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What’s Affecting Your Indoor Air Quality?

What’s Affecting Your Indoor Air Quality?

There’s a lot of concern over air pollution — especially the haze you can distinctly see settling on the horizon. But it might be surprising to learn that the air quality indoors is often just as bad, and in many cases worse, than the air outdoors.  People, on average, spend the majority — about 90% — of their day indoors, so they’re more likely to inhale the pollutants that are lurking indoors.

Poor indoor air quality can be blamed partially on common pollutants entering buildings through air leaks in the structure. But indoor air pollutants can also come from sources commonly found indoors, where they often become trapped, as newer homes tend to be better built — meant to retain heat and cold better, and not be drafty. While there are obvious positives to better quality homes, their unintended ability to trap pollutants isn’t one of them.  Household items like consumer products, gas appliances, building materials and furniture can all release toxic emissions, called VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that can lead to serious repercussions for the health of you and your family.

VOCs are organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at ordinary room temperature. They’re emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids, and can include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. According to the EPA, concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. Organic chemicals are widely used as ingredients in household products. Paints, varnishes and wax all contain organic solvents, as do many cleaning, disinfecting, cosmetic, degreasing and hobby products. All of these products can release VOCs while you’re using them, and, to some degree, when they’re stored.

Pollutants come in two main forms: particulate (particles) and gasses.  Particulate pollutants include things such as fine dust, dust mites, pet dander, mold spores, and pollen.  Gas pollutants include VOCs that come from many sources including cleaning solutions, carpets, building materials, and plastics.  Other common pollutants include tobacco smoke, radon, and fumes from fuel combustion (from furnaces, gas stoves, cars, etc.).

Poor indoor air quality can aggravate allergy symptoms, like runny nose and watery eyes, or it may lead to headaches, dry eyes, nasal congestion, nausea and fatigue.  Low quality indoor air also wreaks havoc for asthmatics. The EPA also reports that “indoor allergens and irritants play a significant role in triggering asthma attacks. Triggers are things that can cause asthma symptoms, an episode or attack or make asthma worse. If you have asthma, you may react to just one trigger or you may find that several things act as triggers. All of these air pollutants may lead to serious health consequences over time.”

The best way to protect against indoor air pollution is to prevent or minimize the release of indoor pollutants.  Indoor air pollutants can be reduced by

  • following safety instructions when using chemical products
  • using appliances properly
  • taking precautions when using building materials
  • carpets and fabrics that emit gasses
  • keeping the indoors free form dust, mold and mildew
  • providing good ventilation

Another way to reduce poor indoor air quality is by using a high quality air purifier to help remove many of these contaminants from the air.  This will ensure that the air you’re breathing is clean, fresh and free from harmful contaminants.

 

 

 

 

Eliminating Tough Odors With Smart Technology

Eliminating Tough Odors With Smart Technology

When it comes to tackling bad odors in your home, conventional wisdom (or a trip to your local grocery store) offers little recourse. The most available options are usually heavily-scented sprays or sachets designed to simply cover up the offending odor. So instead of a kitchen that smells like baked fish, you now have a kitchen that smells like baked fish and lavender.

shutterstock_181748816The only real way to stop odor is at its source, and the best way to do that is with smart air purification. Unlike traditional air purifiers, Vollara’s air purification helps reduce allergens, airborne pollutants, and stale, lingering odors.

One of the greatest advantages of ActivePure Technology is the freedom it brings from chemicals and fragrances. ActivePure Technology  freshens the air inside your home by sending supercharged  molecules out into the environment to seek and rapidly destroy contaminants, fungi, mold, and odor-causing bacteria – even ones that try to hide in hard-to-reach cracks and crevasses. For individuals or families with sensitivities, this can be an ideal solution since introducing heavy fragrances or harsh chemicals into the home environment frequently exacerbates allergies, sensitivities and asthma.

Our ActivePure Technology is available in a variety of sizes: the smallest unit is perfect for use in hotels, stinky laundry rooms or around hampers or litterboxes; larger units like the FreshAir cover more square feet, as one unit can often deodorize an entire space, like a living room or bedroom. Additional features, like adjustable fan speeds and purifier settings, can create a customizable cleaning experience for every home.

Don’t rely on harmful chemicals found in aerosol sprays and potpourri to simply cover up odors — get to the root cause of the problem instead and knock it out with ActivePure Technology from Vollara!

Trouble Breathing: Is it Allergies or Asthma?

Trouble Breathing: Is it Allergies or Asthma?

Tightness in your chest, difficulty breathing, adverse reactions to environmental and biological triggers. Are you experiencing an asthma attack…or do you have a wicked case of allergies?

Answer: it could be both. Allergies and asthma often occur together. Certain allergens – like dust mites, pet dander, and pollen – can act as triggers for both allergies and asthma.

An allergy is an inflammatory reaction or response to a specific substance. Allergic reactions can involve nasal membranes, the eyes, the skin, the tongue, and the breathing passages in severe reactions. Allergy symptoms include an itchy, stuffy, or runny nose, sneezing, itchy, red, or irritated skin, and itchy, burning, or watery eyes.

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory lung (lower respiratory) disease that causes difficulty breathing.

via acaai.org

asthma symptoms

So, how does an allergic reaction cause asthma symptoms? According to Mayo Clinic: “An allergic response occurs when immune system proteins (antibodies) mistakenly identify a harmless substance, such as tree pollen, as an invader. In an attempt to protect your body from the substance, antibodies bind to the allergen. The chemicals released by your immune system lead to allergy signs and symptoms, such as nasal congestion, runny nose, itchy eyes or skin reactions. For some people, this same reaction also affects the lungs and airways, leading to asthma symptoms.”

Although most treatments for allergies and asthma are different, there are a few that can help with both conditions.

Leukotriene modifier (Singulair) is a medicine that helps with both allergy and asthma symptoms by controlling immune system chemicals that are released during an allergic reaction.

Allergy shots can help ease asthma symptoms by gradually reducing your immune system response to particular allergy triggers.

Anti-immunoglobulin E (IgE) therapy (Xolair) can help when you encounter an irritating allergen: IgE antibodies sense it and signal your immune system to release a chemical called histamine, as well as other chemicals, into your bloodstream.

In short: go see your doctor. Whether it’s asthma, allergies, or a combination of the two, he or she can properly diagnose and help you manage your symptoms and get some relief through medication.

In the meantime, there are steps you can take to improve the indoor air quality in your home and workspace. Reducing dust, allergens, smoke, contaminants, pet dander, chemical fumes, mold and mildew will go a long way toward lessening allergy and asthma symptoms. Use natural cleaning products (free of VOCs and synthetic fragrances) when possible, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to regularly clean carpets, use exhaust vents when cooking, and invest in a high-quality air purifier that can remove these irritants from your air space.

 

 

 

Sleep Deprived? How Better Breathing Can Lead to Better Sleep

Sleep Deprived? How Better Breathing Can Lead to Better Sleep

 

Sleep is essential for all humans. For many of us, however, true, restful sleep can also prove to be elusive. Not getting enough quality sleep can create negative effects. While one night of little sleep isn’t usually enough to put anyone at serious (and really, who hasn’t experienced a bad night of sleep before?), chronic sleep deprivation can create major problems like increasing risk of stroke, increasing the risk of diabetes, memory loss, becoming more accident prone, premature aging and higher chances of obesity.

 

As anyone who’s experienced allergies or asthma can tell you, struggling to breathe can also have a huge impact on the amount and quality of sleep you can get. This is especially true for children, whose brains are still developing, and who can be particularly affected by lack of sleep. Additionally, anyone with chronic breathing issues like sleep apnea or COPD can be more susceptible to sleep deprivation as well.

 

According to the American Psychological Association:

 

  • More than 40% of adults experience daytime sleepiness severe enough to interfere with their daily activities at least a few days each month.
  • 69 % of children experience one or more sleep problems a few nights or more during a week.[1]

 

It stands to reason that improving one’s ability to breathe can have positive, far-reaching health benefits, one of which is achieving a better night’s sleep. So what are some ways to start breathing (and sleeping!) better?

 

  • If you have excess weight, losing weight will help, particularly if you suffer from sleep apnea. The American College of Physicians recommends weight loss for people who are overweight or obese. Why? “People who are overweight have extra tissue in the back of their throat, which can fall down over the airway and block the flow of air into the lungs while they sleep.”[2] Otherwise, using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask at night can be necessary to regulate breathing (and facilitate sleep).

 

  • If you have severe allergies or suffer from asthma, breathing well enough to get quality sleep at night could prove frustrating. According to The Sleep Foundation, “…rising cases of asthma could be the result of environmental factors such as an increase in exposure to pollution or indoor allergens.”[3] Asthmatics often struggle with nighttime coughing, wheezing and breathlessness that can interfere with sleep.

Removing as many allergy and asthma triggers from the home – and the bedroom in particular – can help. Drapery, excess bedding, carpets & rugs, stuffed animals and pets can all complicate breathing for asthmatics.

Vacuuming regularly with a machine that is equipped with a HEPA filter can help remove allergens from the air. Investing in a high-quality air purifier can also go a long way toward greatly reducing contaminants, dander, dust and particulate from your indoor environment. Eliminating sources of odor – be it organic (mold, mildew) or synthetic (air fresheners, potpourri) – may also help. Improving the indoor air quality of your home can significantly improve breathing.

 

  • If weight loss and significant improvements of your indoor air quality still aren’t helping you breathe better at night, visit with your physician. He or she might refer you to a sleep clinic, which will monitor and observe your sleeping patterns to see if you have an underlying sleep disorder. Or your physician might prescribe medication, such as a steroid inhaler, to facilitate better breathing.

 

 

 

Sources:
[1] http://www.apa.org/topics/sleep/why.aspx
[2] http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/weight-loss-breathing-devices-still-best-for-treating-obstructive-sleep-apnea-201310026713
[3] http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/asthma-and-sleep

Is Particulate Matter Harming Your Health?

Is Particulate Matter Harming Your Health?

Pollution has long been connected to breathing difficulties, and considering the average adult breathes 3,000 gallons of air per day, that can be a huge problem. City dwellers often flee urban settings in favor of the “fresh air” of the country – and sometimes, with good reason. Those who suffer from respiratory complications can have an especially hard time with air quality in highly polluted areas.

 

It can be particularly harmful – not just to those with asthma and allergies, but children in particular. The American Academy of Pediatrics posits that children and infants are among the most vulnerable to air pollutants due to their higher levels of activity and higher minute ventilation.[1] But virtually everyone is affected by the presence and subsequent levels of particulate matter (PM) in the environment.

 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been raising concerns over particulate matter (also known as particle pollution) for years. Defined as “a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets,”[2] PM is made up of numerous components, including acids (such as nitrates and sulfates), organic chemicals, metals, and soil or dust particles. According to the EPA, the size of these particles is what causes the alarm, since the size of the PM directly correlates to the potential to cause health problems.[3]

 

As noted on their website, the “EPA is concerned about particles that are 10 micrometers in diameter or smaller because those are the particles that generally pass through the throat and nose and enter the lungs. Once inhaled, these particles can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health effects.”[4] They group PM into two main categories: inhalable coarse particles and fine particles.

 

Inhalable coarse particles, which are often found near roadways and industrial areas, are larger than 2.5 micrometers and smaller than 10 micrometers in diameter. Fine particles can be classified as what’s found in smoke and haze, and are easily inhaled deep into the lungs. Once there, they may accumulate, react, be cleared or absorbed. These kinds of PM measure 2.5 micrometers in diameter and smaller. The EPA states that they “can be directly emitted from sources such as forest fires, or they can form when gases emitted from power plants, industries and automobiles react in the air.”[5]

 

PM is a problem in most industrialized cities worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that “…fine particulate matter is associated with a broad spectrum of acute and chronic illness, such as lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cardiovascular diseases. Worldwide, it is estimated to cause about 16% of lung cancer deaths, 11% of COPD deaths, and more than 20% of ischemic heart disease and stroke.”[6] WHO goes on to point out that particulate matter is “an environmental health problem that affects people worldwide,” but that “low- and middle-income countries disproportionately experience this burden.”[7]

 

NASA phrases it this way: “In most cases, the most toxic pollution lingers for a few days or even weeks, bringing increases in respiratory and cardiac health problems at hospitals. Eventually the weather breaks, the air clears, and memories of foul air begin to fade. But that’s not to say that the health risks disappear as well. Even slightly elevated levels of air pollution can have a significant effect on human health. Over long periods and on a global scale, such impacts can add up.”[8]

 

The Health Department of New York has suggestions for anyone interested in lessening their exposure to PM. “When outdoor levels of PM2.5 are elevated, going indoors may reduce your exposure, although some outdoor particles will come indoors. If there are significant indoor sources of PM2.5, levels inside may not be lower than outside. Some ways to reduce exposure are to limit indoor and outdoor activities that produce fine particles (for example, burning candles indoors or open burning outdoors) and avoid strenuous activity in areas where fine particle levels are high.”[9]

 

While staying indoors can reduce exposure to PM, the EPA has also stated that indoor air is often more polluted than outdoor air.[10] Using a high-end air purifier while inside your home can help, and there are some on the market that can filter out PM up to 0.3 micron. This double approach to reducing PM in the air you breathe is be a smart idea, especially if you or those in your family suffer from breathing difficulties.

 

 

 

[1] www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2528642/

[2] www.epa.gov/pm/

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] www.who.int/gho/phe/outdoor_air_pollution/en/

[7] Ibid

[8] earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=82087

[9] www.health.ny.gov/environmental/indoors/air/pmq_a.htm

[10] www.epa.gov/region1/communities/indoorair.html