AchooAllergy.com Blog

Air Pollution


Posted by kevvyg on Friday, October 18, 2013
World Health Organization  (WHO) Labels Air Pollution a CarcinogenA recent announcement by the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified "air pollution" as a carcinogen. The agency within the WHO that specializes in cancer research, the IARC, released these findings yesterday. For many who follow and keep up with the steady stream of studies that are released annually, this announcement may seem a bit anticlimactic, but it does put a proverbial bow around what amounts to decades of research and thousands of studies. There are two reasons why I consider this announcement significant, but before I get into those, let's take a look what exactly we're talking about.

Here at Achoo!, we touch on such research several times throughout the year, particularly with regard to how air pollutants (both indoor and outdoor) cause problems for people with respiratory conditions. Many point towards a causal relationship between things like asthma and vehicle exhaust. This publication, though, is based upon the review of epidemiological studies that include millions of people spanning five continents. Particularly telling are many of the studies coming out of rapidly industrializing nations like China and other parts of Asia. This part of the world has seen an industrialized revolution similar to that which occurred during the early 1800's and again during the middle of the 19th century. With this boom in manufacturing, nations like China have struggled to keep up with emissions and toll they take on the population.

These findings focused less on the specific elements that make up air pollution, but looked more broadly at the pollutant. The components of air pollution can vary, depending on the location, but as a whole, air pollution is fluid and has effects that can cover very wide areas. The largest two broad components of air pollution stem from particulate matter and "transportation-related emissions." And while some air pollution is naturally occurring, much of it stems from vehicle emissions, power generation, and industrial emissions.

October Breast Cancer Awareness MonthIn my opinion, the significance of this announcement is two fold. First, it actually focuses on a cause of cancer. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, typically a time when we see a flood of "pink" merchandise and marketing, all designed to raise awareness of breast cancer. From boxes of saltines at the grocery store to the helmets of the Oregon Ducks college football team this weekend, this iconic color raises awareness of breast cancer. Local organizations hold events, races, even free mammograms, all to raise money and awareness of this issue, yet by in large much of focus on cancer research, particularly in the U.S., seems to be on finding a "cure." A thought that I always have whenever I see anything related to a "cure for cancer" is, a cure, though important, wouldn't be as necessary if you could find, then reduce or eliminate the cause.

Smoking Causes Cancer?  Do Tell!Secondly, this study highlights a major environmental factor in the cause. We are all aware of certain things that cause cancer, like smoking or using tobacco, etc., but many of these types of things are causes that we expose ourselves too knowingly. There's little doubt that smoking or using smokeless tobacco can directly lead to things like lung, throat or mouth cancer, but air pollution is different. Mainly in that, you can't quit breathing!

The goal with this announcement, as stated by IARC Director Christopher Wild is

“There are effective ways to reduce air pollution and, given the scale of the exposure affecting people worldwide, this report should send a strong signal to the international community to take action without further delay.”

Sadly, to date, economic interests have largely trumped measures that could curb or reduce pollutants in areas where people are most effected.

To read the official WHO press release or to download the full IARC publication.

Author: K. Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Monday, June 17, 2013
Air Quality IndexStarting in spring each year, you might notice a mention of the "air quality index" on the local news. Typically during the spring months, this index is influenced by the level of pollen in the air, but as spring dials up the heat into summer, the index tends to focus on ground level ozone. For people dealing with allergies, asthma or more severe respiratory conditions, the air quality index (AQI) can be a quick and useful way to help manage your outdoor activities for the day. But what does the index measure and how does it actually help?

The AQI is a chart, ranging from 0-500 that measures major pollutants and particles in the air, including ground-level ozone, particle pollution (also known as particulate matter), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. Measured and reported by the EPA, the AQI provides a guide that can help those with respiratory problems better manage their daily outdoor activities. With six categories, the scale ranges from Good to Hazardous. The first two categories, Good and Moderate, Poor Air Quality - Time to Move?do not cause problems for most people, but for sensitive groups, like those with asthma, COPD, emphysema, heart or lung disease, the next two categories can begin to cause problems. If the air quality falls into the last two categories, Very Unhealthy and Hazardous, you should consider staying indoors as much as possible or consulting a local real estate agent.

While the AQI can give you clues as to when it will be best to be outdoors, this measure will vary greatly depending on your location. And though it is often the case that poor air quality tends to center around metro areas (since there is typically more industry, more cars, and higher levels of pollution in general), things like topography and geography can play major roles in how and where air pollution concentrates. Mountain ranges, hills, and valleys can act as walls and funnels for air pollution, allowing it to move, collect and settle in places that you would expect to have much better air quality. Geographical features like these can also effect the duration of poor air quality, causing it to stick around and not allowing it to dissipate as quickly. This is one reason why air quality is so poor in Beijing. Images from this city sometimes show a literal fog of pollution hanging over the city, and while air quality there is generally worse than any location in the U.S., the same types of geographic features that trap air pollution around Beijing can also be found throughout the U.S.

During the warmer months, air quality tends to worsen. Heat changes simple air pollution, so while the same levels of exhaust and carbon dioxide during the winter months may register as Moderate, during the summer they may appear as Unhealthy on the AQI. Add summer heat to industrial and exhaust and you have the recipe for ground level ozone - a powerful lung irritant that can aggravate asthma, COPD and other respiratory conditions.

So what does this all mean? Poor summer air quality isn't going anywhere anytime soon, so the AQI can be a handy tool to help you schedule your daily tasks with as little impact as possible. Morning tends to be the best time to get your outdoor tasks finished, and some things should simply be put off until rain, wind or decreasing temperatures improve the AQI score. Masks with activated carbon can also be helpful if you must spend time outdoors when the air quality if poor. This type of mixed filtration media mask not only targets particulate but also help to traps chemical pollutants like smoke and chemical pollutants from vehicles. Remember your meds. For a variety of reasons, people will often short dose themselves or simply skip medications that can help. Avoid this on days where the air quality is bad and you have to spend time outside. If you must spend time outdoors, take frequent breaks and get inside to cooler temperatures. Finally, drink plenty of water. Heat exacerbates many conditions, and during the summer, heat exhaustion and dehydration unnecessarily cause and worsen problems for many.

Indoors, you can keep help to improve air quality by using a HEPA air purifier which can remove not only particulate but chemicals, odors and help to keep dust levels down. Replacing your HVAC filter regularly is always a good idea. This filter is often your first line of defense in removing air pollutants in your home. Lastly, when the air quality is poor outside, keep the doors and windows closed (though most do anyway when using AC).

For more information on the EPA's Air Quality Index or to check the air quality near you.

Author: Kevin Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Monday, July 23, 2012
Image by Simon GoldbergThough I know the Olympics are coming up very quickly, thoughts about it have largely been tucked away in the back of my mind. From an allergy/asthma perspective, there are certainly athletes competing who are dealing with asthma, like US swimmer Pete Vanderkaay, but with the games being hosted in London, there have not been the red flags going up like there were four years ago in Beijing. Is London's air quality really that good?

In the months leading up the 2008 games in Beijing, there was a lot of well placed concern over the air quality that Olympic athletes would have to deal with. Concern over the air quality in Beijing is well placed as it has some of the most consistently poor air quality of any city on this planet. The Chinese did recognize this problem and attempted to improve air quality in a few ways, namely they cut emissions in the time leading up to the games. One effort involved cutting the number of vehicles that were operating in the city in half. Fast forward four years, and there's been nary a peep about air pollution in London.

London has a troubling past when it comes to air pollution. Everyone's heard the term "London Fog," but in this instance, I'm not referring to a soup, cocktail or nightclub. In 1952 thousands of Londoners died from the effects of "the great smog of '52". Air pollution settled over the city in a thick smog, and following this event air pollution laws went in to effect to prevent this from happening again.

I'm not suggesting that a toxic cloud of smog is going to amass over London and wreak havoc, but critics are quick to point out that London is not in compliance with EU air quality guidelines and that levels of nitrogen dioxide are frequently high. Additionally, studies attribute roughly 4000 premature deaths each year in London due to air pollution. While not occurring from a single event like the Great Smog, the death toll from exposure to consist pollution annually equals that of the Great Smog - 4000.

For most people this will equate to a moderate warning that you will find in a lot of U.S. cities during the summer months. However, for Olympic athletes, these small reductions in air quality can translate into the difference between 1st and 2nd.

Author: Kevin Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Thursday, June 28, 2012
So maybe the title is a bit deceptive since there will be no mention of the famous movie by the same title that starred Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis, except for this one. What I am referring to, however, is the intense heat that is EZ-Baking the middle of the US and slowly marching east. From Denver to DC, Atlanta to Chicago, temperatures surpassing the century mark have set records in over a dozen cities this week. While a lot of us really enjoy the sun and being outdoors, +100° temps are a time when some caution should be used. Here's just a quick list of things to keep in mind while you worry about if you used enough deodorant today.
  • Avoid the Heat, Avoid Ozone - Record temperatures are almost synonymous with ground level ozone and air quality warnings. A look at the national map reveals a lot of code orange dots scattered throughout the eastern part of the country. Heat mixes with emissions to create a stew of pollutants that can adversely effect everyone but specifically the elderly, children and anyone suffering from a heart condition or respiratory issue. This means asthmatics and those with Protect Yourself From Extreme Heat COPD, among others, should take precautions to limit to their time outdoors to early mornings when ozone is at its lowest levels. If you must go out, use a mask that features carbon or charcoal in the filter.

  • Sunscreen + Water = Win! - If you are going to enjoy the sunshine, make sure to use a little sunscreen and drink plenty of water. With almost no chance of rain, not a cloud to be found and temperatures so high, it's important to protect your skin from UVA and UVB rays. Vanicream offers a healthier sunscreen is healthier alternative to traditional sun blockers that can be laden with harmful chemicals and fragrance. Water is very important in replacing what you lose through perspiring and preventing dehydration. It's a great way to avoid looking like a sun-dried raisin!

  • Put Off Yard Work - Much to the chagrin of your significant other, you officially have a legitimate reason for putting this off. If there is work to be done in the yard, aim to complete it by 9-11am, at the latest. Depending on local conditions, there may be no dew on the ground even earlier than this, but typically dew "burns off" by the midmorning hours. You can either wait a few days until the extreme temperatures subside or use the early hours to get your outdoor chores completed (and earn brownie points for not putting it off!).

  • Take a Break - If you are outside for very long or doing physical activity, take a break! Find some shade, a cool drink and give you body some time to recover. Extreme sun and heat saps your strength, so short periods of rest can help recharge your batteries. And don't forget about eating. When the temperatures are warm and I am outside, I can be guilty of this. Heavier foods are not going to be helpful, light snacks and fruit provide the energy you need to keep going.

  • Don't Forget the Pets - Have outdoors pets? Bring them inside. If they're anything like my dog, after a hot day at work, he loves to just flop on the cool tile in our downstairs and soak up the cool. At the very least, keep an eye on outdoor pets and ensure they have plenty of fresh water and shade. Alone inside a parked car with the windows cracked? Unless you have the vehicle running, and your AC cranked, it's like a blast furnace in your car or truck. In this case, it is actually better if they are outdoors, or best still, leave them home.

  • Take a Moment for Tomatoes - If you have a garden or just a few tomato plants and landscaping like I do, the heat can wilt and damage them in fairly short order. Vulnerable, potted plants should be moved to areas where exposure to sunlight is less than normal. Water them in the early hours or after the sun has gone down to reduce the amount that is lost by evaporation. Some plants, even when not exposed to direct sunlight, will wilt simply due to the extremely high temperatures.

  • Your Excuse To.... - On a lighter note, use the heat as an excuse to stay indoors in the air conditioning. If this means spending time with the family or visiting/checking on an elderly relative, perfect! If it just means you staying inside and catching a movie you've been wanting to see, that's fine too!
This list isn't comprehensive, but it does give you a few things to keep in mind as these high temperatures steam roll across the midwest, south and east coast. If you are feeling dizzy or lightheaded at any point, stop what you are doing and rest for a few minutes. If conditions like this do no subside quickly, please visit your local hospital, clinic or health care provider. Heat stroke and dehydration, though common during times of high heat, are completely preventable and usually, easily treated. Stay safe!

Author: Kevin Gilmore

Posted by Kevin on Thursday, June 28, 2012
Reduce Exposure to EmissionsWhile the political debate over whether emissions regulations are too onerous on manufacturers, evidence linking increased exposure to emissions and asthma and lung damage continues to pile up. From decreased lung development to increased rates of asthma, studies published in the last decade demonstrate a link between emissions and respiratory troubles with some regularity. So what can you do to reduce expsoure, particularly in areas where traffic congestion is at its worst?

Face masks have become a popular choice for those spending time outdoors in urban areas. Specific brands, like Respro, have built most of their business around serving the filtration needs of those concerned with air pollution, while working or playing outdoors. Activated carbon, combined with particle filter media collect emissions particles as well as pollen and dust, to protect the lungs from the effects of repeated exposure.

We have seen strong interest in compact and portable purifiers, like the Roomaid and others. They're typically inexpensive, lightweight and very compact. While the Roomaid can sit in your car, other models are also small enough to take with you when you travel. Even though compact air purifiers rarely offer as comprehensive filtration as full size models, they do reduce harmful air pollutants no matter where you go.

Though studies reaching back nearly a decade show clear links between emissions exposure and asthma rates, the debate over vehicle emissions and regulation is one that will not be going away soon. Public policy is rarely shaped by health considerations alone, but those living near traffic congestion or suffering from asthma cannot afford to wait for legislatures to pick up the banner of cleaner air. By limiting your time outdoors, avoiding time outside when traffic pollution is at it's worst (during the rush hours), and taking steps to filter the air that you breathe in your car or home, you make huge strides in reducing your exposure to emissions pollution.

Author: Kevin Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Tuesday, June 12, 2012
If you happened to see a snippet from the evening news, you may have come across a piece about a thick cloud of yellowish smog in the Chinese city of Wuhan. While the cause of the dense cloud is up for debate, it highlights a couple important points about air pollution. First, that unlike your yard, air pollution doesn't stay put. Secondly, while we all know that plants can act as nature's version of an air purifier, one thing they have trouble filtering is ground level ozone.

For many of us, whether it's a camping trip to a national park or weekend at the beach, summer means time outdoors. Though the thought of enjoying the fresh air of the great outdoors is appealing, it's not always the case. Even forests and parks, far from the pollution of cities, can be effected by ground level ozone and smog.

Air pollution doesn't adhere to prescribed boundaries, so while cities can be the focal point of ground level ozone and smog, surrounding areas can and often will be affected. Regional weather patterns can carry VOCs and carbon monoxide emitted by factories and cities throughout areas where these pollutants are not produced. These pollutants can persist for weeks, and on warm, sunny days, create ground level ozone that effects the people and plants living in that region.

Many people have plants in the home. I keep a hideous looking spider plant in my living room (though less for air cleaning and more for sentimental value). Plants have the uncanny ability to help clean up messes, and by absorbing sunlight and carbon dioxide they play a vital role in producing oxygen and moisture (remember high school biology). Ground level ozone can have a severe impact on plants.

Stippling and Flecking on Plants from OzoneOnce absorbed by plants, ozone disrupts the process of photosynthesis and can actually damage the leaves where this process occurs. This can have a variety of effects including lower crop yields on farms, damage to plants and a reduced ability to break down pollutants in the air. Though it gets little media exposure, ground level ozone and lower crop yields are enough of a concern that farmers in the U.S. are working on developing ozone resistant strains of the soybean plant to combat this.

To reduce ozone, activated charcoal or carbon has been shown to be effective. So for those with asthma or respiratory problems, masks with some layer of activated charcoal can help reduce exposure, no matter where you are. So regardless of whether you are on vacation or just jogging around the block, sensitive groups should take a moment to check the air quality index before heading out.

Author: Kevin Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Friday, May 25, 2012
What are your Memorial Day plans? Watch a parade? Go see an air show? Cook out with friends and family? Go canoeing down a local river? <---My plans! This weekend is bound to be full of festivities, food, commemorating, and for most of us, plenty of time outdoors. While the spring pollen season has pretty much drawn to a close, the rising temperatures are starting to trigger smog alerts and air quality warnings in metro areas across the South. Today we are going to see a code orange which means the air quality will be slightly worse than moderate with the main pollutants being fine particles and ground level ozone.

Ground level ozone is formed when the pollution from factories and vehicles mixes with high temperatures, and while there is not much you can do about it, the best advice is to avoid it. So if you're planning some jogging or other strenuous activity, try to time it around the early morning and evening hours.

For most of us, this may be a nuisance or something we just ignore this weekend, but with temperatures reaching into the 90's, asthmatics and others with respiratory problems should take note. So regardless of what your Memorial Day weekend plans are, stay safe and have fun!

Shop Now and Take 10% Off Through Memorial Day!
Now through Memorial Day, take 10% off every purchase. Save on HEPA vacuum cleaners, air purifiers, our acclaimed Allergy Armor bedding, dehumidifiers and much more! Simple use code "spring10" at checkout and save.

Posted by kevvyg on Tuesday, May 01, 2012
Air Pollution, Summer Haze and OzoneWith near record breaking temperatures in many parts of the country, poor air quality warnings are getting an early start to the season. As the mercury rises during the summer months, the combination of the heat and air pollution leads to air quality warnings in metro and suburban areas throughout the US. Though this is usually seen later in the year, early heat is exacerbating ground level ozone warnings sooner.

There are two basic types of ozone. Ozone found in the upper atmosphere acts as a protective shield against solar particles and certain emissions from the sun. Ground level ozone, on the other hand, is a powerful lung irritant that forms when heat combines with air pollution from vehicles and industrial emissions. It disproportionately effects the elderly, children, asthmatics, and other people who suffer from respiratory issues like COPD. For those effected, ground level ozone can cause coughing, wheezing, varying degrees of difficult breathing and pain in the chest.

The best way to handle ground level ozone is to reduce exposure as much as possible. As a few helpful ways to reduce exposure to ozone,
  • Check local news and weather reports for daily air quality index ratings
  • Avoid areas of high traffic and congestion
  • Stay indoors during peak hours, with safer times being in the mornings and evenings
  • Close your windows, and to keep cool use an air conditioner
  • Avoid excercising outdoors
By following just a few simple suggestions you can reduce your exposure to ozone, breathe easier, and hopefully enjoy your summers a little more. For instances when you do have trouble breathing or are experiencing pain while breathing, seek medical attention immediately.

Posted by kevvyg on Wednesday, February 29, 2012
New Study Changes Perspective on Air Pollution ControlIn a study recently released in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers complicate our current understanding of air pollution and how air pollution is oxidized in the environment. The initial finds are cause for some concern. The results tend to show that our current understanding of what happens to pollution particles in the atmosphere is not correct, and that the air could be much dirtier than we currently believe.

When initial air pollution studies were completed nearly 20 years ago, they identified different types of particles that make up air pollution. Since then, air pollution control legislation has been largely tailored to target a specific set of fine particles that were thought to represent the most dangerous cross section of emission pollutants.

What this most recent study has shown is that a Secondary Organic Aerosols (SOA) comprise a larger slice of that air pollution pie. Initial air quality studies did not show the elevated levels of SOA's that were found in research completed over the last two years.

As a bit of backstory, Secondary Organic Aerosols are the combination of pollution particles that have chemically bound to airborne organic particles. So they themselves are not directly emitted by combustion engines, but are formed when particles that were previously thought to dissipate, bind to organic agents. And instead of evaporating once in the atmosphere, these new SOA's form tiny tar balls that evaporate much more slowly than originally thought.

While nature will tend to deal with pollutants over time, as the environment has and will continue to absorb and break down much of the millions of gallons of oil from the BP spill, so too will the atmosphere break down air pollution.

However, if current pollution control efforts fail to account for a secondary product of air pollution, especially one that takes much longer to break down, reevaluation of not only control measures but also actual pollution levels needs to be done.

It will take time to parse the study and evaluate it in the context of a larger pollution control effort, but those who are particularly effected by air pollution, allergy, asthma and MCS sufferers, this study is just another that reinforces the importance of maintaining good indoor air quality in your home and office. To that end, proper air filtration systems, like HEPA Air Purifiers and efficient furnace filters still remain your best tools in keeping indoor air clean and free of outdoor pollutants.

Posted by kevvyg on Friday, February 17, 2012
Over a year ago, we implemented a FAQ function on our site, and since then, we've answered thousands of questions. Some of these questions you'll see posted on product pages, and others you won't see due to the personal nature of the inquiry. Being the person who answers a majority of these questions, I can safely say that at least half of all FAQ's are about masks and air filtration.

While I would suggest that the majority of the people who visit our site have a good understanding of the link between personal health and air pollution, there continues ongoing studies to determine the exact nature of this relationship. And though there are a variety of factors that can influence this type of study, for the last 20 years researchers have been trying to find a more definitive link between pollution and tangible health consequences - like heart attacks and strokes.

City Pollution and Your HealthTwo recent studies found in the Archives of Internal Medicine seem to support this theory and make direct links between elevated levels of air pollution and health problems. French scientists showed that short term exposure city pollutants (carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, etc.), increased the immediate risk of heart attack. This built upon an earlier study that had shown when air pollution levels in the Boston area went from "good" to "moderate," there was 34% risk of having a stroke.

Things like memory and the ability to plan and carry out tasks decline naturally with age, but air pollution may speed the decline. In the second study, researchers tested almost 20,000 women for nearly a decade and found that cognitive abilities in this decreased more rapidly for those who had more exposure to air pollutants from city/urban environments.

For the allergy, asthma and MCS sufferers who visit this site daily, the link between poor air quality and quality of life is a bit of "old hat." For those sufferering from particle allergens, the choice in masks has been a HEPA respirator while for chemical pollution, emissions and odors, a mask with activated carbon or charcoal is the best fit. Research will continue, and until large scale changes begin to seriously curb pollutants in our air and water, wearing masks and filtering pollutants remain easy steps to improve your health and quality of life.

For more information on these studies, check out this NY Times article.

Page: 1 of 2

* Sign Up For Monthly Newsletter to Receive Special Discount *


Air Pollution Masks Allergies Asthma Allergy Bedding Allergy Armor Peanut Allergy Bedbugs Dust Mites Seasonal Allergy Steam Cleaners Humidity Control Mold Mold Prevention Pet Allergies Allergy Pillows Austin Air Neti Pot Nasal Irrigation Allergy Research Allergy Study Tree Nut Allergy Food Allergies Eczema Mattresses Organic Blanket Miele Vacuums Pet Dander Dyson Pet Hair Humidifiers Dehumidifiers IQAir Ladybug Danby VOC's IAQ Blueair Smog Wildfires Electrolux AllerAir Cigarette Smoke Sinusitis Achoo Newsletter Vacuum Cleaners Air Purifiers Valentine's Day Reliable Aprilaire Dri-Eaz Air-O-Swiss Humidity Pollen Count HEPA Filter Allergy Relief Anaphylaxis Auto Injector Winter Allergies Allergy Friendly Allergy Mask Pollen Mattress Pad Memory Foam New Product Fleas Atlanta How To FAQ Video Nebulizer Formaldehyde Toulene Achoo Promotion Ozone FDA Furnace Filter Ogallala Bedding MCS Hypoallergenic Down Tobacco Smoke Whirlpool ragweed Asthma Drug RZ Mask Organic Bedding Respro Better Sleep Immunotherapy Genetically Modified Environmental Control Sunscreen Vanicream BPA Phthalates Feminine Health Ask An Allergist Stadler Form Crane Humidifiers Antimicrobial COPD Recipes EcoDiscoveries Baby Allergy Products Santa Fe Dehumidifiers Vaping
Shop Items On Sale At AchooAllergy.com