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

Asbestos found in some crayons, consumer group finds

Parents buying school supplies for grammar schoolers would be wise to avoid Playskool crayons. The brand, sold at Dollar Tree, was found to have trace elements of asbestos.

“The good news is that when we were testing three years ago, all sorts of brands came back with asbestos,” said Kara Cook-Schultz, toxics director at U.S. Public Interest Research Group, which conducts annual tests of toys and school supplies. “Now it’s just this one.”

Indeed, in tests run in 2015, many major brands, including Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Crayons and Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crayons, contained trace amounts of asbestos fibers — a substance that can cause breathing difficulties and cancer if inhaled. Although the Consumer Product Safety Commission acknowledged that it was unclear whether the asbestos trapped in crayon wax posed a danger, it noted that kids sometimes eat crayons and recommended that parents avoid asbestos-containing brands as a precaution. Since then, most brands have revamped their crayon manufacturing process to eliminate even trace elements of asbestos fibers.

However, in tests run this year on green Playskool crayons, U.S. PIRG found tremolite fibers — a type of asbestos. A handful of other products that U.S. PIRG tested also contained dangerous chemicals, according to the organization’s just released back-to-school report.

  • Blue three-ring binders made by Jot and sold at Dollar Tree tested positive for phthalates, a substance linked with asthma, obesity and lower-IQ scores, for instance.
  • Dry erase markers made by Expo and The Board Dudes tested positive for carcinogenic BTEX chemicals, such as benzene, xylene, and toluene.
  • Additionally, two types of children’s water bottles were previously recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission for containing lead — Reduce Hydro Pro Furry Friends water bottle, sold at Costco and Amazon, and GSI Outdoors Children’s Water Bottles, sold at L.L. Bean. Despite the recall, a CBS New reporter was able to order the Hydro Pro Furry Friends product from Costco online. A Costco spokesman failed to return a reporter’s phone calls.

Retailers and manufacturers of these products said they were scrambling Monday to evaluate the PIRG data, which some said conflicted with their own laboratory tests.

A spokesman for Dollar Tree said all of its children’s products are independently tested and meet all legal and safety standards.

Julie Duffy, a spokeswoman for Hasbro, which owns the Playskool brand, said the company would investigate the US PIRG claims thoroughly, “including working with Leap Year, the licensee of the product.”

“We are aware of a report of trace amounts of asbestos being detected in a small amount of product testing conducted by a private group and are reviewing our own certified lab testing, which to our knowledge, passes all regulatory requirements and had no detectable asbestos,” added a spokesman for LeapYear.  “We will issue a formal statement upon the completion of our review.  Consumer safety is most important to Leap Year and we take these matters very seriously.”

The bright side: The vast majority of products tested by U. S. PIRG this year were found to be devoid of toxic chemicals. U.S. PIRG also tested glue, lunch boxes, spiral notebooks and rulers, as well as multiple other types of crayons and pens. Indeed, Cook-Schultz said the Art and Creative Materials Institute has also begun testing and labeling products and all of the ACMI-labeled items proved safe.

“I think there’s good news here for parents,” said Cook-Schultz. “You can look for these labels and buy safe products.”

— This story has been corrected to exclude Crayola and Rose Art crayons from those found to have trace amounts of asbestos in 2015. Both brands tested negative for asbestos that year.

Article source: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/asbestos-crayons-playskool-consumer-group-finds/

How does air pollution affect our pets?

I’m sure everyone has noticed the polluted air from the ongoing fires in California. I found myself humming the tune “Smoke gets in your eyes” as Watson and I walked around the park. Looking at his eyes I realized he was having the same trouble coping as I was. Yes, smoke gets in your eyes and everywhere.

The negative effects of smog on humans have long been documented. However, scientists are just now expl


oring the negative effects of air pollution on pets. In a recent study conducted in Mexico City, one of the world’s most polluted areas, they found that the brain structure of dogs exposed to high levels of air pollutio


n showed high levels of inflammation and changes that were similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans.

What about cats? In one study it was determined that one in 10 cats has asthma related to indoor and outdoor pollutants. Cats who lived with people who smoke or burn wood fires were found to have dramatically reduced lung function. In several instances, the cats of very heavy smokers developed lung cancer.

The good news is there are some strategies to help reduce your pet’s exposure to air pollutants. Changing your home’s air filters regularly ensures cleaner air. If you are a smoker, avoid smoking indoors and keep your home as smoke free as possible. Bring your pet indoors especially on low air quality days. Vacuum frequently to remove pet hair and other indoor air pollutants.

Other sources of pollutants are the chemicals you use around the home. Be sure to check the labels for animal-friendly products. I figure that if a product is animal friendly it will be OK for me too. So, until our beautiful blue sky returns, our family will be inside more, and we’ll avoid the smoke. Fallon has the best air quality in Nevada, and hopefully we’ll be back to that soon.

Kathleen Williams-Miller

Article source: https://www.nevadaappeal.com/news/opinion/how-does-air-pollution-affect-our-pets/


Legionella bacteria found in water supply at Bronx hospital, officials report

Legionella bacteria was found in the water supply at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, officials say.

NYC Health + Hospitals released a statement saying the bacteria was found during required testing of their potable water supply.

The statement said,

“As part of our aggressive water monitoring program, our routine, required testing of our potable water supply found very low levels of Legionella bacteria at NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi. Per guidance from the New York State Department of Health, which regulates hospitals, we have taken steps to prevent any impact on our patients, staff, or visitors. Safety is always our highest priority.”

There are no reports of patients being affected with Legionnaires’ Disease at the hospital. Eyewitness News is told the risk to patients, staff and visitors is very low, and there is not risk to the surrounding community.

In coordination with the New York State Health Department, aggressive, enhanced water treatment and ongoing monitoring are already underway. This includes steps to observe water restrictions, including using only bottled water, making packaged bath wipes available for daily hygiene, and installing new water filters on showers.

Administrators say safety is their highest priority, but some people visiting the hospital still had their concerns.

“We’ve been hearing about this for the past year and a half, two years and the fact that they’re still not taking precautions in getting these things checked out,” said one visitor.

Administrators say the risk to patients and the surrounding community is very low.

Asthma Triggers Cause 10 Million Missed School Days Each Year

Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases that afflicts children. Attacks can be debilitating enough to affect student performance and attendance. While there is no cure for asthma, there are ways to medically treat the symptoms and there are recommendations to identify and reduce agents that act as asthma triggers.

A 2015 study on the association of cognitive function scores and the indoor environment published by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that occupants exposed to less volatile organic compounds (VOCs) had increased cognitive function performance.

“We have been ignoring the 90%. We spend 90% of our time indoors and 90% of the cost of a building are the occupants, yet indoor environmental quality and its impact on health and productivity are often an afterthought,” said Joseph Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment science, director of the Healthy Buildings Program at the Harvard Center for Health and the Global Environment, and lead author of the study. “These results suggest that even modest improvements to indoor environmental quality may have a profound impact on the decision-making performance of workers.”

And the performance of students too!

According the Florida Department of Education student absenteeism costs the state $228,557,676 per year. Florida schools can lose at least $1020 per chronically absent student. Asthma related absence certainly contributes to these numbers.

Developing a strategic IAQ plan to identify and reduce asthma triggers


Both the CDC’s National Asthma Control Program (NACP) and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) recommend having a plan for improved IAQ and asthma/allergen trigger reduction. The first step in developing an IAQ plan is to identify and quantify the asthma triggers that are present in a facility. Recognizing that people with asthma might react to just one asthma trigger or sometimes multiple triggers.

Common Asthma Triggers Found in Schools
• Mold
• Pollen
• Dust
• Dust Mites
• VOCs

Establish an Indoor Environmental Testing protocol to find and quantify the specific asthma triggers lurking in the facility. There are a variety of sample collection methods and tests that can be performed to establish a baseline and determine the condition of the indoor environment. Culture (Bioaerosol), Non-Culture (spore trap analysis), and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) are often used for enumerating the allergens/triggers found. Enzyme Immunoassay (ELISA) of air or dust samples can also be utilized thought it can be costly, time consuming and allergen specific.

While most of the common asthma triggers are well known, VOCs deserve a closer look for better understanding. VOCs are basically organic chemicals. They are numerous and varied. VOCs can be both man-made and naturally occurring chemical compounds. These pollutants can include (but are not limited to) tobacco smoke, emissions from products used in the building such as: office equipment, furniture, wall coverings, floor coverings and cleaning products, as well as gases like carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide.

Once the building and HVAC system has been tested, the data can then be used to recommend various methods to strategically remove/reduce any asthma triggers that were found. These methods can include Hygienic HVAC System/Ducts Cleaning, Mold Remediation, and hard products like Professional Air Purifiers, to name a few solutions.

Finally, repetition of these two steps, testing and remediation, on a regular basis is what really creates a proactive Indoor Air Quality management plan. The result is healthier and higher performing students, staff and buildings.

About Pure Air Control Services

Pure Air Controls is committed to excellence in all aspects of Indoor Air Quality.

Since 1984 they have endeavored to improve the health, comfort and energy efficiency of their clients’ buildings to the benefits of occupant well-being and the operational bottom line. The company’s fundamental purpose is to provide professional environmental consulting, engineering and evaluation through building diagnostic protocols, laboratory support services and building/HVAC system remediation services.

The company’s three specialized divisions include Building Sciences, Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory, and Building Remediation Sciences. They offer precise building health assessments as well as innovative services for the hygienic cleaning/restoration of HVAC systems and indoor environments. Pure Air Control Services, Inc. can be utilized directly with their cooperative purchasing contracts through the Florida Buy Program and E&I.

Article Source: http://pureaircontrols.com/asthma-triggers-cause-missed-school-days/

N.H. Will Get EPA Money To Address Asbestos In Schools

Asbestos Free Photo

New Hampshire is set to receive a $140,000 federal grant to help communities address asbestos contamination in schools.

The state’s Democratic congressional delegation announced this week that the money from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would be directed to the New Hampshire Asbestos in Schools Program.

The program reviews school asbestos management plans to ensure they comply with the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, maintain an asbestos accreditation and certification training program, and provide educational outreach to parents, teachers, and school maintenance personnel on the dangers of asbestos exposure.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said that it was critical for the health and safety of the children that the state combat asbestos. The grant, she said, would provide critical information for all stakeholders in the event of asbestos exposure.

Article Source

Greece wildfires: Dozens dead in Attica region

Silhouette of Bare Trees Surrounded Fire at Daytime


At least 74 people have died in wildfires in the Attica region around Athens, in Greece’s worst fire disaster in more than a decade.

Flames fanned by strong winds devastated the seaside village of Mati, devouring homes and cars.

The coastguard said it and other ships rescued almost 700 people who had fled to the coast, and pulled 19 survivors and four bodies from the sea.

A local mayor told the BBC there are fears the death toll could rise to 100.

Mati is located in the Rafina region which is popular with local tourists, especially pensioners and children attending holiday camps.

Rescuers there found the bodies of 26 adults and children, who had apparently hugged each other as they died, trapped just metres from the sea.

Rafina’s Mayor Evangalos Bournos told the BBC the village had “disappeared”.

He said more than 1,000 buildings had been destroyed or damaged – his own home among them.

Hundreds of firefighters have been battling the blazes and the authorities are seeking international assistance.

A fire brigade official confirmed the latest death toll.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has declared three days of national mourning.

Article Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-44932366#

Study Details Significant Increase in Asbestos-Related Deaths

Deaths attributed to asbestos exposure — within the United States and worldwide — have been significantly underestimated, according to the latest study by the International Commission of Occupational Health (ICOH).

Asbestos is killing more people than anyone thought.

Based on the most extensive study to date, occupational asbestos-related diseases killed 39,275 people within the U.S. and 222,321 people throughout the world in 2016.

Both figures were more than double the commonly used estimates that stem from various governmental and nongovernmental health agencies.

“The asbestos burden is worse than people realize. The older estimates, the ones still being used, are so outdated,” Dr. Jukka Takala, president of the ICOH, told Asbestos.com. “We suspected these new figures would be higher, but the magnitude, the enormity of what we found, was surprising.”

The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published results of the study earlier this year, reinforcing the often-forgotten fact that asbestos exposure causes a wide range of serious health problems.

Mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer with no cure, is just the most obvious.

Mesothelioma Is Only the Start

The wide gap between previous estimates and the ICOH numbers stems mostly from better identification of lung cancers caused by asbestos, which Takala still believes are underreported.

Asbestos exposure is the primary cause of mesothelioma, which is most often linked to the toxic mineral.

Asbestos, though, also has been proven to cause lung cancer. Unfortunately, it is tougher for doctors to differentiate between asbestos and other causes in lung cancer cases, leaving many oncologists to simply identify smoking as the culprit.

“The asbestos problem is much bigger than mesothelioma,” Takala said. “Mesothelioma is the most obvious asbestos disease, but it’s not the most common. Asbestos causes six times more cases of lung cancer than it does mesothelioma.”

Asbestos Increases Risk of Lung Cancer

Exposure to asbestos makes smokers more likely to develop lung cancer.

According to the study, U.S. deaths caused by occupational exposure to asbestos in 2016 included:

  • Mesothelioma: 3,161
  • Lung Cancer: 34,270
  • Ovarian Cancer: 787
  • Laryngeal Cancer: 443
  • Asbestosis: 613

“The more we study this, the more we find. The numbers are going up,” Takala said. “We have solid evidence. This is a problem that isn’t going away, either. It’s a problem that needs to be faced, not ignored.”

Worldwide Numbers Are Eye-Opening

The World Health Organization and the International Health Organization use estimates between 105,000 to 110,000 deaths each year caused by asbestos diseases.

The ICOH study puts the figure of annual deaths at 222,321, which Takala believes also is low, primarily because many countries underreport their cancer figures and don’t bother detailing the causes.

“The metrics to appropriately estimate the magnitude of asbestos-related disorders are gradually improving, and the size of the problem is increasing,” the authors wrote. “But most asbestos caused cancers are not reported, recorded and compensated for.”

The ICOH international asbestos deaths include:

  • Mesothelioma: 27,612
  • Lung Cancer: 181,450
  • Ovarian Cancer: 6,022
  • Larynx Cancer: 3,743
  • Asbestosis: 3,495

There are 62 countries that have banned asbestos, according to the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, leaving more than 100 countries that continue using it, and some still extensively.

More than 2 million tons of asbestos is consumed each year throughout the world, according to the ICOH study.

Many of these asbestos-cancer numbers are estimates based upon percent employment in the industrial sector, asbestos consumption and continental region.

As a naturally occurring mineral, asbestos remains coveted as a building material in many developing countries. It is known for its ability to resist heat, strengthen almost anything and its affordability.

“In too many places, they say, ‘What a marvelous material this is,’ producing and selling things without any real understanding of what they have,” Takala said. “The producers first become rich [by selling it], then look at the consequences later. The production in some countries is more important than the negative impact of the material.”

Response Has Been Inadequate

Takala rejects the opinion that there are no viable alternatives to asbestos in poorer, developing countries, particularly in Southeast Asia.

He also believes not enough is being done with asbestos already in place in more progressive countries in Europe and in the U.S.

The original objective of this study was to detail the magnitude of the problem with the latest evidence for the International Labour Organization and World Health Organization’s joint program on asbestos-related diseases.

The ICOH, which is based in Rome, is the world’s leading scientific society in the field of occupational health with a membership of more than 2,000 professionals from 93 countries.

“Present efforts to eliminate this man-made problem — an epidemiological disaster — and preventing exposures leading to it, are insufficient in most countries in the world,” the study concludes.

Article Source:https://www.asbestos.com/news/2018/07/09/asbestos-death-toll-increase/

End of Summer Fun – Activities & Ideas

Can you believe the end of Summer is quickly approaching? Below you will find 10 end of Summer activities to do with your family.

End Of Summer Fun:

1.Host a potluck picnic. Gather friends and family and have everyone bring a dish that they prepared with their kids. Add music and games for a full day of excitement and good food.

2.Plan a family field day. Pick all of your family’s favorite sports, get outside and play!

3. Purchase a family package at a local water park or amusement park.

4. Sometimes life can be so hectic that we don’t even notice the beauty around us. Spend a day with the kids walking around your very own neighborhood and taking notice of all the lovely things it has to offer.

5. Have a family movie marathon; all movies, all day. Everyone picks their favorite movie to watch and you share some snacks and some quality time!

6. Get together with your neighbors and plan a block party.

7. Enjoy a day with no electronics. No cell phones, TV or video games. Take the time to talk and enjoy this special time with your family with no distractions.

8. Go camping at a local camp ground, or for an even more frugal option, camp out in your own backyard.

9. Have a backyard bowling tournament. Use empty containers for pins and a ball to roll and set up your bowling alley in the backyard or driveway.

10. Set up some arts and crafts supplies in the backyard, get creative and later have an outdoor gallery to display the kid’s masterpieces.

Staying close to home doesn’t have to be boring. Please try a few of our end of summer ideas to enjoy some fun, frugal family fun.

Article Original Source:http://www.frugalfanatic.com/end-summer-fun-activities-ideas/

Southern Oregon has worst air quality in US

Foggy Forest Hill Free Photo


According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Shady Cove’s air quality is “hazardous,” which means the entire community is likely affected.

Ashland, Klamath Falls and Medford have “very unhealthy” air while Cave Junction’s air quality is considered “unhealthy.”

 Once the air quality reaches an “unhealthy” level, everyone in the area can start to experience some side effects — especially those in sensitive groups.

The poor air quality is a result from the 13 wildfires burning in the area.

As of Sunday, more than 1,800 firefighters and 30 aircrafts are battling the Garner Complex in Jackson and Josephine counties. Troops from the National Guard also arrived to help.

The fire has scorched about 12 square miles and was about 10% contained on Sunday morning.

The Garner Complex is a collection of fires that started after lightning storms on July 15. It includes the Taylor Creek Fire, Spencer Fire, King Mountain Fire and Swamp Fire.

Article Original Source: https://www.koin.com/news/environment/southern-oregon-has-worst-air-quality-in-us/1317827225