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

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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.

 

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AA Homepage Articles | Healthy Clean Air |

MERV 16 Air Filters and Airborne Viruses: Keep Your Home Safe

2 minute read

The air we breathe is important to overall health. That’s more apparent now than ever before, and at Aprilaire we’re focused on getting you and your family the information you need to stay healthy during this time.

Healthy Air In The Home With MERV 16 Filters

The air inside your home can be 5x more polluted than the air outside. This is important to consider if you’re in a part of the United States using stay-at-home orders to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

There are a number of ways to improve your indoor air quality, including: better air circulation, regular dusting and cleaning, and properly storing sources of VOCs.

The next area to consider is air filtration. While there are a variety of options for purifying your air, today we’ll look at the effectiveness of MERV 16 filters, which can capture both virus-sized particles and airborne allergy and asthma triggers.

What Exactly is MERV and how does the rating system work?

MERV, otherwise known as Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, is a measurement scale that rates the effectiveness of filters at trapping airborne particles. The scale ranges from 1-16, with 16 being the most effective.

Here’s an in-depth description of the process used to determine MERV, from the National Air Filtration Association:

“An air filter’s performance is determined by measuring the particle counts upstream and downstream of the air-cleaning device being tested.

A laboratory aerosol generator, which operates much like a paint sprayer, is used to create a challenge aerosol of known particle size in the air stream. This will generate particles covering the 12 required particle size ranges for the test. The challenge aerosol is injected into the test duct and particle counts are taken for each of the size data points.

The filter’s performance, on each of the twelve particle sizes, during the six test cycles (a total of 72 value or calculated value) is determined. For each value or calculated value, the filtration efficiency is stated as a ratio of the downstream-to-upstream particle count. The lowest values over the six test cycles are then used to determine the Composite Minimum Efficiency Curve. Using the lowest measured efficiency avoids the misinterpretation of averaging and provides a “worst case” experience over the entire test.”

Air Filters and Viruses

The size of contaminants and particles are usually described in microns, a metric unit of measure where one micron is one-millionth of a meter:

  • 1 micron = 10-6 m = 1 μm

The particular strain of coronavirus that’s causing COVID-19 (known as SARS-CoV-2) measures between .05 and .2 μm in diameter. (One study found it to be between .07 and .09 μm.)

The diagram below demonstrates that MERV 16 filters trap up to 96% of virus-sized particles*, to help prevent the proliferation of airborne viruses in the home.

1Solid lines represent MERV test data; dashed lines represent calculations for ultra-fine particles

To find out more about these filters and to see how they can be used in your home, check out Aprilaire’s Healthy Home Tips and reach out to speak with an Healthy Air Pro.

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

offgassing

Healthy Clean Air |

What is Offgassing?

3 minute read

Offgassing occurs when Volatile Organic Compounds (or VOCs) are released into the air we breathe. VOCs can live anywhere in your home in the form of solids or liquids. Common sources, like paints, furniture, carpeting, cleaning supplies, and more, can create some of the most well-known VOCs including formaldehyde, chloroform, acetone, ozone, and more. When these sources offgas, it can impact your family’s health and cause discomfort in your home. So, what can you do?

How to Tell if Something is Offgassing

Sometimes, odor can be a sign that something is offgassing. While it’s not always present or an indicator of offgassing, it’s not uncommon to experience odors. For example, a new car smell—a smell that most of us actually enjoy—is an example of offgassing chemicals from manufacturing glue. The same is true for that ‘clean’ smell we all love after a day of disinfecting. These smells can create long-lasting health problems for you and your family. All VOCs (and people) are different, so it’s possible that you won’t even recognize an odor or even know that something around you is offgassing, but that doesn’t mean VOCs aren’t releasing themselves into the air we breathe.

If you’re wondering if offgassing is a problem in your home, an Indoor Air Quality test can help you identify it. One of our Healthy Air Professionals in your area can also help you discover some IAQ solutions that could work for your home and family. Or you can work to eliminate your exposure to VOCs altogether by making some changes in your home.

What Are the Health Risks of Offgassing?

If you’ve been exposed to offgassing, you may find that your allergy and asthma symptoms are acting up. Since VOCs are known to impact your Indoor Air Quality, these symptoms can worsen due to the polluted air surrounding you. If you’re exposed for a substantial amount of time, you may find yourself experiencing the following:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Eye, nose, and throat irritation
  • Long-term symptoms, including:
    • Vision problems
    • Memory problems
    • Respiratory issues
    • Heart disease
    • Cancer

How to Prevent Offgassing

The best way is to eliminate or lessen your exposure to high VOC products and opt for more natural remedies when cleaning, crafting, shopping, and more. Here are some suggestions:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Avoid products known to offgas and instead, use:
    • Natural cleaning solutions
    • Furniture made with natural materials
    • Low or non-VOC paints

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You can also make some healthy changes to your home in order to reduce VOCs from releasing into your indoor air and slow offgassing. You can:

  • Bring Fresh Air In: With the air inside our homes being 5 times more polluted than the air outside, bringing in fresh air can help replenish your indoor air. Take a second to run your ventilation or even open up your windows and let all that new air in.
  • Fill Your Home with Houseplants: There are a wealth of houseplants known to boost your home’s air quality. Check out some of our favorites.
  • Install an Air Purifier: Air purifiers and the right air filter can help remove VOCs from the air and boost the amount of Healthy Air circulating in your home.
  • Practice Healthy Humidity: High humidity can actually make items offgas quicker. Investing in a dehumidifier can help you regulate your humidity and slow the offgassing process.

Clean air is Healthy Air, pure and simple. And when it comes to your home, breathing the highest quality air is important for the health of you and your family. Creating a Healthy Home environment is easy when you have the right tools. See how a Healthy Air Professional can help you.

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experiments

AA Homepage Articles | Family |

Family Learning: Child Friendly Experiments For Staying Healthy

2 minute read

There has never been a more critical time to teach children the importance of keeping their germs to themselves. But more than simply telling children they need to wash their hands and wear a mask, you can have a real impact by showing them in enjoyable experiments what germs are and how they spread.

Staying Healthy Experiments For Kids

Glitter, Glitter, Everywhere

In this experiment, glitter is used to represent our germs and how they spread from one thing to another throughout our day if we don’t wash our hands.

Most parents already know that glitter is difficult to get off, which reinforces the importance of washing hands for at least 20 seconds to thoroughly remove harmful germs.

Make A Wish

Typically you want to blow out all the candles on your birthday cake or it means your wish won’t come true. But with this experiment, the more candles left burning, the better!

Everyone’s favorite science guy, Bill Nye, showed how this experiment works in a short video. By trying to blow out the candles through various types of materials, kids can see how some are more effective than others. And it serves as a reminder that masks are an important part of reducing the spread of germs when we cough, sneeze, spit or breathe too close to someone else.

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are

It can be a hard concept for young children to understand: There are things in the air that we can’t see that can make us sneeze, cause food to go bad, or make us very sick.

With a few simple household items in this experiment, you can help shed some light on the mystery and reinforce the lessons you’re trying to teach kids about staying healthy. This particular experiment focuses on air quality, which is important to keep in mind at home, in school, and wherever kids venture off to.

Goals For Kids

All these experiments share common learning objectives.

The goals are for kids to:

  • Understand what germs are
  • Know that germs are everywhere (the air, our hands, surfaces we touch), but are too small to see with our eyes
  • Understand that everyone has germs and some germs make people sick
  • Understand that washing hands, wearing masks, and keeping our hands out of our mouths, eyes, and noses will help reduce the spread of germs

 

 

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.

Healthy Air | News |

Aprilaire Partner Contractor Joins Fight For Air Climb

2 minute read

“What can you do or say when your family is suffering such losses? It’s devastating,” said Christopher Ciongoli, HVAC salesman/estimator with Aprilaire partner Whalen & Ives.

Chris is participating in the NYC American Lung Association Fight For Air Climb on April 4, 2020. When he heard that Aprilaire was the national Healthy Air sponsor of the event he signed on to the Aprilaire team.

“An opportunity to make difference just appeared to me on Jan 10th in an email from Aprilaire informing me about the Fight for Air Climb. This was it. This is how I would help make a difference and support my wife as well as so many others that are impacted by lung disease”.

Lung disease became an all too familiar fixture in Chris’s life last year when his brother-in-law, mother-in-law, and father-in-law all died from lung disease.

As of February 7, he’s raised 90 percent of his fundraising goal. Not only is Chris excited to help raise funds and awareness, he told us he’s already reaping the benefits of training for the 849-step climb.

“My blood pressure has dropped, my pants are getting loose, and my dog Crosby is getting back in shape too!”

Every morning he goes out with dog Crosby and strengthens his legs and increases his stamina to make sure he can make it to the 44th floor of the 1290 Avenue of Americas building in New York City.

Read more of Chris’s incredible journey by going to his page. Thank you for your efforts, Chris and we cannot wait to hear more.

For more information about the Fight For Air Climb and to find an event in your area, go to https://www.lung.org/aprilaire. To learn how to train for your own climb, head to our page where we share training tips to help you prepare for your own Fight For Air Climb.

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