» Indoor Health Matters

Indoor Health and Productivity in Workplaces and Schools

Posted by John on August 31st, 2008

The Indoor Health and Productivity report, a National Science and Technology Council Project, shows that indoor environments affect productivity in schools and workplaces.

Improving the indoor environment will not only decrease energy costs and healthcare costs, but also improve health, performance, and attendance.

Here are some key findings from the report:

  • Research suggests that low ventilation rates and less daylight can adversely affect student performance.
  • Continue reading

Airgle Air Purifier Review

Posted by John on August 31st, 2008

Airgle air purifiersI’ve been testing air purifiers for several years now, and most new brands are unimpressive. Airgle air purifiers, on the other hand, stand out as effective machines with novel features.

The most impressive fact about the Airgle 750 air purifier is that it received the highest possible Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) ratings from the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM). It works much better than most air purifiers because it has a 12-stage filtration process, including 4 pre-filters, 2 antimicrobial filters, 4 HEPA filters, and 2 activated carbon filters.

Don’t worry, though; you won’t have to replace all of those filters! Only the HEPA and carbon filters need to be replaced (about once a year). The other filters are washable. Continue reading

Anxiety and Stress Make Allergies Worse

Posted by John on August 30th, 2008

Even a slight increase in stress and anxiety can substantially worsen allergic reactions to common allergens, according to a new study from Ohio State University. Anxiety and stress also cause the allergic reaction to last longer.

Anxiety can also trigger late phase reactions which appear hours after exposure to the allergen (typically the next day).

“What’s interesting about this is that it shows that being stressed can cause a person’s allergies to worsen the next day,” explains researcher Janice Kiecolt-Glaser. “This is clinically important for patients since most of what we do to treat allergies is to take antihistimines to control the symptoms – runny nose, watery, itchy eyes, and congestion.” Continue reading

Toxic Chemical C8 Found in Eggs

Posted by John on August 29th, 2008

I eat a couple of eggs for breakfast nearly every morning. They’re highly nutritious and filling. Several years ago, many Americans cut back on egg consumption because of fears that eggs would raise their cholesterol. Now we know that there are different types of cholesterols and different types of fats – some good, some bad – and you don’t have to worry about having a heart attack because of moderate egg consumption. (Cardiovascular disease is more commonly brought on by lack of exercise and junk food – processed foods, unhealthy fats, refined sugars, and excessive carbs.)

But now there’s another reason to worry about eggs: they may contain toxic chemicals, according to The Charleston Gazette. Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asked a respected scientific journal, Environmental Science & Technology, to delete from its website the results of a study which found perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs, in chicken eggs.

An EPA scientist says that there was a major error in the study – that the PFCs were not really PFCs but other unidentified substances that simply looked like PFCs under a microscope. Hmm… That sounds a little strange to me, especially considering the fact that other studies have found PFCs in chicken eggs (and wild bird eggs) in other countries. Continue reading

Airborne Soot Exposure as Dangerous as Smoking Cigarettes

Posted by John on August 28th, 2008

ScienceNews reports that daily exposure to airborne soot from car exhaust, smokestacks, and other sources of combustion is just as dangerous as smoking cigarettes.

Barry Dellinger of Louisiana State University says that the exposure could be the equivalent of smoking one cigarette per day – or as many as two packs a day!

Dellinger’s research team found that combustion produces free radicals that linger in the air much longer than previously thought. “To our enormous surprise, the free radicals survive hours, days, even indefinitely.” Continue reading

Heavy Rain Storms Set the Stage for a Fall Allergy Explosion

Posted by John on August 27th, 2008

Here in Georgia, it rained for five days straight because of Tropical Storm Fay. The aftermath of the storm is now moving up the East Coast, as Tropical Storm Gustav threatens to slam the Gulf Coast next week.

An abundance of rain this time of year is not a good sign for allergy sufferers. Heavy rain causes ragweed plants to grow much faster – and produce more pollen.

Ragweed allergies affect 10 to 20 percent of Americans, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). Ragweed pollen is a major nuisance to allergy sufferers because the plants are so widespread (they grow well even in urban areas) and because the pollen grains can travel so far. Ragweed pollen has been found 400 miles out to sea and two miles up in the atmosphere! Continue reading

Bissell Steam Mop Review

Posted by John on August 27th, 2008

If there’s one cleaning chore that I dislike more than vacuuming, it has to be mopping – at least in the conventional sense of the verb. Traditional mopping involves filling up a bucket with water and spreading chemicals across the floor with a germ-infested mop that you have to wring out with your hands. Yuck!

Bissell Steam MopsNow there’s a much more pleasant alternative to traditional mopping: the Bissell Steam Mop. This chemical-free cleaning machine works well on smooth floor surfaces like marble, ceramic, stone, vinyl, laminated, linoleum, and sealed hardwood floors.

Simply fill up the steam mop’s tank with regular tap water, and you’re ready to go. No bucket. No chemical cleaners. The Bissell mop heats up the water in just 30 seconds to produce a steam vapor that’s around 240 degrees Fahrenheit – hot enough to kill bacteria, mold, dust mites, viruses, and other germs on contact. Continue reading

Top 10 Germ Hotspots in Your Home

Posted by John on August 26th, 2008

WebMD recently published the top 10 hideouts for germs in your home – and some of them may surprise you.

1. Kitchen Sponges – A kitchen sponge can carry over 134,000 bacteria per square inch! Most people tend to keep sponges for too long, allowing the bacteria to grow over time. Continue reading

The Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico

Posted by John on August 26th, 2008

Last month I blogged about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a vortex of garbage in the Pacific Ocean that’s twice the size of the continental United States. Today I’d like to explore another major environmental catastrophe in our oceans: dead zones.

Dead zones are areas in the ocean that lack the oxygen needed to support marine life. The Gulf of Mexico contains a dead zone that’s nearly the size of New Jersey, according to CNN.

“There’s no oxygen in the water for shrimp, crabs, fish to live,” said Nancy Rabalais, executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium. Continue reading

Back to School Asthma Checklist

Posted by John on August 25th, 2008

Asthma affects 11% of school-age children, and it will cause them to miss some 13 million days of school this year!

The American Lung Association has released the following back to school asthma checklist to help parents ensure that their child’s asthma doesn’t interfere with academics:

  • Schedule an asthma check-up: Even if your child’s condition is well controlled, meeting with your pediatrician is also an opportunity to evaluate medications and physical activity restrictions.
  • Continue reading

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) – Refuting the Skeptics

Posted by John on August 24th, 2008

Even though millions of people are sensitive to certain chemicals, some members of the medical establishment have long viewed multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) with skepticism.

At a physicians’ conference last year, one immunologist told me that MCS is “all in their heads.” At the same conference, another physician told me that he has suffered from MCS ever since medical school, when he was exposed to high levels of formaldehyde during dissections.

I know that MCS exists because I have suffered from it. When I was a child with severe allergies, my mom picked up one of my friends on the way to school every morning. My friend wore perfume (quite a bit of it), and every time she got in the car, I got a headache and started sneezing. I often had to roll down my window to avoid the chemical odor.

Even though some doctors still think it’s “all in your head,” several years ago Martin Pall, professor of biochemistry at Washington State University wrote a paper that describes mechanims of MCS. Continue reading

Olympic Athletes with Asthma Faced Special Challenges in Beijing

Posted by John on August 24th, 2008

As the Olympics draw to a close today, many asthmatic athletes head home after facing special challenges because of the poor air quality in Beijing.

Up to 20 percent of elite athletes have some type of asthma, depending on the sport, according to the The Sacramento Bee.

With their lungs already prone spasm and irritation, asthmatic athletes had to perform at their peak in air pollution well outside international health guidelines. Haile Gebrselassie, a well-known runner from Ethiopia, decided not to compete in the marathon because the pollution could hurt his health. Continue reading

Allergies and Depression – Beyond Sneezes and Runny Noses

Posted by John on August 23rd, 2008

If you suffer from allergies, then you know that allergy symptoms go beyond the sneezes and sniffles. Allergies zap your energy and make you feel bad. They can even lead to clinical depression.

HEPA vacuumIn the past, I’ve had to move because of my cat allergies. I had an air purifier, allergy bedding, and HEPA vacuum – all the essentials of environmental control. But my roommate refused to keep her long-haired cats confined to one area of the apartment, so cat dander was everywhere – on the furniture, on my clothing, etc. I finally had to move, not necessarily because of the standard allergy symptoms like runny nose and itchy eyes, but because I simply felt so run-down all the time. My allergies were affecting my energy and my mood. After I moved, I felt much better in a matter of days.

People who don’t have allergies often don’t seem to understand their devastating effects on day-to-day life. In the past couple of years, however, researchers have found evidence that allergies do indeed affect brain chemistry. Continue reading

Deep Carpet Cleaning for a Healthy Indoor Environment

Posted by John on August 23rd, 2008

Bissell deep cleanerI’ve always recommended against the use of carpet cleaning with hot water extractors (also known as steam cleaners or carpet shampooers) because most of them leave the carpet damp, setting the stage for mold growth. They can also leave a sticky film on the carpet that just attracts more dirt.

Then I saw the Bissell ProHeat CleanShot deep cleaner. This system works much better than any steam cleaner that you can buy or rent. And, for about the same price as renting one, you can have your own to use whenever you want. (If you have light-colored carpets like I do, a deep cleaner will come in handy quite often!) Continue reading

Rachel Carson’s Legacy – The Silent Spring Institute

Posted by John on August 22nd, 2008

Rachel CarsonI first learned of Rachel Carson’s work when I read her book Silent Spring in my high school biology class. The book, published in 1962, shed light on the toxic effects of pesticides on nature, especially birds. Silent Spring inspired many people to join the modern environmental movement. Rachel Carson died of breast cancer less than two years after the publication of Silent Spring.

The Silent Spring Institute was founded in 1993 to investigate links between environmental toxins and women’s health issues – breast cancer in particular.

The Richmond Times Dispatch recently published advice from the Silent Spring Institute about dealing with indoor air contamination.

“It ends up being part of your environment,” says Julia Brody, executive director of the Silent Spring Institute. “You end up breathing it, and it gets on your hands.” Continue reading