Monday, July 06, 2009

Green Roofing...What?

As we are building more urban areas, we are also losing green space. A great way to revitalize the urban landscape is to invest in green roofing. Green roofing involves high quality water proofing and root repellant systems, as well as a drainage system, a filter cloth, and a lightweight growing medium along with plants. Some of you may be wondering, “Why a green roof? What can it do for me?”

Green roofs will typically last twice as long as conventional roofs because all the sun damage that reaches bare floors will be used to grow plants. There is a lot of energy saving potential as well, depending on the size of the building, climate, and type of green roof. In Ottawa, Canada, Karen Liu found that 6” of green roof reduced heat gains by 95% and heat losses by 26%. Green roofs also absorb sound pollution from airplanes and traffic.

Green roofs also provide a space of serenity and aesthetic beauty. It can be a place for day care, meetings, and recreation. Instead of taking a break in a dull and enclosed room indoors, employees can take breaks taking a scenic stroll on the roof. For the Fairmount Waterfront Hotel in Vancouver, the kitchen saved up to $30,000 annually by growing it’s own greenery,

Although green roofs are still immature in North America, it is an investment worth looking into for your business. Give your employees a place to look forward to while they are at work!

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Friday, May 22, 2009

A Fragrance-Free Future for All?

I am a second-generation Vietnamese American who grew up in Anaheim. I had a variety of friends but I was very conscious about the smell of my house. The Vietnamese are notorious for not only pho (beef noodle soup) but also their nguoc mam (fish sauce). My mother was aware of it too, and we usually wanted the house to smell more "American" so she clipped out coupons for Glade Plug-Ins every weekend.

I remember how the plastic Glade Plug-Ins would soften and eventually burn its plastic cover if we left it in for too long. At one time each power outlet had a Plug-In, but the combination of "Tropical Breeze" and "Pinewood" started to give me dizzying effects. My mother eventually stopped buying them...and now she has turned her passion into buying air filters.

It led me to wonder about the fragrance industry in the world. With Americans generally bathing or showering each day, it's quite amusing to research history. In Elizabethan times, about 500 years ago, bathing once a month was the epitome of cleanliness. Perfumes and potpourri were created from dried organic materials, but nothing was really synthetic at that time. Nowadays, it's much cheaper to create chemical compounds imitating the scents of these fragrances without environmental threats (ex. musk).

I read an article that was reprinted online. It made me think about the fragrance industry and the chemicals we create in pursuit of fragrances.

Synthetic fragrances are used to scent products, and sometimes to mask odors or unpleasant smells that a chemical compound may produce. One good example is a product that I've used in my home for years, Comet, which I recently bought in a lavender scent. I was not particularly happy with the change, as it smelt nothing like lavender.

Since the rise of synthetic fragrances we've been layering ourselves day in and out with chemicals. I have eczema-prone skin and while I lived in Riverside, the dry air caused several major outbreaks. I thought air purifiers would help, which it did, but my condition did not improve as much as simply using oatmeal-based skin products and moisturizers. But beware, just because it is unscented or fragrance-free does not mean that they are chemical free.

Not to mention that some people are just plain allergic to some fragrances. Do you remember any product you've used that caused your skin to break-out? I remember that applying anything on my inflamed skin would cause a burning, itching feel. And have you tried any scented product that gave adverse reactions? For you lucky ones, no. But for those who have...there's a good reason for it. Reactions in fragrances can quickly become medical lawsuits, so much that magazines must adhere to a strict fragrance protocol to prevent accidental exposure.

It is very creepy to know that most fragrances can be launched on the American market without any approval process. Basically, until it makes some kind of adverse reaction, the fragrance manufacturer can go about its business and the FDA would not have any jurisdiction over the matter.

I would recommend simply investing in a good air purifier over the hundreds of dollars you may spend in home fragrances and to begin using organic and wholesome chemical-free products. Granted, some individuals prefer the scent of ocean in the morning, or dew in the evening, but the truth is that it is most likely chemicals and toxins you are exposing your body to. Potpourri may also be an alternative, but keep in mind that some potpourri is also soaked in fragrant chemicals. Fragrance yourself free from chemicals. I am sure it would not only be good for the environment but for your body, too.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Times are a Changing: Time to Update Your Air Conditioner

Big changes are coming to the world of air conditioning on Jan. 1, 2010. In an effort to comply with an international green treaty and slow down ozone deterioration, air conditioners across the country will be forced to comply with a new level of standards. Here are some key facts to help you stay ahead of the curve and save yourself from the heat, especially during crunch time.

These new standards in air conditioning can be attributed to the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty designed to help curb damage to the Ozone layer. It is designed to lead to some actual recovery of the Ozone layer by 2050. Initially established in 1987, it has since been amended seven times and is continually looking to eliminate substances that have defiantly been established as reasons for ozone depletion. Chlorine is one of those substances that has been clearly identified as doing significant damage and has been used since the 1970’s as a coolant in nearly all air conditioning units. This chemical is called R-22 and as of Jan. 1st 2010 will be eliminated.

R-22 will be replaced with a chlorine free coolant called R-410A that has zero ozone depletion. Begin thinking about switching your AC now as R-22 units will no longer be manufactured and that means parts and supplies will make repairs harder and more expensive. In fact, chances are the EPA will make it illegal to sell any R-22 units by the end of 2009.

Don’t be discouraged though. Energy costs have increased 50 percent in the last five years and with the economic climate the way it is, this is a great chance to save money on proper energy efficient air conditioning units. Updating your air conditioner with the proper requirements can save you up to 45 percent. Look at the SEER rating, (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) rating when purchasing a new unit. A general rule of thumb is that the higher the SEER rating the better the efficiency. Of course, this is entirely depending on your geographic location and many can make do with a low SEER rating where air conditioning is not as drastically needed.

Also be sure to look at rebates and tax incentives while replacing your air conditioning units. Chances are you can get a great deal and save money with a correct purchase. The recent stimulus bill has set aside money for actions like this so search the web or look at your local states Database of State and Incentives for Renewable and Efficiency for proper deals.

The last step to get the most out of your air conditioner is to make sure you obtain proper installation. A key part of upgrading your unit is to get the most out of it and improper and shoddy installation can quickly defeat this purpose. Keep it well maintained as well and you will see a significant reduction in your energy bills. Don’t wait until its 2010, start looking for new and more energy efficient cooling solutions today.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

UC Irvine Professor Warns Consumers About Ozone Air Purifiers


Sergio Nizkorodov, a renowned professor of chemistry at the University of California, Irvine, has focused his academic career on the relationship between ozone emissions and air purifiers.

Produced naturally in the upper atmosphere, ozone plays an extremely critical role on earth by filtering out harmful UV rays that are known to cause skin cancer, as well as other serious ecological effects. In the lower atmosphere, ozone can be used to reduce airborne contaminants and to reduce indoor pollution such as mold sources and odors.

However, at the same time, scientists and doctors are questioning the safety of ozone exposure. When inhaled, ozone can cause health defects such as respiratory problems and lung functions, and it can be generated by common appliances such as laser printers, copiers, and yes, even some air purifiers.

Because of this predicament regarding ozone exposure, Professor Nizkorodov has been conducting extensive research on the connection between air purifiers and ozone levels. He has found that many air purifiers which purposefully use ozone to clean the air can generate ozone in levels above the standards set by the EPA. When used in small, enclosed spaces, these air purifiers can cause especially serious health problems in the elderly and children. In addition, Nizkorodov and his research team have found that ultrafine particles are generated by these air purifiers as a result of chemical reactions between the ozone and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in indoor settings.

In addition to his research, Professor Nizkorodov has also participated in UC Irvine’s Community Day and showed how the ozone levels produced by an ozone air purifier inside a chamber was high enough to be considered a first stage air quality alert. Professor Nizkorodov has also rallied with consumers against Sharper Image’s debacle with their Ionic Breeze air purifier, and has prompted many concerned citizens to urge their legislators to ban the sale of these air purifiers.

While most air purifiers on the market are extremely safe, consumers should take caution when purchasing an air purifier which exclusively uses ozone to clean the air.

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Monday, October 01, 2007

California to Ban Ozone Air Purifiers

Last week, the California Air Resources Board, the "clean air agency" of the state of California, agreed to ban the sale of all ozone air purifiers by 2009. By citing studies that show prolonged exposure to ozone can cause asthma attacks, permanent lung damage, and other respiratory illness, the CARB recommend that ozone air cleaners not be used in the home.

Although ozone is a natural air cleaner in the upper atmosphere, safe levels of ground-level ozone have never been identified. In addition, according to research conducted by the Board, roughly 2% of all California households have an ozone-producing air purifier, and over 500,000 people have complained of ozone exposure higher than federally allowed standards. These ozone cleaners can come in the form of air purifiers that emit ozone-rich gaseous plasma or personal breathing devices that are worn around the neck.

While proponents of ozone air purifiers claim ozone can improve the health of asthmatics, the elderly, and even depressed pets, the CARB claim dozens of peer review studies have shown the detrimental side effects of ozone exposure. A toxicologist at the University of California, Irvine, Michael Kleinman states, "Ozone is a toxic contaminant, and does cause significant adverse health effects."

Set to be in effect in 2009, the ban will include any air cleaners which emit even a miniscule amount of ozone. However, commercial use of ozone air purifiers will be exempt from this ban. For those who are concerned with indoor air quality, HEPA air purifiers like those used in hospitals (which can oftentimes be cheaper and more effective than ozone) will have to suffice.

In response to the new ban, Debra Perkins, an EcoQuest (a manufacturer of ozone air purifiers) salesperson and consumer, said in between tears, "God gave humans these air purifiers, and you should not take away that gift."

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Friday, May 12, 2006

Too Much Ozone is not a Good Thing

Although many manufacturers are now producing air purifiers that emit ozone, this may be more of a cost saving feature than quality addition. Read below what the EPA has to say regarding ozone air purifiers.

"The same chemical properties that allow high concentrations of ozone to react with organic material outside the body give it the ability to react with similar organic material that makes up the body, and potentially cause harmful health consequences." Read More?

Looks like "old" HEPA and Carbon technology may not be outdated yet...

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