditions, but if it is not working well, it could hurt more than help and also cause even higher energy costs.

Between 1979 and 2003 Extreme Heat caused over 8000 deaths in the US–more than from “hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined. And our climate certainly has not cooled since then. In fact, we just had the hottest 12 months in recorded history!  However, deaths from Extreme Heat are also extremely preventable, if you stay hydrated and turn on the air!

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!

Wildfire Smoke: What You Should Know

Did you know that the smoke from the wildfire in Colorado can be seen from space?

See all that nasty gray on the right? Smoke.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that wildfire smoke travels well and smoke from the fires in the US has traveled as far as Greenland already.

Smoke can play a role in the weather by reflecting sunlight and affecting cloud formation, but it can also damage your health.

In Southern California, the home of the AirTek corporate offices, we also often have to deal with the consequences of wildfires and a few years ago the air was so bad where I worked, we could barely see the other end of the campus. And we coughed an awful lot.

You can’t do much to get rid of wildfire smoke–the work of brave firefighters and nature will do that for you eventually. But here are some tips for dealing with wildfire smoke if it makes it into your environment:

  • Monitor the news for air quality reports–Try to find your area’s Air Quality Index (AQI), which is a good gauge of what you should do or not do. Table of AQI and recommended activities. In the Bay Area, Follow @SparetheAir for AQI numbers and activity recommendations.
  • Observe the visibility–Wildfire smoke is highly visible and how far you can see can be another good way to tell the safety level of outside activities.
  • Follow your gut–If it looks smoky outside, it’s probably better to stay in and keep the kids in, too!
  • Use the air conditioner–But keep the outside intakes closed and make sure your filters are clean. Recirculate the inside air rather than letting outside air in.
  • Don’t vacuum, use a gas stove, fireplace or burn candles inside. You will only add to the pollution in your indoor air.

Particulate Respirator mask

If the smoke gets dangerous, you will probably be evacuated. If you cannot leave, it is recommended that you use a Particulate Respirator type of face mask to breathe. This is a mask with two straps that traps the particles of soot that you could be breathing in. An ordinary one-strap mask is not sufficient and might lead you to think you are safe when you are not.

It is probably a good idea to have particulate respirator masks in your emergency kit if you live in a wildfire area.

We at AirTek are sure that you join us in hoping that the wildfires in Colorado are under control soon and that the remainder of wildfire season doesn’t hit anyone else too hard.

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!

Wood Dust: Safety Video

 

We had a lot of readers on Tuesday about the dangers of wood dust.  And the Pinewood Derby!  I came across a very informative video from the IAQA which taught me even more:

Wood dust itself can cause:

  • Respiratory problems
  • Asthma
  • Allergic reactions
  • Cancer

In fact, in California, Wood Dust is classified as a “known to cause cancer and reproductive toxicity.”  That’s the same classification as arsenic, asbestos, diesel exhaust and formaldehyde, among many others.  Here’s a link to the complete current list.

What I hadn’t thought about was what comes with the wood dust.  Mold and bacteria are present anywhere there is moisture and can definitely travel through the air on a wood dust particles. Serious dangers come with inhaling these contaminants as well as wood dust.

So the bottom line is–PROTECT YOURSELF.  Use air filters and face masks to be sure that you are not inhaling wood dust or the contaminants it can carry.  Your family will thank you for it and so will we!

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!

Wood Dust–Be Careful!

Pinewood Derby heat

My son is a newly-minted Boy Scout so up until last month he was a Cub Scout and participated in an annual event called the Pinewood Derby. The preparation process starts weeks before the race with a parent helping the boy make a car out of a kit consisting of: a block of wood, 2 axles, and 4 wheels.

That’s it.

They can get complicated and you can use more than 1 block of wood (from a second kit) but the whole thing cannot weigh a gram over 6 ounces or you are disqualified. So if you do use more than one block, you have to get rid of some of that weight.

Where am I going?

Pinewood Derby season of the year before last, my husband and son wanted to make a Pokemon-themed car (their 4th) in an attempt to win Most Creative in Class (also their 4th) but it needed a LOT of weight taken off. So dutiful Dad got out the Mikita and set to work.

But he didn’t wear a mask.

2011 Pinewood Derby CarFor weeks afterward, he coughed. And coughed. And coughed. It was painful–and painful to listen to as well.

Sawdust is often thought of as a danger to your eyes and he was wearing eye protection, but not a mask to protect his respiratory system.

Why is it so dangerous?

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA):

Breathing these particles may cause allergic respiratory symptoms, mucosal and non-allergic respiratory symptoms, and cancer.

Is that bad enough?

So we are hoping that as you do any home renovation, building, carpentry or even art projects this summer, you will be careful and not breathe in any wood dust, a completely preventable carcinogen! Not to mention hoping that my husband will escape his experience unscathed!

Cub Scout with Pinewood Derby trophy

Oh, and this year was my son’s last year as a Pinewood Derby participant and he won Most Creative or Best Design every year he was in it! Congratulations, buddy!

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!