AA Homepage Articles | Healthy Clean Air | Wellness |

The Impact of Indoor Pollution – A Closer Look at the Air We Breathe

2 minute read

The air pollution conversation used to revolve almost entirely around pollutants emitted from gas-burning vehicles. But in the age of electric, hybrid, and other clean, fuel-efficient cars, and during a time when people are spending more time indoors than ever before–that conversation is starting to change toward volatile chemical products (VCPs).

“It’s time to think about the indoor environment as being a source of pollution the same way we’ve thought about cars contributing to pollution in the past.”

 This quote is from Matthew Coggon, a Research Scientist II of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and Chemical Sciences Division of the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory.

Thanks to recent studies in Los Angeles, we can see that volatile chemical products contribute as much to the abundance of urban volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as the emissions from motor vehicles.

What are Volatile Chemical Products and Volatile Organic Compounds?

VCPs are products that easily become vapors or gases and are predominantly emitted in the indoor environment, where they release VOCs. They can then be transported to the outdoors via building exhaust where they add to the pollution of the ozone layer.

VOCs are up to 10x higher indoors. They are also released from several everyday consumer products containing volatile chemicals.

Listed below are common Volatile Chemical Products:

  • Cigarettes
  • Paints and thinners
  • Air fresheners
  • Personal care products (shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, etc.)
  • Solvents found in adhesives, cosmetics, cleaners, spot removers, nail polish removers, lacquers, and dry-cleaning fluid
  • Copy machines and printers
  • Building materials and furnishings
  • Pesticides

Healthy Air Is on the Way

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The top two categories of indoor air pollution and volatile chemical products are personal care products and adhesives.

The good news is that there are several ways to keep VOCs out of your home.

Control and Eliminate sources of VOCs

  • Look for fragrance-free products that don’t contain fragrance materials or masking scents.
    • Be careful not to confuse unscented for fragrance-free, as unscented typically means that chemicals have been used in the product to neutralize or mask the odor of other ingredients.
  • Choose non-toxic cleaning products that are water-based as opposed to products containing solvents.
  • Reduce the overall use of personal care products.
  • Don’t stock up on products that you only use occasionally, rather buy only what you will use right away so you’re not storing unnecessary chemicals in your home.
    • Things like paint, fuel, and chemicals should be stored far away from your living space.

Use As Directed

  • Always follow manufacturers’ instructions when it comes to storing household products that contain chemicals.
  • Never mix household cleaners or other chemicals unless the label gives specific directions.
  • Keep all products out of reach of pets and children.

Purify Your Air

  • Use an air purifier or whole home ventilation to ensure a healthy indoor environment for your family.
  • Aprilaire Air Purifiers reduce airborne pollutants, allergens, microbes, odors, and more. They can be a key piece in reducing the amount of VOCs in your home.

 

Let’s Clear the Air
Clean air is Healthy Air, pure and simple.

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AA Homepage Articles | Healthy Home |

Tips for Working From Home During Coronavirus Outbreak

3 minute read

For many of us, the idea of working from home during the coronavirus outbreak will provide more freedom but also more distraction. It’s a concept that many of us are unfamiliar with.

Create a Work Space to Work from Home

As we transition to working from home, we will have to create a workspace. The easiest thing to do is to transition into your home office, but some of us will have to create a new space. Finding space that can function as your personal work station can be especially challenging if you have limited space. Find a spot in your home that will provide comfort and limit distractions.

It may be difficult to use public spaces such as the library or a coffee shop due to the spread of the coronavirus but check with your local city and county governments on restrictions if you work better from home.

Dress for the Day

The transition can be hard. It can be difficult to maintain a routine when you do not have to get up at the same time or you do not have the same schedule of daily meetings or a commute. You’ll now be presented with different distractions and interruptions that you didn’t have at your office such as kids, pets, and binging your favorite shows.

To help combat these shifts, create a daily schedule where you map out your day with tasks. For example, if you usually start your day drinking coffee and checking email then continue to do that. Keep as many of your daily routines as possible to help keep you in work mode despite the shift in setting.

You’ll also want to have a schedule throughout the day to keep you focused on your work. This schedule can be a daily schedule, a weekly schedule or even a bi-weekly schedule. I work best with a series of general projects planned out over the next several weeks and several smaller tasks that may change day-to-day. You know yourself best so whether a more detailed list with specific times or a more general list of daily tasks, find the right method to keep you focused and motivated.

If you need to take a break from work, don’t be afraid to do so.

Look after yourself

Humans are social creatures. We like interacting with and being around other people. Being isolated can present a certain set of social challenges so make sure you find time to catch up with coworkers, friends, and family.

You can suggest doing a daily video chat with your coworkers to keep up with what’s going on with the company, everyone’s lives, and other updates for projects. These little check-ins will help strengthen your team’s bond and will provide an injection of social interaction.

And definitely take time to recharge with your family. If you have kids, spend time with them in the morning and throughout the day in small tasks like making lunch. Most of the time, our work lives can interrupt our family life so cherish these moments of spending time with your kids and significant other.

Find ways to also recharge physically as well like taking a short walk outside, going to the gym, or doing a mid-day yoga session at home. If you’re unable to go to a gym given the direction of community officials, find other ways to stay active like stretching or standing up every hour. We also wrote another post about exercises to do at home. You can find that post by clicking here.

Boosting your physical well-being can have an impact on your creativity and mood. Weight gain can be an unexpected side-effect of working from home where snacks and other food is more readily available. Plus, you may not be burning the same amount of calories you were while at work.

While there will be an obvious adjustment to working from home, don’t stress if the transition is difficult for the first couple of days. For most of us who do not work from home regularly, making this transition will prove to be difficult until we adjust to our new schedules. Following these simple tips above will hopefully provide a more seamless transition.

 

AA Homepage Articles | News |

Experiencing the Fight For Air Climb

2 minute read

Before the Fight For Air Climb

Entering the US Bank Center for the American Lung Association’s Fight For Air Climb was a rush of energy.

This seemed less like an arduous trek up 1,000 stairs and more of an indoor festival. There were volunteers ready to greet you and pump you up for the ensuing climb and people from different companies sitting at tables ready to hand out souvenirs.

They were probably also there to distract you after you just got done instinctively looking up toward the top of the 47-story US Bank Center in downtown Milwaukee becoming a little uneasy at the prospect of your journey upward.

Before you made your climb, you gathered as a team and took several escalators down to the basement level before getting warmed up with a quick aerobic routine. Then you took a long and winding tunnel where you greeted by more volunteers who were cheering you on. It was hard not to feel inspired and excited.

During the Fight For Air Climb

One-by-one people took off up toward the top of the US Bank Center to begin their Fight For Air Climb. I, like most, started off confidently and quickly. I took the first six flights easily, but then by flight eight, I began to fight for air. I now understand why they title this climb just that. My mind and my body were at odds. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to continue at the same pace to get it over with as quickly as possible or to slow down and feel better. I went with the former.

Everyone in the stairwell was trudging onward with the same dilemma. We all were gasping for air as we kept pushing up each step and each flight toward the top of the Fight For Air Climb. At several points, I wondered if I was actually making any progress.

Every 10 flights there was a group of volunteers handing out cups of water and words of encouragement. Both were sorely needed to help push me along.

With each passing flight, I kept a tally of how many flights I had left. Twenty flights down, 27 more flights to go; 30 flights down, 17 flights to go; Ok, 40 flights down, 7 to go. By the time I got to the 40th floor, I knew I could make the last push to make it to the top of my Fight For Air Climb journey.

After the Fight For Air Climb

Eventually, I reached the top after 9 minutes and 31 seconds. At the top of the stairwell, I was met by volunteers who were cheering me on and by other climbers who were also catching their breath and taking in the picturesque views of Milwaukee and Lake Michigan afforded to us by the tallest building in Wisconsin.

As I grabbed a water and walked around soaking in both the views of the city and my accomplishment, it was really cool to watch teams taking pictures together or greeting other climbers with high-fives and smiles. There was a certain camaraderie found in a common struggle.

Despite the lingering soreness, I cannot wait for next year’s climb. No matter if I beat my time from this year or not, it’s about fighting for air together and helping those impacted with lung disease.

To join an upcoming climb in a city near you, visit www.lung.org/aprilaire.

AA Homepage Articles | Healthy Air | Wellness |

Airborne Viruses and Healthy Air

3 minute read

At Aprilaire we believe healthy air is essential – especially in your home. The coronavirus pandemic has brought indoor air quality to the forefront as you and your family are spending far more time in your home.

Healthy air is all we do at Aprilaire, and as the industry leader we want to take this opportunity to share information with you on how to create healthy air in your home. More than ever we feel a responsibility to spread the word on the importance of healthy air in the home, the science behind how a home’s air system works, and proven, best-practice healthy air solutions.

Unfortunately we do not have cure for the coronavirus, but Aprilaire does offer solutions to help prevent the proliferation of airborne viruses and other air quality issues in your home

We support the findings and recommendation of ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) that the most effective way to prevent proliferation of airborne viruses is by installing a whole home Healthy Air System containing 3 essential elements: Air Filtration, Humidity Control and Fresh Air Ventilation.

These components are designed to work with your heating and air conditioning equipment to create a healthy air environment in your home by introducing healthy, fresh air into your home, maintaining a level of humidity that helps prevent the proliferation of viruses, and helping to remove airborne dust, allergens, bacteria, and viruses.

Air Filtration

Proper filtration of both the air in your home and incoming ventilation air is key to removing particulates from the air.

According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine (NIH/NLM)the coronavirus nominally has a particle size of 0.13 microns and most airborne viruses range from 0.03 to 0.3 microns.

Aprilaire MERV 16 Allergy & Asthma Filters provide the highest rate of effectiveness. They can capture up to 96%* of airborne particles the size of viruses.

Our whole-home Aprilaire 5000 Electronic Air Cleaner is an effective product to capture airborne viruses. It is up to 90%* efficient at trapping airborne virus-size particles.

Healthy Humidity Solutions

Proper Humidity reduces the transmission of viruses. ASHRAE promotes keeping humidity between 30-60% to minimize virus survival rates.

Aprilaire provides humidifier products such as the 600, 700, and 800 and the 1850 dehumidifier to help keep the home between this optimal range.

Fresh Air Ventilation

Having a properly functioning whole-home ventilation system is critical to maintaining a healthy home environment. Fresh air is not only clean and refreshing but ventilation also helps dilute and remove contaminants.

Homeowners should use a ventilation system to bring in fresh air from the outside to dilute stagnant indoor air. The air inside the home can be up to 5 times more polluted than the air outside. Products such as the Aprilaire Model 8126X Ventilation System or Model 8140 Fresh Air Ventilator bring in the recommended amount of fresh air. They also have patented control logic to minimize energy usage. Coupling these systems with our IAQ thermostats allows homeowners to easily adjust the amount of fresh air being brought (into) your home.

Whole-Home Product Control

The Aprilaire whole-home products work with our IAQ thermostats to provide easy user experience and control through the thermostat and Aprilaire app.

Professional

Help combat airborne viruses and particulates in the home with Aprilaire Products. Our products are not only manufactured in the United States, but our engineers and manufacturers maintain the highest standards in design and assembly.

Aprilaire products are professionally installed and serviced by Healthy Air Partners. To help find the perfect Healthy Air product for your home, go to our Find A Pro page to locate a dealer in your area.

Please note:

Aprilaire products are not intended to cure or treat any known airborne viruses but can help in the reduction of airborne viruses in your home.

*Contaminates removed based on air passing through the filtering system.

 

Healthy Home | Healthy Air |

10 Tips for a Mold-Free House

4 minute read

October is the time of the year when most of us start thinking about sealing the hatches in our homes for the season. But before you do that, it’s healthy to check if your home is mold-free. You might be trapping it inside to keep you company all winter long.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mold growth can exist practically anywhere. Whether you are inside or outside, mold spores are there. They can enter your home through openings as large as doors or windows, or as small as the tiniest gap you ever chased with a caulk gun. Once in your home, the spores can grow on clothes, shoes, toys or even pets. Worse yet, mold is almost certain to release clouds of potentially harmful spores that, once airborne, can take the shortest path to your lungs.

Some molds are harmful, others are benign. And, how mold affects you can depend on your own personal sensitivity. Mold expert Jeff May learned this first hand. The Johns Hopkins University Press author of three books (‘My House is Killing Me,’ ‘My Office is Killing Me’ and the ‘Mold Survival Guide’), wasn’t always such an accomplished expert on how mold can make you really sick.

“For years, I had an office air conditioner that was probably too big for the space. As a result, my office was always damp and I’d cough whenever the AC came on. Then one day I opened it up and found that everything inside had turned black — with Cladosporium mold. That was the defining moment when I put two and two together,” he said.

According to May, the first step to making your home mold-free is to understand what makes it tick. Mold needs three things to grow: moisture, air and food, and this combination can be found just about anywhere in your home. “Mold grows where it can find food: the dust on a bathroom ceiling, the starch paste on the back of wallpaper, or the plant fibers that make up the jute pad under a carpet. Add moisture, and mold growth begins,” said May.

Keep your home mold-free:

Mind the Moisture

Keep humidity below 50 percent in basements. Improve outside grading and drainage by keeping gutters clean and soil always sloping away from your home. Cover dirt crawlspace floors with plastic to reduce moisture.

Store Safely

Keep all storage at least several inches up off concrete floors and away from foundations where dampness can easily seep in. This is especially important with organic material like cardboard boxes. Avoid using wooden shelves; metal or plastic shelves are preferable.

Heat Finished Basements

Below grade spaces like finished basements are more likely to become infested and should always be heated to at least 60 degrees, even when not being used. The warmer the space, the less the chance that condensation will form and feed a mold problem.

Build Mold Resistant

When choosing building materials, use materials that don’t feed the mold. Tom Combs took this option when remodeling the bathroom in his family’s 1990 lake house outside of Atlanta, Georgia. “The ceiling was covered with mold and I wanted to take immediate action before the situation worsened.” Combs’ solution was Dens Armor Plus, a wallboard made by Georgia Pacific that is specifically designed to create a mold-free space. Unlike regular drywall that has a paper face, Dens Armor Plus has a fiberglass face that cannot feed a mold problem. For roofing specifically, make sure to consider algae, mold and bacteria resistant shingles when installing a new roof. Metal infused in these shingles will kill off the bacteria that causes algae and mold growth naturally without the need for chemicals.

Ventilate Vigorously

Poor or missing ventilation fans in damp spaces like baths and kitchens can leave enough moisture behind to sustain a mold problem. Make sure all baths and kitchens are vented by properly sized fans that take moisture outside and NOT into attics. Keep the bathroom door open after bathing to speed the drying of surfaces.

Avoid Basement Carpets

More than almost any other material in a house, carpets can be incredibly effective havens for mold. Even non-organic carpets can collect dirt, dust, and moisture that combine to provide mold a fertile ground in which to grow, especially in below-grade spaces where relative humidity tends to be higher. Hard surface products like laminate flooring or engineered hardwoods are always a better choice for basement and other mold-free spaces.

Filter the Air

If your home has a forced-air heating and cooling system, using a top quality air filter is a must. May recommends pleated filters with a MERV rating of at least six to eight, or 11 if the family is prone to allergies. Another option is a whole house electronic air cleaner. Mounted permanently to the home’s HVAC system, a whole house air cleaner uses ionization technology to charge particles making them stick to filters like a magnet. According to Consumer Reports, the most effective unit is the Aprilaire Model 5000, which can trap virus-sized particles as small as one micron (one millionth of a meter) and needs just yearly filter replacement.

Insulate Ducts

Duct systems that carry heated or cooled air throughout your house must be insulated whenever they pass through unheated or uncooled spaces like attics or basements. If not, condensation can form inside the ducts and, when combined with dust in the air, can allow mold to grow in the ducts, and then spores can easily circulate throughout your entire house.

Clean Carefully

Use mold-inhibiting cleaners in bathrooms and kitchens. Portable air conditioning units should be taken apart and cleaned at the start of every season. When painting damp spaces like kitchens and bathrooms, use paint with a mold inhibitor EPA-approved for indoor use.

Fix Floods Fast

If you do have a major leak or flood, quick action can stop mold before it starts. Thoroughly dry soaked carpets and padding, and remove any wet upholstery. Then wash and disinfect all surfaces before the carpet and pad are replaced.

Mold may be a part of Mother Nature’s plans, but following these tips will make sure recovering from the sickness it can cause doesn’t ever have to become part of your plans. For more information, visit the Web site for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or review the Mold Resource Guide on the Web site for the national radio show, ‘The Money Pit.’

Healthy Humidity | Healthy Air |

Having a Bad Air Day? Here’s Some Help to Clear the Air

2 minute read

During the winter months as we’re sealed up in our homes trying to keep warm, a by-product occurs. The air inside our homes gets dry, and the overall quality of the air can suffer resulting in bad air.

The EPA estimates that our indoor air can in some instances be 10 times more polluted than the air outside. With a small investment, you can improve the air quality in your home to help you breathe easier and also feel more comfortable.

Adding humidity to the air

The first step is to add some humidity to the air. By raising the relative humidity to 25-35 percent you will no longer feel like your skin is as dry as a desert. And that dry cough and static you can sometimes get will be a thing of the past.

With a small humidistat or hygrometer, you can test the humidity in your home. If the reading is under 20 percent, then purchasing and using a room humidifier might be the right course. There are many different units on the market.

Whole-house humidity can be added with a unit that connects to your forced-air furnace like the AprilAire 600 series. This professionally installed unit will deliver even humidity throughout your home. Select the previous link to learn more specifically about the Aprilaire 600. Or you can go to our Humidifier Buying Guide to read more about whole-home humidifiers.

Filtering your air

Bad air can be improved dramatically with the use of high-efficiency air filters. By capturing more of the dust and allergens that flow through your heating and cooling system, you will be able to breathe easier and even cut down on the dust in your home.

Using an indoor air purifier can really help with the air quality in your home as well. While there are many different whole-house units on the market that work very well, they can be cost-prohibitive for many homeowners, and not available to renters. Room purifiers, when used correctly and maintained, can really help. By allowing the bad air to pass through the filter, what’s lurking in the air can be trapped, resulting in cleaner air in the room.

Environment | Healthy Air |

Air Quality & Education – How Asthma Affects School Attendance in Southern California

3 minute read

The correlation between poor eyesight and bad grades has been known for some time.  Students who struggle in school often don’t do so because of a lack of intelligence or ability, but because they’re not able to see and comprehend what’s on the whiteboard, the computer screen, or the papers in front of them. This pattern of biological factors impacting education goes beyond eyesight. Recent studies have shown that air quality and asthma can also have an impact on school performance and attendance.

Asthma in Southern California Schools

Asthma is one of the leading causes of school absenteeism in the urban counties of Southern California. It’s also the number one reason children are in the emergency room.

In the County of San Bernardino, alone, approximately 16.7 percent of children between the ages of 0-14 were hospitalized as a result of asthma-related symptoms in 2017.

Additionally, living in urban areas with traffic congestion and consequential air pollution has a disproportionate impact on children and teenagers.

One study found that “traffic pollution causes asthma attacks in children, and may cause a wide range of other effects including the onset of childhood asthma, impaired lung function, premature death and death from cardiovascular diseases and cardiovascular morbidity.”

The areas that are most affected were within 0.2 to 0.3 miles of a major highway, which would include many school districts and residential areas in Southern California.

So there are two main issues here:

  1. Improving air quality in areas where children live and go to school
  2. Giving children with asthma access to better care

The Road To Improved Air Quality and Health

Breathmobile

The Breathmobile Asthma Clinic has been utilized in Los Angeles County, Orange County, and the County of San Bernardino. It’s a mobile clinic that provides free care to students suffering from asthma, helping them get back to school faster. Here are some of the services they provide:

  • Coordinated case identification
  • Structured mobile office visits
  • Diagnostic testing
  • Physical exams
  • Pharmacological therapy
  • Patient/family education in asthma management

Thanks to the efforts of the Breathmobile, studies have shown a decrease in school absenteeism, fewer emergency room visits, pulmonary function improvement, higher exercise tolerance, and improved quality of life for the children who are participating in the program. This could serve as a model for improving asthma care in other areas of Southern California and beyond.

Improving Air Quality

While improved treatment for asthma sufferers is important, air quality control is another huge factor in this health crisis.

This Southern California Children’s Health Study proved that prevention is possible and recorded a 20 percent decrease in new asthma cases where there was improved air quality over a 20-year period.

But how do we improve air quality?

A Positive Change In Air Quality

While it’s difficult for us as individuals to have a large impact on overall, outdoor air quality, there are plenty of ways to take control of the air quality in our own homes today.

The home is most likely where children are exposed to the highest levels of allergens and asthma triggers, primarily because the home is where they spend the majority of their time.

Here are some strategies for improving the air quality in your home:

  • Remove/reduce asthma triggers such as dust, pets, mold, and VOCs
  • Make your home non-smoking
  • Maintain a healthy humidity level using a humidifier in dry areas and a dehumidifier in moist/damp areas
  • Prevent mold growth by using exhaust fans in kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms
  • Avoid scented candles or heavy scented cleaning products
  • Install and check carbon monoxide alarms and radon alarms
  • Install an asthma and allergy-friendly air purifier

Ask An Air Quality Expert

Still have questions about creating a healthy environment for you and your family? Check out Aprilaire’s Find A Pro resources to talk with someone who can address the specific needs of your home or work environments.

If you’re already using air purification and filtration in your home, it never hurts to look at the last time you changed your filters, especially if you live in an area exposed to wildfire smoke. A properly functioning filter is essential to the air purification process and can help prolong the life of your equipment. Look through the Air Filter Buying Guide for more information.