Need to clean up ash from the Woolsey fire? Follow these guidelines for safety

Ash from the Woolsey and Hill fires can have a far reach, raining down on communities many miles away.

Areas of California have not only been completely devastated by the recent wildfires in Northern California and the Malibu area, but many far away from the flames have been impacted in other ways with power outages or debris from the fires.

The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department sent out tips via social media on Wednesday on how to safely discard of ash and food that may have been impacted.

Wash off the ash

Ash may look like fun snowflakes to children, but make sure they don’t play in it – especially when it’s wet or damp.  And make sure any toys they play with are washed.

Don’t forget to also wash your pets that may have gotten ash on their fur.

Always wear gloves during clean up, along with long-sleeved shirts and long pants to avoid skin contact. Wash ash off as soon as possible if it gets on your skin.

If you eat vegetable or fruits from the garden, make sure you wash them before eating.

Don’t spread it around

Don’t use leaf blowers — they will push ash into the air and spread it out.

“Instead, gently sweep indoor and outdoor surfaces, followed by wet mopping,” the post reads. “A solution of bleach and water may be used to disinfect an area.”

Your regular home vacuum won’t cut it, and even shop vacuums can’t filter out small particles. Instead, they blow small particles into the air where they can be breathed in. However, HEPA-filter vacuums can filter out small particles.

Use a disposable mask, an easy item to find at home or hardware stores, when cleaning up. Make sure it has a rating of N-95 or better.

Avoid washing ash into the storm drains whenever possible. Ash and soot can become very slippery when combined with water.

“Walk carefully, wear boots with good soles, and use as little water as possible when cleaning an area of ash,” the post reads.

Throw it out

If ash has gotten onto plastic bottles, toss them.

“It is not enough to rinse off the bottles as these particles contaminate the caps, making them very difficult to decontaminate,” the advisory reads

Food that has not been stored in waterproof or airtight containers and has been covered with ash should be discarded. This includes products that have been stored in cardboard or other soft packaging, according to the sheriff’s department.

Food stored in sealed, previously unopened glass or metal cans or jars, such as baby food, should be safe for use, but the containers should be cleaned before they are opened and contents transferred to another container before being eaten.

If a power outage has impacted your area for a short time, your food should be safe. But if your power has been out for several hours, it’s best to throw away perishable foods such as meat, dairy products and eggs.

Items that have thawed in the freezer should be thrown away — do not re-freeze thawed food.

“Remember, if in doubt, throw it out.”

Original Article Source:https://www.dailynews.com/2018/11/14/need-to-clean-up-ash-from-the-woolsey-fire-follow-these-guidelines-for-safety/

Health Risks Associated with Smoke, Soot, and Mold

House fires are terrifying because the flames can cause intense bodily harm that results in serious injury and even death.  Once the fire is put out, many homeowners are relieved in the sense that the threat to their life or health has ended.  However, the flames themselves are not the only potential source of health issues.  Many of the byproducts of a fire are toxic.  Fires leave behind smoke, soot, corrosive byproducts, and even mold that negatively affects your health.  It is important to know the health risks caused by the byproducts of a fire to keep yourself and your family safe in the aftermath.

Smoke

All fires involve smoke and everyone knows that smoke inhalation is extremely dangerous because of the chemicals it contains.  Smoke is the byproduct of incomplete combustion and contains the following toxins:

  • Carbon Monoxide (CO) and Hydrogen Cyanide (HCN): The potential health effects of carbon monoxide are well known as many homes have carbon monoxide detectors for safety. Less people know about the risks of the other major chemical in smoke, hydrogen cyanide.  Hydrogen cyanide is over 30 times more toxic than carbon monoxide and inhaling a combination of both can be deadly.  Smoke inhalation is the leading cause of fire related deaths.
  • Chemicals from Burnt Materials: When materials such as wood, drywall, and flooring are burned in a fire, they release hundreds of chemicals in the smoke that are harmful to your health. Some of the dangerous chemicals released by burning household materials include hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen chloride, carboxylic acids, nitrogen oxides, acid gases, sulfur dioxide, and much more.

Soot

After the fire and smoke have cleared, there is still a substance present that can spread throughout the home and cause health issues as well as property damage; soot.  Soot is dangerous because it spreads and settles everywhere including the air ducts where it can get redistributed into the air.  Most health problems caused by soot result from inhalation but soot can also get absorbed in the skin and eyes.  The main health effects from soot include lung irritation and respiratory issues such as bronchitis and asthma as well as more serious issues including heart attack, stroke, and even cancer.

Mold

Few people associate mold growth with house fires but if a house fire is extinguished with water, this excess moisture can quickly lead to mold growth.  Moisture is the main cause of mold growth and organic materials that are wet from putting out the fire can become contaminated with mold within 48 hours.  Mold not only adds to the health risks already present after a fire, but also causes even more property damage that makes the restoration process longer and more expensive.

If a fire breaks out in your home, make sure that everyone evacuates safely and do not return to your home until it has been restored and deemed safe.  The byproducts of a fire are just as dangerous as the fire itself and can cause serious health effects long after the fire has been put out.  It is of extreme importance to begin the fire damage restoration as soon as possible by hiring professionals that can safely remove dangerous byproducts from soot and smoke.  These professionals have effective cleaning products and personal protective equipment to keep themselves safe during the restoration process

 

BY  · PUBLISHED  · UPDATED 

About 

Expert in emergency fire and water restoration services, fire cleanup and water damage cleanup, mold removal, as well as carpet and upholstery cleaning services. Contributor to several restoration and cleaning blogs.

Why is indoor air quality important to all of us?

Indoor air quality is important to government agencies, schools, businesses, building staff, and occupants because it can impact both positively and negatively the health, comfort, well being, and productivity of building occupants.

Studies have shown that the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi in and around a building serves as a source of indoor bio-pollutant. World Health Organization (WHO Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality, 2009) concluded

Microbial infested HVAC system
Microbial infested HVAC system

that the most important effect is increased prevalence of respiratory symptoms, allergies and asthma, as well as perturbation of the immunological systems. According to the report building dampness (supporting factor for microbial growth in buildings) varies widely from country to country and climatic zone. Dampness is estimated to affect 10-50% of all indoor environments in North America, Australia, Europe, India, and Japan.

According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) most Americans spend up to 90% of their time indoors and many spend most of their working hours in an office environment. Environmental studies conducted by the independent scientific groups, EPA and others have shown that indoor air pollutants levels are greater than levels found outside.

What are some types of indoor air pollutants that may affect my building?

  • Biological contaminants: the biological contaminants can consist of bacteria, viruses, fungi (mold), dust mite allergen, animal dander, insect biodetritus, fibers and fiberglass, pollen, cockroach allergen, etc… and may result from inadequate maintenance and housekeeping, water spills, inadequate humidity control, condensation, or may be brought into the building by occupants, infiltration, or ventilation air. Allergic responses to indoor biological pollutant exposures cause symptoms in allergic individuals and also play a key role in triggering asthma episodes for an estimated 15 million Americans.
  • Chemical pollutants:  Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemicals.  VOCs are numerous, varied, and ubiquitous. They include both human-made and naturally occurring chemical compounds. Chemical pollutants can include tobacco smoke, emissions from products used in the building (e.g., office equipment; furniture, wall and floor coverings e.g. formaldehyde; and cleaning and consumer products) accidental spill of chemicals, and gases such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, which are products of combustion.
  • Particles. Particles are solid or liquid substances which are light enough to be suspended in the air, the largest (8 microns and greater) of which may be visible in sunbeams streaming into a room are typically non respirable. However, the smaller particles (7 microns and smaller) that you cannot see are likely to be more harmful to health since these are considered respirable. Particles of dust, dirt, or other substances may be drawn into the building from outside and can also be produced by activities that occur in buildings e.g. operation and maintenance practices, housekeeping practices, printing, copying, operating equipment, construction, remodeling, people….

Is establishing baseline IAQ conditions in my building important?

Yes, as Yogi Berra once said “if you don’t know where you are going, you might not get there?”  Indoor air quality is no different.  If you don’t know the present IAQ conditions of your building are and you are having IAQ upgrades performed to enhance your buildings IAQ then how would you know that you improved those conditions if you didn’t have a baseline to start with?  You wouldn’t.

It is not practical to design a universal guideline fit for all in terms of exposure and health because immunity varies greatly from individual to individual. EDLab at Pure Air Control Services performed a 10 year study analyzing more than 7,000 buildings and over 25,000 environmental samples that were collected across the United States and abroad.  The building types included both commercial and residential.  The majority of samples analyzed were tested positive for bacteria and fungi.

In this study the average (normal baseline) concentration of air-borne culture-able (viable) bacteria was 175 CFU (Colony Forming Unit)/m3, and the fungal concentration in ambient air was recorded at 350 CFU/m3. The average concentration of non viable air-borne mold/fungal elements was estimated at approximately 1,000 cts (counts)/ m3. These baseline numbers are used as a reliable indicator for an expected average of disseminated microbial (bacteria/fungi only) concentrations in today’s modern buildings.

Article origin: http://pureaircontrols.com/why-indoor-air-quality-is-important-to-all-of-us/

With smoke from wildfires, valley air quality looks unpredictable for near future

With wildfires burning throughout the state, in addition to recent local grass fires, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District continues to warn the public about poor air quality, including incidents of severely bad air that may occur sporadically in the coming days.

For a few hours late Saturday, the amount of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) in the air spiked in Bakersfield and all eight counties across the San Joaquin Valley air district, to a Level 5, the highest level, where all people are advised to remain indoors.

By the next day, Bakersfield had clearer skies and air quality was back down to a moderate range. District officials said winds temporarily pushed smoke into the valley during that several hour period.

“All that pollution literally just inundated the entire San Joaquin Valley,” said Cassandra Melching, outreach and communication representative for the air district.

Because the air can be safe at one point in the day and dangerous at another, depending upon wind flows, Melching said an air quality alert is standing for all areas.

On Saturday, regions farther north in close proximity to the fire were substantially affected, Melching said, with Oakhurst in Madera County reaching a PM 2.5 concentration of 246 micrograms per cubic meter. It takes only 75 micrograms to reach level five risk. Bakersfield hit 87 micrograms that same day.

“We can’t quite say who is going to be impacted the most and when…It doesn’t mean that every single day our air quality is bad,” Melching said.

Glen Stephens, air pollution control officer of the Eastern Kern Air Pollution Control District, said the district has not released any alerts, but is tracking the smoke levels. He said there is less of a concern in eastern Kern County and mountain areas compared to valley locations like Bakersfield, but that there is still poor air quality.

“It’s generally bad. Right now it’s bad because of ozone, not because of the fire,” Stephens said.

The best way to know whether it is safe to be outdoors is by tracking your location on the Valley Air app or online at valley air.org. It is especially important for sensitive groups such as the elderly and those with asthma to remain cautious and updated.

Melching said to also be aware of the potential for ash in the air, which is most likely when temperatures cool down and is not monitored in the air quality levels.

“If you smell smoke, or if you see ash falling, you are being impacted,” Melching said.

Ways to reduce your risk of being affected by the smoke are to limit outdoor exercise, stay hydrated, change your air air filters and keep windows shut.

Article source: www.bakersfield.com/news/with-smoke-from-wildfires-valley-air-quality-looks-unpredictable-for/article_ad179f8e-99d4-11e8-88fb-ff92b41270ae.html

The problem of global air pollution

The World Health Organisation (WHO) expect poor air quality worldwide to be the leading cause of premature deaths by 2050. They probably look back at the Paris Climate Accord of December 2015 with mixed emotions. First off, replicating the wide consensus about climate change for the effects of air pollution on population health would be a worthy ambition. Then again, they must now look at how recent populist resistance, particularly by the Trump presidency in the US, has set back the cause of legislating against environmental degradation. They might wish for no more horse-trading over whys and wherefores, just consensus on what needs to be done, then getting on with it.

But in seeking agreement on how to improve air quality, WHO do themselves few favours. Their standard parameter of suffering from poor health is the Disability Adjusted Life Year or ‘DALY’, measuring numbers of years lost to ill health, disability or death, against a notional average healthy life expectancy. Not surprisingly, this peasoup of statistical complexity is argued over by medics, demographers and sociologists threatening the capacity to agree anything about how to tackle the poisoning of our lungs.

We all accept the root causes of poor air; most are man made. They include the vastly increased reliance on the internal combustion engine over the last half-century, particularly in rapidly growing economies. But emissions from industrial processes, and urbanisation with its encroachment on previous areas of virgin, or partly domesticated natural vegetation, are just as guilty. Nature adds its own contribution via volcanic emissions and the minority of forest fires not started by man, but largely we are responsible for the deteriorating quality of the air we breathe. We know the causes, so we should be able to identify the solutions to slow and eventually stop, worldwide decline in air quality.

In most developed economies, there are some promising starts. Coal-fired power generation is now a fraction of what it was 30 years ago. Sustainably sourced generation continues to rise as its lifetime and operating costs continue to fall. We still have a way to go on vehicle emissions, but again we’ve made a start. Old vehicle scrapping schemes, congestion charging and a new wave of road pricing all act to encourage more use of public transport and ultra low emission zones will soon make it too expensive to move freight with anything other than vehicles with the cleanest emissions, if not electric motivation. These measures cannot come soon enough for cities across the developed world where climate warming over the last two decades is exacerbating toxic air quality.

But how can we deliver such improvements to developing economies where the worst air quality deterioration is found? Not, I suggest, by arguing endlessly over the health statistics. We need positive and practical measures on the ground.

Paris

Schemes scrapping ageing and inefficient cars for those with more efficient engines would have a major impact in fast developing economies, where reliance on private vehicles is the only solution for the livelihoods of marginally coping communities. A subsidy scheme by motor industry offenders over recent NOx emission cheating, replacing old with new models might be too much to hope for, but consumer loyalty would be engendered worldwide by an international gesture of this sort. VW and others, are you listening?

Greater investment in public transport infrastructure is at last becoming a viable sector for the finance industry, as it seeks out longer term returns for its insurance and pensions customers. Only the most secure covenants are attracting the right quality of project funding capital, but where this ventures into developing economies, it needs underwriting via World Bank and other overseas aid agencies.

Hydrocarbons-fired power generation in, for example China and South East Asia, as already in the west, needs steady replacement by sustainable sources, as already occurring in the west. Those losing jobs in mining and facing the burden of unemployment, could be re-trained to manufacturing jobs in fast-growing renewables. There is ample experience to build on here from across western Europe. Rapidly reducing costs of sustainable energy generation needs importing to economies where they will soon be needed most to compete with continued low labour costs in mining and extraction.

Air pollution Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Finally, urban planning has to become a stronger feature of land use management, thus optimising development of previously green space on the edges of towns, and only allowing urbanisation to expand beyond current city limits where take-up of underused space inside the urban envelope is impossible. Effective land use management has a huge if indirect contribution to make to reduce air pollution.

The long-term effects of degraded air are measurable in the treatment of respiratory disorders and associated loss of earnings or death with its associated dependencies from what would otherwise be healthy populations. Society has to develop cross accounting, so that the costs of installing physical infrastructure now, pay for reduced health care later. Only by making such mould-breaking accounting solutions work effectively, will we achieve the benefits of a truly joined-up world economy.

Hugh’s new book is Journeys with Open Eyes, Seeking Empathy with Strangers, £12.98 (i2i Publishing).

Hugh is a graduate of Oxford (St. Johns, 1969). For over for decades he has worked for an array of public and private sector in international urban planning and development.

Article Source: http://www.oxfordtoday.ox.ac.uk/opinion/problem-global-air-pollution