Monday, February 27, 2017

Pollution Inside Your Car

In many ways American motorists and their passengers are exposed to less pollution than a generation or two ago. But today there’s more traffic, and many people spend longer hours driving to work and during leisure time. 

Surprisingly, pollutant levels are often higher inside because cars take in emissions from surrounding vehicles and recirculate them. Studies have found that as much as half of the pollutants inside test cars come from the vehicles immediately ahead, especially if those vehicles are highly polluting, such as heavy-duty diesel trucks. Levels of some pollutants and toxic compounds can be as much as 10 times higher inside vehicles than alongside the road. 

How to reduce in-car pollution

  • When driving in traffic, keep a safe distance from vehicles ahead of you, especially diesel trucks or obviously polluting cars. Or pull over to let such vehicles get far ahead. Keep the windows closed when in traffic and the ventilation set to recirculate, especially in tunnels.
  • When stopped at traffic lights, close your car windows, and try to keep some distance from the car in front of you.
  • When driving in light or no traffic, keep windows open or at least cracked to let in fresh air.
  • Properly maintain your car. A poorly maintained car is more likely to pollute the air inside it as well as the air around it.
  • Choose less congested roads with fewer traffic lights, even if they take a little longer. Or try to avoid rush hour. The more traffic, the more pollutants.
  • Drive in the carpool lane. Carpool lanes tend to have less traffic, so there’s less air pollution.
  • Take public transportation. Not only will you avoid pollutants, you’ll also help reduce traffic congestion and emissions. Buses, however, can be very polluting—and the air inside them quite polluted.
  • Don’t count on in-car air filtration systems. Some car dealers offer charcoal (carbon) filters on select new models. These may help reduce allergy symptoms from pollens, for instance, but they are not effective in removing fine particulates, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, or other pollutants.
  • If you have a new car, try to drive on less-busy roads so you can keep the windows open as much as possible for the first few months, when VOC levels are highest. Don’t park it in direct sunlight.
  • Don’t use air fresheners or deodorizers in your car.
  • Keep interiors clean. Pollutants in cars can combine with dust particles, which are then inhaled.
  • On long drives with several people in the car, open the window for a minute or two every 10 minutes so carbon dioxide doesn’t build up.
  • Don’t use chemical cleaners. Instead, use a damp micro-fiber rag to keep the interior clean. (Dust holds onto pollutants, such as VOCs.)
  • Instead of an air freshener, if you want the air to smell fresh, open the windows in an unpolluted area. If that’s not possible, make a sachet of dried flower petals, or keep an open container of baking soda in the car where it won’t tip over. (You can sprinkle the baking soda under floor mats and on the carpet, vacuuming up any residue.)

Friday, February 17, 2017

About 40 million US adults aged 20-69 have hearing damage in one or both ears that may be caused by loud sounds occurring in their everyday activities at home and in their communities. CDC found that more half of those (53%) report no exposure to loud noise at work. 

Noise exposure is the second most common cause of hearing loss. (Aging is first.) The louder a sound is and the more often a person is exposed to it, the more likely it will damage hearing. Common activities in homes and communities—such as using gas-powered lawnmowers or leaf blowers or attending a rock concert or ball game—can cause permanent hearing loss. Once hearing is gone, it’s gone forever.

Noise-induced hearing loss is a concern not only because it makes conversation and other daily activities more difficult, but also because it causes many other health problems. Exposure to noise causes stress, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Even though noise is all around us, much hearing loss from noise is preventable. And the steps to protect the ears and preserve hearing are relatively simple and don’t cost much.
  • Avoid noisy places whenever possible.
  • If you must be in a noisy environment, step away from the sound source, and try to minimize the amount of time spent there.
  • Use earplugs, as a convenient, low-cost form of protection. Or use protective ear muffs or noise-canceling headphones.
  • At home and in the car, keep the volume down. And even though the evidence is mixed about using earbuds or headphones for listening, it’s still smart to keep the volume down and take breaks from listening.
  • People who know they’ve been exposed to loud noise, or who are concerned that they aren’t hearing as well as they used to can ask their doctors for a hearing checkup.

For more information about noise-induced hearing loss at home and in the community, visit


Friday, January 13, 2017

The Unsung Heroes of Workplace Safety

Traumatic injuries aren’t the only danger at work. Silent killers in the form of chemical or biological agents in the workplace can be even more deadly. While approximately 5,000 people per year are fatally injured at work in the U.S., annual deaths from work-related diseases are estimated at 50,000. This is where industrial hygienists (IHs), the unsung heroes of workplace safety, are working to protect health and save lives.


Identifying hazards

Industrial hygiene, also known as occupational health protection, isn’t just about a clean workplace. It’s a wide-ranging field that touches every level of a business in every type of workplace setting. When IH professionals identify and mitigate risks for employees in their workplace, they also contribute to an overarching business function. Safety is not just good business sense, but an ethical responsibility of corporations.


The front lines of health

IHs help companies meet their ethical standards and increase workplace productivity, and because we spend so much time at work, IHs are on the front lines of defense in public health. For those looking to make a universal impact, this growing field offers a tremendous opportunity to protect the environment and save lives.


On the job

When it comes to safety, not all heroes wear capes. Day in and day out, industrial hygienists tackle the health and safety challenges facing people everywhere including:
  • Hazardous waste management.
  • Potentially hazardous agents such as asbestos, pesticides and radon gas.
  • Indoor air quality, including sick building syndrome and second-hand tobacco smoke.
  • Evaluating and controlling environmental lead exposure.
  • Cumulative trauma disorders, including repetitive stress injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Radiation, including electromagnetic fields and microwaves. 
  • Reproductive health hazards in the workplace. 
  • Setting limits on exposure to chemical and physical agents. 
  • Emergency response planning and community right-to-know. 
  • Detection and control of potential occupational hazards such as noise, radiation and illumination.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Act Now to Prevent Frozen Water Pipes

If pipes freeze, Do:
  • Turn off the water flow using the main water valve
  • Inspect the pipe carefully for cracks or damage
  • Consult a plumber for advice, if you find cracks or signs of damage (also be sure to consult a professional if you aren’t sure which pipe is frozen and/or you are unable to inspect it)
  • Thaw the pipe gradually using a hair dryer or space heater
  • Confirm the pipe has thawed by turning the main water valve back on and making sure that water flows
  • Take steps to raise the temperature in the area where the pipe froze or insulate the pipe
  • Use a blow torch or open flame to thaw a frozen pipe – open heat sources can cause fires and other safety hazards
  • Stand in water while you are operating an electrical heater, dryer or any appliance—you could be electrocuted