Important Information for People Who Suffer From Asthma, Allergies and Hayfever

During the twelve plus years I have been working with air purifiers and the prior seven years working as a respiratory therapist, I have seen many remarkable, and many sad situations in people’s lives who suffered from one respiratory disease or another. As a respiratory therapist, it was emotionally difficult seeing the suffering my patients went through. It was a real pleasure to help get them well and send them home. But since many went right back to the same environment that had made them sick, sooner or later most of them returned, again and again. It was frustrating and I began to think, “There has to be a better way.”

It wasn’t until several years later when I purchased an air purifier to help with my allergies to cats (which I discovered while taking care of a friend’s cat for an extended period of time) that I realized, “There really is a better way!” Since that time I have seen many people escape that revolving door of hospital admissions for respiratory difficulties through lifestyle changes and the use of a good quality air purifier. Not just any purifier, but one that uses a state-of-the-science technology called photo catalytic oxidation (PCO) technology was originally developed for NASA and has since been further researched, improved and developed into radiant catalytic ionization (RCI). (For an understanding of RCI and how it works see my blog post of February 6, 2011 on IAQ: Air Filtration vs. Air Purification)

RCI-type air purifier

But the story of one man in particular stands out in my mind. This one is about a man (whom I’ll call Frank) who like many others I have seen, developed first a sensitivity and then a full-blown allergy to grasses, pollen and molds that eventually left him a prisoner in his own home for most of the year.

Frank’s story

Prior to becoming sick Frank loved to mow his lawn on his big riding mower. He lives in the country and has a big back yard he likes to refer to as “the back forty.” And he loved to mow the back forty. His allergies finally got to the point where he could not only no longer mow the back forty, but from spring until the first hard frost in the fall, he was unable to go outside for any significant period of time. He was prescribed medications to treat his allergies; steroids, inhalers, nebulizer treatments etc. but they only managed his symptoms, never giving him enough relief that he was able to go out of his home for significant amounts of time except for the period from late fall until early spring when his allergens were not present in the air in quantities sufficient to cause him problems.

Then one day a friend of Frank’s told him about an air purifier that might help him. He tried one of these air purifiers for a couple of weeks and found it gave him enough relief that he was able go for longer and longer periods of time without his inhalers and nebulizer treatments. In fact he found the air purifier helped him so much that he bought it. After about two months of running this air purifier in his home 24/7 Frank was able to taper off the steroids, and working closely with his allergist was able to completely quit taking them. By the end of three months he was almost completely off all of his respiratory medications and had more energy and stamina than he had experienced in years.

During all of this time Frank really missed going out and mowing the back forty. One day about four or five months after he started using the air purifier it was such a beautiful day and he felt so good, he said to himself, “What the heck, I’m going to go out and mow the back forty!” And he did.

In fact, he mowed the back forty without any problems and came back into the house. He expected that it was only a matter of time before it would hit him “like a ton of bricks” and he would have to use his inhalers or give himself a nebulizer treatment, or worse yet, go to the emergency room. Frank had prepared himself for it feeling it was inevitable – only a matter of time before he would have to pay for what he had done and he thought he would “pay for it, big time.”

But it never came. He slept through the night and the next day he was still doing well. Perplexed, he called his allergist and told him what he had done. And that he didn’t have any of his old respiratory symptoms. He expected his doctor to chastise him for his irresponsible behavior. But the doctor never said a word. All Frank heard was silence on the other end of the line. The doctor was busy processing what had happened. He realized this wasn’t typical of his patients.

“Doc, I don’t understand it. I know I’m not cured – am I? How could I expose myself like that and yet not have any problems?”

His allergist then proceeded to explain to him the following. And this is what I have never forgotten:

Understanding your threshold

With a respiratory allergy everyone has a threshold. Your threshold is that point at which you begin to experience symptoms. When exposure to the allergens has been great enough, and a person has been pushed to that threshold or beyond, the symptoms appear. The further the threshold has been exceeded the worse the symptoms.

Everyone’s threshold is dynamic; always moving. Your threshold is higher when you are taking care of yourself; eating right, getting a good night’s sleep, drinking plenty of pure water, and most importantly, managing stress (emotional, spiritual and physical). That means your exposure to allergens has to be greater in order to cause symptoms. If you slip up in any of these areas, or come down with a cold or the flu, the threshold drops, meaning it takes less exposure to cause symptoms.

Creating a buffer zone

The difference between where you are at any given time in relation to your threshold, when you are symptom-free, is your buffer zone – the better you are taking care of yourself (higher threshold) and the less your exposure to your allergens, the greater the buffer zone you have. With a larger buffer zone your exposure to allergens can be greater before you begin to experience symptoms.

What Frank had done with the air purifier and diligently living an improved lifestyle, was create a sanctuary in his home; a place where his exposure to allergens was virtually non-existent or greatly reduced. With this and with his healthy lifestyle habits he had created a large enough buffer zone that he was able to go out and mow the back forty without getting into trouble.

Creating a Sanctuary

There are places like your home, your car, your office at work, where with the use of an air purifier, (yes, there are air purifiers you can plug in and use in your car) you can create a sanctuary; where your exposure to allergens is virtually non-existent or greatly reduced. With the resulting increased buffer zone, you can go out into places where you have no control over your allergen exposure and not get pushed over your threshold as quickly now. That means less problems with your asthma, allergies or hayfever.

Not everyone will have the same experience that Frank did. Everyone’s situation is different. But I have seen a lot of people helped by using an air purifier at home and at work to reduce their allergen exposure. Many have been able to reduce the severity and incidence of their symptoms, some have been able to reduce or even completely eliminate their medications. And sadly, some have not experienced significant relief. The only way to know is to try one of these RCI-type air purifiers for yourself.

These air purifiers are not intended to be a treatment for disease, a replacement for medical treatment, or prescription medications or seeing your family physician, but many report that when used properly and in conjunction with a supervised medical regimen, they may reduce the severity of your symptoms. Always consult your physician before making any changes in your treatment regimen.

Mary’s story

Mary (not her real name) had allergies and had been using prescription nasal sprays and inhalers for over twenty years when I met her. A friend and neighbor had told her about this remarkable air purifier that had helped her when she got sick from mold contamination in her home.

Mary borrowed her friend’s air purifier one weekend when her friend went out of town. She told me, “I felt so much better after just three days that I didn’t want to give it back.” That’s when she called me to get a demo unit. When I set up the demo unit in her home and showed her how to adjust it she said, “I already know I want one. Order one for me right away.”

When Mary’s air purifier arrived I took it over to set it up and pick up the demo unit. She told me, “This may sound funny to you, but I can’t believe how great it feels to actually breathe through my nose!” She shared with me that she had been unable to breathe through her nose for over twenty years. And in the short period of time since I had set up the demo unit in her home she had already stopped using the nasal sprays.

Again, your experience may not be the same as Mary’s, but the only way you’ll know how well it will work for you is to try one for yourself. These air purifiers are not intended to be a treatment for disease, a replacement for medical treatment, or prescription medications or seeing your family physician, but many report that when used properly and in conjunction with a supervised medical regimen they may reduce the severity of your symptoms. Always consult your physician before making any changes in your treatment regimen.

If you would like a better understanding of the science behind these RCI-type air purifiers and how they work, read my blog post from February 6, 2011 on IAQ: Air Filtration vs. Air Purification

If you live in West Michigan you can contact me by email to set up a free, no obligation trial of one of these air purifiers. If you are outside of the West Michigan area, purchase one of the air purifiers through my internet store. I’ll ship it to you and if you are not satisfied with the results simply return it complete within 30 days in the original packaging and I’ll refund the purchase price upon receipt.

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Dealing With Mold Contamination

With the weather we’ve been having this summer; hot, very humid with thundershowers and occasional prolonged downpours, there has been an increase in requests for indoor air quality assessments, especially mold inspections. In the course of conducting these inspections it seems there are many questions that come up over and over again for homeowners. This blog post is intended to address many of those common questions as well as give an overview of what is needed when mold contamination of an occupied building occurs.

Inspection of building & building envelope
The first step to be taken whenever mold contamination of a building interior is suspected is to determine the presence and source of moisture intrusion. Since the presence of mold spores, food sources for mold and optimal temperature ranges for mold growth are universal in occupied buildings, the one factor that is critical that we can control is moisture levels.

Determine the source of moisture
For moisture to reach levels conducive to mold growth (>/=17%) the source may not be readily apparent. But that is where we begin in our visual inspection; determining the source of the moisture. Unless there is a failure of either water supply or waste systems (plumbing leaks don’t have to be great to cause a problem), the source will typically be moisture intrusion through the building envelope. Penetrations in the building envelope such as entry/exit sites for pipes, chimneys, windows, doors, and foundation cracks are common points of entry for water. Other sites include where dissimilar types of building materials abut, such as where the wood framing meets a concrete foundation, or where roofing meets wall siding or skylights. Moisture, on the other hand, can penetrate seemingly impervious surfaces such as concrete walls and slabs (even when no cracks are present), brick, siding, stucco, EIFS (exterior insulated finishing systems – usually with synthetic stucco) and roofing systems.

Moisture intrusion requires a point source (typically atmospheric or ground); a mechanism (typically liquid or vapor movement), a route of entry (gaps and penetrations, air permeable layers, vapor permeable layers or porous materials), and a driving force (kinetic energy, gravity, air or vapor pressure gradient, temperature gradient or surface tension). When moisture intrusion is low or intermittent, in order for moisture levels to reach a threshold necessary for mold growth to occur, moisture accumulation is required. This occurs when the rate of wetting exceeds (or is lagged by) the rate of drying and the difference exceeds the safe storage (buffering) capacity of the building materials present. When moisture accumulation coincides with sufficient temperature and time, then problems occur–including mold, decay, rust, swelling, warp-age, delamination, truss uplift, efflorescence, freeze-thaw damage, loss of thermal resistance, and insect infestation. Within an optimal temperature range (the same temperature range we prefer for comfort in our living spaces), it doesn’t take long for mold to begin colonization once the 17% moisture threshold is reached.

Assessment
A good quality moisture meter is important in assessing problem areas, especially when visible signs of water intrusion are not evident. For example, vapor diffusion through concrete can result in moisture levels high enough (>/=17%) to support mold growth in the presence of an organic material that can serve as a food source for the mold. This is especially true when there are building materials such as carpeting, laminate flooring, framing, drywall or other materials adjacent to the concrete that limit air flow over the surface of the concrete and allow moisture to accumulate while at the same time providing organic material as a food source for the mold.

Use of the moisture meter* to assess areas of concrete with high vapor diffusion and/or high moisture levels can be very helpful in pinpointing problem areas on foundation walls, subsurface concrete slabs, and even on-grade slabs in areas where soil moisture levels are high. High moisture levels in concrete foundations and slabs can also occur through condensation from air with a high relative humidity coming in contact with the cooler concrete surfaces. This is especially common in the summer in areas where relative humidity is high and there is a substantial temperature differential between the outside air and the below-grade concrete of the foundation and slab.

Isolating hot, moist outside air from contact with cooler concrete surfaces may be necessary in determining the source of the moisture in the concrete. One easy way to do this is to perimeter tape (aluminum foil duct tape is good for this) a polyethylene (PE) sheet of at least 6 mils thickness and at least 9 square feet to the concrete. Monitor for at least four days in a row, thoroughly removing any moisture from the slab side of the PE each day. If the moisture is diffusing through the slab, you will continue to see fairly uniform condensation of moisture on the slab side of the PE each day. If the condensation appears to be tapering off continue to monitor longer to assess if the condensation might also be diffusing through the slab but with condensation from the air being the primary source. Limiting moist, outside air from this area and concurrent use of a dehumidifier during this process can be helpful in this assessment process as well.
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*A top quality moisture meter uses state-of-the-science electromagnetic wave technology to measure moisture levels up to 3/4 of an inch into building materials, even concrete. And it will have settings that allow for differences in building material densities. A good quality meter will cost more but will give more reliable readings. I recommend the Wagner BI 2200.
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Testing Methodology
Once you have determined where the suspected problem areas are located, testing for the presence of mold is indicated. The two best tests, in my opinion, for these areas are tape lift method and swab. Both of these are used to collect samples that upon microscopic and/or culturing can provide specific data about mold species present, viability of spores and concentration in terms of colony-forming units. Each of these tests has its advantages and its limitations.

The tape lift method is typically used in areas where there is visible vegetative growth and is used to collect mold hyphae (hair-like strands), surface mycelia (root-like strands), and spores. Specially-prepared tape lift kits are available from licensed microbiology labs that are used for this type of collection. Tape lift specimens are analyzed qualitatively by a licensed microbiologist to determine the types of mold present. It does not indicate the viability of the mold (Is it alive and able to reproduce?) or the number of colony-forming units (the severity of the contamination.) Knowing the types of mold present is key in determining the methods of remediation and/or abatement necessary to protect building occupants, prevent the spread of the mold to non-contaminated areas of the building, and how radical the abatement methods need to be as far as removing and safely disposing of contaminated materials.

The swab test uses essentially the same procedure that a doctor uses to determine if you have strep throat. The only difference is that we are testing for mold, not bacteria. A sterile cotton swab is used to swab a small one square inch area (instead of your throat) that is suspected of mold contamination. The swab is then immediately sealed in a sterile tube containing food and moisture and shipped to the lab. At the lab it is swabbed onto a petri dish and placed in an incubator to grow any mold that might have been present at the test site. Once a growth is established, a licensed microbiologist examines it under a microscope to identify the types of mold and count the number of colony-forming units which indicates the extent of contamination at the point where the specimen was taken. This test will only show those mold types that are viable (living and capable of producing more mold, either from live mold or live but inactive spores.)

Other methods include air sampling used to collect particulate from the air and then compare indoor to outdoor air counts, and bulk sampling of specific materials that appear to have vegetative growths on them to obtain counts. Neither of these recognize the viability of mold growth, only the presence of mold. For these reasons they are not used as often. The swab/culture test, in my professional opinion, is the most valuable and provides the most useful information.

The number one factor you can control in eliminating or preventing mold is moisture. Until you eliminate the source of moisture for the mold, you are wasting any money on doing any remediation – the mold will return. Using an air purifier with radiant catalytic ionization (RCI) to protect building occupants and remediation/abatement workers however is valuable once samples have been collected. Don’t use RCI prior to collecting samples or you will be unable to identify any mold from your swab tests!

Protect building occupants
As important as it is to reduce moisture levels, one concern in doing so is that the mold will dry out, go into a spore-forming state and release spores into the air. Spores are seeds for the mold: they are inactive but given the right conditions can produce more mold. Spores are able to withstand extreme conditions and still produce live mold even years later when the right conditions exist. They are also lightweight and become airborne very easily, traveling on air currents throughout a building. Hyphal fragments can also become airborne and inhaled by building occupants.

Note: some spores such as stachybotrys contain mycotoxins, others are a source of foreign proteins that can irritate the airways in the nose, throat and lungs, sensitizing individuals and causing reactions and allergies. Repeated exposure often causes increased sensitivity and exacerbation of symptoms. (First and foremost, testing should be done to determine mold types and quantities present. The type of mold is indicative of the threat to building occupants and will determine the level of abatement/remediation required.)

Remediation: a three-prong approach
Because of this, once the moisture intrusion is stopped, I recommend a three-prong approach; concurrent dehumidification of the building; application of airborne RCI-produced purifying plasma of oxidizers to kill mold and inactivate spores as well as reduce airborne particulates containing spores and hyphal fragments; and mechanical cleaning of the mold, including application of biocides and removal of moldy items that cannot be easily treated with biocides and/or easily replaced. Remediation/abatement should always be done by trained and insured professionals. Don’t risk spreading contamination or compromising your health with exposure to airborne mold.

To prevent airborne spread of the spores which can contain mycotoxins it is important to isolate the contaminated area through the use of mechanical barriers (such as polyethylene sheeting) and use of HEPA-filtered ventilation of the contaminated area to create negative pressure within the isolated space. Care should be exercised when dismantling containment areas to prevent spreading and inhaling any spores or hyphal fragments trapped in the containment barriers and equipment. Even though the mold and spores have been inactivated by oxidation and killed by the biocide, if inhaled they can still cause sensitization and airway irritation. Mycotoxins may also still be present even though the mold is dead. Care and thoroughness is of tantamount importance.

Clearance swab testing should always be performed following abatement/remediation to be sure the problem has been effectively remediated. Do this before any repairs are made or new construction is begun except for repairs needed to prevent water intrusion.

For more information contact:

Mike Hedrick, CMI
Indoor Environmental Consultant
Certified Mold Inspector
Healthy Living Technology
info@healthylivingtech.com

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IAQ: Air Filtration vs. Air Purification

“What is the difference between air filtration and air purification?”

People often don’t ask this question because they think there is no difference. Well, filtration was actually the method of choice for many years. Some companies have built their business trying to perfect the process of removing smaller and smaller particulates. As a result we now have HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arresting) filters. HEPA filters, by definition, remove at least 99.97% of airborne particles 0.3 micrometers (µm) in diameter.  (These are great for your vacuum cleaner and I highly recommend that you have a vacuum cleaner equipped with one of these filters.)

There are many ways of filtering the air in your home or business and some work better than others. There are stand-alone units, units that are installed on your HVAC system, there is the filter on your HVAC system itself, there are electronic precipitators and electronic air cleaners. They all basically work the same way – they attempt to bring the dirty air to the filter.

The Problem

Unfortunately,  filters can only clean the air that is brought to and moved through them. Some filters even attempt to do this without a fan even although any HVAC engineer will tell you that even the best-designed laminar air flow unit (such as those used in hospital surgical suites and burn units) costing hundreds of thousands of dollars still will only filter 75-80% of the air in a room at best.

The smallest particles, the ones targeted by HEPA filters and which are the biggest problem for our lungs, are virtually unaffected by our attempts to move them anywhere. Even the HVAC system equipped with a HEPA filter won’t do the job because only a relatively small percentage of the air in your home ever gets to the filter. In fact, many HVAC contractors tell us that only 26-28% of the air actually gets to the filter.

The filter on your HVAC equipment was not intended nor designed to clean the air in your home. It was designed to keep the inside of your furnace and ductwork clean. Most of us know they don’t even do a very good job of that.

And all of these only address the issue of particulates. What about odors, chemical gases, and biological contaminants? Indoor air quality (IAQ) issues are concerned with all of these so why not use a system that addresses all of these issues?
An air purification system addresses all of these IAQ issues. And it does not rely on moving the dirty air to the equipment, it sends the solution to the pollution.

The Clean Air Solution

Some of the best air purification systems in the industry use a process called radiant catalytic ionization (RCI). Its predecessor, photohydroionization (PHI) was developed for NASA for use in the space shuttles and space station. RCI improves upon the PHI process by increasing the size of the target cell matrix which produces the purifying plasma, and by increasing its efficiency.

It combines a specific high intensity UV light (UVX) with a specially developed rare metal hydrophilic coating on an engineered honeycomb matrix to create super oxide ions and hydro-peroxides which have powerful anti-microbial properties.

The purifying plasma has two main jobs: clean the air of odors and chemical gases, and kill microbiological organisms, especially those that can make us sick.

One of the main products in the purifying plasma, hydro-peroxide is essentially a microscopic vapor of hydrogen peroxide. Composed of only oxygen and water, it is nevertheless not only extremely effective at killing mold, bacteria and viruses, it does this without harmful chemicals. After it has done its job, it reverts to oxygen and water vapor. There are no chemical residues left behind.

Studies performed at Kansas State University (KSU) demonstrated that this purifying plasma can kill up to 99.99% of bacteria, viruses and mold on surfaces in only 24 hours. They also tested the RCI technology against the avian (bird) flu virus and it killed 99.99% in 12 hours on surfaces.

Another process used by these state-of-the-science air purification systems is pulsed needlepoint ionization. It is designed to remove the small airborne particulates that are a problem in indoor air pollution. These particles are so light they do not settle out but stay airborne, riding the convection air currents in your home and office.

The ionizer causes these particles to become charged, or ionized, some with a negative charge, some with a positive charge. Like tiny magnets they are attracted to the opposite charge causing them to clump together and fall to the floor. Getting them out of the air so we are no longer breathing them is only the first step. Now they must also be cleaned up so they don’t become airborne again.

Next Steps to Keeping Indoor Air Clean

These particulates settle out and are deposited primarily on horizontal surfaces such as tables, counter tops, and on the floor. Damp dusting will help to pick up and contain these particles that has settled on hard surfaces. But what about carpeting and upholstered furniture?

This is where your HEPA filter-equipped vacuum cleaner is important. A regular vacuum cleaner would simply throw the microscopic dust particles back up into the air where they would again become a problem. The HEPA filtered vacuum cleaner prevents this from happening, effectively removing these problematic particulates.

Be careful, not all vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters are equally effective at trapping these small particulates. Be sure to purchase one that has a sealed pathway to the filter and prevents particulate-laden air from leaking out prior to going through the filter or leaking around the filter. Don’ t just buy a vacuum cleaner because it says it has a HEPA filter. Ask questions. Has the effectiveness been tested by an independent laboratory? Do your homework before making your selection.

The RCI-type air purification systems mentioned above are available through Healthy Living Technology: www.healthylivingtech.com/store or email me at: info@healthylivingtech.com for more information.

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A Healthy Living Indoor Environment

There is a lot of focus this time of year on making New Year’s resolutions. How many of us fail to follow through with these? How about making some simple changes to your home that will continue throughout the year to provide benefits for you and your loved ones?

Ensuring that the home we live in is healthy

In the winter, in colder climates, we spend much of our time indoors. Today’s homes are not only well-sealed to keep the cold out and the heat in, we also are using more and more man-made, toxic chemicals in our homes. There are over 50,000 chemicals used in industry and over 500 new chemicals added every year. We are exposed to an increasing number of them in our homes. The toxicity of new chemicals must be checked for safety and health more carefully before marketing. Current testing doesn’t even address the issue of what happens when we are exposed to two or more of these chemicals simultaneously.
In addition, there are many natural, normally-occurring dangers such as radon, dust mites, mold, and allergens that can have a negative impact on our health. How closely have you examined your indoor living environment and taken steps to make sure it is as healthy as it can be for you and your loved ones?

A healthy home should not expose you to mold, mildew, dust mites or contribute significant quantities of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or other hazardous chemicals into your indoor environment. It should have plenty of fresh air for you and your family. 

Besides keeping you and your family healthy, your home can also help to ease stress and enhance your sense of wellbeing. 

Some points for you to consider for ensuring a healthy indoor environment include:

Maintaining an ideal moisture level

Too much moisture is probably the primary cause of health problems in homes today. Standing water, dampness, and high humidity result in mold and mildew growth, dust mites, and other problems.

Keeping water out

Strategies for keeping water out include deep roof overhangs, surface grades sloping away from the house, eaves troughs and downspouts that move roof water away from the foundation, and proper flashing around chimneys, dormers, windows, doors, and other openings between the outdoors and your indoor living environment. If you have soil that has a high clay content, or a water table that is close to the surface you may need foundation footing drains connected to a sump pump to keep moisture levels below 17% in basement floor or even on-grade slabs. Have a reliable contractor check your slabs for moisture level.

Getting moisture out

Strategies to get rid of moisture include installation of quiet bath fans with automatic (hydrostatic) controls, kitchen range-hood fans that exhaust to the outdoors, rainscreen detailing on exterior walls to allow trapped moisture to escape, and continuous soffit and ridge vents in the attic. In the summer, you may need a dehumidifier to help with controlling indoor humidity even if you use a central air conditioning system. This can especially be a problem in unfinished basements and crawl spaces

Various “operation and maintenance” measures are also very important in dealing with moisture: fixing roof leaks that are found, fixing plumbing leaks, never drying firewood in the basement, always operating vent fans when showering, and avoiding too many indoor plants (especially in the summer when relative humidity levels are high).

Keeping pollutants out

One of the easiest ways to cut down on pollutants and moisture being tracked into your home, is to have a place at the entrance to remove shoes and a no-shoes policy in the home. It is also a great way to reduce cleaning needs.

Avoiding radon

Radon, a naturally-occurring gas created by the breakdown of uranium in the ground can enter the home through floor drains and cracks in the foundation. Exposure to radon gas which is cannot be detected without special equipment has been linked to lung cancer, even in people who have never smoked. Have your home checked by a radon mitigation specialist to determine if it is present in your home and your family is at risk.

Avoiding VOCs

Specify zero-VOC or low-VOC paints, sealants, and other materials with chemical constituents. With recent advances in finishes and adhesives, for most applications there is no longer a compromise in performance or durability when selecting low-VOC products.

Avoiding hazardous chemicals and components

A wide range of chemicals are introduced into our homes through building materials, furnishings, and others such as cleaning products. Hazards we should try to avoid include brominated or chlorinated flame retardants, bisphenol-A or BPA ( used in epoxies and polycarbonate plastics), phthalate plasticizers (used mostly in flexible vinyl or PVC), and formaldehyde. It’s a good idea to learn about these hazards and select products that are free of them. Try to avoid insulation materials that include fiberglas with urea-formaldehyde binders and cellulose and natural fibers with brominated flame retardants, for example, and cabinets made with particleboard, plywood, or medium-density fiberboard (MDF) that contain adhesives with urea-formaldehyde binders.

Avoiding dust mites

Dust mites live on (and eat) human skin particles which you are continually shedding. In fact, over 80% of household dust is composed of dead skin cells sloughed off by you, your family and pets. That’s a lot of food for dust mites! These dead skin cells accumulate in your bed, on your floors and other horizontal surfaces, and in your ductwork, if you have a forced-air HVAC system.

Do you wake up in the morning with a stuffy nose which soon clears upon arising? That is probably caused by your reaction to dust mites (and their feces) in your pillow and bedding. There are several ways to reduce the number of dust mites in your home and your exposure to them.

Reducing dust mites in your bedding

First, wash all of your bedding at least once a week in hot water, or use a water conditioning device connected to your washer such as Laundry Pure™ that adds silver ions and ozone to the wash water. Since most of us do not launder our pillows and cannot launder our mattresses, purchase dust mite-proof covers for your pillows and mattresses.

Reducing dust mites in the air you breathe

Air-borne dust and the dust mites attached to them are inhaled by you and lodge in your airways. Your immune system reacts to them and over time you can become increasingly sensitive to and possibly allergic to them. Every time your furnace or A/C fan kicks on or you vacuum your carpets and floors the dust and dust mites are kicked up into the air and breathed in by you. Some of this dust is so fine that it stays airborne, kept moving by air currents and never settles out.

Keeping the air clean with HEPA vacuums and RCI-type air purification

You can reduce this exposure tremendously by doing three things: first, vacuum at least weekly (more if you have fur-bearing pets) with a HEPA filter-equipped vacuum cleaner. Secondly, have your furnace ducts cleaned by a top-notch company (check references) and buy the best electrostatic furnace filters you can find. Third, use a quality RCI & pulsed-ionization air purifier to reduce the amount of airborne dust in your home.

Reducing moisture levels

High moisture levels can also contribute to higher numbers of dust mites. Keep the moisture levels in your home under 40% through the use of dehumidifiers or controlling the amount of moisture added to your indoor air.

Providing fresh air

Bringing outdoor air in

Mechanical ventilation is needed to deliver fresh air throughout a house. Don’t rely on cracks and air leaks to provide fresh air in your home. The best way is to control where, when and how much air is entering the home. With mechanical ventilation, we can control how much air we introduce, where it comes from, where it is delivered, and from where we exhaust the stale indoor air.

The best ventilation system is a “balanced” system with separate fans for exhaust and supply with ducting. In cold climates, it makes sense to use an energy-recovery ventilator (ERV), so that most of the heat from the outgoing indoor air is transferred to the incoming fresh air. They also help to regulate moisture levels indoors, keeping moisture down in the summer and preserving moisture in the winter.

Purifying indoor air

By purifying your indoor air you can reduce the amount of air needing to be brought in from outdoors (saving energy), remove hazardous chemicals and particulates such as dust, animal dander and allergens as well as kill mold, mildew bacteria and viruses in your home.

New, state-of-the-science technology, originally developed for the space program in the ’80s and ’90s has been improved and can accomplish all of these. In space there is no fresh outside air to be brought in. Bacteria, viruses and mold can grow and multiply easily in these sealed environments, so all the air has to be cleaned, sanitized and recycled. Now you can benefit from that technology…..and it is affordable!

Improving psychological health

Daylighting with windows and skylights

Optimal use of outside light during the day (daylighting) and maximizing connections to the outdoors with plenty of energy efficient windows and skylights can help to maintain psychological health. A growing body of research is showing that in offices, these features boost worker productivity, in hospitals they speed recovery from illness or operations, and in schools they improve learning. Design features that connect us with nature are ways to make an ordinary home a great home.

Using full spectrum lighting

In areas where we cannot access natural sunlight or provide windows to the outside we can use full spectrum artificial lighting. This light, which mimics sunlight, has been shown to boost mood and energy levels, decrease hyperactivity and improve short attention span in children, as well as treat mild seasonal depression.

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Hello Blog followers!

If you have been following my blog you may have noticed that all of a sudden all of my postings for the past 6 – 8 months just disappeared! I was shocked and dismayed to discover it myself.

Recently my website and blog were moved to HostMonster because the previous hosting service was too slow. In the process, all of my blog content (archives) was lost. I am attempting to recreate as much of it as I can.

There is a lesson in this for me, and for my fellow bloggers – create an archive of your blog postings somewhere other than just online. As I found out, it can all disappear in the blink of an eye. I spent way too much time writing those postings to let that happen again! If you blog, hopefully you can learn from my experience and not have to go through this yourself.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Mike

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