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The Air Quality Blog by Rabbit Air

Outdoor Air Pollution Linked to Increased Hypertension Risk for Pregnant Women

Hypertension, which is an increase in blood pressure, can be dangerous for pregnant women and for their developing babies.  Increased blood pressure can contribute to the development of conditions, such as preeclampsia in some mothers, and while these conditions are relatively rare, occurring in less than 10% of pregnancies, researchers are trying to understand how environmental factors may play a role in a woman’s risk of developing these conditions.  Recent research focused on outdoor air quality, particularly in the types of air pollution released from forest fires, car exhaust, power plants, and other industrial sources.  These pollutants, when found in high concentration, can cause a number of health related issues, from allergy like symptoms, to more serious heart and lung problems.  The study found that pregnant women exposed to these outdoor air pollutants had a greater risk of developing hypertensive disorders.  More research is needed to determine how great a role environmental factors have, but for now, researchers are calling for tighter air pollution controls.

It is always a good idea to limit exposure to outdoor air pollutants, not only for expectant mothers but for us all, particularly those in cities or industrial areas.  One of the easiest and best tools to use is a local air quality forecast, such as Air Now.  By monitoring air quality in your city, you can plan the best times to venture outside, and the best times to stay indoors.  At home, keep your indoor air quality pristine by keeping humidity levels low, using low VOC emitting paints and cleaners, and running an air purifier with a true HEPA filter, such as our BioGS 2.0, to filter out particle and chemical pollutants and keep air fresh and clean. 

Air Pollutionair purifiersAir QualityAir Quality ForecastAir Quality MonitorBioGS 2.0City Air PollutionHealthHEPAHEPA FilterHypertensionPregnancysmog

Green Roofs Help Improve City Air Quality
Popular in Europe for some time now, green roofs are becoming more and more common in the United States; good news for those concerned with city air quality.  A green roof is a roof that has been covered with vegetation rather than left bare, and there are two main types that are used. “Intensive” roofs, which are thick, green, and lush with deep soil, usually are intended to be used by people in much the same way as an ordinary garden, and will often have benches and walkways for people who live or work in the building to enjoy.  “Extensive” roofs, on the other hand, tend to have shallower soil and are used for the benefits that the plants provide while being generally off-limits to human visitors.  Scientists are studying the benefits of both kinds of green roofs, and have found that they not only can they contribute to reducing air pollution, but they can help with things like water management and can even last longer than traditional roofing.   One exciting benefit of having green roofs is in the reduction of carbon from the air, which helps to improve air quality and make local air better to breathe.  One 2009 study found that in the right conditions, using green roofs throughout an urban area with a population of around a million people could remove as much carbon from the air as one would get from taking 10,000 SUVs off of the road.

The spread of green roofs should be exciting news for those who live in areas with higher density populations.  Smog and other increases in air pollutants, caused by traffic or industry, can have quite a negative impact on health, from allergy-like symptoms, such as itchy eyes and congestion, to more serious ailments, such as heart or lung disease. It is hoped that widespread use of green roofs could significantly improve air quality, and that could mean a significant improvement in health as well.  In the meantime, for those wanting to breathe better air at home, adding an air purifier with a charcoal based activated carbon filter, like our MinusA2 and BioGS models, can help to filter out the toxins from smog and other airborne chemical pollutants to keep indoor air quality high.

Activated CarbonAir Pollutionair purifiersAir QualityCharcoal Based Activated CarbonCity Air PollutionGreen Roofssmog

How to Stay Safe and Healthy During the Summer

Summertime is here; when the temperature rises and we long for lazy days spent lounging on the beach.  Here are some tips for staying safe and healthy while you enjoy the season!

mediterranean beach - italy Limit Your Sun Exposure
It can be hard to resist the relaxing pleasure of lying out in the sun, but too much time spent outside can cause serious sunburns.  Make sure not to doze off by the pool, and limit direct exposure to less than fifteen minutes.  During outdoor activities, make sure to wear a high quality sunscreen, and learn to love wide brimmed hats, long flowing sleeves, and other clothes that provide protection.

Stay Hydrated
Spending time outdoors when the heat is high can leave you feeling dehydrated, sick, and put you at risk for heat stroke. Keep a water bottle with you when you go out, and remember to sip from it often.  Although strenuous activities put you most at risk, even casual strolls can leave you needing water.  You can also make keeping hydrated fun, by making creative fruit infusions that add natural flavor and color to your water.

Hiking Boots Keep Bugs Away
Humans aren't the only ones that love to come out in the summer – pesky bugs, like mosquitoes and ticks, do too.  These pests can cause irritation when they bite, and can even cause more serious illnesses, so keeping them at bay is a top priority. Wear long sleeves and pants when hiking or camping, and use mosquito repellent or netting to keep a barrier between you and the bugs.

Keep an Eye on Air Quality
The summer sun can cause air quality to worsen by heating up chemical compounds lingering in the air and combining them with nitrogen oxide to create unhealthy levels of smog.  Check local air quality forecasts when planning outdoor activities, and when you are cooling off inside, keep your indoor air clear by running an air purifier that uses a Charcoal Based Activated Carbon filter to adsorb harmful chemicals.

Air PollutionAir QualityCharcoal Based Activated CarbonHealthhepa air purifierSmogSummer air qualitySummer health

New Research on Trees and Air Quality

New Tree Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are shedding some light on an air quality mystery that has had scientists stumped for some time.  While we know that plants have a positive effect on air quality by helping to remove carbon dioxide from the air and providing us with oxygen, scientists had long suspected that isoprene, a molecule emitted by trees as a means of protecting their leaves from harm, played a part in creating particulate air pollution; they just were not sure how.   Surprisingly, the study found that when the isoprene molecule was heated by the sun, it reacted with nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere to create tiny particulate matter that became suspended in the air, which has the possibility to cause or exacerbate respiratory ailments, such as asthma.

But wait! Don’t blame the trees for these dangerous particulates – it is the abundance of nitrogen oxide that is the real problem. These polluting chemicals are man-made by-products of cars, factories, and other coal burning sources.  The more that scientists investigate the ways that particulate pollution occurs, the more effective our efforts at improving our air will be.  Over the past decade many major cities in the United States have been able to improve their air quality, but smog and ozone remain in much higher concentrations than what is healthy.  We can help to continue reducing these levels by being mindful about our daily choices – for example, making efforts to carpool or switching from plastic bags to reusable canvas ones. As we work on decreasing the amount of pollutants emitted into the atmosphere, we can protect ourselves from particulate matter by monitoring city air pollution levels before leaving the house, and by filtering particulates out of our indoor air by using an air purifier with a true HEPA filter like our MinusA2.

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Five Fun Facts About Air

Peace Lily1) Flowers can brighten up any home décor, but did you know that they can also help to add oxygen to the air and filter out pollutants?  While using plants alone won’t totally purifiy the air, you can give your air purifier a boost by placing certain potted plants around the home.  Some flower powerhouses include elegant peace lilies, which can help reduce harmful VOCs, such as formaldehyde, or colorful gerbera daisies that can help to filter out benzene.

2) Take a deep breath! Our lungs can hold between four and six liters of air on average, though we use only a small portion of this space with each breath. Each minute, the average adult breathes in and out around seven liters of air. That’s enough to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool every 227 days!

3) Did you know that most of our oxygen doesn’t come from the forest, but from the sea? Ocean algae produce the majority of the oxygen in the atmosphere. These plants may be tiny, but due to their huge numbers they are able to pump out tons of clean air for us to breathe.

4) Not even astronauts are safe from having smoggy skies obscure their view!  Astronauts report that thick smog over cities or highly polluted areas can be seen from the international space station, and that the amount of air pollution visible to them from orbit has been increasing.

5) China has some of the smoggiest skies in the world, and in an effort to detect harmful pollutants in their air, they have come up with a surprising solution – a team of people trained to detect harmful gases using their sense of smell!  These special sniffers can tell the difference between a surprisingly large number of gases, and can help city officials become aware of potentially dangerous situations.

Air PollutionAir PurifierBenzeneCity Air PollutionFormaldehydeIndoor Air PollutionSmogVOC

Summer Air Quality

Smog NYWe all know that the hot summer sun can be bad for our skin, but did you know that the air quality during the summer months can pose a health risk as well?  UV rays from the sun are stronger in the summer, causing more ozone to accumulate in the atmosphere and particularly in big cities, heat can cause outdoor air quality to worsen. The calm skies of summer can cause pollutants that have been released into the air to stagnate and hover in the skies, becoming thick layers of smog. This increase in pollution can be potentially harmful to those with asthma, allergies, or other respiratory conditions, often contributing to symptoms or causing reactions.

Keep safe throughout the summer by checking air quality forecasts and planning your outings during the day when pollutants aren’t as concentrated in the air. If you usually exercise or perform strenuous activities outdoors, try something new and workout to a fun video or podcast at home. If you do decide to soak up the sun, try to steer clear of locations that are near freeways or other high-pollutant producing areas like big cities. If you relax indoors to beat the heat, use an air purifier to keep indoor air fresh and clean. Whatever you decide to do this summer, do it with clean air in mind inside your home and out.

Air PollutionAir PurifierAir Quality Forecastallergiesasthmapoor air qualitySmog

What is Air Pollution?

Anyone concerned about breathing better has probably thought about air pollution at some point. We know that it is unhealthy and we should take action to protect ourselves from it, but what exactly is air pollution and how does it affect our bodies?  Air pollution refers to the introduction of chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials into the atmosphere that can cause harm to living organisms or damage the environment. Here in the United States, densely populated areas tend to have the highest levels of air pollution.  Every year the American Lung Association ranks the most polluted cities in America; you can view the 2011 rankings here.

Smoke While some forms of air pollution are not visible to the eye, smog is usually very noticeable. It is a mixture of smoke and fog commonly found in major metropolitan areas, and is notorious for turning the air an ugly color and obstructing views. A number of particulates can be found in smog, including carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, soot, ozone, dirt and dust.  Most of us know that these nasty substances are produced by cars and gas stations, but smog can also be caused by the smoke from fires or as a byproduct of waste treatment and industrial facilities.

The effects of breathing in air pollution differ depending on the duration and concentration of exposure; this means that those living in highly populated areas are more at risk.  Young children, the elderly, and those with illnesses are also affected more than others. The short term effects of breathing in air pollution can cause a host of unpleasant health issues.  Nausea, headaches, and irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat are common reactions.  Breathing in polluted air can also aggravate existing conditions such as allergies, asthma, or emphysema and can even cause respiratory infections.  Air pollution is even more dangerous in the long term, and can cause or exacerbate serious conditions such as chronic respiratory disease, lung cancer, heart disease, and damage vital organs.

Luckily, we can help protect ourselves from air pollution. Monitoring air pollution levels during the day is a good way to find out the best times to venture outside and when you should try to stay indoors. Making changes to help reduce pollution in your city benefits everyone, and can be as simple as switching from plastic shopping bags to reusable canvas ones.  Of course, we at Rabbit Air know that if you want to protect yourself in your home or office, using an air purifier is a great way to keep the air clean and safe.

Visit the links below for more information on air pollution.  If you have other facts or knowledge about air pollution that you want to share, please let us know by leaving a comment!

Air Pollutionallergiesasthmacarbon monoxideHealthhealth issuespolluted airSmogsmoke

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