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So, I’ve gone on and on and on about Electrocorp units and why they are the best for your industry’s IAQ issues; from welders to nail salons to schools and universities: everyone should have an Electrocorp air filtration unit.

But why?

Activated carbon is a unique product that, once processed, can be extremely porous. Because of this, it’s often used in air and water purification units. Unlike HEPA filters, activated carbon traps larger particles that just pass through the openings in the HEPA filter. Activated carbon is ideal for trapping odors because of this.

Here are different classifications of activated carbon, in case you were wondering:

Powdered activated carbon (PAC)

Traditionally, active carbons are made in particular form as powders or fine granules less than 1.0 mm in size with an average diameter between .15 and .25 mm.[2] Thus they present a large surface to volume ratio with a small diffusion distance. PAC is made up of crushed or ground carbon particles, 95–100% of which will pass through a designated mesh sieve or sieve. Granular activated carbon is defined as the activated carbon being retained on a 50-mesh sieve (0.297 mm) and PAC material as finer material, while ASTM classifies particle sizes corresponding to an 80-mesh sieve (0.177 mm) and smaller as PAC. PAC is not commonly used in a dedicated vessel, owing to the high head loss that would occur. PAC is generally added directly to other process units, such as raw water intakes, rapid mix basins, clarifiers, and gravity filters.

Granular activated carbon (GAC)
Granular activated carbon has a relatively larger particle size compared to powdered activated carbon and consequently, presents a smaller external surface. Diffusion of the adsorbate is thus an important factor. These carbons are therefore preferred for all adsorption of gases and vapours as their rate of diffusion are faster. Granulated carbons are used for water treatment, deodourisation and separation of components of flow system. GAC can be either in the granular form or extruded. GAC is designated by sizes such as 8×20, 20×40, or 8×30 for liquid phase applications and 4×6, 4×8 or 4×10 for vapour phase applications. A 20×40 carbon is made of particles that will pass through a U.S. Standard Mesh Size No. 20 sieve (0.84 mm) (generally specified as 85% passing) but be retained on a U.S. Standard Mesh Size No. 40 sieve (0.42 mm) (generally specified as 95% retained). AWWA (1992) B604 uses the 50-mesh sieve (0.297 mm) as the minimum GAC size. The most popular aqueous phase carbons are the 12×40 and 8×30 sizes because they have a good balance of size, surface area, and head loss characteristics.

Extruded activated carbon (EAC)
Extruded activated carbon combines powdered activated carbon with a binder, which are fused together and extruded into a cylindrical shaped activated carbon block with diameters from 0.8 to 130 mm. These are mainly used for gas phase applications because of their low pressure drop, high mechanical strength and low dust content.

Impregnated carbon
Porous carbons containing several types of inorganic impregnant such as iodine, silver, cations such as Al, Mn, Zn, Fe, Li, Ca have also been prepared for specific application in air pollution control especially in museums and galleries. Due to antimicrobial/antiseptic properties, silver loaded activated carbon is used as an adsorbent for purification of domestic water. Drinking water can be obtained from natural water by treating the natural water with a mixture of activated carbon and Al(OH)3, a flocculating agent. Impregnated carbons are also used for the adsorption of H2S and thiols. Adsorption rates for H2S as high as 50% by weight have been reported.

Polymer coated carbon
This is a process by which a porous carbon can be coated with a biocompatible polymer to give a smooth and permeable coat without blocking the pores. The resulting carbon is useful for hemoperfusion. Hemoperfusion is a treatment technique in which large volumes of the patient’s blood are passed over an adsorbent substance in order to remove toxic substances from the blood.

Other
Activated carbon is also available in special forms such as cloths and fibres. The “carbon cloth” for instance is used in personnel protection for the military.

Activated carbon is effective and environmentally friendly as it doesn’t off-gas or create it’s own pollutants as it works. It’s a clean air cleaner and that’s the reason Electrocorp and AllerAir use it in all their units.

How Electrocorp and AllerAir use activated carbon is also important. Dwell time is necessary in order to trap and hold ambient air pollutants. Some companies will claim that their units are equipped with activated carbon, but on closer inspection, they only have 1/2 an inch of depth. That’s nothing. Outfit an air filtration unit with 3″, 4″, 5″ of activated carbon and you’ve got yourself a mean air pollutant fighting machine. Add to that the fact that air doesn’t travel in a straight line and often heads through the carbon at an angle, and you’ve got the potential for 8″-10″ of activated carbon for your dirty, stinky air to travel through.

Combine activated carbon with HEPA and any other filtration device and you’re really tackling your IAQ issues. It takes more to clean the air than a good fan and some baking soda (which is a crock, by the way, but that’s for another blog).

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So, I’ve already listed some pretty risky professions out there. From welding to working with animals, our lungs are at risk every time we leave the house to work. So, I won’t scare more workers with what they’re breathing in everyday, instead I’ll just give you a few stats and numbers for you to mull over while you take your afternoon break.

There are approximately 15.9 million people who work in manufacturing-related industries. That means that approximately 15.9 million people are at risk for respiratory diseases in poorly ventilate warehouses and work areas. Most reported respiratory illnesses are exclusively from manufacturer workers.

This is a real issue.

There’s no denying that society needs manufacturers to keep the economy alive and well and functioning, and that means we also need the workers who produce the products and do the work we so desire.

How can we keep our manufacturer workers healthy and safe? No, replacing them with robots to do the work is not the answer and will only result in job losses. No, the answer lies in the ambient are of manufacturing facilities.

If plant and warehouse owners take the time to research their industry and the toxins associated with their work environment, they can then take the necessary steps to scrub the air and make their working environments cleaner and healthier.

An air filtration/purification system is the ideal solution.

Remember: A healthy workforce is a productive workforce.

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Some would call a blog like this a scare tactic. And, truthfully, it is a bit scary. I know, I do the research and write the entries. But, the reason I do it is to keep you, the reader informed! If we don’t tell you, who will?

And even when I do bring up the effects of working in a bakery for years, people still choose to ignore the facts and carry on as they normally would. And that’s not right.

Resources like this blog are here to help you and keep you healthy. Taking in the information that’s already here is a first step.

Once you’ve educated yourself on what you’re really breathing everyday at work, it’s then up to you to make a change. You might not have the luxury of being the owner of your company or being high enough up the ladder to make major changes, but remember it only takes one to make a change. Educate those around you with the information here; make them aware of the dangers we breathe everyday and what needs to be done.

From the BP oil spill clean-up to the printer in your office; work environments are littered with volatile ambient air pollutants that could harm you.

If you have any questions regarding IAQ in your place of employment, or about occupational asthma or respiratory illnesses at work or in the workplace, please leave a comment or question here and we’ll be sure to get back to you with a well-researched and helpful answer.

Mechanic and woman looking at car engine

We all know mechanics have a hard job. It’s dirty, loud and full of dangers. Working under vehicles, using heavy machinery and power tools, plus being on their feet all day and straining their backs and muscles; mechanics face a number of occupational hazards on a daily basis. But there’s more to their job than just the physical risk.

When you think of an auto body repair shop, you might not think of chemicals. It’s hard to imagine anything scientific about a mechanic’s work. However, there are quite a few liquids that go into an automobile and other moving machinery (bikes, ATVs, etc.) and those liquids contain harsh chemicals that can have extremely negative effects on mechanics and those who breathe around them on a daily basis.

Mechanics are exposed to a wide range of chemicals that include heavy metals such as the ones contained in brake fluids, detergents, lubricants, degreasers, paints, metal cleaners, solvents and fluids. Constant exposure to these chemicals will lead to chronic poisoning.

Antiknock Agents

An antiknock agent is a gasoline additive. It reduces engine knocking and increases fuel’s octane rating. Antiknock agents are usually made up of methylpentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl (MMT) or ketone solvents like methyl isobutyl keton. These ingredients cause eye irritation, dizziness, breathing problems, nausea and headaches. Studies have shown that long-term exposure to MMT results in damage to the kidneys and liver. Manganese (an ingredient of MMT) can be a potent neurotoxin when inhaled and is a serious concern for auto body repair shop mechanics. Studies have also shown that fine particles containing manganese can be absorbed into a mechanic’s blood through the lungs with excessive exposure to the toxin; and once the manganese is in the blood it can be carried directly into the central nervous system.

Manganese exposure can lead to a progressive neurological syndrome known as manganism. Manganism symptoms include impaired motor skills and coordination, hyper-irritability, nervousness and psychiatric disturbances (hallucinations). Manganism is often confused with Parkinson’s disease. Occupational exposure to manganese (like a mechanic in an auto body repair shop) over 5-20 years has been linked to decreases in neurological functions.

Asbestos

Asbestos dust comes from brake drum cleaning and processing operation in an auto body repair shop. Asbestos is the main cause of mesothelioma, a serious cancer.

Mesothelioma has been shown to only be caused by exposure to asbestos. Even in small doses, asbestos can have extremely negative health effects and lead to mesothelioma. When asbestos fibers are inhaled or swallowed, they travel through the lungs and become lodged in the pleura, the membrane that lines the lungs.

Diagnosing mesothelioma is extremely difficult, and often symptoms won’t show until 30-50 years after asbestos exposure. And the symptoms that are reported are often associated with other medical issues and so are dismissed as something less serious. However, after working for a long period of time in an autobody repair shop, mechanics who report said symptoms should consider the likelihood that they have mesothelioma.

Shortness of breath: If a mechanic is experiencing shortness of breath, it could be due to a buildup of fluid in the pleural lining or a tumor in the lungs. Both are results of mesothelioma caused by asbestos.

Swelling of the face and arms: If a mechanic is experiencing this symptom, he should visit his doctor immediately. Swelling of the face, arms and neck is a sign that the cancer is spreading beyond the mesothelium and reaching other areas of the body.

Chest/back pain: This is a symptom that could go undetected for years. Because mechanics are manual laborers, they often ignore physical pain or take it for granted, stating it’s just “part of the job.” However, a buildup of liquid in the pleural lining of the lungs can create the sensation of fullness and put pressure on localized areas of the chest cavity and sometimes the lower back. Pain on the right side of the chest and back is a red flag for mesothelioma as it tends to target the right side of the lungs 60% of the time and rarely infects both sides.

Lead Dust and Fumes

Exposure to lead dust and fumes leads to chronic poisoning. Repairing radiators, using paints and lubricants, welding and handling storage batteries are the main culprits for lead exposure in autobody repair shop workers.

There is no cure for lead poisoning. When lead is absorbed into the body via inhalation or absorption into the skin, it can seriously hinder the body’s neurological development. In adults, approximately 30%-40% of inhaled lead stays in the lungs.  Symptoms of lead poisoning differ for each individual, but early signs of exposure to lead may include intermittent abdominal pain, muscle pain, nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite, depression and constipation. Because these symptoms are so vague, lead poisoning is often not diagnosed until it’s too late.

Chronic poisoning, as would be the case with auto body repair shop workers, affects multiple symptoms in the body. The three main areas affected are neuromuscular, gastrointestinal and neurological. Loss of short-term memory and concentration as well as depression and loss of coordination, numbness and tingling extremities are obvious signs of chronic lead poisoning. For serious long-term exposure cases, a blue line along the gums and a bluish, black edge to the teeth are visible.

Solvents & Diesel Exhaust Fumes

Exposure to solvents such as benzene and its homologues (toluene and xylene to name a few) can lead to hematological changes. Non-toxic solvents do not exist, and auto body repair shop workers are at risk working with such materials every day.

Mechanics are also at an increased risk for organic brain damage. Inhaling diesel exhaust fumes can cause serious health issues in workers. While there are non-cancer related illness to chronic exposure to diesel fumes (asthma, airway restriction, immunological and allergenic reactions), the majority of long-term effects reported after exposure to diesel exhaust fumes is an increased risk of lung cancer and mutations in the body.

Small particles in diesel exhaust are easily inhaled and deposited into the lungs. Short-term health effects are often misdiagnosed or seen as symptoms from another illness, not diesel exhaust fumes. However, they should not be ignored or dismissed by auto body repair shop workers: vomiting, feeling lightheaded, headache, irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, numbness, tightness of the chest, wheezing.

Find out more about indoor air quality solutions for auto body shops and garages.

Today in the Wall Street Journal, there was an article about the Occupational Safety and  Health Administration and how they felt it wasn’t necessary for oil relief workers to wear respiratory masks.

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Um, what?

Looking at photos of the oil spill and understanding the magnitude of the disaster, it’s clear this isn’t just a case of spilled milk. Tones of gallons of oil were dumped into the Gulf and have reached the shores of Louisiana. And this oil is full of toxins — or at least it was, until they all evaporated into the air and workers breathed them in.

According to an article from Fox10 news just days after the spill, the crude oil from the spill was tested and researchers concluded that no, the oil wasn’t as toxic as some oil drills, but only because the majority of the poisonous toxins had evaporated while the oil was rising to the surface of the water, becoming ambient air pollution and invading the lungs of oil relief workers and BP employees.

And yet the OSHA still maintains that respiratory masks are not necessary.

Days after the oil spill, a local environmental group LEAN (Louisiana Environmental Action Network) conducted tests and found that the air in the area near the oil spill contained up to 100 times the safe amount of toxins. Benzene and VOCs were detected. Long-term exposure to benzene has been directly linked to cancer.

And yet, respirators aren’t necessary.

Workers at the BP oil spill have been complaining of falling ill and were not provided with proper safety gear for the first few weeks of work. These local fisherman whose livelihoods were shattered by the oil spill worked sans protection to clear the oil by burning the surface of the water to burn the oil off. But, burning crude oil doesn’t exactly smell like roses and their lungs are starting to suffer for it.

Workers are falling ill, complaining of chest pains; a common symptom of bad ozone. While this is one of the more mild symptoms, continuous exposure to “bad” ozone (from burning oil) can lead to a damaged lung capacity, bronchitis, emphysema, heart disease and asthma.

But, the OSHA must be right: Oil spill cleanup crews don’t need respirators. Nope, not at all.

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