Monthly Archives: September 2012

Preventing Restaurant Fires with Duct Cleaning

 

Have you ever lived above a restaurant? I have, twice. One was a lovely experience (espresso and cookies downstairs); the other, not so much (dishwashing water backing up into my bathroom sink, blech!).

Some tenants above an Asian restaurant in San Diego had a bit of a scare this week, though, one I’m glad I never had: a kitchen fire.

A fire broke out in the stove flue at J. Wok in Downtown San Diego on Saturday, causing at least $15,000 in damage. Luckily, the San Diego Fire Department had the fire under control in about 20 minutes, preventing damage to the apartments above the restaurant.

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, a vast majority of restaurant fires are caused by cooking equipment and a significant amount of damage by those fires flaring up into dirty stove vents and ducts. We cannot know the frequency of the duct cleaning at J. Wok but we do know how often commercial kitchen ducts should be cleaned:

 

Hood Cleaning Frequency Chart

We don’t have enough details about J. Wok to know what kind of duct cleaning schedule the had or should have had, but we do know that proper maintenance of kitchen ductwork is essential in preventing fires from doing damage to restaurants and other tenants in a restaurant building.

Is your restaurant keeping the kitchen ductwork clean? Don’t take any chances! AirTek’s goal: clean and help protect your valuable asset from the threat of fire in your kitchen exhaust system. We clean the hood, plenum, duct risers, filtration system and filters, grease boxes, kitchen equipment, exhaust fans, washable ceilings, floors, commercial kitchens, ductwork, and rooftop.”

We are here to help your restaurant thrive and prosper and prevent the thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars of damage even a 20-minute fire can wreak.

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. She is very happy to blog, post and Tweet for Alliance and AirTek and celebrates her one year anniversary with them on September 29th!

Shaking the Dust of This Town Off My Feet

 

No, I’m not leaving AirTek! We are having the sidewalks replaced outside my office.

It’s been a while and the city has decided to replace sidewalks that have become damaged by small earthquake activity and tree roots coming up under the concrete. A couple of weeks ago a team came by and marked up our sidewalks with spray paint so we (and they) can see which portions are coming out and which are staying, and yesterday the actual work started on the other side of the street.

I was watching the workers for a while when I came to a realization that our readers might be interested in:

The workers weren’t wearing dust masks.

The first part of the job was a sort of grinding of the surface of the sidewalks. If you looked at them afterward, they had a sort of swirled pattern, which I assume somehow makes them easier to break up. But the cloud of dust that grinding machine kicked up was huge and made me glad they’re doing the other side first (not that that will be the case forever).

Concrete is made of a mixture of cement, water and “aggregate” which can be composed of gravel, rocks, sand and other materials like silica. Cement dust is a health hazard which “causes lung function impairment, chronic obstructive lung disease, restrictive lung disease, pneumoconiosis and carcinoma of the lungs, stomach and colon…[and] reach essentially all the organs of the body and affects the different tissues including heart, liver, spleen, bone, muscles and hairs…” according to PubMed.gov, a public health website. And then there’s the “small amounts of crystalline silica that are abrasive to skin and causes damage to lungs or small amounts of chromium that can cause allergic reactions,” according to the California State Insurance Compensation Fund.

As concerned as we are for the health of the people who live and work on this street, we have a greater level of concern for these workers who will soon enough be over on this side of this street and later move on to the next street and the next, still without protection for their respiratory health. I think I’ll call the city…

After all, I don’t want the dust of this town coming off my feet and ending up in someone else’s lungs! It is important to take dangers to your respiratory health very seriously, both at home and at work.

Tomorrow is National Mesothelioma Awareness Day and we hope that you will learn more about the causes and prevention of Mesothelioma on tomorrow’s blog at Alliance Environmental Group: Mesothelioma 101!

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. She is very happy to blog, post and Tweet for Alliance and AirTek and celebrates her one year anniversary with them on September 29th.

Diesel Exhaust: Health vs. Truckers

 

On Tuesday, I was listening to the radio as usual when a story about retrofitting or replacing trucks to reduce diesel exhaust in California came across the airwaves. I thought you might be interested in the discussion that followed.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) wants to reduce the particulate matter coming out of diesel truck exhaust pipes. New trucks already carry filters which remove it, but older trucks would have to be retrofitted or replaced, at a cost to the owners. No one disputes that there are costs for truckers and trucking company owners. The question is whether that cost is worth it to improve air quality and health.

The guests on the show were Joe Rajkovacz of the California Construction Trucking Association, and Melissa Lin Perrella, senior attorney of the Southern California Air Project.

Mr. Rajkovacz contended that the new regulations would cost the trucking industry $10 billion dollars, a figure which Ms. Perrella disputed, although she did agree that there would be costs involved in improving or replacing trucks.

Mr. Rajkovacz claimed that most of those costs would fall on small trucking companies and Ms. Perrella countered with her opinion that his number was inflated, and that small companies can get help to retrofit their fleets.

Mr. Rajkovic’s main argument, however, was the cost-benefit analysis, and there we must disagree with him. How do you really count the suffering of a child with asthma, the premature death of a man with lung cancer, against the cost of bringing business equipment into the 21st Century? He even tried to claim that Diesel Exhaust isn’t really that bad, or truckers would be sick and they’re not. Doesn’t sound like a peer-reviewed study to me.

In fact, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) says:

“Diesel exhaust and many individual substances contained in it (including arsenic, benzene, formaldehyde and nickel) have the potential to contribute to mutations in cells that can lead to cancer. In fact, long-term exposure to diesel exhaust particles poses the highest cancer risk of any toxic air contaminant evaluated by OEHHA. ARB estimates that about 70 percent of the cancer risk that the average Californian faces from breathing toxic air pollutants stems from diesel exhaust particles.”

Recently we reported on the Environmental Protection Agency’s reclassification of Diesel Exhaust into the same category as Asbestos and other carcinogens that none of us would allow freely released into the air anywhere near residential neighborhoods or on our freeways. If Diesel Exhaust is that dangerous–and it is–any cost of reducing its presence in our environment is vastly outweighed by the benefits received in health and lifespan.

What do you think? We would love to have you weigh in! Come over and see us on Facebook or Twitter and have a chat!

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. She can hear the freeway from her back yard.

Indoor Air Quality Affects Performance in School

 

With testing and test preparation taking up so many academic instruction hours and many districts scheduling furlough days to save on their budgets, students in US public schools cannot afford to waste a minute. And every day a teacher needs a substitute because of illness is a less productive day, no matter how skilled the substitute.

What pollutes the air in school?

Low ventilation rates cause many contaminants to remain in the air at school facilities, including:

  • Mold from moisture and water damage that goes unrepaired for too long (mold growth can begin in as little as 24 hours)
  • Animal dander from classroom pets
  • Dirt or water in HVAC systems, which can spread bacteria which cause disease
  • Formaldehyde and other VOC’s in building materials and school supplies
  • Allergenic chemicals in cleaning products
  • Chemicals in air fresheners and hand sanitizers used to “improve” the indoor environment
  • Pollutants from outdoors that cannot escape including vehicle exhaust from cars and buses

What are the results of poor indoor air quality in schools?

Nearly 80% of Chicago and Washington, DC teachers surveyed reported that indoor air quality is an important factor in teaching quality.

Poor air quality reduces teacher effectiveness and student test scores.

Contaminated air increases rates of illness, asthma attacks, allergic reactions and absenteeism, all of which lead to lower performance.

Among the many factors which can help or hurt our students do well in school, air quality is one that we can definitely improve upon. Keeping ventilation systems, including ducts and coils, clean and well maintained is essential to healthy air quality in schools. Read more about how teachers and parents can improve the air quality at school on the AirTek blog!

Great thanks to the IAQA for this informative video upon which this article was based.

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. She has two Middle Schoolers.

New Radon Laws in the Works

Radon Map of the US

Radon is second only to tobacco in substances which cause lung cancer.  It is an odorless, colorless gas that can kill before you even know it’s there.

The State of Illinois has decided to take some important steps in protecting its children and homeowners from the deadly effects of radon.  Two bills have passed the Illinois General Assembly to do just that and last week they were signed into law by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn.

HB 4606/Public Act 97-0981

As reported in the Chicago Sun-Times, The first bill would require licensed day care centers to be tested for radon every three years and the results of the tests to be posted with the facility’s license. The number of hours children spend in day care makes it important to know whether they are being exposed to any toxic substances while away from home. The law goes into effect January 1, 2013.

HB 4665/Public Act 97-0953

This law requires all new homes to be built with “passive radon resistant construction.” There are six major components in such a system:

A gas permeable layer is installed before the concrete slab is poured.

Then a vapor barrier is installed, also before the concrete slab.

A radon collection point is placed so that when the concrete slab goes in, it does not impair radon collection.

Any radon entry points are sealed and caulked.

A radon vent pipe carries the radon through interior walls, up to the roof and out of the home.

An electrical junction box is installed near the vent pipe in the attic.

Passive radon resistant construction allows the radon under the home to be collected and piped out above the structure without entering the indoor environment and affecting the residents.  This law goes into effect June 1, 2013.

As you can see from the map, Radon is a problem in many areas of our country, especially the upper Midwest.  In California, Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties are the most affected.  At AirTek, we recommend testing for radon and making any renovations necessary to protect your family from this dangerous carcinogen.

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.  Please Like AirTek on Facebook and Follow @AirTekCA on Twitter!

3 Dead from Legionnaires’ at Chicago Hotel

 

We didn’t know it would turn into “Legionnaires’ Week” on the AirTek blog, but right after we published Tuesday’s blog, another report of a Legionnaires’ outbreak came out, this time in the US.

There have been 10 reported cases so far and 3 deaths from this most recent outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease which investigators have determined to come from contaminated water at the JW Chicago Marriott Hotel.

Legionella bacteria matching that found in the sick guests was discovered in the lobby fountain, the swimming pool and the whirlpool at the facility. The pool was utilizing a new UV filtration system which was installed in May. No chlorine was used in the pool, which was said to be disinfected by UV light. Supposedly this meant that the chlorine level in the pool was lower than that in drinking water. It was billed as feeling like “swimming in a freshwater lake.”

Now I suppose that people sometimes get sick from swimming in lakes, but we would like to think that hotel swimming pools are kept scrupulously clean, since they have so many people in them every day, many more than a pool at a home would have. We join HotelChatter.com in hoping that this UV filtration system is either vastly improved and tested or goes the way of the Dodo.

It sounds to us like using fresh water in the contaminated pool may have meant that the water in that pool was circulating in other areas of the hotel as well. This was clearly a very dangerous situation. Even if hotel guests did not use the spa or the pool, they were exposed to water vapor from the fountain in the lobby, where splashing droplets enter the air and from there people’s respiratory tract.

Legionnaires’ is a problem in the travel industry, appearing often on cruise ships, in convention facilities and in hotels. The Legionnella bacterium is everywhere and the only way to prevent it from spreading and causing disease is to keep all parts of a water system clean and uncontaminated. At AirTek, we provide these services to commercial buildings and ships to ensure that no guests fall sick from attending amazing events or trying to enjoy fabulous vacations.

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. Please Like AirTek on Facebook and Follow @AirTekCA on Twitter!

Legionnaires’ Outbreak Blamed on Poor Maintenance

 

Yet another deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease was reported this week in Quebec City, Canada. And the reason is a common one.

When we first came across this story, 165 people had been diagnosed with Legionella and 10 had died. As of yesterday, the death toll has grown to 11, with 169 confirmed cases.

Blame is falling on improper maintenance of cooling towers in Quebec City, in a similar situation to the last outbreak in Edinburgh, Scotland. 130 cooling towers in Quebec City have been inspected and disinfected and officials believe that the diagnoses have peaked.

Legionellosis or Legion Fever is a potentially fatal bacterial infection that causes a high fever and pneumonia. It incubates over a period of between 2 and 10 days. Not everyone who is exposed to the Legionella bacterium gets sick, but of those who do the mortality rate can be as high as 30%. If it is contracted in the hospital, the death rate can be as high as 50%.

People at higher risk for contracting Legionnaires’ are: those over 50, smokers and those with chronic lung disease, but anyone can come down with this or it’s milder cousin, Pontiac Fever.

At AirTek, where we offer the maintenance services needed to keep cooling towers bacteria free, we wish that cities around the world would take the risk of Legionnaires’ Disease more seriously. Keeping cooling towers and other systems which can harbor contaminated water clean and disinfected is well worth the cost, especially when the alternative is so very dire.

Read more about cleaning cooling towers

Read more about Legionnaires’ Disease

Read more about the recent outbreaks in Scotland and New Zealand

Hope you had a wonderful Labor Day Weekend!

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. Please Like AirTek on Facebook and Follow @AirTekCA on Twitter!