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

Ashley parents meet with district, elected officials for information on air quality

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As students, parents and the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools prepare for summer break, discussions continue about the indoor air quality of an East Winston elementary school.

District administrators and a handful of Board of Education members sat down Monday with parents at Ashley Academy for Cultural and Global Studies to discuss air-quality concerns and what school officials plan to do about them.

Steps have been taken by the board to help improve the school building’s air quality before the new school year, but some in the community have publicly called for further action in the form of a new school building they feel is overdue.

The purpose of Monday’s meetings was to sit down with parents and answer any questions or address concerns they had about the subject.

“They have a plan in place I think that will bring the school up to where it needs to be come August,” said Renee Hairston, who has a grandson at Ashley.

Earlier this semester, concerns about the indoor air quality at the school were expressed to administration and the board.

Two air-quality reports prior to that showed low levels of indoor mold spores.

But a new report released in April showed evidence of mold growth in some HVAC units, and recommended replacing or cleaning the units.

According to the Center for Disease Control’s website, mold can cause allergy and respiratory infections, and worsen conditions such as asthma, for those sensitive to it.

The board voted in early May to go ahead with replacing units during the summer months at a total cost of $1.585 million.

School board member Elisabeth Motsinger said the meeting Monday was positive. “I think it was good to hear directly from parents what their concerns were and to be able to answer their questions with reliable, good and accurate information,” she said.

Hairston said that if she didn’t think the school and the district were taking the right steps, she would not have her grandson return to Ashley next fall.

“But I think they’re taking the right steps,” she said. “They’re doing as much as they can until they get the funds on the referendum to replace the school. So I think they’re doing OK.”

At the May 22 board meeting, a group of concerned citizens under the name #Action4Ashley had a large presence and spoke during public comment, saying they felt not enough attention has been given to Ashley and the air quality. Many asked that funds be moved around in the 2016 bond to speed up the process of designing and building a new Ashley school building.

Article Source: https://www.journalnow.com/news/local/ashley-parents-meet-with-district-elected-officials-for-information-on/article_56f1b024-0ab0-52d7-8863-3401e79a10b7.html

The Truth about Mold: Preventing Summertime Risks and Beyond

Mold is a common household nuisance and is found both inside and outside in varying amounts. For some people, mold and its spores cause very few problems, while for others it can be devastating—even life threatening. In the U.S., there are over two million children with chronic and other serious conditions that are at higher risk for the dangers that mold in their homes and schools can cause. This is due to their weakened immune systems that leave them more susceptible to infection and allow mold to have a more harmful impact. As many as one-third of the children in the U.S., including those who are considered to be “healthy,” are at risk for allergic reactions to mold. Babies that have been exposed to mold, even without incident, may be at a higher risk for developing allergies and even asthma as they get older, which is why mold exposure can be damaging even if no negative symptoms are immediately detected.

Symptoms of mold allergies are typically similar to those of other allergies, which can make it harder to determine the cause. These include sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, wheezing, and coughing. However, symptoms can escalate to more serious problems such as respiratory and circulatory issues. Mold flourishes in warm, damp environments, which is why warm summer temperatures frequently stir up mold allergies. Make sure to stock the medicine cabinet with the appropriate tools and treatments for babies and small children in order to be prepared to treat any symptoms.

t is important for local health departments to take steps to educate families in their area on this issue to prevent easily avoidable dangers. The remainder of this blog include valuable tips and resources on mitigating health risks related to mold exposure.

Stopping Mold Before It Grows

Prevention is always easier than treatment, especially with mold. Once it gets started, some molds are more difficult to control and may require additional treatments and work. Local health departments should educate their community members on taking the following preventative measures to reduce health risks associated with mold exposure.

Reduce humidity in the home:

  • Because mold thrives in warm and wet conditions, try to keep dampness to a minimum. Install a dehumidifier if necessary. Open windows for ventilation, but close them when there are reports of higher humidity levels.

Household plants:

  • Keep houseplants to a minimum in rooms that may be at higher risk of mold growth, such as rooms with high moisture levels and low ventilation.
  • This is especially important in rooms that do not get visited often, such as the basement, where signs of mold growth can go undetected for longer periods of time.

Bathroom:

  • Do not use carpeting in the bathroom, especially with children. Use washable mats or a towel on the floor instead. Dry the floor as soon as possible.
  • Bathrooms are particularly vulnerable to mold growth, because they often do not have windows, which makes ventilating the damp area more difficult. If there is a window, open it often to dry out the bathroom.
  • If there is an exhaust fan in the bathroom, turn it on as soon as the bath is done so that the room gets dried up quickly.
  • Other common areas for mold growth include the shower curtain and around the bathtub and the sinks.

Kitchen:

  • Any appliances that require water are common places for leaks and mold growth. Be sure to inspect under refrigerators, icemakers, dishwashers, coffee makers, etc.

Pipes/ Drainage:

  • Repair any leaking pipes. Clean up any water immediately and use a fan to make sure that any moisture is dried.
  • Increase the drainage away from the house to protect against leaks.

Summer Toys: The Perfect Hiding Spot for Mold

Pool, bath, and teething toys are breeding grounds for mold, because they can hold a lot of moisture and harbor mold growth undetected for long periods of time. Local health departments should provide the following prevention and treatment tips to limit mold exposure for children engaging in summertime activities and during bath time.

Pool toys:

  • During summer months, kids are playing with many moisture-laden toys to keep cool such as pool noodles, water guns, absorbent animals and balls, and all sorts of inflatable pool toys. Make sure these and other water-friendly toys are squeezed out and left out to dry before storing them after use.
  • Eliminate the risk by using alternative toys such as measuring cups, stacking blocks, and other items without places for water to hide. The advantage of these toys is the ability to toss them directly in the dishwasher after swimming or a bath.

Pool garments:

  • Swimsuits and towels are also used and re-used frequently in the summertime. Do not leave either of these sitting in a ball somewhere. It is important to pick them up and spread them out in a ventilated or breeze spot so they can completely dry out before use.
  • Be sure to regularly wash suits, towels, and any other damp clothing.

Bath toys:

  • For regular bath toys, one option is to plug the small holes with water-resistant glue. This keeps them from squeaking and/or shooting water but keeps them mold free.
  • Boil bath toys about once a week, and allow them to air dry completely.
  • Soak toys in white vinegar overnight to clean them. The vinegar odor will dissipate as it dries.

Teething toys:

  • Teething toys can also harbor moisture for mold to grow. Squeeze all of the water or drool out of rubber or mesh teething toys and clean them using a damp cloth.
  • Teething and bath toys can be run through the sanitize cycle on the dishwasher and then allowed to air dry.

A Surprising Source of Mold

One of the most surprising sources of mold problems can be found in children’s sippy cups/water bottles, used increasingly often during summer months as a source of hydration. Many people do not completely disassemble sippy cups when they are cleaning them, greatly increasing the potential for mold growth. Local health departments should provide the following cleaning steps for sippy cups/ water bottles to minimize and eliminate mold growth:

Sippy cups:

  • If there is a rubber or plastic ring on the lid of the sippy cup, make sure to pull it out and rinse under it carefully.
  • Look for sippy cups with solid, one-piece lids, but make sure to clean the spout or drinking straw as well.
  • All of the cups and parts can be washed in the dishwasher. Make sure that everything is completely dry before reassembling them.

Water bottles:

  • Disposable water bottles should not be reused, not only because of the risk of mold but because the plastic can leach into the water and can be harmful to a child’s health.
  • Metal water bottles are good because they keep drinks cooler and are easy to sanitize in the dishwasher.
  • Whenever in doubt over whether mold was completely cleaned from a toy, it is best to be safe and throw it out.

The Critical Role of Local Health Departments

Families with young children should be able to enjoy cooling off in the summer heat risk-free. Unfortunately, many parents and guardians are unaware of the hidden dangers that lurk in the nooks and crannies of their child’s toys. As a result, it is vital that local health departments provide ongoing and visible guidance to highlight the various health risks associated with mold and how to protect their child from exposure. For example, local health officials can disseminate the facts and tips included in this blog via their websites and social media pages, or by engaging in traditional community outreach (e.g., distributing pamphlets, one-pagers).

Asbestos exposure at West Los Angeles apartment complex leaves 15 people displaced

 

What’s in your building’s air?

whats in your buildings air

Human beings are creatures of habit. We all have certain likes and dislikes. One thing most folks can agree on is the preference to be comfortable while at work or leisure when indoors. Temperature and ventilation certainly play big roles in making the indoor environment comfortable. It’s common to notice changes in temperature and adjust the thermostat to maintain comfort. But detecting humidity, oxygen levels, and indoor air quality issues isn’t always as easy. Headaches, stuffy sinuses and feeling tired might very well be related to the air you breathe. What’s in your building’s air?

Studies conducted by the EPA and Harvard among others have found that humans spend 90% of their time indoors within shared spaces. Some studies have even shown that indoor environments can have higher levels of pollutants than what can be found outside. Many of the indoor pollutants either originate in or can be picked up and redistributed by the building HVAC system.

Under normal operating and maintenance conditions the HVAC system can monitor and correct for a multitude of IAQ conditions in your building’s air. But as maintenance is deferred, the air handing unit can become fouled, foster microbial growth, and begin to under perform, eventually breaking down. It is estimated that a little as 3/16 of an inch of dirt lodged in between the fins across an evaporator coil can decrease the efficiency of the unit by 21%!

Other factors, besides the HVAC system, like new office equipment, furniture, renovations and even additional employees can have a negative impact on IAQ as well.

Luckily, the EPA provides a guide to better understand indoor air quality and what can be done to maintain and improve it. “An Office Building Occupant’s Guide to Indoor Air Quality can be viewed here.

A closer look at indoor pollutants.

When examining the pollutants that can affect indoor air quality there are three main categories to consider: biological contaminants, chemicals/gases and particles.

Biological Contaminants
Biological contaminants such as bacteria, fungi (including molds), dust mites, animal dander and pollen can all affect building health. A properly maintained and cleaned HVAC is key to minimizing the growth and distribution of biological contaminants throughout the building. Bacteria and mold can flourish inside of a cool and damp air handling unit. Typically, a musty odor is associated with microbial growth. If excessive concentrations are left unchecked an entire host of health related issues including asthma and allergies can occur.

Chemicals and Gases
Emissions from products used in the building can also contribute to indoor air quality issues. Everything from cleaning products to office equipment like copy machines can put harmful compounds into air, this includes gases such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. Monitoring ventilation rates and controls is important. It is crucial to have a healthy mix of fresh outdoor air exchanged with the indoor air to maintain optimal quality.

Particles
Particulates like dust, dirt, paper fibers or other substances can be brought into a building from outside or produced by activities, like printing, that happen inside of the facility. Good housekeeping and proper filtration can alleviate most particulate issues. Remember, filtration should be designed to fit the specific environment and building use.

OSHA goes into detail about these categories and IAQ management in their guide located here.

Be Proactive and Vigilant

Always stay on top of HVAC maintenance and cleaning. Regular hygienic cleaning, like Pure Air Control Service’s PURE-Steam, can prevent IAQ issues emanating from the HVAC system. PURE-Steam is a high temperature, low pressure, cleaning service that kills microbial growth and flushes dirt from deep within the evaporator coils. It can improve overall system performance and cleanliness. Beyond the HVAC system, Pure Air Control Services also provides PURE-Decon room disinfection, that utilizes a hydrogen peroxide and silver mist to get rid of bacteria, fungi and viruses.

If you have never cleaned your HVAC system then IAQ testing would be a good first step to determining any potential issues. Even a simple HVAC Hygienic Assessment can be helpful in looking at the cleanliness and performance of the system regarding building health and energy efficiency.

Finally, be in-tune with your building’s occupants. Pay attention to common health complaints and where they are concentrated. These complaints are often the frontline in the IAQ battle, and provide early detection to get out in front of any issues before they get worse.

Understanding how IAQ is connected to your HVAC system is a critical step in developing a maintenance plan for the optimal health, comfort and energy efficiency of your building. Article Source: http://pureaircontrols.com/whats-in-your-buildings-air/