Green Roofs Help Improve City Air Quality

City SmogPopular in Europe for some time now, green roofs are becoming more and more common in the United States; good news for those concerned with city air quality.  A green roof is a roof that has been covered with vegetation rather than left bare, and there are two main types that are used. “Intensive” roofs, which are thick, green, and lush with deep soil, usually are intended to be used by people in much the same way as an ordinary garden, and will often have benches and walkways for people who live or work in the building to enjoy.  “Extensive” roofs, on the other hand, tend to have shallower soil and are used for the benefits that the plants provide while being generally off-limits to human visitors.  Scientists are studying the benefits of both kinds of green roofs, and have found that they not only can they contribute to reducing air pollution, but they can help with things like water management and can even last longer than traditional roofing.   One exciting benefit of having green roofs is in the reduction of carbon from the air, which helps to improve air quality and make local air better to breathe.  One 2009 study found that in the right conditions, using green roofs throughout an urban area with a population of around a million people could remove as much carbon from the air as one would get from taking 10,000 SUVs off of the road.

The spread of green roofs should be exciting news for those who live in areas with higher density populations.  Smog and other increases in air pollutants, caused by traffic or industry, can have quite a negative impact on health, from allergy-like symptoms, such as itchy eyes and congestion, to more serious ailments, such as heart or lung disease. It is hoped that widespread use of green roofs could significantly improve air quality, and that could mean a significant improvement in health as well.  In the meantime, for those wanting to breathe better air at home, adding an air purifier with a charcoal based activated carbon filter, like our MinusA2 and BioGS models, can help to filter out the toxins from smog and other airborne chemical pollutants to keep indoor air quality high.

Controlling Winter Allergies

WinterWhen we think of allergy season, the image brought to mind is often of flowing plants and pollen or the dry leaves of fall.  Yet allergies can happen all year round, even during the months of winter. Often winter allergies get mistaken for being cold or flu symptoms and do not get properly treated, making sufferers go longer without relief.   Here are a few tips on how to reduce allergies during the winter.

Control Humidity at Home
Cold winter months means that we spend more time indoors, thus making our homes warmer and more comfortable.  Make sure to check water heaters and pipes regularly for signs of leaks, and if you cannot resist the urge to warm up with long baths or showers, be certain to run fans and ventilate the room once you are done so that mold does not have a chance to grow.

Decorate Without Dust
While it might be easier to pull last year’s tinsel and lights from their boxes and straight onto the tree, doing so might introduce a lot of unwanted dust into your home.  Unpack boxes away from carpet and upholstered furniture, and make sure to give everything a good dusting before putting it festively on display.

Beware of Guests Bringing in Pollen Along with Presents
Although many guests will be courteous and wipe their shoes before entering a home, the truth is that we bring pollen, dust, and pollutants inside on more than just our feet.  Our hair and clothes can pick up these tiny pollutants and transfer them inside.  Allergy sufferers are often advised to shower and put on a clean change of clothes after coming home, but when guests come to call, this is not an option.  Instead, if you have lots of family and friends coming to celebrate, make sure to clean more than usual by vacuuming carpets and upholstery, cleaning sheets frequently, and capturing any pollen that escapes by running an air purifier with a true HEPA filter.

Tips for Reducing Allergies While Gardening in Fall

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1407841  by ingenue_mm Identify the Allergens
Knowing the primary causes for outdoor allergies is an important step in keeping your symptoms down and your spirits up.  With the changing of the seasons, different plants come into bloom, so there are new sources of pollen in the air to make you sniffle and sneeze.  Ragweed is a common allergen in the fall, and it is one of the worst offenders when it comes to making allergies flare up. Learn to identify ragweed and make sure to remove it from your yard on sight.  Other weeds and mold are also lurking around in fall, so removing weeds frequently will not only make your yard look its best, but will help you to breathe better in the long run as well.

Garden Smart
Make a plan before you get to work on your garden to ensure that you are protecting yourself as much as possible from allergies.  Keep track of daily pollen counts to see when they are highest, and make sure you avoid spending time outdoors during those times, even if it means working during odd hours. Wearing the right clothing can help as well to keep allergens off your skin.  Make sure to wear long sleeves and pants, and gloves to prevent as much contact as possible.  If you know your allergies are more severe, consider taking an antihistamine before going outside so that you can help stop symptoms before you start.

Keep it Outside
Once your hard work is done, resist the urge to flop right down on the couch to enjoy a break.  After being in the yard, you’ll be tracking in pollen and mold on your clothing, shoes, and even in your hair, and they will just transfer to any surface you touch.  Instead, relax by taking a warm shower and wash allergens down the drain.  Keep windows closed and sealed to keep pollen and mold from coming in, and run a good HEPA air purifier like our MinusA2 to eliminate any pesky allergens that do make it inside.  With planning and awareness, you can keep your yard looking great and yourself breathing better all throughout the season.

Short Term Exposure to Secondhand Smoke Can Impair Breathing

CigaretteAlthough the dangers of long-term exposure to secondhand smoke are well known, a study conducted by the University of Athens and the Hellenic Cancer Society in Greece, and the Harvard School of Public Health found that short term exposure to high concentrations of secondhand smoke, as little as 20 minutes, can cause immediate impairment of airways.  Researchers exposed healthy adults to a concentration of secondhand smoke designed to mimic the levels found in bars or during a car ride with a smoker present.  Although none of the participants in the study reported feeling negative effects, when their breathing was measured it was found that the exposure was in fact “invoking such physiologic changes as increased airway impedance and resistance.”  This new research will help public health workers more thoroughly understand the risks and consequences of secondhand smoke in public places, and will add to the growing body of data about the effects of secondhand smoke.

While the best way to protect oneself from secondhand smoke is to avoid it altogether, for many people, this is not always possible.  Smoke can easily drift into workplaces from the street, or into homes from neighbors nearby.  Secondhand smoke is difficult to deal with, but there are a few steps you can take to help protect yourself if controlling the smoke at the source is not an option.  Stopping the smoke from entering is the first defense, and sealing not only windows and doors, but even electrical outlets can help to block the smoke from coming inside.  Operating an efficient ventilation system can also keep your indoor air clear.  For the smoke that does make it inside, using an air purifier, such as our MinusA2, that combines a true HEPA filter with a charcoal based activated carbon filter can help to filter out the chemicals and odors from secondhand smoke.

Dog Allergies

DogDog make wonderful and loving companions, but for many people, they also can also be the cause of allergic reactions and asthma attacks.  For some, this is due to the dog dander and hair that is shed throughout the course of the day.  Others may find that they are not allergic to the dog itself, but rather are affected by the dust, grass, and other allergens that the dog brings into the home.  With some dogs this influx of allergens is obvious, particularly if they are the sort of pooch that loves to roll around on the lawn or hide their bones in the soil.  However, even dogs that look perfectly clean can be dragging in enough pollen and pollutants to cause a reaction in their owners just by their paw to ground contact outside.  Whether it is the dander, or the outdoor pollutants causing you to sneeze, it is no fun to feel torn between breathing well and playing with Fido.

Luckily, there are many ways to tackle the problem of dog related allergies that will help you to breathe better while still enjoying time with your dog. Make it a play-time ritual to thoroughly brush your dog before coming back inside after a trip down the block or to the dog park. Keep a water bottle near the door to give their paws a rinse after a stroll down the street, or carry them straight to the bathtub if they’ve gotten really dirty in the yard.  Once they are nice and clean, you can use a room air purifier, like our MinusA2 with the Pet Allergy Customized Filter, to filter out any dander and hair from the air and use a vacuum with a true HEPA filter to collect any allergens that may have settled on the floor or furniture. By taking a proactive approach and removing allergens before they start to build up, you can keep allergy symptoms down and enjoy more quality time with your furry friend.

Allergy Proofing Your Home

HomeYour home should be your castle, yet if you are one of the millions of Americans who suffer from allergies or asthma, home can feel more like a prison of sneezing, wheezing, and sniffling.  Indoor air quality is often much worse than outdoor air quality, causing sufferers to have frequent and frustrating allergic and asthmatic reactions at home, particularly during high pollen seasons. Here are a few suggestions on how you can improve indoor air quality to help you sleep better, breathe easier, and enjoy being at home.

Remove Carpets, Drapes, and Rugs
Plush carpets and thick fabric drapes may seem luxurious, but they are prime places for dust and other airborne pollutants to settle.  Replacing them with hardwood floors and easily cleanable blinds can significantly reduce the amount of pollutants in your home.

Add an Air PurifierMinusA2 Asthma and Allergy Friendly Edition
Once you have removed the places that allergens like to settle and hide, keep them from circulating through the air by adding an air purifier with a true HEPA filter.  An air purifier like our MinusA2 will not only filter out pollens, but it can trap dust, mold spores, harmful chemicals and unpleasant odors as well, making it useful all throughout the year, even after allergy season is over.

Keep it Clean
Keep harmful pollutants from coming back by setting up a thorough cleaning routine and using products designed to keep allergens at bay.  Keep floors and furniture clean by using a vacuum with a true HEPA filter, and learn to love breaking out the duster and wiping down bookshelves, tables, and any other places dust might settle.  Wash your bedding frequently and think about using a special mattress cover to keep away dust mites for an easier time sleeping.

Creepy Crawly Cockroach Allergies

Many of us have had the unfortunate experience of flicking on the lights in the kitchen late at night, and seeing a dark shape quickly skitter back beneath the fridge.  Cockroaches usually keep themselves hidden when people are around, and so many people are unaware that the creepy critters are lurking beneath cabinets and appliances around the home.  It is estimated that over three quarters of urban homes have hidden cockroach infestations, and seeing one roach is a good indicator that hundreds or even thousands more are hiding nearby.  An infestation of cockroaches is more than just unsanitary; the feces, saliva, and body parts of these bugs can cause allergic reactions or asthma attacks in as many as 23 to 60% of sufferers in urban areas. The more severe the asthma or allergies a person has, the more likely they are to have a reaction to cockroaches, and the more important it is to eradicate the infestation.

Cockroaches are notoriously hardy and difficult to get rid of, so if an infestation is suspected, the most important step is to contact a pest control service that specializes in removing the unwanted houseguests.  You can also take precautions to make your home more hostile to the bugs by covering trash and keeping all food stored tightly and off of counters.  While you work to clear your home from these pests, you can help to relieve some of the allergy symptoms they cause with frequent cleaning.  Keep the air in your home clean and breathable by using an air purifier, like our MinusA2, to trap any feces or roach byproducts that may be circulating in the air. Make sure to wipe down surfaces frequently, and clean floors and upholstery using a vacuum with a true HEPA filter. With a proactive approach and a good pest control company to help, you can say goodbye to roaches and start breathing better at home once more.

Promising News for the Treatment of Asthma

755956_pillsThere may be exciting news on the horizon for those who suffer from asthma.  A new experimental drug is showing promise in clinical trials as a potential way to treat asthma in those who have been resistant to other forms of treatment. Researchers state that between 10 and 20% of patients are not able to fully control their asthma symptoms using traditional therapies, and the scientists hope that their new drug will help this subset of sufferers. Rather than treating the symptoms of asthma, as many other medications do, the drug has been designed to treat the underlying cause of asthma. So far, their results have been quite promising. After a 12 week trial, patients using the new drug were found to have an 87% reduction in asthma attacks. As of right now, more research and testing will be required before the drug will become available.

Over 25 million Americans are thought to suffer from asthma, a chronic respiratory disease where airways in the lungs become inflamed and restricted, causing shortness of breath and trouble breathing.  These symptoms can be worsened by exposure to environmental triggers, such as allergens and air pollutants, as well as factors such as diet, illness or vigorous physical activity.  Traditional treatments include administration of steroids or use of inhalers to control symptoms as they occur.  Managing exposure to environmental triggers can also prove helpful in reducing asthma attacks.  At home, sufferers can use an air purifier with a true HEPA filter, like our MinusA2 Asthma and Allergy Friendly Edition, to filter the air of dust, pollen, and pollutants that can trigger an attack.  It is also helpful to remove items that tend to collect lots of dust, such as curtains or carpets.  For more ideas about how to control asthma and information on the latest research, visit the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s website.

How to Stay Safe and Healthy During the Summer

Summertime is here; when the temperature rises and we long for lazy days spent lounging on the beach.  Here are some tips for staying safe and healthy while you enjoy the season!

mediterranean beach - italy

Limit Your Sun Exposure
It can be hard to resist the relaxing pleasure of lying out in the sun, but too much time spent outside can cause serious sunburns.  Make sure not to doze off by the pool, and limit direct exposure to less than fifteen minutes.  During outdoor activities, make sure to wear a high quality sunscreen, and learn to love wide brimmed hats, long flowing sleeves, and other clothes that provide protection.

Stay Hydrated
Spending time outdoors when the heat is high can leave you feeling dehydrated, sick, and put you at risk for heat stroke. Keep a water bottle with you when you go out, and remember to sip from it often.  Although strenuous activities put you most at risk, even casual strolls can leave you needing water.  You can also make keeping hydrated fun, by making creative fruit infusions that add natural flavor and color to your water.

Hiking BootsKeep Bugs Away
Humans aren’t the only ones that love to come out in the summer – pesky bugs, like mosquitoes and ticks, do too.  These pests can cause irritation when they bite, and can even cause more serious illnesses, so keeping them at bay is a top priority. Wear long sleeves and pants when hiking or camping, and use mosquito repellent or netting to keep a barrier between you and the bugs.

Keep an Eye on Air Quality
The summer sun can cause air quality to worsen by heating up chemical compounds lingering in the air and combining them with nitrogen oxide to create unhealthy levels of smog.  Check local air quality forecasts when planning outdoor activities, and when you are cooling off inside, keep your indoor air clear by running an air purifier that uses a Charcoal Based Activated Carbon filter to absorb harmful chemicals.