Environmental engineer Lupita Montoya scrutinizes air quality inside nail salons

When nail salons are in the news, the coverage is rarely pretty. A 2015 New York Times investigation, for example, uncovered details about the industry’s underpaid workers—overwhelmingly immigrants—and their health complaints. The series prompted swift legislation in New York State. However, it also sparked backlash from salon owners who felt that the costly new mandates would harm their small businesses and that the series went too far in generalizing about their industry.

Lupita Montoya, an environmental engineer at the University of Colorado Boulder, is taking a different approach to the issue by involving both nail salon owners and workers from the start. At local nail salons, her team measured pollutants in the air generated through the use of nail polishes, polish removers, and artificial nail products. The researchers captured pollutants in specially designed vessels and quantified them using a variety of analytical techniques. Carmen Drahl spoke with Montoya—an immigrant herself—about the science and about working with salon communities to find solutions to indoor air pollution.

What sparked your interest in the air quality at nail salons?

My research expertise is in indoor air quality, but I’m also a first-generation scientist. I’m in many different spaces where I see workers exposed to compounds that probably are posing a hazard, yet we don’t know much about it because we rarely study these populations. When I walk into any nail salon, the first thing that impacts me is the smell. So knowing what the smell may mean—that likely there are high levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds)—just makes me wonder what kinds of compounds those are and how they may be affecting the people that work there because they experience long-term exposure.

How did you find nail salons that would agree to be tested?

That was a real challenge. I spent a year visiting salons and talking to people about the possibility of taking some measurements, and it became evident quickly that people were not comfortable just saying yes.

I put fieldwork on the back burner for over a year until one of my undergraduate advisees—Feng Xiang, a first-generation student—asked me a question regarding my research. She said, “I have some friends who might be interested in helping you access some of these places.” I ultimately had several undergraduate students, all of them first generation, on the project. None of them had done research, but they had a personal interest in the work. They have connections to the nail salon industry. And that’s how we started.

What has your fieldwork found in terms of nail salon air quality?


Credit: Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado BoulderBottles of nail polish like the one held by Lupita Montoya may emit volatile organic compounds into nail salons’ air.

We were measuring the BTEX family of compounds—benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes—using specially prepared canisters that capture VOCs for analysis by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. People study them in many different contexts, and some of them are carcinogenic. We did a comparison with two other studies of VOC levels in other workplaces to see where nail salons fall. We found that the measurements in the nail salons were often on par with reported measurements in oil refineries and auto garages. Another compound that was present was methyl methacrylate, or MMA. What was interesting about that is that MMA has been banned in Colorado. Because of allergic reactions in both customers and workers, the US Food and Drug Administration and the Methacrylate Producers Association have concluded that MMA in its liquid form should not be used in nail products. We followed up with questions for the workers. Even though it’s banned, you can still buy it in products for artificial nails. In some cases the workers prefer this compound over other, less hazardous ones because it’s easier to apply. So sometimes the practices of the workers are truly against their own interests.

Article Original Source: https://cen.acs.org/environment/pollution/Environmental-engineer-Lupita-Montoya-scrutinizes/97/i32?fbclid=IwAR1KBuNWTnEM-1Dlq43_WzR34dwvMKiawjRvBPf_ISABLVKzmWSF79BjLO0

Deodorants, perfumes and other personal pollution: The next frontier in healthy indoor air?

Woman Wearing Blue Strapless Dress Holding White and Gray Plastic Bottle

Fragrances have been under fire for their toxicity lately and now the evidence is mounting that wearing deodorant and other simple acts of human existence – including breathing – may be the biggest source of air pollution in offices.

The preliminary research out of Purdue University in the US found that the chemistry of indoor air is constantly changing and that people might be the main source of volatile organic compounds in a modern office environment.

“The chemistry of indoor air is dynamic. It changes throughout the day based on outdoor conditions, how the ventilation system operates and occupancy patterns in the office,” Purdue University assistant professor of civil engineering Brandon Boor said.

For the research, the team of engineers came up with new precision ways of measuring and tracking volatile organic compounds in a Living Lab building.

It involves putting temperature sensors in each desk chair so that researchers know when people are coming and going, and a collection of sensors to track the flow of indoor and outdoor air through the ventilation system.

Sniffing out the human pollutants

A nose-like instrument was also used to “sniff” out airborne compounds in real time. It found that people leave behind many volatile compounds even after they have left the room.

Another key finding was that the more people in the room, the more VOCs were found in the air. Without appropriate ventilation, which can dilute the concentration of indoor pollutants, the levels of many compounds were found to be 10 to 20 times higher indoors than outdoors.

This is complicated by the level of pollutants in the outdoor environment, which people also have an effect on. The researchers believe that chemicals from self-care products such as deodorant, makeup, and hair spray may raise levels outdoors as they are dispelled outside by the ventilation system.

High-efficiency filtration systems were found to help keep down the concentration of pollutants in a building.

The purpose of the research is to identify all types of indoor air contaminants and recommend ways to design and operate buildings that control pollutant levels.

“If we want to provide better air quality for office workers to improve their productivity, it is important to first understand what’s in the air and what factors influence the emissions and removal of pollutants,” assistant professor Boor said.

The research follows rising concerns that many personal care products, such as perfumes and other fragrances, contain toxic chemicals.

At The Fifth Estate’s Happy Healthy office’s event earlier this year, air quality expert Adam Garnys from CETEC explained that perfumes and fragrances can cause a building to fail WELL accreditation, a health and wellbeing rating scheme.

“That’s from a rating scheme point of view, but from a real health point of view, certainly it does have an impact, I’ve banned them at home,” Mr Garnys said.

He said it’s better to look for the source of the odour rather than masking it.

“Fragrances are full of chemicals. Even some of the common ones like limonene – which is lemon oil – people have serious allergies to it. And do you need it? I guess that’s the question.”

Article Original Source: https://www.thefifthestate.com.au/urbanism/hazmat/deodorants-perfumes-and-other-personal-pollution-the-next-frontier-in-healthy-indoor-air/

Five Tips To Improve Indoor Air Quality

There’s a great story about an Air Force general and his facility manager. When being presented with a PowerPoint about some facility issues, the general stated the following:

  • You’re air to me.
  • I need you to be there, but I don’t want to see you or think about you.
  • I just need to know, to believe, that you’re there.
  • However, if I am thinking about you, then we both have a problem.

Poor indoor air quality (IAQ) is a serious problem for generals and non-generals. It is invisible to a human eye but can easily influence the health and productivity of a workforce. Studies show that air pollution-related illness results in roughly $150 billion in losses. Amazingly, the United States Environmental Protection Agency reports that the concentration of pollutants indoors is often 2 to 5 times higher than outdoors.

Better air means better decisions. Several years ago, researchers from Harvard University conducted a study to see how IAQ affects “knowledge workers.” The results showed that breathing better air led to significantly better decision-making.

Improving IAQ requires a bit of thought and commitment. Here are five actions that will make a real and noticeable difference.

1. Entrance matting: Improved IAQ can be as easy as adding entrance mats to your facility. It is a common misconception that the mats are only used to reduce risk of slips and falls. They also help prevent dirt and dust from getting into the building. It is crucial that mats throughout a building should be cleaned on a regular basis. Dirty mats only help spread pollutants in the facility.

2. Vacuuming frequencies: While it is clear that carpets serve to trap dust, walking over a dirty carpet actually contributes to the elevation of dust and other pollutants into the air. This is especially dangerous for vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, people with asthma and individuals with difficulties breathing. It is key to employ proper vacuuming frequencies which vary depending on a facility’s size. It is also important to ensure that the cleaning crew uses the HEPA vacuums and commonly accepted cleaning practices.

3. Dusting practices: Dusting seems a very straightforward task at first thought. However, it is crucial that employees use proper equipment and techniques. Otherwise, they risk simply scattering the dust without any significant improvement to the surface. It is important that the cleaning crew uses a microfiber cloth which absorbs the dust and minimizes escaped particles. With a microfiber cloth there is no need to use any chemicals; a great benefit to tenants with allergies to chemicals.

4. HVAC maintenance: Maintenance of HVAC systems is a key factor to ensure healthy IAQ. If a company doesn’t have enough resources to invest in the new HVAC systems, there are other solutions to consider. For example, they can use an older system but increase the frequency of filter replacement. Another solution is to consider more effective filter options. However, the biggest problem in the industry is the lack of HVAC technicians. Many trade schools report their programs being under enrolled. This results in a decreasing supply of HVAC professionals. It may seem like an easy task to change a filter, but it becomes quite a challenge when there is not a specialist available to do it. This causes many facility teams to postpone their scheduled preventative maintenance for indefinite periods of time.

5. Cleaning of non-traditional surfaces: Today many businesses prefer to occupy the so-called “modern” office with the exposed pipes in the ceilings and other attributes resembling a city loft atmosphere. Those designs look trendy and attract younger employees. However, it is important to keep in mind that those nontraditional surfaces often require unique cleaning procedures as well. Otherwise, they end up being the biggest (and the fanciest) dust collectors in the building.

It is essential that industry professionals educate their customers on the impact cleaning services have on the productivity in the workplace. This is an impact that can be as important as the air we breathe.

Article Source:

Protect Yourself from Allergens, Mildew, and Mold in Your Home

No matter what time of year it may be, or how clean you keep your home, there can be a hidden danger, lurking, waiting to strike.  It can be growing right now, as we speak, threatening to cause health problems for you and your family.  It’s pervasive, invasive, and unwelcome in any home.  Often, you don’t even know you have it, and it can be hard to spot, even while damage is being done.  What is this hidden menace?  Mold, mildew, and common allergens!


Some people are extremely sensitive to common allergens, mold, mildew, bacteria, and other unpleasant things that can develop in your home office, garage, and elsewhere.  Others may not be sensitive to these problems, but can, over time, develop serious health issues as a result. 

In all cases, these hidden dangers should be identified and dealt with, in order to reduce any harm that may come to you or your family members.  It’s especially important for those people who have small children, the elderly, or anyone with high sensitivities or depressed immune systems to deal with these problems promptly and professionally, before they have a negative impact on your life. 

The best way to ensure that allergens, mold, and mildew in your home is identified, treated, removed, and is less likely to reoccur is to have a professional inspection service conduct tests in your home.  In the greater Los Angeles area, FunGuy Inspections is a leading company that performs these tests, and many other related diagnostic and investigative services.  They can help identify what is growing in your home, what’s spreading in the air, and – most importantly – how to get it treated, and steps to take so that it won’t happen again.

Be Alert: Signs of Toxic Molds Residing in your Home

At the end of the day, after work or school, we always look forward to coming home again. Our minds and hearts are attached to our homes because of the sense of belonging, comfort, and safety that it provides. Feeling safe is the state of not being exposed to danger or risk, and that is how our homes should feel, right?  So, let me ask you, are you sure you are safe within your home?

You may feel that there’s nothing lurking within the corners of the rooms of your home.  However, if you are setting aside the fact that there could be molds in your house, then you are getting further away from the sense of safety that your home should provide. Molds are not something you should overlook.

Molds usually appear on damp building materials and may look like stains.  They can come in various colors and sizes. You may have seen some sort of spot growing in the interior of your house, and that is not something that should be ignored.

Molds can create a lot of nuisance and danger for you and your loved ones. It can give your family nasal and sinus congestion, coughs, headaches, asthma, skin irritations, and much more.

If your home is attacked by molds, you have to do something about it. Here are some signs that your house may have been infected by molds:

  1. Allergic reactions. If you notice that your allergies tend to react and even get worse while you’re at home, chances are there are molds growing in your house. Some allergic reactions to mold could be sore eyes, sneezing, and nasal congestion.
  2. Mold odors. A musty or moldy smell can be a great indicator that there are molds in your home. If you can smell mold, then you probably have mold. You should thoroughly inspect your home before it gets worse.
  3. Visible signs of molds. When you see greenish black spots of molds, then it’s obvious. Take action immediately.
  4. Water issues. If you have experienced water leakages, condensation, or past floods in your house, mold growth is likely to have occurred. If there are water stains or discoloration of the walls due to a moisture problem, there is most likely mold growing behind the material.

Your home is where your family should feel safe. If you’ve noticed the above-mentioned signs of mold growth in your house, please do not ignore it.  Ignoring it might cause you bigger problems in the future.

If you want to be sure of your homes safety, contact Fun Guy Inspection and Consulting Inc.  They will provide a thorough inspection of your home and you can have peace of mind.

Visit https://funguyinspections.com/ or call (866) 674-7541 now.

Deciding Whether or Not to Have Your Air Ducts Cleaned

Knowledge about the potential benefits and possible problems of air duct cleaning is limited. Since conditions in every home are different, it is impossible to generalize about whether or not air duct cleaning in your home would be beneficial.

If no one in your household suffers from allergies or unexplained symptoms or illnesses and if, after a visual inspection of the inside of the ducts, you see no indication that your air ducts are contaminated with large deposits of dust or mold (no musty odor or visible mold growth), having your air ducts cleaned is probably unnecessary. It is normal for the return registers to get dusty as dust-laden air is pulled through the grate. This does not indicate that your air ducts are contaminated with heavy deposits of dust or debris; the registers can be easily vacuumed or removed and cleaned.

On the other hand, if family members are experiencing unusual or unexplained symptoms or illnesses that you think might be related to your home environment, you should discuss the situation with your doctor. EPA has published the following publications for guidance on identifying possible indoor air quality problems and ways to prevent or fix them.

You may consider having your air ducts cleaned simply because it seems logical that air ducts will get dirty over time and should occasionally be cleaned. While the debate about the value of periodic duct cleaning continues, no evidence suggests that such cleaning would be detrimental, provided that it is done properly.

On the other hand, if a service provider fails to follow proper duct cleaning procedures, duct cleaning can cause indoor air problems. For example, an inadequate vacuum collection system can release more dust, dirt and other contaminants than if you had left the ducts alone. A careless or inadequately trained service provider can damage your ducts or heating and cooling system, possibly increasing your heating and air conditioning costs or forcing you to undertake difficult and costly repairs or replacements.

You should consider having the air ducts in your home cleaned if:


There is substantial visible mold growth inside hard surface (e.g., sheet metal) ducts or on other components of your heating and cooling system. There are several important points to understand concerning mold detection in heating and cooling systems:

  • Many sections of your heating and cooling system may not be accessible for a visible inspection, so ask the service provider to show you any mold they say exists.
  • You should be aware that although a substance may look like mold, a positive determination of whether it is mold or not can be made only by an expert and may require laboratory analysis for final confirmation. For about $50, some microbiology laboratories can tell you whether a sample sent to them on a clear strip of sticky household tape is mold or simply a substance that resembles it.
  • If you have insulated air ducts and the insulation gets wet or moldy it cannot be effectively cleaned and should be removed and replaced.
  • If the conditions causing the mold growth in the first place are not corrected, mold growth will recur.

Ducts are infested with vermin, e.g. (rodents or insects)


Ducts are clogged with excessive amounts of dust and debris and/or particles are actually released into the home from your supply registers.

Original Article Source:https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/should-you-have-air-ducts-your-home-cleaned

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