Posts Tagged ‘indoor air quality’

Keeping Indoor Air Quality Healthy

July 18th, 2015

Keeping the Indoor Air Quality HealthyKeeping the Indoor Air Quality Healthy

One of the things people rarely think about is the air quality in their homes. Air is usually something we never notice, after all. But keeping it clean is a very important task as it does have a great effect on our health, especially the indoor air quality – after all, you spend most of your life in your home. But how do you go about maintaining the air’s healthy quality?

There are many ways of doing that. One of them, of course, is preventing the bad air to penetrate your home. Avoid smoking indoors. You have seen the signs on all cigarette packages, so you should be aware that smoking is harmful. Double that when you smoke inside as the smoke seeps into all the furniture and curtains, and not only leaves a questionable air quality, but a very nasty and hard to remove odour, as well. If you are a smoker and cannot give it up, simply use the balcony or smoke when outside.

Two, you should avoid using certain types of paints, stains, coatings, and carpeting that contain volatile organic compounds such as benzene, toluene, arsenic, formaldehyde and xylene.. Similar to the smoking they leave a bad odour behind, and will off-gas  , potentially causing negative health effects such as respiratory problems, headaches and general illness, dizziness, etc. These products have been known to emit their VOCs for days, weeks and even years after use or application. Be careful about what type of paint, varnish or carpeting you bring to your home and look for low or zero VOC options which are now more commonly available. Three, have a look at your cleaning products. You will notice that most cleaning products have a very volatile effect on the air quality, as they are filled with different chemicals that evaporate right into the indoor air, and if you do not ventilate properly, you breathe in all the toxins from that product. Try avoiding all this with green cleaning products. If you are all too attached to your own cleaning products and have no intention of changing them, here are some tips on how to keep your indoor air quality healthy :

Use only the amount necessary for cleaning.
Do not mix cleaning products.
Always read the label.
Ventilate often (keep your kitchen and bathroom fans on while cleaning).
Rinse after application.
Throw away old containers.

But, ultimately, you should just use green products. There are many new eco-friendly products today on the market that specialise in air quality control. They are more costly, but health has no price. Otherwise, you can go completely green and use home-made products while home cleaning. There is a variety of everyday items in your very kitchen which you can use. Use baking soda and vinegar for just about everything – carpet cleaning, oven cleaning, kitchen cleaning, etc. They can fight any stain just as good as a labeled cleaning product, but without the negative effects. Use salt for the dishes to avoid rashes on your hands, and all the dish washing fluid’s chemicals affecting the air. Add lemon juice to the picture and it will not only remove all previous nasty odours, but it will freshen up the air with a nice smell as well.

You do not have to resort to cleaning companies to keep the air clean in your home. Simply think green and the air quality will rise when you remove all the chemicals and toxins from your home. Read more at: Oneoff Cleaning.

mobEE Strawbale School Portables are a low impact breath of fresh air

February 11th, 2015
Straw Bale Portable mobEE

Straw Bale Portable mobEE

 

I met Ben Polley on the trip to Poland in October, 2014, but his company, Evolve Builders had been on my list of ones to contact for awhile. Evolve Builders builds low impact houses and buildings from straw, earth and wood. The company is divided into various divisions each of which specialize in a particular area of green building ranging from green design to “biological based building systems” (dealing with gray and black water and the like) through the Torus division.

mobEE, the prefabricated straw bale school portable system has recently signed a contract with the Pinoleville Pomo Nation to provide six mobEE units for the aboriginal group. What is unusual about this contract is that this nation is based in northern California. You might be wondering, like I did, why this group from northern California selected a southern  Ontario-based natural builder to build these school buildings for them. The questions was answered in Evolve’s press release:

After extended bid requests for a strawbale constructed portable school structure failed to garner interest locally or elsewhere across the U.S., determined Pinoleville Native American Head Start program representatives discovered Evolve’s mobEE eco-portables. Both parties came to learn that they held in common many organizational values, including support for local jobs, environmental stewardship, healthy buildings and energy efficiency. This inspired a joint effort that ultimately will meet Pinoleville Pomo Nation’s ideals, needs and budget.

Construction of the walls will take place in the Durham, Ontario factory then the parts will be shipped to California where they will be assembled by local trades, overseen by the mobEE group.

» Read more: mobEE Strawbale School Portables are a low impact breath of fresh air

Living Walls And Vertical Gardens

November 26th, 2014
Living Wall. Source:

Living Wall

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_wall#mediaviewer/File:Mur_v%C3%A9g%C3%A9tal_int%C3%A9rieur.jpg

 

Everyone wants the best for their property and do their best to improve it every now and again. Decorating your home is one of the easiest ways to make your place feel like new, without really making that big of a change. When it comes to decorating of walls, it is necessary to mention the trend that has been in the spotlight recently, i.e. green walls, also known as living walls or vertical gardens. Living walls are self-sufficient gardens that are attached to indoor or outdoor walls of a property. Such walls easily make a significant change to a place and turn in into a lovely natural area. Vertical gardening is a great method to grow plants in a more innovative and unconventional way and is also a wonderful solution for properties, where it’s not possible to have a garden.

There are many reasons why more and more people have started to invite this new trend to their homes. Here is some more information about living walls and their number of benefits presented by London gardeners.

» Read more: Living Walls And Vertical Gardens

Kitchen Renovation is Complete — Finally!!

April 8th, 2014
Kitchen renovation

View of kitchen, cabinetry, lighting, maple hardwood flooring

Well, five months after my deadline, my kitchen is finished. I’ve promised my friend Nancy Peterson, CEO of Homestars.com, that I will write a post for her called “Why I will never be my own general contractor again”. Let’s just say it was an eye opening experience. This post, however, is not about the mistakes I made (and there were plenty!), it’s about whether or not I achieved my green kitchen goals.

I would say that I accomplished some green goals but failed miserably in others, in particular with indoor air quality. For many of you, this will be the one area where you will probably not want to compromise. I, on the other hand, seem to be willing to sacrifice mine and my family’s health for the sake of aesthetics, and in some cases, durability.

» Read more: Kitchen Renovation is Complete — Finally!!

Cooking as an Indoor Air Pollution Hazard

March 18th, 2014

Oh, Dear Kitchen!
Could this be true? Instead of associating you with the smell of freshly brewed coffee or a baked sweet pie…here I am with the burnt smell of the word, pollution.

Well, let’s clear the air!

What is air pollution? The picture first to mind? Something outside–smog, busy roads with bumper to bumper traffic, or factories releasing black sooty smoke?
A new study has found that kitchen appliances, especially the oven and stove emit noxious fumes at a rate up to 3x higher than a busy city street.
Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley Lab have identified which indoor air pollutants cause the greatest health consequences.  Poor indoor air quality is as significant as those from all traffic accidents or infectious diseases in the US. The study  reveals that, major source of indoor pollutants in the home is…. cooking.

Yes, cooking. There is no typo here.

The research discovered two pollutants that previously had not been recognized as a cause for concern.
Two new indoor air pollutants have been identified in addition to the three previously known indoor air pollutants—secondhand smoke, radon and formaldehyde.  These are acrolein and PM2.5, or particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter.

  •  Acrolein is produced  when cooking meats and oils, and we should also mention that it is a genotoxic tissue irritant, that was used as a nerve agent in
    World War I!
  • PM2.5 has a variety of sources, including cooking, reactions caused by some cleaning products, any kind of combustion, for example such as burning candles or incense.
    The study addressed only chemical pollutants and did not integrate biological pollutants, such as allergens and molds. Another limitation was that it looked only at exposure through inhalation and not other means of contamination, such as ingestion or skin contact.

 

However, this research is especially important in light of recent efforts to make buildings airtight to save on energy costs. Airtight homes trap contaminants and worsen the risk of exposure to dangerous chemicals, so new homes should always include a system that introduces fresh air into the home, for instance, by installing a heat or energy recovery ventilator. Scientists at the Energy Department’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are studying how indoor air quality affects human health and how to remove harmful pollutants from the simple task of everyday cooking.

  • Current kitchen ventilation standards and metrics of performance focus on measuring energy use of appliances but not their impact on human health.

Given the information from this new study, it is clear that improved kitchen ventilation is needed.
The Berkeley Lab’s goal is to establish a “science based ventilation standards”. This probably will bring a range of changes such as altering building codes to guarantee effective tools and appliances to improve ventilation in kitchens.

The kitchen is no longer a room where we only cook and eat food. The kitchen is the place where we get together in the morning and after work, the kids often do their homework, and where we proudly entertain. Today’s kitchens more often have no dividing walls and doors to adjacent spaces, open concept is a preferred family home layout.

The unintended side effect of cooking with natural gas: Cooking with gas releases particulate matter, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds. Studies also suggest that natural gas may increase the chances of asthma and respiratory illnesses (David Wimbley, 2000).
In a recent study, Chair of the Dallas based Environmental Health Center, Dr. William Rea concluded that after studying  47,000 patients, the most important sources of indoor pollution responsible for generating (environmental) illness were gas stoves, hot water heaters, and furnaces. Furthermore, gas combustion also provides a transportation mechanism for dust, molds, mites, viruses and bacteria, since water vapour is generated (David Wimbley, 2000).

Natural gas is in its original state contains radon and benzene, chemicals that can contribute to cancer. To add more spice to the already hot dish, a new study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives has found that natural gas stoves expose us daily – just by cooking supper every night- to unhealthy levels of noxious combustion by-products. Gas stoves and ovens pollute our kitchen’s air with nasties like aldehydes, carbon monoxide and other gases linked to nerve damage and respiratory irritation. While combustion by-products can generally be removed through appliance vents, -again- Energy Star program certifies these appliances for their energy efficiency, but there is not a single standard that dictates how well they have to work or how effective they are at removing pollutants from indoor air.

 

Are Induction cooktops better for Indoor Air Quality than Gas?

Induction cooktops are safe and reliable alternative to natural gas.
When considering the environmental impacts of gas and induction cooking in our home, the key aspect we need to understand is the fuel source.
With gas stovetops, this is typically natural gas (CH4,methane) for both, commercial and residential kitchens. Induction stovetops use electricity to create an electromagnetic field, and as such have no primary fuel source and do not use combustion as a source of heat. The heat is transferred from the element to the pot or pan on the cooktop, there is no open flame to worry about, therefore makes cooking safer and more energy efficient. Another benefit of induction cooking is that due to the efficiency of how induction cooktops transfer heat, they also heat food faster. This directly reduces cooking time, and therefore energy consumption. The precise temperature control and  instaneous heat of induction stoves are similar to that of gas stoves. However, induction stoves heat more evenly as the cookware transfer the heat directly to the food. .

Providing ample ventilation when we are cooking and correctly using appliances are important control tools we must use. Exhaust fans should always vent to the outdoors over cooking stoves and ranges, and we should pay attention to keep the burners properly adjusted. If our homes are poorly ventilated the odors from cooking will linger and increase the chance of infection.
Basic steps for prevention of air pollution in the kitchen are:

  • turning on the fan and opening windows while cooking (weather permitting),
  • Removing garbage as often as possible to avoid odors that also attract rodents and insects and prevent food-borne bacteria,
  •  Controlling moisture to prevent mold growth,
  • Using natural cleaners.

 

For more information on sustainable interior design, visit Clara’s website, http://xlkitchens.com/

This post originally appeared on the XL Kitchens blog. http://www.sipgreen.org/1/post/2014/01/kitchencooking-as-an-indoor-air-pollution-hazard.html

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