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.

The Charles M. Schulz Museum

Schulz Museum 1 Located in the beautiful Sonoma Valley of California, the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center celebrates the life and work of the beloved creator of the classic Peanuts cartoon strip and characters.  Since its debut in 1950, Peanuts has become an iconic part of our culture with Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the gang adored by children and adults alike. The museum not only displays examples of Schulz’s artwork and the Peanuts characters, but it seeks to foster understanding of the work of cartoonists and to inspire and educate all visitors who pass through.

Schulz Museum 2Since 2012, Rabbit Air has offered a special MinusA2 Peanuts Edition air purifier, with two fun front panels featuring the imaginative beagle Snoopy – one with his red doghouse (VIP-Very Important Puppy) and another with Charlie Brown and his friends (Airborne).  Rabbit Air was happy to donate one of these special MinusA2s to the Charles M Schulz Museum, and they recently sent us some photographs of their delightful office and the MinusA2 in action.  We are so glad to have provided this bright, happy office with clean, fresh air!

The Maine Project for Fine Art Conservation

Charly-MEACThe Maine Project for Fine Art Conservation is the only non-profit studio of its kind in the state of Maine, helping to restore not only artwork from museums and public collections, but pieces of artwork privately owned by families and individuals as well.  The project is based in Portland, Maine, where they work out of a small studio.  During the conservation process, their artists are exposed to a number of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, from the chemicals used in restoration, including acetone, alcohol, naptha, turpentine, methyl-ethyl-ketone, toluene and xylene.  While these chemicals are vital for the restoration of the artwork, they can be irritating or even dangerous when inhaled in high concentration. For years, the project has been searching for an air purifier that would effectively reduce these VOCs from the air and protect their conservators, who were working to restore artwork in order to preserve and promote the cultural heritage of Maine.

Bonnie-MEACRabbit Air donated two of our MinusA2 air purifiers to the project, for use in their “in-painting” rooms.  We equipped them with our specialized Toxin Absorber Customized filter, designed to increase the air purifier’s efficiency at removing VOCs from the air.  After running our air purifiers, the project was happy to report that they noticed a significant reduction in VOCs from the air, and they sent along these fantastic pictures of their team and our MinusA2s in action.  We thank the Maine Project for Fine Art Conservation for their great work and we look forward to continuing to provide them with cleaner, more breathable air!

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.

Forest Fires and Health

Forest FireForest fires can be more dangerous than you might think. Though the most immediate danger comes from the fire itself, the smoke from a fire can harm people up to hundreds of miles away from the actual blaze. During a forest fire, a number of harmful emissions are released into the air in high concentrations, including small particulate matter, such as carbon monoxide, atmospheric mercury, and volatile organic compounds. As these pollutants are released during a fire, winds can spread them further than one might expect, leaving people unprepared or unaware of the health hazards.  Breathing in these pollutants can exacerbate symptoms for those who have lung or heart disease, and even otherwise healthy people can also be at risk for symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and headaches.  The longer one is exposed to these pollutants, the higher these risks can be.

We can all do our part to stop wildfires before they start. When camping, make sure to never leave camp fires unattended and douse them fully with water when you are ready to put them out.  During dry summer days, make sure to keep a close eye on barbeques, bonfires and even lawnmowers – they can create sparks that can ignite dry grass.  When fires do occur, you can protect yourself by checking local air quality reports and staying inside when air quality dips.  It is also advised not to do any indoor activity that will add to pollutant levels if possible. This includes using wood burning stoves, lighting candles, and even vacuuming, as vacuums can throw particles that have settled on surfaces back into the air.  Using an air purifier is the best way to keep the indoor air clean, and if you live in a fire-prone area, consider adding an air purifier with a true HEPA filter before fire season starts so that you know you are protected even before pollutant levels begin to rise.

New Research on Trees and Air Quality

New TreeResearchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are shedding some light on an air quality mystery that has had scientists stumped for some time.  While we know that plants have a positive effect on air quality by helping to remove carbon dioxide from the air and providing us with oxygen, scientists had long suspected that isoprene, a molecule emitted by trees as a means of protecting their leaves from harm, played a part in creating particulate air pollution; they just were not sure how.   Surprisingly, the study found that when the isoprene molecule was heated by the sun, it reacted with nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere to create tiny particulate matter that became suspended in the air, which has the possibility to cause or exacerbate respiratory ailments, such as asthma.

But wait! Don’t blame the trees for these dangerous particulates – it is the abundance of nitrogen oxide that is the real problem. These polluting chemicals are man-made by-products of cars, factories, and other coal burning sources.  The more that scientists investigate the ways that particulate pollution occurs, the more effective our efforts at improving our air will be.  Over the past decade many major cities in the United States have been able to improve their air quality, but smog and ozone remain in much higher concentrations than what is healthy.  We can help to continue reducing these levels by being mindful about our daily choices – for example, making efforts to carpool or switching from plastic bags to reusable canvas ones. As we work on decreasing the amount of pollutants emitted into the atmosphere, we can protect ourselves from particulate matter by monitoring city air pollution levels before leaving the house, and by filtering particulates out of our indoor air by using an air purifier with a true HEPA filter like our MinusA2.