Monday, January 25, 2016

Air quality still a global problem

Not everyone has access to pure, fresh air.
Half the world's population live in nations with poor air quality.
The Yale-based 2016 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) has been released and while there were some improvements, the global report also points at troubling declines in areas such as air quality and fisheries.

Global air pollution has become a major concern and now accounts for 10 percent of all deaths, the report claims (compared to 2 percent of deaths due to foul water).

Too many people live and work in nations that expose them to unsafe levels of air pollution. We are talking half the world's population here, more than 3.5 billion people.

Apparently, it doesn't matter whether the nation is poor or overly industrialized. The authors of the report urged policymakers to work together to make changes and improve air quality. They point to successful initiatives like providing clean drinking water and sewage infrastructure.

The EPI looks at 180 countries and how they protect ecosystems and human health.

The full report is available online.

Monday, October 5, 2015

'Green' walls bad for office worker health: Study

In hot and polluted environments, indoor air
pollution may be worse with 'green' walls.
Going green is a growing trend - but in the case of living 'green' walls in offices, it might be a bad idea.

In fact, they could contribute to poorer air quality indoors, experts say.

Researchers of the University of York recently looked at the levels of ultrafine particles (UFPs) in hot and polluted environments. Such particles are a health concern as they can carry potentially toxic substances into the lungs.

The scientists simulated typical UFP levels in Athens, Helsinki and Milan offices during a heatwave and typical summer temperatures. The three cities were selected to compare contrasting climates and locations across Europe.

The researchers found that indoor concentrations of UFPs were highest in the Milan and Athens offices, reflecting high outdoor air pollution levels in these cities.

The pollutants make their way indoors through doors, windows and ventilation systems as well as through gaps in building materials.

However, indoor UFP concentrations were well above those expected through penetration of outdoor particles alone.

The researchers wanted to know why and realized they were a result of high concentrations of reactive volatile organic compounds (VOCs) outdoors, emitted by plants and trees.

These reactive VOCs include limonene, a naturally occurring compound emitted by plants and trees responsible for the citrusy smell in lemons and oranges, and pinene, emitted by pine trees.

Once in the atmosphere, such compounds rapidly oxidise to form a range of gas-phase and particle-phase products, which exist in a dynamic equilibrium depending on the conditions.

During heatwaves such as that experienced during 2003, emissions of VOCs increase in high temperatures and the formation of the secondary gas and particle-phase products becomes very efficient.

When outdoor air is drawn into an office air inlet, it is often filtered to partially remove outdoor particles. However, removing these particles disturbs the equilibrium of the secondary products and in order to re-establish a balance, new particles quickly form once the air reaches the office environment.

Therefore, indoor UFP concentrations are seen to be much higher if reactive VOCs exist outdoors near an office air inlet, as the impact of air filtration is lessened.

This finding is significant as, for the first time, indoor UFP formation is shown to be linked to the oxidation of outdoor plant and tree species in heatwave conditions.

Given the increasing popularity of green walls covered in plants and vegetation, their prevalence in hot, polluted locations could exacerbate indoor air pollution.

The filtration of air in modern office blocks is also seen to be less effective than expected, and this may explain why expected health benefits are often not realised when particle filters are added to a building.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Keeping workers safe should be a company's first priority

OSHA proposed a steep fine for repeat and
serious violations in worker safety guidelines.
When companies get lax with safety protocols, it can get costly.

United States workers are protected by gyidelines issued by the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). When OSHA receives complaints and starts investigating, companies better take note.

Fines for serious and repeat citations can run into the thousands.

In a recent case of an electroplating company in Connecticut, OSHA issued two repeat and 11 serious citations and proposed penalties of $48,304.

The company allegedly exposed workers to chemical and mechanical hazards, some of them were repeat violation from a previous investigation in 2010.

This time, OSHA found that the company failed to

  •     Determine employees’ initial exposure levels to lead and cadmium, two toxic substances in use at the workplace;
  •     Provide workers with training on cadmium hazards;
  •     Prevent cadmium buildup on machinery;
  •     Evaluate employees’ ability to safely operate forklifts;
  •     Ensure that employees who wear respirators are medically able to do so;
  •     Prevent employees from consuming food and drink in areas where the toxic substance hexavalent chromium was present;
  •     Separate flammable spray operations by at least three feet;
  •     Provide appropriate training to emergency coordinators and employees expected to fight fires; and
  •     Ground and shield an electric lamp against damage.

“Employees at this plant work with highly hazardous chemicals. It’s imperative that their employer take all necessary steps to protect their health and well-being at all times,” said Warren Simpson, OSHA’s area director in Hartford.

“That includes monitoring exposure levels, providing proper and effective protective clothing, and ensuring that employees are properly trained.”

Source: OSHA

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Truck drivers and commuters can breathe easier

The mobile air purifier fits into any vehicle - in the trunk,
under the seat or in a preferred spot.
Daily commutes and long drives in the vehicle can expose passengers to harmful chemicals and fumes as well as fine particles.

These have been connected to health concerns such as respiratory disease, cancer and other medical issues.

Built-in car filters will keep out a few of these particles, but Electrocorp's partner company AllerAir wanted to offer their trusted carbon and HEPA filter combo to those who drive a lot.

They developed a mobile unit with a 32 oz. granular activated carbon filter to adsorb airborne chemicals, fumes and gases (including diesel fumes, benzene and toluene) and particle filters to provide a complete air purification solution for the vehicle.

Check out AllerAir's car air purifiers.

Note: Electrocorp is AllerAir's industrial and commercial division and also offers carbon + HEPA air purifier solutions.