You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2010.

If you think being a baker is all about sweet nothings, candy toppings and pastry balls then you’ll want consider this before taking a professional turn into that particular cloud of flour.

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Baker’s asthma (yes, it has a specific term) is the most common form or occupational asthma. There have been so many reported cases that it is now possible to take medical measures and preventative measures to prevent and treat this specific form of OA (occupational asthma). In the history of OA, respiratory reaction to flours and grains has the longest history. In 1700, Ramazzini (the founder of occupational medicine) reported shortness of breath and urticaria in those who worked with grains. Even Roman bakers wore masks when they worked with flour.

Baker’s asthma is caused by a number of elements common in bakeries. Flour and grains such as wheat, barley, rye, soy and buckwheat, as well as additives and enzymes added to improve bread quality can play a part in causing Baker’s Asthma.

While it might seem humorous or common to see a baker in a cloud of flour, it’s actually an image of poor health and could cause respiratory damage to the baker. Symptoms of Baker’s Asthma often go unnoticed by bakery workers and owners. Coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing and tightness in the chest means a baker should seek medical attention to confirm the OA symptoms, and that the bakery should get proper air ventilation to prevent further OA.

Direct source air ventilation systems, like the Fume Extractor from Electrocorp, or general air scrubber like the Air Rhino from Electrocorp could mean the difference between healthy, happy bakers and those afflicted with a constant cough, wheeze and shortness of breath.

Bakeries are one of the highest-risk industries for occupational asthma. So, if you are a baker, studying to become a baker or own a bakery then consider proper ventilation. You only get one set of lungs and while you might not have considered it before, breathing in puffs of flour and other bakery ingredients on a daily basis for hours at a time will take its toll on your body and respiratory system.

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LEED-certified buildings are all the rage right now; and they should be. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is designated by the USGBC (United States Green Building Council). To become LEED certified, your building must meet a specific criteria set by the USGBC. Depending on the type of building you’re building or renovating, certain criteria and points must be met in the areas of:

  •  Location and planning
  • Sustainable sites
  • Water efficiency
  • Energy and atmosphere
  • Materials and resources
  • Indoor environmental quality
  • Innovation and design process
  • Regional Priority

Within these 8 categories points are awarded for proper and efficient execution. Based in the LEED for New Construction and Major Renovations version 2.2 (LEED v2.2) there were 69 possible points for the Holy Wisdom monastery in Middleton, WI to gain. Out of those 69, they scored an impressive 63, giving them a platinum LEED rating. This isn’t the first or only LEED-certified building in Wisconsin. It seems they’ve got a thing for going green.

What makes the Holy Wisdom Monastery building, home to the Benedictine Women of Madison, LEED approved is thanks to the way in which construction was performed, materials used in the renos and the environmental impact of the building as a whole.

According to BuildingGreen.com, “the project developed in line with the Sisters’ mission, which encompasses a commitment to environmental stewardship. ‘For us, sustainability is not a trend,’ says Sister Joanne Kollasch, ‘but a commitment to the earth — a 21st century expression of 1,500 years of Benedictine tradition.’

Energy use in the monastery is kept at a minimum through measures like customized glazing and high-albedo roof and hardscape surfaces, which keep cooling loads low (and decrease the heat-island effect); large windows that invite daylight and minimize electric lighting demands; operable windows for natural ventilation; and a ground-source heating and cooling system involving 39 closed-loop, 300-foot-deep wells. Rooftop photovoltaic panels meet 13% of the building’s remaining energy demands.

Efficient water fixtures, including waterless urinals, one-gallon-per-flush toilets, and low-flow faucets in kitchens and bathrooms, keep water use in the building low; outdoors, the restored native prairie landscape eliminates the need for a permanent irrigation system and porous paving manages storm water runoff. A green roof over the garage captures rainwater and further decreases the heat-island effect.

In the deconstruction of the Sisters’ previous conference center, more than 99% of the construction and demolition waste was successfully reused or recycled, diverting thousands of tons of material from the landfill. Thirty percent of the building materials were sourced from within 500 miles, and rapidly renewable bamboo floors in main gathering spaces round out the materials palette.

The local design and construction firm Hoffman, LLC, and sustainability consulting firm Vertegy headed the design team, which also included local firms Fredericksen Engineering, Czarnecki Engineering, and LGD engineering. Final project costs came in at $246/ft2 ($2,600/m2).”

Air filtration and purification is a major component of LEED certification and something offices, schools and industries can start implementing right away. A complete overhaul isn’t necessary to help bring your company up to LEED standards. 

Just start with a little clean air; it’ll do your lungs and company wonders.  

Getting sick is a common occurence. Each day we, as humans, are exposed to a plethora of germs and bacteria and our bodies fight each one differently. Sometimes it’s through touch, or an exchange of fluids and sometimes we breathe it in. Either way, it must enter the body before the virus can spread. For centuries we’ve known about bacteria. However, we haven’t always known how to handle its effects — not even today.

Some sicknesses are easily (or relatively easily) diagnosed. Chicken pox is caused by a specific virus, gastro another, and the common cold yet another. Their symptoms are each unique and they can be treated by visiting a doctor or taking time off work and resting in bed for a few days. Your body will take the time to heal itself and fight the bacteria and/or virus accordingly and eventually you will feel healthy again and your body will be back to normal.

However, not every sickness can be attributed to known viruses.

Mold is a huge perpetrator when it comes to causing illness in human beings. Mold is a living organism that attacks the respiratory system of humans. However, proving that mold is the cause of an illness is extremely difficult. Mold can be found in buildings, on materials used in everyday life and even on clothing. And what most people do not understand is that it’s not the mold organisms themselves that make you sick, but the spores (airborne toxins) that they produce.

Mold is a killer.

Mold spores, which are loaded fungi, lead to fungal infections. Diseases associated with fungal spores and inhalation of them can include hypersensitivity pneumonitis, tremors, toxic pneumonitis, chronic fatigue syndrome, cancer and kidney failure. This is more than just a bit of sneezing and an itchy throat. Mold can be deadly, especially to those who already have an immune deficiency issue.

Mold can be and is a major issue in humid and warm climates. The colder regions in Canada and Northern Europe have very few cases of fungal diseases, however, that changes when you head south to warmer climates and wetter areas. Mold grows when the mold spores that are present in the air at all times (also refered to as allergens) find a warm, moist, dark spot to land and germinate. Mold then grows and becomes more deadly when it’s found a good home.

The key is to keep your living and working environment free of moisture and as clean as possible.

But, what if you have no control over your work environment? Students, for example, are constantly at risk for mold. Schools are prime breeding spots for mold because of their large size and age. Poorly constructed ventilation systems, badly sealed windows and hundreds of occupants on a daily basis make for prime mold breeding grounds. Children who are suddenly diagnosed with asthma or acute breathing problems during the school year should lead a school administration to test the building for possible mold infestations.

Unfortunately, mold is not often thought of as a killer. Sure, we see moldy bread when we forget to throw out the end of the loaf, or moldy fruits when they aren’t stored well — but we never think of mold on the walls, under the carpet, on the shower curtain, on the back of the toilet, under your desk at work or under the potted plant on your desk. These are all prime spots for mold to live and breed — and infect you.

To prevent mold-related illnesses, air purification is a must. Ventilation will keep the mold spores at bay even if you live and work in a moist, warm climate all the time. By trapping the spores in deep-bed activated carbon, you’ll reduce your risk for respiratory illnesses, or something worse.

Mold is a nasty little creature that’s always lurking. Don’t let him infect you; use the right air purification tools — like units from Electrocorp that are ideal for businesses and especially school duct systems — to keep the fungal growth under control and keep your air clean and fresh.

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If you work in any of these professions, beware the air you breathe.

Animal Kennels & Clinics

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Working with animals can be a highly rewarding profession, but it can also be highly volatile for your respiratory system. Dog and cat dander and hair in the air could lead to occupational asthma down the road, and the cleaning products used to maintain a sterile environment in veterinary clinics often contain toxic chemicals such as chlorine compounds, formaldehyde and glutaraldehyde, phenols, hydrogen peroxide, peracetic acid and even ozone. These can be extremely hazardous to workers, as well as the animals.

Cleaning products aren’t the only cause of respiratory troubles in animal kennels and clinics. Kennel cough, a common upper-respiratory disease, often spreads quickly through densely populated kennels and clinics where multiple cats and dogs are housed. Kennel cough is caused by an airborne bacterial organism, a volatile organic chemical.

Odors are often an issue in areas where multiple animals are housed — from the food they eat to their excrements, smells are part and parcel when dealing with animals; but they don’t have to be.

Keep your animal kennel or clinic sterile and fresh with an air purification system from Electrocorp. The I-6500 Series and RSU 20 units are ideal for kennels and clinics to eliminate odors and clear the air of harmful toxins.  

Asbestos & Mold Remediation

For construction workers and building maintenance employees, asbestos and mold remediation are a constant concern. Long-term exposure to asbestos could lead to asbestosis, mesothelioma and even lung cancer. You might not feel it immediately after exposure, but asbestos fibers having lodged themselves in the soft tissue of your lungs and are slowly building up until the lining becomes scarred and inflamed. Asbestos was used in nearly all building construction prior to the 1970s, and still exist in buildings today. Asbestos ceilings and tile are common in older homes and offices and workers who are exposed to such materials run the risk of seriously damaging their lungs and respiratory systems.

Mold is also a major concern for building maintenance crews and anyone living or working in an area of extreme humidity and where flooding is common. Mold are fungi that tend to grow best in warm, damp and humid conditions. They spread via airborne mold spores and can survive in the harshest conditions. Mold spores can be extremely dangerous when inhaled. For those already suffering from obstructive lung disease, mold has been documented to case mold infections in their lungs. In general, mold can cause upper respiratory irritation (sneezing, coughing, shortness of breath, fever, as well as eye and skin irritation).

Farmers are known to suffer from mold irritation due to working with moldy hay on a daily basis, especially in enclosed spaces such as silos and barns.  

For severe asbestos & mold remediation to protect both building occupants and workers, Electrocorp suggests their AirMarshal unit as well as their Air Rhino 2000.

Beauty Salons & Spas

They are there to make us feel refreshed, beautiful and rejuvenated, but in reality they could be shortening our lives and making us extremely unhealthy. Beauty salons, nail salons and spas deal with noxious fumes and toxic chemicals every day. Just walking past a nail salon fills your nose with pungent odors similar to that in an auto body paint shop – and really it’s not all that different.

Nail salons are, perhaps, the worst offender of the beauty bunch. Workers are exposed to high levels of nitrocellulose, methacrylate polymers and vinyl polymer, formaldehyde, acetates, ketones, alcohols and methyl methacrylate. From nail polish to adhesives, the materials handled in nail salons are nothing short of toxic, and workers (and clients) are breathing it all in every day. In a poorly ventilated nail salon, workers are at risk for developing skin and eye irritation, breathing difficulties and recurring headaches. There have also been studies done to further investigate the increased risk of breast cancer in nail salon workers.  Their high level of acute health problems is alarming and not something that should be ignored by salon owners or workers. Proper exhaust vents near work stations and general salon ventilation is a must.

Hair salon and spa workers are also at risk due to chemicals used in their beauty treatments. Hair relaxers and coloring agents are loaded with toxic chemicals. The main ingredient in lye hair relaxers, sodium hydroxide, is the principal chemical found in drain cleaners. No-lye relaxers are more commonly made up of guanidine hydroxide and is just as damaging as lye relaxers, despite what most people think. Hair dyes contain must contain a color and a developer, and the developer is the problem causer. Usually made up of a combination of peroxide and ammonia, developers can cause strong allergic reactions on the scalp and irritate the respiratory system while resting on the hair. There are also types of hair dye that contain harmful petrochemicals as well which can be just as harmful.

Beauty salons & spas are supposed to be a place to escape from the madness and stress of ever day life, and yet they could be causing your body more harm than good. Workers at these establishments are at a higher risk and so a proper ventilation system is needed to keep everyone healthy. Electrocorp recommends the RAP Series of air purifiers to properly clear the air of toxins and strong odors in these spaces.

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If you work in the welding business, your lungs are at risk — seriously at risk.

Welding smoke is an extremely hazardous toxin. It can cause serious health problems including damage to the kidneys, metal-fume fever (MFF), occupational asthma and even cancer. Welding smoke is an extremely serious concern for welders and should not be taken lightly by the welder or his/her employer. Proper air ventilation and filtration is a must in any welding facility.

Studies have been done to directly link MFF (metal-fume fever) to OA (occupational asthma) in welders. Most welders, if they suffer from it, will feel the effects of MFF within 3-10 hours of exposure to welding smoke. Symptoms include fever, flu-like feelings, chills, dry cough, throat irritation, metallic taste and general malaise. Take note if you feel any or all of these symptoms at the beginning of each work week.

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Welders aren’t the only ones at risk. Improper ventilation around brazing, soldering and metal cutting also means workers are at risk for such diseases as lung cancer and even larynx and urinary tract cancer. Links have also been made to welding and Parkinson’s Disease. While this disease is often a genetic disposition, early symptoms of Parkinson’s have been likened to manganese exposure and is sometimes misdiagnosed as such. For the male welders out there, welding smoke also poses a risk to reproductive abilities. Sperm quality and counts in welders is much lower than non-welders.

Proper fume extraction is a must in these conditions or your health is in jeopardy.

What can you do about making your welding environment safer?

Electrocorp offers exceptional fume extractor air purification systems that can clear the air of airborne toxins at the source. With up to 80 lbs of refillable carbon available on heavy-duty extractors, Electrocorp has a welder’s health in mind. Toxic fumes are caught in the carbon, and thanks to the 12″ HEPA filters and dwell time, less particles enter the worker’s lungs — it’s a win-win situation. An articulated flex arm with a hood also means that source capture is possible as particles and toxins can circulate around the room undetected by the naked eye so catching them at the point of origin is important in keeping a well-ventilated space.

Wearing a face mask, even a medical-grade one, just isn’t enough. Fibres in the mask just aren’t strong enough to capture the toxins emitted by welding procedures. A heavy-duty, activated carbon filter is needed to protect against the airborne hazards effectively.

If you have any questions regarding welders smoke and the health risks associated with it, please feel free to leave a comment or call Electrocorp for professional help.

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