Reprint but great info!

The New Allergy Zones Content provided by : Unexpected allergy culprits

By Jenny Stamos Kovacs

The spring allergy season has sprung, but don’t blame your watery eyes and runny nose entirely on pollen.

Other surprising allergens may lurk in unexpected places in your home — and make you feel even worse. In fact, the list of sneeze-inducing culprits is long: animal dander, mold, dust and dust mites (tiny insects that thrive on organic matter, primarily flakes of skin), as well as pollen carried into the house from outside. But these irritants are manageable — and getting a handle on them will help reduce your symptoms. We went to four top experts for the unexpected sources of your sneezes and some room-by-room tips for eliminating them.

1. Pet-owning visitors

Pals with pooches may be unwittingly dragging pet dander into your home. They usually have animal dander on their clothes, and can deposit this irritant on upholstered furniture — even if they don’t bring Fido or Felix with them.

Solution: Vacuum your couches and padded chairs after pet-owning pals sit on them. Prevent the allergens from spewing right back out of the machine by using one with a HEPA filter (which traps tiny particles so they can’t escape the dust bag).

2. Couch pillows, throws and stuffed toys

Sitting on the sofa may set off allergy symptoms. These items come into contact with skin, and that means tiny flakes that slough off and encourage dust mites. If your pet sits on, fetches or plays with any of these, they’re also covered with animal dander.

Solution: Tumble the items in the dryer on high for 10 to 15 minutes each week. (If this will damage the material, clean according to the manufacturer’s instructions.)

3. Bookshelves

It’s not just your novel’s plot twists that are causing your eyes to tear up. You can also blame the dust that collects on books and other shelf dwellers, including framed photographs and mementos. Books can also contribute to indoor mold problems, especially in humid conditions.

Solution: Keep shelves of all kinds, including bookshelves, away from the bed, or banish them from the bedroom entirely. Place trinkets behind glass doors so they don’t collect dust. Clean surfaces and vacuum bedroom floors at least once a week.

4. Bed pillows

Dust mites flock to this icky allergen breeding ground. The warmth and humidity of your body encourage dust mites to grow in bed pillows, no matter what type of stuffing they have.

Solution: Either trade old pillows for new ones annually, or encase pillows in allergy-proof covers that you wash once or twice a month in hot water (follow the manufacturer’s instructions). The most allergy-resistant, comfortable cases are made of tightly woven fabric that’s impermeable to dust mites — and feels good to the touch. Check out the options at allergybuyersclub.com and nationalallergy.com.

5. Bathroom floor mat

Stepping out of the shower may be bringing on your sneezing and wheezing. Trapped moisture in the bath mat causes dust mites and mold to thrive.

Solution: Choose a washable mat and clean it weekly. After a shower or steamy bath, hang it up and open a window or run the fan.

6. Refrigerator door seal

This rarely cleaned germ zone is an easy place for mold to thrive. As you transfer food in and out of the refrigerator, moisture, crumbs and spills can build up in the crevices of the door seal and encourage mold to flourish.

Solution: Wipe the seal weekly with a mixture of mold-zapping bleach and water; use a cotton swab to get in the grooves and clean them thoroughly.

7. Cooking steam

It turns out boiling a pot of penne can be a significant allergy trigger. Steam wafts from pots and pans as you cook and settles in places you may not clean daily, causing mold to build up. Spots where dampness may land include walls, ceilings, cupboard doors, upper shelves and areas hidden behind large appliances.

Solution: Run the stove’s exhaust fan to vent cooking moisture — not just smells — out of the house. If mold does appear, eliminate it with a solution of bleach and water.

8. Damp clothes

Letting wet clothes sit in the hamper or in the washing machine can cause germs to invade your laundry pile. Mold and bacteria can develop on damp, unwashed clothing that sits around for days before it’s laundered, as well as on clean items left in the washer tub for more than a few hours.

Solution: Don’t let moist, dirty laundry build up, and dry freshly washed items ASAP. Here’s a bonus idea: Use liquid detergent instead of powder, which can produce irritating dust, worsening your allergy symptoms.

9. Your hair and clothes

You’re an unsuspecting Trojan horse for sneaking annoying allergens into your home. When you arrive home after spending time outdoors, you carry in dust and pollen on your shoes and clothes and in your hair (long hair and loose hairstyles tend to trap more irritants than short or tightly bound strands).

Solution: When outside, cover your hair with a hat or scarf. When you get home, remove your head covering and shoes inside the door, change into clothes that you wear only indoors, and shampoo and dry your hair. Wash your comb and brush weekly to keep them free of any irritants they’ve picked up.

10. Plants

Here’s one time when it’s not so easy being green. Damp soil can support the development of mold, and if you spill occasionally as you water, you can encourage growths in any carpet or curtains you happen to hit.

Solution: Give away or toss out plants if mold and dust cause you to have severe symptoms. If you choose to keep the plants instead, place the pots on tile and well away from curtains. Bonus tip: A layer of pebbles or small stones placed on top of the soil will prevent the release of mold spores that may be growing in the soil.

11. Fish tank

Without proper care, you may find Nemo contributing to your symptoms. Mold grows on parts of the tank or bowl that are out of the water but nevertheless remain damp. Carelessly strewn fish food also helps mold develop and can nourish a dust mite colony.

Solution: Use a rag to dry off above-water tank parts daily. When you feed the fish, make sure the food lands in the water, not on the tabletop or floor.

The following authorities supplied the information in this article:

Jeff May, certified indoor-air-quality professional, former board member of the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, co-author of “Jeff May’s Healthy Home Tips”

Morris Nejat, M.D., New York Allergy and Sinus Center

James Seltzer, M.D., chairman of the Indoor Environment Committee of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology

James Sublett, M.D., managing partner, Family Allergy and Asthma in Louisville, Kentucky

Finally, vindication!

Dateline did an excellent job!

The Dateline segment is available for viewing at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/40968816#41303490 

Pollens

I hope you’re doing well and enjoying fall. I also hope that you’ll find the following article about seasonal pollen by Shamika Edwards both interesting and useful. Shamika is an NAB Certified Pollen and Mold Spore Counter.

With best wishes,
Dave Gallup

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Seasonal Pollen
By Shamika Edwards, EMLab P&K Analyst and NAB Certified Pollen & Mold Spore Counter
Each spring, summer, and fall, the season is filled with lush colors of blooming trees, grasses, and weeds, which release tiny particles. The tiny particles are known as pollen. Pollen has several vectors it uses for mobility; anemophily (movement via wind), entomophily (movement via insects), ornithophily (movement via birds), hydrophily (movement via water), chiropterophily (movement via bats), and zoophily (movement via other animals). The pollen grains proceed by hitching a ride on the currents of the air. Then, nature does its part to generate variation and speciation through cleistogamy (self-pollination), and allogamy (cross-pollination). Although the main purpose of pollen is to fertilize other plants, many times it never succeeds in making it to its intended target. Instead, pollen enters human noses and throats, triggering a type of seasonal allergic rhinitis typically called pollen allergy or hay fever.

Trees, grasses and weeds have a very distinct period of pollination that typically do not vary from year to year. Generally, the entire pollen season lasts from February through October with pine having an elevated pollen production throughout. Even though it is abundant, pine pollen is seldom an important allergen. The pollinating season, however, starts later in the spring the further north one goes. In warmer places, pollination can occur year-round. In most southern states, tree-pollinating season commences in late December and ends in May. In the South Texas region, a unique fall pollination of Ulmus (elm) and evergreens such as Juniperus (junipers). Also in Texas, mountain cedar pollen (Juniperus ashei) is another unique pollination period that occurs in December and January. Typically, grass pollen begins in late May followed by the weed season in June and July. Starting in August, weed pollen increases in the environment and by the end of August, ragweed pollen begins to dominate the air.

Seasonal allergic rhinitis is often caused by tree pollen in the early spring. The chemical makeup of pollen is the basic factor that determines whether the pollen is likely to cause any type of allergic symptom. During the late spring and early summer, grasses often cause symptoms. Hay fever is caused by weeds in the late summer and early fall. In the late fall, unique to Central Texas, is a seasonal allergic rhinitis known as cedar fever. Trees that produce allergenic pollen include oak, ash, elm, hickory, pecan, box elder, and mountain cedar. Among North American plants, weeds are the most prolific producers of allergenic pollen. Usually ragweed is the major culprit, but others of importance are sagebrush, redroot pigweed, lamb’s quarters, Russian thistle (tumbleweed), and English plantain. Grasses are known to be a significant source of allergenic pollen. Timothy grass, Kentucky bluegrass, johnsongrass, Bermuda grass, redtop grass, orchard grass, and sweet vernal grass are all known to produce highly allergenic pollen.

 to many people from local weather reports, is a measure of how much pollen is in the air. This count represents the concentration of all the pollen, expressed as grains of pollen per cubic meter of air collected over 24 hours. This count is generated by certified Pollen Counters of the National Allergy Bureau (NAB). There are only 106 certified pollen counters in the country and 81 NAB-certified counting stations across the United States, Canada and Argentina. Each count comes from a NAB counting station, which is part of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s (AAAAI) Aeroallergen Network, responsible for reporting current pollen and mold spore levels to the public. 

Weather has significant effects on pollen release. The most pollen will be released on warm, dry, sunny, and windy days. Cold temperatures and high humidity delay pollen release, and precipitation washes pollen out of the air. Certain weather conditions can increase or decrease the amount of pollination. If the winter is mild, then typically the allergy season will begin early because the trees will release their pollen earlier than normal. If, on the other hand, a mild spring occurs this will intensify the tree pollen release for the spring. Winds are another contributing factor, which can spread the pollen rapidly, thus increasing the pollination. The windier the conditions are, the higher distribution of pollen within the air. If the weather generates a late freeze, then tree pollination will be delayed or could possibly decrease. Increased rain amounts in fall or winter can cause an increase in spring tree pollination amounts. Increased rain amounts in spring can stimulate grass growth, thus producing more grass pollen. The lifeline of pollen depends on the weather, through dry days, breezy days, rainy days, foggy days and, humid days.

References:
1. Farrar JL, Trees of the Northern United States and Canada. Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press; 1995.

2. Smith, E. Grant, Sampling and Identifying Allergenic Pollen and Molds. TX: Blewstone Press; 2000.

3. Sharma Smrity. Allergy season at its worst in years in US. The Money Times. April 16, 2010.

Clean air through green thumbs!

Focus on Health: Grow your own air

by Bonnie McLAughlin and photojournalist Kyle Wanek, FOX 21 News

DULUTH – Many of us spend most of our waking hours in a box that has been constructed to be as airtight as possible to reduce heating and cooling bills. That attention to effeciency has made indoor air quality something to gasp about.

Benzene, formaldehyde gas, amonia, and acetone are just some of the pollutants emitted into the air by products from facial tissue to dry cleaned clothes. Making breathing in some buildings detrimental to your health. Which is why it’s a good thing that you can grow fresh air.

Research shows that houseplants play an important role in filtering indoor air. Certain plants can even remove specific pollutants from the home or office.

Three plants to that generate plenty of oxygen are the Areca Palm, Mother–in–Law’s Tongue and the Money Plant.

Three plants that are natural air filtering systems are EnglishIivy, Asparagus Fern and the Purple Heart Plant. To remove potentially harmful chemicals in paints, varnishes, dry cleaning fluids, car exhaust fumes and tobacco smoke try Dragon Tree, Ficus, Spider plants, Chrysanthemums, Palms and Philodendrons.

Be forewarned,though Philodendrons are also on the “avoid” list if you have chiildren at home. Some other’s to avoid as they pose a threat to little ones are Mistletoe, Pencil Cactus, Bird of Paradise, Diffenbachia and Holly Berry.

A NASA study reported that houseplants were able to remove up to 87 percent of air toxins in 24 hours. Their recommendation is to use 15 to 18 “good–sized” house plants in 6– to 8–inch diameter containers for an 1,800 square–foot house.

Wayne’s Service Tips

Wayne’s Service Tips

Dryer Duct Cleaning
by Wayne Tracy

wayneThe Consumer Products Safety Commission states that “Clothes dryers are associated with over 15,600 fires annually, resulting in 20 deaths and 370 injures”.  These fires caused over One Hundred Million Dollars in damage. 

Fires can occur when lint builds up in the dryer or in the exhaust duct. Lint is highly combustible and can block the flow of air, cause excessive heat build-up, and result in a fire.  Most dryer duct lines run between the walls and floors of a home and this fire can quickly spread through the rest of the home.  Even though dryers have built in high temperature limit switches they often fail and cannot be relied on to provide total protection.

Although clothes dryers have a lint trap, a significant amount of lint bypasses the trap and finds its way into the dryer and the dryer vent duct.  In as little as a year this lint can accumulate to levels that can significantly block the flow of air through the dryer and dryer duct. When you add the warm moist air being discharged into the dryer duct this further helps the lint to start plugging the dryer duct.

Plugged or partially plugged dryer vents can also result in increased operating costs with longer drying times.  This will also cause premature failure of components or the dryer.  Overheating can also cause unnecessary wear and tear on clothing, thus shorting their life.

In a recent independent study it was found that a load of 7 large bath towels in a dryer with 62.5% vent restriction took 60% more time to dry the same size load and used 77% more energy than the load without the restricted vent.

The following are steps the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends Homeowners should take to prevent dryer vent fires.

  • Clean the Lint screen/filter before or after drying each load of clothes.  If clothing is still damp when removed after a normal dryer cycle or requires a much longer than normal dryer cycle, this may be a sign the dryer vent needs cleaning.
  • Clean the dryer vent and exhaust duct (hose connected to the dryer) periodically.  While the Consumer Product Safety Commission gives no recommendation as to cleaning frequency, most manufacturers recommend annual cleaning for the dryer to work at maximum efficiency. 
  • Check and clean the outside dryer vent exhaust for obstructions and make sure the flapper opens and closes properly.  If the flapper is not fully closing, birds and rodents can nest in the dryer vent line.
  • Clean behind and around the dryer where lint can build up.  Keep the area around the dryer clean and free of lint and clutter.
  • Replace old style flexible plastic/vinyl hose with corrugated or foil hose.  The plastic/vinyl hose is no longer allowed in most states and is not fireproof and can actually cause a fire to start and spread quicker.
  • The interior of  the dryer chassis should be cleaned by a qualified service person periodically.  Lint and debris will build up inside the dryer as well as in the dryer duct.

Fires can occur when lint builds up in the dryer or in the exhaust duct. Lint is highly combustible and can block the flow of air, cause excessive heat build-up, and result in a fire.  Most dryer duct lines run between the walls and floors of a home and this fire can quickly spread through the rest of the home.  Even though dryers have built in high temperature limit switches they often fail and cannot be relied on to provide total protection.

Although clothes dryers have a lint trap, a significant amount of lint bypasses the trap and finds its way into the dryer and the dryer vent duct.  In as little as a year this lint can accumulate to levels that can significantly block the flow of air through the dryer and dryer duct. When you add the warm moist air being discharged into the dryer duct this further helps the lint to start plugging the dryer duct.

Plugged or partially plugged dryer vents can also result in increased operating costs with longer drying times.  This will also cause premature failure of components or the dryer.  Overheating can also cause unnecessary wear and tear on clothing, thus shorting their life.

In a recent independent study it was found that a load of 7 large bath towels in a dryer with 62.5% vent restriction took 60% more time to dry the same size load and used 77% more energy than the load without the restricted vent.

The following are steps the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends Homeowners should take to prevent dryer vent fires.

  • Clean the Lint screen/filter before or after drying each load of clothes.  If clothing is still damp when removed after a normal dryer cycle or requires a much longer than normal dryer cycle, this may be a sign the dryer vent needs cleaning.
  • Clean the dryer vent and exhaust duct (hose connected to the dryer) periodically.  While the Consumer Product Safety Commission gives no recommendation as to cleaning frequency, most manufacturers recommend annual cleaning for the dryer to work at maximum efficiency.
  • Check and clean the outside dryer vent exhaust for obstructions and make sure the flapper opens and closes properly.  If the flapper is not fully closing, birds and rodents can nest in the dryer vent line.
  • Clean behind and around the dryer where lint can build up.  Keep the area around the dryer clean and free of lint and clutter.
  • Replace old style flexible plastic/vinyl hose with corrugated or foil hose.  The plastic/vinyl hose is no longer allowed in most states and is not fireproof and can actually cause a fire to start and spread quicker.
  • The interior of  the dryer chassis should be cleaned by a qualified service person periodically.  Lint and debris will build up inside the dryer as well as in the dryer duct.

Mold

Molds (along with the broader term fungi) are living organisms that live on plant or animal matter. Molds produce microscopic spores, reproductive bodies similar to seeds, that are very light and travel through the air. With the right conditions, these spores reproduce quickly (often within 24-48 hours) to create more colonies of mold.

Mold can grow on almost any surface and only requires dampness and a source of food to thrive. The nutrients required to sustain mold are plentiful and include dust, paper, ceiling tiles, cardboard, and wood. Materials that support mold growth will eventually be consumed and destroyed if the mold is allowed to grow unabated.

Estimates place the number of mold species at between 50,000 and 250,000. Over 1,000 different kinds of molds have been found in U.S. homes. Some strains of mold can cause more serious problems with building occupants. These include Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Stachybotrys. Because of the severe reactions people can have from these molds, they are often labeled “toxic mold”.

There is no reliable way to visually tell what type of mold may be in a building. Samples need to taken by a professional and sent to a laboratory. It is often wise, then, to treat all molds with some level of caution and concern.

According to the CDC, “it is not known what quantity of mold is acceptable in indoor environments with respect to health”. A common rule of thumb, therefore, is that if you can see or smell mold (often described as a “musty” odor) inside a building, then there is too much.

It is impractical to completely eliminate all mold spores from our environment. Home owners should concentrate on eliminating water sources, removing mold colonies when discovered, and inhibiting a spores’ ability to reproduce in their building.

All Duct Cleaners Are NOT Equal

In today’s market, it is once again “Buyer Beware”. Air duct cleaning is being advertised starting at $49.99 for “whole house cleaning”. Unfortunately, the average consumer has no idea what air duct cleaning should include. At $49.00, the technician is untrained in air quality, using equipment designed for another purpose that has been retrofitted to resemble air duct cleaning equipment, and an extra service is required to complete the job at an additional charge.

Proper air duct cleaning requires source removal, according to the tenets of NADCA ( the National Air Duct Cleaners Association). This requires the ducts be scrubbed as well as vacuumed, all the way through the system. This can be accomplished using rotary brushes, compressed air nozzles or manual scrubbing in conjunction with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance) vacuum. When this is completed, an antimicrobial may be applied to address any of the cold germs,  mold spores, valley fever spores, dust mites and other bacteria commonly found in ductwork. As this work is completed, all ductwork should be checked for obvious leakage: the State of AZ estimates that 15%-20% of energy costs can be attributed to duct leakage! When leaks are located they should be sealed according to industry standards. Finally, the AC coils should be acid washed, the heater cleaned, the drain line and drip pan serviced. NO ONE can do this for $49.00!

Why Clean My Air Ducts?

With the advent of so many new products designed to improve air quality, homeowners are becoming more aware and concerned with the quality of the air inside their homes than they have in the past. Besides the sometimes poor Phoenix air quality, a major contributing factor in the purity of your air is your HVAC’s ductwork. Ensuring the cleanliness of your air ducts is an important step in improving the air you breathe.

Why would I want to clean my air ducts?

There are several reasons to consider having your air ducts inspected and cleaned. Depending on the following factors you, and the people living in your home, might observe significant improvements in both your health and other areas of your life.

  • Family members with unexplained illnesses. For homes with family members who are experiencing regular symptoms like coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, nausea, fatigue, frequent headaches or other sicknesses, cleaning the ductwork could help.
  • Family members with allergies or asthma. Contrary to what most would suspect, the indoor air we breathe is much more polluted than the air outside. The air ducts are a crucial component to your HVAC system, and are responsible for circulating heated and conditioned air throughout your home. Particularly for homes with allergy and asthma sufferers, scheduling an air duct cleaning can have a positive impact on the severity of their symptoms.
  • Enhanced system performance. Professional cleaning of your ductwork should also include a cleaning of your heating and air conditioning unit and coils. When an HVAC system is not maintained and clean, it has to work harder to heat and cool your home. Studies have shown that HVAC systems run much more smoothly and efficiently when they are cleaned, and according to The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning engineers, dirty coils and blowers can cut efficiency by as much as 40 percent. When a system is running efficiently, less energy is used and that saves you money.
  • Your home has recently been renovated or is newly constructed. New homes or homes undergoing renovation are susceptible to collecting dust and debris inside the ductwork. If vents were not properly sealed off, or if the heating or cooling system was run before everything was thoroughly cleaned, odds are good there is a notable amount of dust and particulate inside your system.
  • Moving into a pre-existing home. Older homes are notorious for tightly constructed ductwork that can restrict airflow and allow for the collection of excess dust. What’s more, moving into a home previously occupied by someone else means you can’t be sure about the quality of your indoor air. If the previous owners smoked or owned pets, those odors and particulates are being circulated throughout the home each time you turn on your heat or air conditioning.

Although the Environmental Protection Agency does not claim these factors demonstrate a substantial need for duct cleaning, they do recommend that you have your ducts inspected and cleaned if you observe any of the following:

  • Visible mold growing on the inside of your ducts or on components of your heating and cooling system. If you suspect this might be a problem, it’s best to have your ductwork inspected by a professional to help you identify suspected mold and the conditions leading to its growth as well as determine the severity of the problem.
  • Evidence of pests within duct system. If you find or suspect that rodents or insects are inside your ductwork, it’s best to contact a professional to help you address the issue.
  • Excessive amounts of dust, particulate or debris can be seen inside the ducts. When there is enough dust inside your ductwork to be clearly visible, a thorough cleaning can stop it from entering your living space through your supply registers.

To ensure the health and safety of your family, it’s best to have your ducts cleaned regularly by a certified and trained professional. Contact us to learn more about the importance of having your air ducts regularly inspected and cleaned.