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.

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.

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.

How Heat Waves Hurt Air Quality

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1397489While everyone loves a little summer sunshine, when temperatures keep rising dangerous conditions may occur.  Heat waves are more than mere annoyances; they can increase the risk of health concerns from mild conditions such as heat rash to more serious problems such as strokes.  Even when limiting one’s exposure to the sun and heat, heat waves can still create health risks in areas one might not expect.  Air quality can worsen during a heat wave, to the point of becoming deadly in extreme circumstances. When the air is heated, chemicals compounds such as the fumes from our cars combine with the already present nitrogen oxide in the air to create thick layers of smog. The risk for this is particularly strong in urban areas, where there is already a greater concentration of chemical compounds in the air due to larger populations and more industry.

Smog is never healthy to breathe in, and during a heat wave when smog is found in higher concentrations it can cause lung tissue to become inflamed which over time can cause more serious complications. The increase in smog during a heat wave is especially dangerous for those who are suffering from respiratory illness, such as asthma, as it can increase or induce symptoms. During a heat wave, keep your lungs as healthy as possible by avoiding spending time outdoors in highly populated areas.  While in your home, keep an air purifier running that can trap the harmful VOCs from smog, such as our MinusA2 with the Toxin Absorber Customized Filter.  Stay cool, breathe clean air, and avoid direct sun exposure to stay as healthy as you can during a heat wave.

UC San Deigo Researching Portable Air Quality Monitor

City SmogIn December 2012, the University of California at San Diego discussed an exciting new advance in Air Quality monitoring. Researchers there had created a small portable device that measured air quality in real time, letting users know in the moment whether they were breathing clean air or if they had wandered into a spot of highly concentrated pollutants. This advanced technology allowed for those concerned with air quality to have more precise information about the environment around them, allowing them to make informed decisions about the air they breathed. Runners and bikers, for example, would be able to avoid areas with higher pollution, protecting their lungs as they exercised. The device could even be useful in indoor areas, as one study participant found when he realized that the air quality in his office was quite poor, prompting his company to take steps to improve the air for its employees.

We hope to see more research into this area, and look forward to the day when personal air quality monitoring is available to all. Until then, there are still steps one can take to be proactive about air quality and protected from pollutants. City-wide daily pollen and pollution counts are easily accessed on websites such as Pollen.com and AirNow.gov. These sites are great tools for learning about air pollution in your city, and can help to plan your outings during times when pollutant levels are low. When you’re in your home, you can be smart about air pollutants as well by using a HEPA air purifier such as our MinusA2 to filter out harmful pollutants and keep the air clean and fresh.

What are Negative Ions?

One of the wonderful things about hiking through the forest or lounging at the beach is breathing in the clean, fresh air of nature. The air in these places not only smells great, but breathing it can make us feel energized and excited. What gives the air in natural places such good mojo? Negative ions! Also called anions, these are molecules that have become negatively charged due to strong natural forces such as sunlight, wind, or churning water. There is evidence that breathing air abundant with negative ions has a positive effect on our mood and our health. Doctors and scientists, who are studying the effects of negative ions, say that they can promote alertness and positive feelings in some people, and may help to increase oxygen to the brain. Research is ongoing to learn how to harness the use of negative ions to positively affect health.

While negative ions are plentiful in natural places, they are far less common indoors. Many air purifiers, such as our MinusA2, now come equipped with a negative ion generator in order to infuse our indoor air with these negatively charged molecules. In addition to the possible health benefits, negative ion generators pair well with air purifiers because they can help to increase filtering efficiency. Negative ions are attracted to particles in the air, weighing them down and causing them to sink. You may have experienced this cleaning power yourself after a rainstorm – the negative ions generated by the storm help to clean particle pollution out of the air. When used in the home, negative ions are attracted to the particles of indoor air pollution, weighing them down and making it easier for them to be captured by your air purifier’s filters.

Five Fun Facts About Air

Wikipedia1) Flowers can brighten up any home décor, but did you know that they can also help to add oxygen to the air and filter out pollutants?  While using plants alone won’t totally purifiy the air, you can give your air purifier a boost by placing certain potted plants around the home.  Some flower powerhouses include elegant peace lilies, which can help reduce harmful VOCs, such as formaldehyde, or colorful gerbera daisies that can help to filter out benzene.

2) Take a deep breath! Our lungs can hold between four and six liters of air on average, though we use only a small portion of this space with each breath. Each minute, the average adult breathes in and out around seven liters of air. That’s enough to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool every 227 days!

3) Did you know that most of our oxygen doesn’t come from the forest, but from the sea? Ocean algae produce the majority of the oxygen in the atmosphere. These plants may be tiny, but due to their huge numbers they are able to pump out tons of clean air for us to breathe.

4) Not even astronauts are safe from having smoggy skies obscure their view!  Astronauts report that thick smog over cities or highly polluted areas can be seen from the international space station, and that the amount of air pollution visible to them from orbit has been increasing.

5) China has some of the smoggiest skies in the world, and in an effort to detect harmful pollutants in their air, they have come up with a surprising solution – a team of people trained to detect harmful gases using their sense of smell!  These special sniffers can tell the difference between a surprisingly large number of gases, and can help city officials become aware of potentially dangerous situations.

Summer Air Quality

We all know that the hot summer sun can be bad for our skin, but did you know that the air quality during the summer months can pose a health risk as well?  UV rays from the sun are stronger in the summer, causing more ozone to accumulate in the atmosphere and particularly in big cities, heat can cause outdoor air quality to worsen. The calm skies of summer can cause pollutants that have been released into the air to stagnate and hover in the skies, becoming thick layers of smog. This increase in pollution can be potentially harmful to those with asthma, allergies, or other respiratory conditions, often contributing to symptoms or causing reactions.

Keep safe throughout the summer by checking air quality forecasts and planning your outings during the day when pollutants aren’t as concentrated in the air. If you usually exercise or perform strenuous activities outdoors, try something new and workout to a fun video or podcast at home. If you do decide to soak up the sun, try to steer clear of locations that are near freeways or other high-pollutant producing areas like big cities. If you relax indoors to beat the heat, use an air purifier to keep indoor air fresh and clean. Whatever you decide to do this summer, do it with clean air in mind inside your home and out.

Air Quality Statistics

We all know that poor air quality is bad for you, but just how bad is it really? Some of these air quality statistics shown in the below infographic may shock you. For instance 186.1 million Americans live in 525 different counties that are exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollution (either ozone or particles in the air). 6 out of 10 people are exposed to short-term or long-term levels of pollution or ozone. Breathing ozone may trigger a variety of health conditions including: coughing, chest pain, congestion and throat irritation. Check out the infographic for more statistics.

Air Quality Statistics Infographic by RabbitAir

Air Quality Stastics

You are welcome to use this infographic about air quality on your own website, please link back to this page or www.rabbitair.com as the source.

The air quality statistics infographic above provides an alarming amount of information about the air many of us breath on a daily basis. We usually do not have direct control of the quality of our air outside, however we can control the quality indoors with an air purifier. Read more about indoor air quality.

Rabbit Air offers a certified asthma and allergy friendly air purifier that is based on our popular MinusA2 design. The asthma & allergy friendly™ Certification Program, administered by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) in partnership with the international research organization Allergy Standards Limited (ASL), is an independent program created to scientifically test and identify consumer products that are more suitable for people with asthma and allergies.