Monday, October 13, 2008

Homeowners: 3 Green Ways to Save Energy & Money

Here’s three money-saving resources for homeowners, offered by Glen Croston of Basil and Spice, via Green Key Real Estate – one of the reputable firms he, too, liked:

1. Here’s an ingenious way to heat your shower water. After hot water hits your body and goes down the drain it can be diverted by Econdrain’s device to heat the cold water headed for the shower head.

2. Waste less power at home by getting an audit of places where energy is lost. Think their insulation, windows, appliances, air ducts, lighting, etc. Sustainable Spaces conducts an audit then shows you the costs to retrofit your home and the savings that will result. By creating a set of best practices, this firm is able to develop considerable accuracy so you can make smart, green changes that save you money.

3. Install sensors connected to light switches, making the lights turn off automatically when these custom-set heat and motion sensors determine no one is in the room. Wattstopper makes them for homes and workplaces.

Passive Solar Beats Energy Star Home Design

John Kosmer “built a new traditional style 4,000 square foot, passive solar home for $125.00/sq. ft. It “heats for just $2.50 a day or $900-1,200 a year - even “in the cold upstate New York region.”

Get this! “This home cost about the same as a comparably sized new ENERGY STAR qualified home … but it uses less than 70% of the energy. “

John wrote, “When I owned my previous home, I was unaware that trying to save energy in an existing home was just playing in the margins of energy conservation. It became clear to me that existing 20th century homes are obsolete energy sieves that will take Herculean measures to bring up to speed in the 21st century. This passive solar home can become the model for 21 century home building and rekindle a housing boom in our collapsed building market into the foreseeable future.” (Thanks Eco Women for this tip.)

Flame Retardent Chemicals in Our Blood

For 30 years fire retardent chemicals have been embedded furniture, cars, electronics, childrens’products (car seats!) and more. The chemicals are building up in our blood. Maine banned the chemicals. EPA is studying the effect. Avoid the products with these chemical in them. (Thank you for many great tips, including this one, Green and Clean Mom, Somer.)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Age in Place - Living Well in the Home You Love

For the majority of 76 million baby boomers and the 90 percent of seniors who prefer to age in their own homes, there’s help. Certified “aging in place” specialists and Senior Resource have checklists of changes to consider making at home. This approach has much in common with "universal home design" - “design that is universal, that accommodates needs of people of all ages.” For example, Peggy Arbaugh suggests “paddle or lever handles instead of door or faucet knobs. They can be easier for small children or parents with an armful of groceries, as well as those who might be slowed by arthritis.”

"People want to live in houses, not institutions," says William Owens, president of Owens Construction in Columbus, Ohio.

Before they need it, those who live in a two-story home move the master bedroom from the second floor to the first. Others choose elegant yet easy-to-use products, “such as better lighting, bigger light controls, easy-grip handles and cabinet hardware, adjustable shower heads, seats and bars and bathtubs with textured bottoms. Other home changes to consider are services you may need and “low-step showers, wide doorways, first-floor bathrooms, hard flooring, low-pile carpeting, electric stair lifts and even in-home elevators.”

Other possible changes: remove scatter rugs, install an ADA-height toilet or toilet seat and more. As we get older we want more security and less maintenance. New technology helps.

There’s money in serving us boomers. The National Association of Home Builders estimates that aging in place will “capture at least 10 percent of the $214 billion home improvement industry.” Next steps for aging in place trend: healthcare.

Says Laura Gitlin, director of the Center for Applied Research on Aging and Health at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. “ “What helps people age in place is not covered by insurers at this point. Many seniors have chronic health conditions, such as dementia, diabetes or urinary incontinence, and must take multiple medications. But their medical care is often disjointed. Their primary care doctor doesn’t have the time to coordinate that care, and nurses, home aides, geriatric care managers and technological devices are rarely covered by insurance.” And, since our lung capacity diminishes as we age, removing allergy-causing airborne pollutants from the home also helps us live healthier longer at home. Some books to read are Universal Design for the Home, Making Your Home Senior-Friendly, The Senior Solution, Aging in Place and Retirement Living by Design.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Allergic to Your Pet? Unwilling to Say Goodbye?

Even with your asthma or allergy, you won’t give up your beloved pet. Few will. Some make their dogs unexpected stars on YouTube (“Doberman attacking Chihuahua”). Or create montages of their cat’s odd antics or sleepiness. One substitutes a ball machine for a nanny to keep their beloved pet entertained and, well, fit. Another besotted owner actually trains his Jack Russell to entertain, perhaps for a new sport category in an imaginary pet Olympics.

Yet if your pet makes you sneeze, tear up or worse you can take steps to dander-proof your home. That helps. Yet even in the cleanest home, action happens. Dirty particles get raised into the air. So it helps to make the air throughout your home cleaner than fresh air. Get a continuously high-performing unit that bolts right onto your home (HVAC) heating system. It is made by AspenAir Inside. It uses less than 2 watts to remove 99% of what’s called Respirable Suspended Particles in air.

BTW, here’s good news for those who don’t own a pet, are allergic to cats yet yearn for one. An ostensibly hypoallergenic cat is waiting for you – for just $35,000

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Green Halloween for Your Kids?

Want your kids to have a fun, safe and eco-friendly Halloween? Corey Colwel-Lipson did last year in Bellevue, Washington. Now she shares the grassroots template to make it happen in your community. “

She wrote, “Parents from all over the Puget Sound began contacting me to find out how they could bring Green Halloween to their neighborhoods. Merchandisers began asking if they could put the logo on their items. Even better, everyone involved has said, ‘Yes!’ to helping our non-profit partner and “host”, Treeswing, by donating money to their cause: improving the heath of children through nutrition and exercise.”

The Downside of Scented Candles at Home

They probably smell wonderful and look elegant, “but because many contain a high concentration of oils, they can cause soot deposits throughout your home.”

Double Pane Windows: “Not Worth Much…

… “without a properly insulated house with an efficient heating and cooling system,” reports Alexis Madrigal. That’s what she learned from Sustainable Spaces, a firm that conducts home energy efficiency assessments and provides green improvements.” Matt Golden, Sustainable Spaces’ ceo, says his company can reduce a home’s energy bills by 10-50 percent, simply by fixing what he calls “the heart and lungs of a home” – the HVAC system.

Of course, once your home is tightly- sealed and snug, consider getting those double pane windows. For the best kind, check the warranty and the NFRC rating. Also be sure to remove the airborne pollutants that are captured inside, especially the tiny RSPs that can go deep into the lungs, sometimes causing asthma, allergies and other respiratory problems.

Weltschmerz and The Power of Playfulness

After writing several vital yet dire health alerts here it was like drinking from a cold spring on a hot day to read, again, about the power of play and laughter. I am unashamedly mixing metaphors now: Dave Pollard is a breath of fresh air, especially when describing how Tom Robbins “was able to pull himself back from the brink of what he calls Weltschmerz.” That’s the ‘Sadness over the evils of the world…. The trick was to rediscover playfulness, or what the Tibetan Buddhists call Crazy Wisdom.’ Robbins says it is ‘the wisdom that evolves when one, while refusing to avert one's gaze from the sorrows and injustices of the world, insists on joy in spite of everything.’” Read Pollard’s great list of what’s keeping us from playing. Don't wait for Tina Fey to start laughing more.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Getting your children to eat the Mediterranean diet

... may reduce their risks of asthma by up to 40%, according to research from Spain and Mexico. I got it straight from the doc. Now, what’s your version of that diet?

A Child’s Cold May Actually be Asthma

"Wheezing can be serious," says pediatrics professor, Dr. Eigen at Riley Hospital who found that it is difficult for doctors to diagnosis asthma in young children. Coughing, the flu or bronchitis might actually be harbingers of asthma. Are the episodes of sickness seasonal or perennial? Work with your doctor to detect the patterns for earlier, more accurate diagnosis. Also remove from your air at home the tiny airborne particles, (the RSPs) that go deep into the lungs and exacerbate respiratory conditions. This is vital as 'asthma is the most common long-term disease of children and its incidence is growing worldwide."

Home Air Pollutants a Danger to Breast-Fed Infants

More than chemicals in a mother’s milk, breast-fed babies face a greater risk from dirty air at home. An infant's exposure to gases known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from indoor air was 25-135-fold higher than from breast milk. "We ought to focus our efforts on reducing indoor air sources of these compounds," said Sungroul Kim of Johns Hopkins.

VOCs are gases emitted from solids and fluids such as paints, cleaning supplies, building materials, printers, glues and photographic solutions. The EPA found levels of a dozen common organic pollutants to be up to five times higher inside a house than outdoors, regardless of whether the home was in an urban or rural area.

Women who smoke less than men...

...are at a much greater risk for colorectal and pancreatic cancer than men.

Also even “an occasional cigarette puff”decreases the ability of most anyone’s arteries to function for a week and sometimes longer. Way back in 2001 over 250 babies died of SIDS from inhaling secondhand smoke. Tobacco accounts for one in 10 adult deaths worldwide. It’s “the leading preventable cause of death in the world.”

Smoking is part of a daily ritual for many so a 2008 ad campaign may help some smokers quit. One TV spot, “ shows a guy trying various desperate ways to drink the coffee without smoking.” Voiceover: “When you're used to always doing something with a cigarette, it can be hard to do something without one. But if you can relearn how to drink coffee without cigarettes, you can relearn to do anything without cigarettes.”

Smoke? Love a smoker? Yes, it’s a nasty habit that’s hard to quit. Shocking images don’t spur everyone to try, but you can hope, and then act to help others at home breathe healthier air.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

How Green is Your Realtor?

The upside in looking for a new home during these uncertain economic times is that it’s easier to get expert help to find a home that is green and healthy. Now there’s over 4,000 Realtors who've become Ecobrokers. Their environmental curriculum covers everything from energy efficiency to solar energy, indoor air quality and green financing. An Ecobroker can help you assess the green features of a home and recommend changes if you are selling or buying.

Some firms have an impressive team of green experts. A shining example is the Green Key Real Estate (the first and only green real estate company in San Francisco), led by Chris Bartle. He’s also on the board of Build It Green, a member of the California Association of Realtors Green Task Force and a Certified Green Building Professional.” Ecobroker, Carson Matthews writes that “A tight well built house gives you the foundation to add all of these other (green) ingredients.” Just be sure that your well-sealed home doesn’t keep more air pollutants inside. You want your home to be green and healthy.

Give Cleaner Air to Your Child or Grandchild Who Lives With a Smoker

"In my view, smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke are the most serious public health threats that we face today. I say this not only as Commissioner of New Jersey's Department of Health and Senior Services, but also as a doctor who specialized in pulmonary disease for 40 years." Almost 50% of Americans are exposed to second hand smoke. It "kills an estimated 50,000 people each year" in the U.S.

In spite of the horrific health results, some still continue to smoke and endanger those around them, including the ones they love. Second hand smoke can cause breast cancer in younger women. Those exposed to smokers at work or home increase their risk of developing heart disease by 25 to 30 percent and lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent.

Second hand smoke is a “lethal mix” for fetuses, infants and children. Those under five are most vulnerable, “especially at home.” They breathe more air, drink more water, and eat more food per unit of body weight than adults do, so they tend to experience higher rates of exposure to pathogens and pollutants. Result? They are at a much higher risk of impaired lung and brain development, sinusitis, cystic fibrosis, and chronic respiratory diseases. Plus they may become nicotine dependent.

But what if your grandchild or someone else you love lives in a home with a smoker who refuses to quit? Your first choice may not be possible – helping that loved one leave a home polluted by second hand smoke. The fall-back? Giving cleaner air to breathe in their home. For this upcoming holiday, providing a high-performing whole home air cleaner is a powerful sign of love. By the way, October is National Home Indoor Air Quality Action and Awareness Month.

Eco-socialite Says Green Goes With Everything

When her son was diagnosed with asthma, eco-socialite, Sloan Barnett sought relief, not from the steroid her doctor recommended, but by taking preventive measures. She went green in what she bought for her home and to clean it – not surprising as her husband runs Shaklee.

Yet, to complete the preventive measures, one needs to remove the tiny airborne particles that can go deep into the lungs, causing asthma, allergies and other respiratory and even heart problems. This isn’t just a one-time or periodic task. You need constant air cleaning protection that only a highly-efficient, whole home air cleaner can provide. Even HEPA-grade, room-only, portable air cleaners can’t do a thorough job unless you stay in one room without opening the door and windows – and keep the unit on all the time. That’s not the way we live. And asthma is on the rise. The good news is that a continuously high-performing system is affordable now. AspenAir Inside, for example, is easy to install, requires less than 10 minutes of maintenance a year (one to two filter changes), is quiet, and doesn't emit harmful ozone as some air cleaners do. Winter is coming. Will you be spending more time indoors? Now might be a good time to consider cleaning up the air you breathe in the one place you can control – in your home.

New Way to Protect Your Infant From a SIDS Death

A fan in the room where your infant sleeps may reduce the risk that your infant dies from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by 72 percent a study suggested today. They may benefit from better air ventilation. That’s because infants who die from SIDS may have brain abnormalities that prevent them from gasping and waking when they don't get enough oxygen. SIDS may be caused, in part, when a baby breathes back in exhaled carbon dioxide. A fan ventilates the air and may break up the carbon dioxide that pools near the infant's nose and mouth.

"This is actually a miracle in public health, “ said Dr. De-Kun Li of Kaiser Permanente who led the study, yet the study was small. More research is needed according Dr. Fern Hauck, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics SIDS task force.

Results from earlier studies offered other actions that reduce the chances of SIDs death:
• Have a firm mattress an fitted sheet in the crib
• Use a pacifier at night
• Don’t use heavy blankets or turn the temperature up in the room – to keep your infant from getting too warm.
• Do not have infants sharing a crib.
• Place your baby on his or her back in bed – even for short naps (“back to sleep”)
• Do not have toys, pillows or other objects in the crib

SIDS remains the leading cause of death in babies after one month of age. The good news is that SIDs deaths have gone down as parents have adopted some of these measures. Also consider what your infant is breathing in the bedroom – and check the air in your home as it may be polluted.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Danger of Asthma During Pregnancy

This may also startle you. "Asthma is the most common chronic condition in pregnancy. Despite the frequently held notion that it is harmless, asthma can cause tremendous morbidity to both the fetus and the mother. In fact, severe and/or poorly controlled asthma has been associated with numerous adverse perinatal outcomes," according to Markus Little, MD and Richard Sinert, DO. Some of those dire outcomes include including preeclampsia, pregnancy-induced hypertension, uterine hemorrhage, premature birth, congenital anomalies, fetal growth restriction, and low birth weight. If someone you know is pregnant, she may want to take preventive steps now to clean the air at home - the one place where she can reduce the chances of an asthma attack. Relatedly, there's a study that could increase a pregnant woman's stress. It found that women who are stressed during pregnancy bear children who are "at a greater risk for allergies or asthma."

Plants to Clean Your Air at Home

In his popular book How to Grow Fresh Air, Dr. B. C. Wolverton shares his NASA research on cleaning indoor air using house plants. His work led to improving air quality in space stations and long manned missions. Now he applies what he learned to what you can do at home. That's good news since blankets, toys, gas stoves, computers, and carpets can lead to allergies, asthma, even cancer. Some research indicates they might contribute to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Wolverton has found that common indoor potted plants may improve indoor air by reducing levels of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.

VOCs, (including benzene and hexane) exist at low levels in many homes. Some, like benzene, find their way inside through pollution from traffic outside. Others emerge as a result of their use in paints, carpeting, and furniture fabric, especially in new or recently refurbished buildings. VOCs can contribute to “sick building syndrome,” a phenomenon that causes dry eyes, nose and throat, headache, lethargy, and nausea.

400 plants can absorb toxic heavy metals and contaminants, like lead and arsenic, from soil and water through a process called phytoremediation. The plant’s root system literally absorbs pollutants and transports them to the leaves, where they remain until the plant is harvested. In some instances plants such as the poplar tree can even break down pollutants, like the pesticide atrazine, and make them harmless.

Wolverton found that some of the best air cleaners are the Areca Palm and Lady Palm, as well as Dracaenas and Chrysanthemums.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Ozone Air Purifiers Banned in California

It wasn’t easy I’ve heard. An agency in my state (California) took a courageous stand for healthy air at home last year. In a step that surpassed the federal and other state efforts to regulate the emissions from air purifiers, the California Air Resources Board “banned popular in-home ozone air purifiers.” From these ostensibly home air cleaning devices a half million Californians have been exposed to amounts of ozone above the federal government’s health standard. The agency actually named the culprits.

While many people aren’t yet aware of this regulation, it finally goes into effect in 2009.

Reported L.A. Times’ Janet Wilson, “The machines deliberately inject ozone into a living room or bedroom, or directly into nasal passages via a personal breathing device worn around the neck. They have been marketed on the radio and over the Internet for years under brand names such as Living Air Purifier, Mountain Air or Fresh Air.

The companies also employ direct marketing, in which salespeople who say they are satisfied consumers go door-to-door or advertise the products to friends and colleagues, then earn a commission for each unit sold.” A quick "google" check shows a legion of these devices are marketed online. Homeowners do have safe alternatives.

From carpet fibers to mildew on grout..

... home air pollutants can be fixed in one of three ways, according to the conscientious people at Green Building Supply: preventative, curative or alternative. Their chart is the best I’ve found so far for a quick review of what you can do. Now, if they would also take the whole home, rather than single room approach, in recommending ongoing home air pollution removal, I’d be a complete fan.

What’s Your Infant Breathing in the Nursery?

Changing tables, cribs and dressers may be emitting formaldehyde at levels that induce childhood allergies and asthma. So found the Maryland PIRG Foundation. In their report, In Toxic Baby Furniture: The Latest Case for Making Products Safe from the Start, the non-profit announced that tests from an independent laboratory show “formaldehyde emissions from common baby nursery furnishings can significantly contribute to indoor air pollution.”

“The more we look, the more we find chemicals in our children’s products at levels known to contribute to significant health problems ranging from asthma to cancer.

Unfortunately, formaldehyde is just the latest example,” said Johanna Neumann, state director of Maryland PIRG. Lab tests of 21 products often found in a baby nursery found several with, “an increased risk of developing allergies and asthma…the Child Craft Oak Crib emitted the highest levels of formaldehyde.”

What if every parent asked their state legislators to back these recommendations from the Maryland PIRG Foundation, “to protect children from exposure to toxic chemicals?

• Require chemical manufacturers to prove their chemicals are safe before allowing them to be used in consumer products,

• Empower state regulators to restrict or ban the manufacture and use of chemicals that pose potential dangers to human health or the environment, and

• Ensure the public has access to information about chemicals used in consumer products and the potential health impacts they pose.”

“Many Chemicals in Our Homes Have NOT Been Tested …

...and some of those chemicals are up to 65 time more hazardous for children than for adults,” says Dr. Alan Greene, Pediatrician and Healthy Child Board Member. In this video he notes that many childhood health problems are on the rise, including autism and asthma. For example, do you know what’s in your baby’s mattress? I recommend their “90 Tips for 90 Days” blog and their book, Healthy Child Healthy World: Creating a Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home.

For Healthier Air at Home: Get a Portable Unit or a Whole Home System?

Over at the blog Ultra Clean and Pure, the author, who sells portable, room-only air cleaners, warns against buying a system to clean the air throughout your home.

The author writes that they are “around $15,000.” Yes, a few of them are expensive. Yet you can get a highly-efficient unit for $1,000. It is called AspenAir Inside. It can be installed in 40 minutes or less.

The blog author also writes that “the electric rates are also quite expensive.” A good whole home air cleaner is actually an energy saver.

Plus, with the non-metallic technology used by AspenAir Inside (unlike the metal plates or pins in traditional electronic air cleaners) you can avoid the messy and time-consuming cleaning of many whole home systems. All you have to do is replace a filter once or twice a year. It is so simple it takes five minutes or less.

There is more to consider when looking at a portable units. With any single room air cleaners, efficient air cleaning can only happen in one room – with the system running all the time. We are social animals by nature. Few of us will live in a single room – without opening the door or windows.

Plus systems using HEPA filters require more frequent filter changes than, say, AspenAir Inside – and they are relatively expensive.

Also some portable units and some whole home cleaners emit harmful ozone.

Now, with winter is coming, you’ll be spending more time indoors. Perhaps now is a good time to read “Why You May Want Healthier Air at Home - and How to Get It.” (There are others reasons too.)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Allergic to Your Pet? Unwilling to Say Goodbye?

Even with your asthma or allergy, you won’t give up your beloved pet. Right? Few will. Some make their dogs unexpected stars on YouTube (“Doberman attacking Chihuahua”). Or create montages of their cat’s odd antics or sleepiness. One substitutes a ball machine for a nanny to keep their beloved pet entertained and, well, fit. Another besotted owner actually trains his Jack Russell to entertain, perhaps for a new sport category in an imaginary pet Olympics.

Yet if your pet makes you sneeze, tear up or worse you can take steps to dander-proof your home. That helps. Yet even in the cleanest home, action happens. Dirty particles get raised into the air. So it helps to make the air throughout your home cleaner than fresh air. Get a relatively new air filler that bolts right onto your home (HVAC) heating system. It is made by AspenAir Inside. It uses less than 2 watts to remove 99% of what’s called Respirable Suspended Particles in air.

BTW, here’s good news for those who don’t own a pet, are allergic to cats yet yearn for one. An ostensibly hypoallergenic cat is waiting for you – for just $35,000.

Even the biggest messes and toughest stains ...

... can be attacked effectively with baking soda, borax, lemon juice and more. You'll also spend less money and reduce packaging, believes Brian Clark Howard at the Daily Green. (Kudos to you, Deborah Barrow for this gem of a site.)

8 Tips For Healthier Air in Your Home

1. Don’t let your vacuum bag ever become more than half full. This will reduce the amount of particles, activated from vacuuming, to be released into the air.

2. Change your vacuum bag at least once a month.

3. Avoid dust, mold, and bacteria build-up by wiping down surfaces in bathrooms, bedrooms, and the kitchen with a diluted bleach solution.

4. Decrease the amount of surface area where dust particles can collect by eliminating as much clutter as possible.

5. Remind yourself to change your air cleaner filter by marking the date on your calendar.

6. Check your smoke alarm at the same time.

7. If you have a fireplace, get the chimney checked once a year.

8. Get an annual radon check.

Don’t Let Mold Grow in Your Home

You may discover you have mold in your home when it smells bad. Other symptoms of mold include headaches, breathing difficulties, skin irritation, allergic reactions or asthma attacks.

Those most susceptible to mold are people with weakened immune systems. Healthy individuals are less vulnerable yet may get common skin diseases, such as athlete's foot, as well as other infections such as yeast infections.

Act fast. When mold spores land on a damp spot, they may begin growing and digesting whatever they are growing on in order to survive. Moisture control is the key to mold control.

To prevent the growth of mold inside your home, when any floor, wall, ceiling or other surface gets wet, dry it out within 24-48 hours.

Wash mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water, and make the surface(s) completely dry. If some of the damp materials are absorbent, such as ceiling tiles or carpets, consider replacing them. .

Fix leaky plumbing or other sources of water.

What’s the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the U.S.?

Carbon monoxide according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Yet while 93% of U.S. homes have smoke alarms, the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that only 15% have carbon monoxide alarms.

Such alarms are vital because carbon monoxide is virtually invisible to us. It is a flammable, colorless, odorless and tasteless toxic gas.

You can’t see or smell carbon monoxide, but at high levels it can kill a person in minutes.
- Low levels of carbon monoxide poisoning are mistaken for flu or cold symptoms - shortness of breath on mild exertion, mild headaches, nausea.

- Higher levels cause dizziness, mental confusion, severe headaches, nausea, fainting on mild exertion. Very high levels lead to unconsciousness and death.

Avoid dangerous CO levels in your home:

• Install a battery-operated CO detector/alarm in your home and check or replace the battery when you check your smoke alarms and change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. Mount the detector/alarm on the ceiling at each level in your home.

• If you are suffering from continuing, chronic flu-like symptoms, see your doctor and ask her if it could be a low-level CO poisoning.

• If you have a CO detector, and it alarms, immediately open windows and ventilate your home with fresh air, have your heating system checked by a professional.

• Be sure that CO is not escaping from any fuel-burning appliance (furnace, water heater, fireplace, woodstove, or space heater.)

• Do not block or seal shut exhaust flues or ducts for appliances such as water heaters, ranges, and clothes dryers.

• If you live in a newer home, it is probably built to be very air-tight. Thus it cuts down on the supply of fresh air to your furnace, creating an oxygen starved flame. As well, tight closing replacement windows and doors, as well as additional insulation can cause similar “air-tight” problems in older homes.

• Be sure your flues that are connected to new high-efficiency furnaces and water heaters are sized right. If not, they can cause CO spillage.

• Also many new furnaces and water heaters are installed using the existing chimneys that may be the wrong size to allow the furnace to vent properly.

• Carbon monoxide can spill into the home from vent connections in poorly maintained or blocked chimneys. If the flue liner is cracked or deteriorated, CO can seep inside through the liner, slowly creeping up to dangerous levels. If a nest or other materials restrict or block the flue, CO will mostly spill back into the house.

• Never warm up vehicles in a garage attached to your home, even when your garage door is open. Do not operate other gasoline-powered engines in confined areas such your garage or basement.

Do not leave your car, mower, or other vehicle running in an attached garage, even with the door open.
You may be allowing concentrated amounts of CO to enter your home through the garage door or near-by windows.

• Get an EAC (electronic air cleaner) that attaches to your existing HVAC system, one that is sufficiently efficient to eliminate harmful levels of CO in your home.

The Safest Kind of Home Smoke Alarm

Install “duo” smoke alarms.

You may not have a pet parrot to save you. So, for each floor in your home - and near all bedrooms - get a dual sensor smoke alarm that combine ionization and photoelectric into one unit. Here’s why. Ionization alarms sound more quickly when a flaming, fast moving fire occurs. Photoelectric alarms are quicker at sensing smoldering, smoky fires.

Since you can’t predict what kind of fire might happen, be as protected as you can with the duo, recommends the The U.S. Fire Administration.

Get standard type battery powered smoke alarms, Batteries need to be replaced at least once per year and the whole unit should be replaced every 8-10 years.
Your alternatives are:
a. smoke alarms powered by long-lasting batteries, but you must replace the whole alarm when you need new batteries, or

b. smoke alarms with hard-wired, battery back up. The batteries need to be checked monthly, and replaced at least once per year. The entire unit should be replaced every 8-10 years.

Be sure to look for the UL mark before you buy your alarm.

• The U.S. Fire Administration makes these further suggestions to stay safe at home:

* Plan and practice escape plans several times a year.
* Make sure your whole family knows when and how to call emergency telephone numbers.
* Obtain and learn how to use a fire extinguisher.
* Install carbon monoxide detectors.
* Consider installing residential fire sprinklers in your home.

Contact your local fire department - on a non-emergency phone number - if you need help or have questions about fire safety in your home.

The Air Study That “Stunned” Researchers

Researchers comparing air quality in six U.S. cities were “stunned” to learn “that people living in cities with the dirtiest air died on average two years earlier than residents of cities with the cleanest air. The difference in death rates was linked to elevated levels of fine-particle pollution.”

The tiniest air-born pollution particles are the most dangerous

Lung diseases like cancer, emphysema, fibrosis, and asthma are almost all initiated or aggravated by the inhalation of particles and gases, reports Joseph Brain, Drinker professor of environmental physiology at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH).

Children are the most vulnerable

The smallest air-borne particles are the ones that our lungs are least able to defend against. Infants and children are especially vulnerable. To describe the difference in an unforgettable way, imagine this scene, according to Rick Rogers, senior research scientist at HSPH:

“If a mom and her seven-year-old at a bus stop, stand in the wake of a departing bus’ burst of diesel exhaust, the child’s lungs will take in two and a half times the dose of particles as the mother’s. That startling effect is because of differences in surface to lung volume, metabolic rate, and activity.

Of course, any air pollution in the home will also have a much greater effect on children.

Fine particles in the air cause lung problems and heart attacks.

15 years into the six-city study researchers were surprised again. People were losing lung function, but what was killing them were cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and dysrhythmias. And it was fine particles from power plants and other combustion sources such as automobiles and home heating that showed the strongest associations with these deaths. This study is the most cited air-pollution paper in existence.

Prevent your children from losing lung capacity as they age.

The fine-particle lung damage to children worsens their lungs as they age. At first these fine particles cause “only” a small, yet permanent reduction in lung function. That's not so bad when they are young and have plenty of reserve lung capacity. But as they age, they will lose about 1 percent of their lung function per year (1.5 percent for smokers). After 50 years, in their early seventies, that’s a 50 percent reduction in lung capacity (75 percent in smokers).

Hint: It is never too soon to make the air cleaner where you have control over it – in your home. Look for air cleaning systems that also capture the most dangerous airborne particles – the tiniest ones.

Disarming Asthma – A Mother's Perspective

“Asthma, believe it or not, is a disease that can be very dangerous,” writes Janean Brown at atchoo! allergy.

Not only can it affect a child’s ability to breathe, but it can also cause low blood oxygen and prevent oxygen from reaching vital organs in the body. If severe enough, asthma attacks can cause death. In fact, in 2002, over 4,000 deaths were attributed to asthma, 170 of which were children.

Parents today have become experts at determining when their child is getting an ear infection or a fever, but are they ready for an asthma attack? One of the first steps in asthma management is to know what to look for. Every child with asthma exhibits symptoms or warning signs that an attack is near.

Some symptoms include coughing, fast breathing, fatigue that is not play-related, wheezing, vomiting, unusual paleness or sweating, irregular breathing, and an anxious look when the child is trying to take in more air. Just as in my own experience, many children try to overcompensate by taking in too much air, which can lead to an attack itself. But by recognizing the symptoms, my family and I have become experts at predicting asthma attacks. I now take great pleasure in knowing that not only can I predicate the attacks, but I can stop them before they begin.

Relax Mom, to Help Your Child

Helping your children take control over their asthma before it takes hold of them can be the most powerful tool in reducing and eliminating their asthma attacks. “The most important thing to remember is to relax”, I can still hear my mother’s voice in my mind. Relaxing allows your body the opportunity to breathe normally and to get oxygen into the needed organs.

It also allows you and your children some time to either consult your pediatrician or take any necessary medication. Reassuring your children in a soft, confident tone helps to soothe them and allows you to make an assessment as to how the attack began and to how to end it.

It wasn’t until I was knee-deep in research that I realized that asthma, like allergies, has environmental triggers too. Approximately 75 to 80 percent of children with asthma have significant allergies. Though this may sound like a bad thing, this knowledge can work to your advantage. Isolating triggers can help you to eliminate asthma attacks all together. Some triggers for asthma include exercise, infections, allergies, weather, emotional states of mind, and chemical irritants.

Most of the time we can’t do anything about the weather or how hard our children play and exercise. However, we can control their environment to help reduce the risk factors for triggering an asthma attack. Monitoring what your child eats and drinks can be helpful in determining whether food or drink allergies are responsible for the attacks. Things like pollen, dust, mold, and pet dander can also trigger allergic reactions.

Don’t forget to be mindful of irritants like cigarette smoke, air pollution, aerosol sprays, or strong odors like paint fumes or strong cooking. These irritants can react to your child’s body just like allergens do, producing the same coughing, wheezing, and watery-eye reaction that can trigger asthma attacks. Also, be aware that emotional stress can also lead to an asthma attack. Excessive crying, laughing, or yelling can cause your child’s body to begin erratic breathing that can also trigger their asthma.