Monthly Archives: March 2022

Hyperbaric Oxygen Chambers: how a treatment for deep-sea divers can benefit so many others

Hyperbaric Oxygen Chambers: how a treatment for deep-sea divers can benefit so many others

It may sound like a time portal from a science fiction novel, but Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is actually “an intervention in which an individual breathes near 100% oxygen intermittently while inside a hyperbaric chamber that is pressurized to greater than sea level pressure.”  (Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society).  The ambient pressure inside the chamber is three times higher than the air pressure that people normally breathe.  This increased pressure decreases the trauma of inflammation on tissues, which normally inhibits healing by restricting blood flow.

HBOT works by entering a specialized chamber, which may be only large enough to one person to lie down in, or have the ability to seat multiple people.  Once enclosed, the air pressure inside the chamber is increased and pure oxygen is delivered to the entire chamber or through a mask.  The duration of a treatment session depends on the patient’s condition and can last from 30 minutes to 2 hours.  

The chambers used for HBOT are specialized equipment which was primarily originally used for decompression illness for deep-sea divers, but now is approved by the FDA for use in 12 other conditions such as carbon monoxide poisoning, non-healing wounds, thermal burns and crush injuries.  However, sufferers of other conditions are trying HBOT, and the list of beneficiaries is growing.  Because HBOT increases oxygen to cells by up to 35%, healing rates are increased.  When healing speeds up, medical costs go down.  Here are just some of the ways HBOT, which involves expensive equipment, can actually reduce cost for patients and providers:

  • Faster wound healing means less time spent in hospital and rehab facilities, and more time at home and work for patients.
  • More complete recovery from traumatic injuries means the ability to return to “normal” life and work for patients with less severe handicaps.
  • Faster recovery from injuries means more time in the sport for professional athletes.
  • Relief from or improvement of handicapping symptoms such as tremors, memory loss, and physical limitations

For these reasons, celebrities, professional athletes, veterans and other clients who have not found relief with other therapies are trying HBOT for conditions such as (list from MedicalNewsToday):

These uses are not approved by the FDA (yet) due to lack of scientifically proven benefit for these conditions.  However, the Alliance for Natural Health is an advocate of HBOT and used its platform in 2013 to defend the use of HBOT in the face of a “deceptive” FDA warning to consumers about it.  The warning was meant to discourage use of HBOT for conditions other than FDA-approved conditions.  However, if a patient tries HBOT and sees improvement in their condition, it is hard to quantify the quality of life given by an “off-label” use of a therapy registered with the FDA.  

HBOT units are now available for spa, home, and portable use for ongoing treatment, making it a biohacking tool in spas and luxury homes around the world.  The reason: HBOT is also a method sought (by those who can afford it!) for its anti-aging effects. In a 2020 study from Tel Aviv University, healthy aging adults who used HBOT actually reversed the aging process.  That’s right–REVERSED the aging process.  The state of aging was measured by the length of telomeres, which are the end-caps of our DNA strands (see our post on Deep Breathing for more info on telomeres), and also the presence of dead or dying cells in the blood.  For the study, 35 healthy older people gave blood samples before, during and after a series of 60 hyperbaric treatments over 90 days.  Typically telomeres shorten during aging, but the telomeres of these participants actually grew longer by 20-38%, and there were 11-37% less senescent  (old and malfunctioning) cells.  

Some might say that hyperbaric oxygen is part of the fountain of youth, or even a miracle of relief for those suffering from terrible injuries and diseases.  Doctors and patients alike are warming up to the technology, and the market is poised to grow by 6.24% compound annual growth from 2021 to 2028.  It is certainly not a “fad”, and hopefully more people from all walks of life can benefit from it in the coming years. 

 

More on Activated Charcoal: what is it, how pure is it, and where does it come from?

More on Activated Charcoal: what is it, how pure is it, and where does it come from?

“Activated charcoal” is not the same stuff you would use in a barbeque grill.  Both grilling charcoal and activated charcoal start out in production the same way, through pyrolysis.  Pyrolysis is “ thermal decomposition of organic materials in the absence of oxygen” (eeer.org).  Pyrolysis converts normal carbon-rich materials like wood, coal, bamboo, or coconut shells into regular charcoal.  Activated charcoal undergoes another step after pyrolysis: it is treated with gasses such as CO2, steam or air at high temperatures in order to increase the surface area, creating microscopic pores by erosion.  The result is a surface with a negative charge, which is able to adsorb contaminants that are positively charged.  So, whether you are using the activated charcoal to filter the air, water or a food-grade variety to cleanse your mouth with mouthwash, the charcoal should be able to adsorb an enormous amount of toxins before being saturated.

Activated charcoal is made from sources high in carbon like coal, coconut, or wood.  I’ll discuss more about the ingredients and the process below.

Activated charcoal is produced in many forms for specific uses, such as:

  • water filtration 

  • Air filtration

  • Wastewater processing

  • Removing color from foods or oils

  • Removing CO2 from air in submarines

  • Removing toxins from liver in liver dialysis

  • Extraction and purification of metals such as gold

  • Soil enrichment 

  • And many more (source: charcoalhouse.com)

Some of the uses are for adsorption of larger molecules (such as decolorization of foods), and they are measured in macropore content (pores that are 2 nm and larger).  Adsorption of smaller molecules calls for a measurement of micropore content, pores that are 2nm and smaller.

What distinguishes a really active batch from a not-so-active batch?  It depends on the use, and for small micropore content, an iodine test is ideal.  It shows how much iodine is adsorbed into the charcoal.  Iodine is used to test activity of many other substances, like unsaturated oils, fats and waxes.   These substances have molecules with double or triple bonds, that are very reactive toward iodine (britannica.com) and thus able to adsorb more than a saturated substance.  The test is performed by filtering the charcoal with a known iodine concentrate, and then measuring the iodine remaining in the filtered liquid.  The iodine number is defined as the milligrams of iodine adsorbed by one gram of material (charcoal) when the iodine residual concentration of the filtrate is standardized (researchgate.net).  A high iodine number indicates that the charcoal has a great surface area and is highly adsorbent, while a lower number indicates it has lower surface area with lower adsorbent effect.  

Iodine number is expressed in mg iodine adsorbed per gram of activated charcoal, and typically ranges from 500-1200 mg/g.  If you are in doubt about the adsorption ability of the activated charcoal you purchase, inquire about this number.  For example, SmartAir filters advertise that the activated charcoal used in their filters adsorbs 1200mg/g iodine. (smartairfilters.com)

Charcoal, worldwide, is generally detrimental to the environment.  This is because in impoverished countries like Haiti and many African countries, charcoal is a main source of home cooking fuel, and production of charcoal comes from local residents cutting down trees and excavating stumps in order to make a better living.  These charcoal pits also release harmful gases such as carbon monoxide, methane and smoke.  On a commercial scale, it is also generally environmentally detrimental because traditional charcoal plants produce large amounts of greenhouse gases.   There are some changes being made: one program is starting to change the deforestation trend and help communities preserve their natural resources, and another (Haritha Angara) is helping local charcoal suppliers to build more environmentally friendly kilns.  Is activated charcoal sustainable?  It can be.  That depends on its base ingredient, from where it is sourced, and how the activated charcoal is made.  A Korean study showed that making activated charcoal from wood waste results in less carbon output compared with other sources, such as coal, coconut shells, and olive waste.  Production of activated charcoal from wood waste also saves carbon compared with alternative disposals such as landfilling or wood pellet production.  Finally, using wood waste has a more costly production process than using virgin raw wood, but this can be offset by reduced costs for disposal of the wood waste.  These result in “environmental credits” and financial sustainability for the wood waste producer and activated charcoal producer.  Another “win-win” example is the production of activated carbon from coconut shells in a plant in Sri Lanka.  This facility uses the methane given off during pyrolysis of the shells to fuel a boiler to create steam and run a turbine generator supplying electricity to the local community.  If you care about how the products you purchase are made, it’s important to research their sources. 

Beware of claims that a certain brand of activated charcoal is organic.  There are several meanings of “organic” that can certainly be confused in the case of charcoal!  In chemistry, any compound that contains a carbon atom, is organic.  Under this definition, all charcoal is inherently organic because the majority of the substance is composed of carbon.  In food manufacturing, end products are termed organic when they use organic materials, which are produced without chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and other artificial agents.  In this case, food-grade activated charcoal could be considered “organic” if sourced from shells of coconuts that were organically grown.  The bottom line is this: the FDA does not regulate the use of the term “organic” on food labels (fda.gov), and if the activated charcoal you purchase claims to be organic, you’ll need to do your own research on what that means!

Silver and Copper: Age-Old Antimicrobials

Silver and Copper: Age-Old Antimicrobials

Silver and copper have been used for millennia as antimicrobial elements in cooking, healing and storage in homes.  There are certain elements that give credence to health claims, and silver and copper are two of them.  Let's dig into the “why?”!

Silver has long been considered an anti-microbial because of the way it reacts with bacteria.  Silver has positively charged ions that fight bacteria in three ways:

  1. The ions bind to bacterial cell walls and block transport of substances in and out of the cell.
  2. The ions bind to DNA inside the bacteria cell, disrupting cell division.
  3. The ions block the bacterial respiratory system, destroying energy production.

Copper is only slightly less effective at microbial control than silver, but it is certainly less costly.   Copper vessels were used in ancient times to purify water, the benefits of which are proven by this study, Storing Drinking-water in Copper pots Kills Contaminating Diarrhoeagenic Bacteria.  “Research in recent decades has revealed copper’s effectiveness at killing a wide range of microorganisms including Escherichia coli, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Listeria monocytogenes, influenza A virus, and Clostridium difficile, among other microbes.” (cheminst.ca)  Why?  Copper “basically punches holes in bacteria.” (Titus Wong, infection control lead of Vancouver Coastal Health and a microbiologist with the University of British Columbia faculty of medicine).  The positive ions of the copper disrupt or break the bacterial cell membrane and enter the cell to interfere with the bacterial cell DNA.  

What are we doing with this knowledge?  Hospitals are increasingly replacing high-touch surfaces such as lightswitch plates, IV poles, bedrails and grab bars with copper.  Mass transit systems are experimenting with using copper surfaces on grab poles.  In order to make the copper more durable and economical for these surfaces, researchers are experimenting with copper nanoparticle-infused polymers.  In a study on waiting room chairs in Chilean hospitals, pure copper was found to reduce the bioburden of surfaces by about 85%, while plastic polymer with copper can be about 70% effective.  They have also developed new forms of pure copper; by dramatically increasing the porous surface area of copper, one team found it killed 99.99% of golden staph bacteria in just two minutes on the new copper surface, while it took four hours to kill 97% of the bacteria in four hours on a standard copper surface (RMIT University in Australia).  This is important news in the fight against antibiotic-resistant super bugs. 

You and I as the average consumer may not see these new surfaces for years, but there are plenty of ways that we can add these bacteria-busting elements to our daily environment:

  • TotalClean is an all-natural, all-purpose cleaner with a proprietary formula based on iodine and copper.  It not only cleans surfaces, but removes odors in the air as well.  Offered here on HypoAir and tested by our team, this cleaner is powerful but non-toxic and fragrance-free, a winning combination!
  • Used in many homes in India and the Far East for centuries, copper water vessels have antimicrobial properties.  Contact time is essential; storing water in a copper dispenser or urn for 16-48 hours will give the copper time to disinfect the water. Make sure that the copper used in the dispenser has no toxic additives; beware of cheaper models.  This one is made from pure copper with a stainless-steel spigot.  For more advice on using copper water, check out this article from Healthline.com.
  • According to WorkSafe Iowa, 80% of infections are transmitted by touch.  In order to counteract all those germs, you could consider replacing some of the most-touched surfaces, like doorknobs and cabinet knobs, with copper or copper alloys like brass and bronze.  Cuverro is the only class of solid surface materials registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to actively kill bacteria.  In addition, this patented surface is also easier to maintain than pure copper because it does not tarnish. 
  • Copper cookware is pricey, but its superior heat conduction quality makes it great for producing candies and delicate dishes like fish and sauces.  Just don’t overheat it or use it with acidic foods like tomatoes or vinegar, as that will cause unlined copper pots to release too much copper into the food.  
  • Our top recommendation for silver used in cleaning products is Norwex cloths.  These unique microfiber cloths lift and trap dirt and bacteria, and the microfiber contains microsilver, which is a safe form of silver that does not penetrate the skin.  The cloths also contain a substance called BacLock to keep the cloth itself from harboring bacteria.  Simply spray water on a surface like countertops or windows, wipe with a Norwex made for that purpose, and get a clean surface without chemicals!  We highly recommend starting with their Window and EnviroCloths. 
  • We as home and business owners do have access to some of these space-age composites that use silver to disinfect surfaces continually.  Hexis SAS, a French company, manufactures a laminate film called PureZone that can be applied to many different surfaces, and comes in gloss, matte, textured leather and textured wood finish.  It is long-lasting (durable for 5 years on an indoor vertical surface) and continually releases silver ions when in contact with humidity in the air, to be 97% effective against viral strains like SARS-CoV-2.  Houston-based distributor TintDepot.com carries the transparent matte version, which allows the original surface to be visible but reduces glare for less eye strain while working.
  • Silver is used in dressings for wound care in the hospital setting, and is available over the counter for first aid, provided it’s not used too frequently.  Such products used continually over a long time have the potential to build up and cause local agyria, which turns the area blue:
      • A gel spray is ideal so that the wound, once cleaned, is not contacted directly, and the container remains uncontaminated for future use too.  It’s a super-convenient application that stays put.

      • Bandages with silver will also continually release silver ions to suppress infection and speed healing.  

  • Colloidal silver (nanoparticles of silver suspended in water), while controversial as a nutritional supplement, can be used as an all-purpose cleaner for many different areas of the home.  This article educated me on how to make it more cheaply than buying it, and where to use it.
  • Silver may be one of the original “hypoallergenic” metals for jewelry, alongside gold of course.  Besides being non-toxic to skin, it actually kills microbes that can infect a new piercing or any small cuts or abrasions in the skin.  It also has a cooling effect, so that cuffs or chains worn on heat transfer points of the body such as the neck, wrists and ankles act as a heat sink to transfer heat quickly to the air and help the wearer avoid heat exhaustion.  Silver nanoparticles also have an anti-inflammatory effect.  Even though transfer of silver nanoparticles may be minimal with jewelry, why not wear silver jewelry in places where inflammation affects you most: your hands, wrists and/or neck?
  • Although it does take a little extra maintenance, the health benefits of eating with real silverware are many.  Based on the evidence we’ve already discussed, it inhibits bacterial growth, which is great on the fork and spoon going into our mouth, but it also keeps food fresher longer, which means that food stored on silver trays or in silver dishes retains its flavor and health benefits for longer.  For these reasons, many people recommend using silver utensils when feeding babies and young children, whose immune systems are still under development.  When used regularly (several times a week to everyday) and cared for properly, silver actually tarnishes less than when it is stored away in a drawer for “special occasions”. 

Hmmm…in this age of pandemic and superbugs, maybe it’s time to resurrect real silverware and copperware!

How to deal with body odor, with a focus on charcoal!

How to deal with body odor, with a focus on charcoal!

True (but embarrassing) story:

One day while renovating a gutted house in post-Katrina New Orleans, I stood in the checkout line at a home-improvement store with only a pipe about 4” long in my hand.  Suddenly I was aware of an odor.  What is that stink?  I slowly (nonchalantly) looked around to see from where (or who) it might be coming.  The guy in front of me looked pretty clean, and the woman behind me was not even that close.  A minute later when I moved forward, it dawned on me: the pipe in my hand was channeling the stink from my workboots up to my nose.  How disgusting!  No wonder that lady wasn’t coming any closer…

We all have odd smells that cause us extra time and effort to remedy or disguise.  A lot of people have bad breath and underarm odor problems.  Some have flatulence issues, and some have stinky feet issues.  Of course it is best to try and remedy the source of the problem medically or holistically, but sometimes it can take years.  In the meantime, we want to help with getting back to normal (or better than normal!) with technology.  We’re not fans of “masking” the odors, as some products do with heavy fragrances.  Let’s get to the odor-causing bacteria and trap them before they make a stink!

Activated charcoal is different from the barbeque grill variety because a treatment of gasses at high temperature is applied to “activate” it, or create extra surface area for adsorption (causing toxins to adhere to the surface of the charcoal).  It has long been used to filter odors from the air, as well as contaminants from water (for more info, check out our post on de-stinking your home with carbon filter media!)  With new technology in fabrics and materials, people are finding more and more ways to use it in and around our bodies.  Here are some of the ones we’ve found.

  • For those suffering from IBS, Crohn’s Disease, and other gastrointestinal conditions, malodorous flatulence is a terrible problem.  It causes social anxiety and can cause those who have it to lose relationships, jobs, and mobility (not wanting to travel or go outside).  
    • Shreddies is a flatulence-filtering underwear that has carbon-activated cloth sewn into them, which can be washed and reused many times.  They also sell pyjamas, pants, cushions and bedding.  
    • Although not infused with charcoal, I felt I had to say that PooPourri is actually an all-natural product that fills the air with a fresh scent, and forms a protective film on the surface of the toilet water, so that bowel movements are trapped below until you flush.  Tested by the Canadian Gastrointestinal Society, the products were given a good review.  You can make your own “pourri”, too. 
  • For feet, odor normally occurs with excessively sweaty feet, so it’s important to wear the right socks (to minimize moisture) and get those shoes dry quickly after you take them off.  Here are some great products to try:
    • The right socks: socks are not only your feet’s first protection against abrasion, but they also help your feet regulate body temperature and they control moisture.  If you have been reading our website, you’ll know we are big on moisture control as a way of mold control!  Therefore, it’s important that you wear the right type of socks for the activity and shoes, and if you have particularly sweaty feet, keep several pairs of socks on hand to change them throughout the day if necessary.  Here is an excellent article on how to choose the right socks.  For socks woven with charcoal, visit charcoalhouse.com
    • Aerated shoes:  As with other moisture problems in our homes, the best odor prevention is ventilation!  Here is a list of stylish shoes that provide plenty of ventilation. 
    • Insoles:  The right insoles can fight odor all day long, as moving your feet will naturally cause air to move in and out of your shoe, and carbon in the insole will filter it.  Many positive reviews for Dr. Scholl’s make them the best we’ve found.  
    • Sprays: If you can’t use a full insert in your shoe (for form-fitting high heels, for example, try out this natural spray that uses essential oils for great odor-fighting power.
    • Boot/shoe dryers: This review is a great source to find the right boot dryer for you and your household. 
    • Shoe deodorizers: After drying, keep these inserts in your shoes to keep them smelling fresh. 
    • Homemade/ Economical solution: This tip from VeryWellFit.com is super useful, however instead of baking soda, substitute activated charcoal powder for even more power: pour a bit of activated charcoal (or baking soda) into 2  coffee filters and tie them with a breadbag tie or rubber band, and leave one in each shoe overnight.  This allows the charcoal or baking soda to work its deodorizing magic without building up or staining your shoe.  The charcoal powder has many more uses in your home, too, check out our other post on Activated Charcoal!
  • Underarm odor is actually caused by bacteria on your skin that breaks down protein in your sweat into acids.  So, the odor is not caused by the sweat itself, but the byproducts of the bacterial reaction to it.  Some people suffer from axillary hyperhidrosis, which is overactive nerves which cause them to sweat up to five times more than normal to regulate body temperature.  Traditionally deodorant has been the main solution, and there are others:
    • This review is by a natural deodorant devotee, and she already had her own favorite deodorant before charcoal was introduced.  Given this, she said that the charcoal version by Schmidt’s ties with her favorite regular natural deodorant!  (If you are allergic to magnesium, which can be absorbed through the skin, you will need to do a bit of research because all the deodorants I found used a magnesium formula!)
    • Thompson’s Tee’s  make sweat-proof undershirts, which when paired with a natural deodorant, can vastly improve life for many who over-sweat.  Their tee-shirts are made with Odor Shield™ technology, a natural, non-toxic hydrogen peroxide-based solution. Odor Shield™ eliminates 99.9% of odor-causing bacteria in the fabric and stays put for at least 70 wash cycles.  The articles on SweatHelp.org are super-helpful and discount codes are also provided. 
  • The folks at Lume broke through a barrier with their advertising regarding excessive odor in the groin area, and the obvious embarrassment that can cause.  Their deodorants are not made with completely natural ingredients, nor do they contain charcoal, but they certainly started a trend of awareness and help for odor problems.  
  • Bad breath may have a slight reprieve in these days of mask-wearing, but in close contact without a mask it can still be offensive.  Once again, bacteria is usually the cause of the condition, and it may lurk in the mouth (80%-90% of cases) or elsewhere in the body (10-20%). .  There are medical causes of bad breath such as dry mouth, gum disease, a respiratory infection, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorder, or liver or kidney disorder.  It’s tempting to use the basic alcohol-based mouthwash found in many stores, but this product is non-discriminatory in killing both bad and good bacteria, and can actually make you more susceptible to gum disease and other infections. (scientificamerican.com)  When you’re trying medical treatment for the sources of bad breath, you can also dispel the odor by using activated charcoal:
    • Charcoal toothpaste will bind food particles, a food source for bacteria in your mouth.  It is also inert, meaning it will not change the pH balance in your mouth and make it difficult for good bacteria to live there.  Although mainly sought for its tooth-whitening capabilities, charcoal toothpaste is anti-viral and anti-fungal and can help remove some of the bacteria that cause bad breath through adsorption.  However, it can be more abrasive and if without fluoride, may increase risk of dental disease if used exclusively. (dental source)  Here is a great review of charcoal toothpastes with different characteristics, ie., for fresh breath, for sensitivity, for whitening, etc. 
    • Charcoal mouthwash is safer than toothpaste as far as abrasion goes, and the natural varieties contain less or no alcohol, and no fluoride (depending on where you stand with fluoride, that can be a good or bad thing).  Hello activated charcoal extra freshening mouthwash is a good choice because it’s vegan, gluten free, cruelty free and free from alcohol, dyes, artificial sweeteners/flavors, and SLS/sulfates.
    • Activated charcoal in large doses has long been used as an anti-poison remedy, because it binds toxins in the stomach and helps your body flush them out before they are absorbed.  However, emergency room (ER) doctors normally only give this treatment in certain types of overdose, and then only if it has been a recent ingestion (2 hours or less).  Therefore, the average charcoal supplements, which are actually 100-200 times less potent than the ER treatment, are not clinically proven to  help in “detoxifying” (Consumer Reports), and you should also note that charcoal can absorb healthy nutrients and prescription drugs, just as well as it does toxins!  This one by Bulletproof seems to be used mainly against bloating and overindulgence, but technically it can’t do that if not taken soon after said “overindulgence”.   If you are looking to cure bad breath, charcoal supplements are only shown to help with a rare source of bad breath called trimethylaminuria (study).  For other non-mouth sources of halitosis, the best bet is to take a look at your diet and eliminate sugar and wheat from your diet, which can feed an overgrowth of candida yeast, causing the bad breath or odor in other parts of your body.(Reboot Health).  

What is your favorite way to use the natural “freshening” characteristic of activated charcoal?

What non-toxic multipurpose spray cleaners really work?

What non-toxic multipurpose spray cleaners really work?

If it wasn’t on your mind before 2020, it most likely is now…. is it CLEAN?  Many people wonder before touching surfaces, outside and inside the home.   The solutions for  “concern” over cleanliness are also being absorbed into our skin, drying out our skin, being inhaled into our lungs, and broadcasted into the atmosphere.  So, let’s get to the bottom of it: what cleaners are safe, and of those, what cleaners really CLEAN?  As in, clean up the mess AND disinfect.  Give me some of those!

For true disinfectants, the EPA has developed a list “N” that will even kill the SARS-CoV-2 virus; however, this list is full of products with ingredients that will also harm us.  In response, TURI (Toxics Use Reduction Institute based at the University of Massachusetts Lowell) has produced a list of “Safer Cleaners” that do not have toxic ingredients.  From 431 formulations on the List N that are classified for “Residential Use”, only 15 made the list by TURI for non-toxic ingredients!  That’s only 3.5%!  The reason is that most of the active ingredients classified by the EPA as disinfectants, and some of the “inert ingredients” are also toxic to us.  For example, over half of the products on List N contain quaternary ammonium compounds (Quats) as active ingredient.  Quats kill microbes by binding to the negatively-charged surfaces of microbes.  They have been studied to induce asthma in cleaning workers, decreased lung function in farmers, and greater immune reactions and decreased fertility in mice, among other effects. They are very persistent and are difficult to remove from surfaces, so it’s important not to use them on food prep surfaces.  This is the type of info we need!  Unfortunately, I just identified a common quat (Benzalkonium chloride) in one of the anti-bacterial soaps I use at home :(.  Time to get safer! 

I wanted to focus on spraying cleaners, because we’ve all been doing a lot of spraying lately.  Spraying counter tops, spraying doorknobs, spraying toilets, spraying toys, spraying steering wheels…you name it!  If we could spray each other, I’m sure we would.  Back to the task: it would be so much simpler if we could buy one spray for the whole house, right?  Such cleaners do exist… check out our shortlist here!

  • TotalClean is our new offering that is safe for adults, children and pets, and is fragrance free!  Using an iodine-based formula, it cleans surfaces and removes odors, without adding harsh chemicals like quats or overwhelming fragrance.  Use it anywhere you can use a water-based cleaner: counter tops, toilets, leather, glass, marble, stone, linoleum, tile, stainless steel, painted surfaces, fabrics, carpet, stove tops, appliance exteriors, sinks, floors, cabinets, tubs and walls.
  • Force of Nature is great for those concerned with toxic chemicals and environmental preservation!  In addition to being an EPA-registered disinfectant, it is a safe cleaner using only vinegar, salt and water, and their “bundles” includes the spray bottle and appliance and “capsules” used to make the cleaner.  This avoids lots of packaging waste and all you have to do is add water and electricity (plug in the appliance) to make a refill.  Genius!
  • Lysol with Hydrogen Peroxide Multi-Purpose Cleaner is an EPA-registered disinfectant that dissolves grease and soap scum, and comes in a number of scents (Citrus Sparkle, Fresh, Cool Spring Breeze and Oxygen Splash are the ones I’ve seen). As one of the household names of bleach (most of their cleaners are bleach-based), you need to make sure that the multi-purpose cleaner you buy is “bleach-free” to avoid that chemical.
  • Arm and Hammer Essentials Disinfecting Wipes are a convenient way to disinfect–great for keeping in the car, bathroom, classrooms, etc.  Using citric acid, they are a registered disinfectant by the EPA. 

Can I make them myself?  Yes, but some are better than others.

For example, you’ve probably seen countless recommendations for using vinegar-based home cleaners, which do break down dirt and help remove it.  However, vinegar is not the best disinfectant according to the EPA.  In order to be classified as a disinfectant, the product must kill 99.9% of harmful germs within 5 to 10 minutes, and vinegar only kills some of those germs, including E. Coli and Salmonella (healthline.com).  If you want to make your own disinfectant, look at the ingredients on the Safer Cleaner list.  The first three, citric acid, ethanol (ethyl alcohol) and hydrogen peroxide, are cheap and accessible ingredients!  Here are some recipes for cleaners based on these ingredients:

  • Ethanol-based cleaner with white vinegar (I like this recipe because it incorporates eucalyptus oil, which is a powerful antimicrobial essential oil).  
  • Citric acid is quite powerful and the Method brand on the TURI list is 5% citric acid and 95% inert ingredients.  It is not recommended to use on natural stone or marble, wood, delicate surfaces or electronic screens because of its acidic effects. For this reason, and the popularity of natural stone counter tops in the US, I’m not going to post a recipe for homemade citric acid multi-purpose cleaner here, but citric acid is best used in descaling and de-greasing appliances.  Here is how to clean 5 household items using citric acid. 
  • Hydrogen peroxide (3-6%) is safe to spray undiluted on surfaces, meaning you can pour a brown bottle from the drug store straight into your spray bottle. “According to The Ohio State University Extension, cleaning counters with undiluted hydrogen peroxide is effective at killing E. coli and Salmonella bacteria on hard surfaces like counters when it’s allowed to sit on the surface for 10 minutes at room temperature.”  (healthline.com also has 21 other ways to use it).  However, according to this website it is slightly acidic, and can damage natural stone counter tops over time (don't use it every day).  There are various recipes to make cleaners, however hydrogen peroxide should never be mixed with vinegar because it makes peracetic acid, which has dangerous fumes.   Hydrogen peroxide should also be used within 6 months of opening the original bottle, because it decomposes into oxygen and water by being exposed to sunlight and heat, losing its disinfecting properties. 

Air Pollution from Oil Wells is real–and you may not even realize how close they are!

Air Pollution from Oil Wells is real–and you may not even realize how close they are!

I live in a geologically rich state, Mississippi.  Rich for those with mineral rights…and not so rich for those who get to smell their hydrocarbons, sometimes on a weekly basis!  At least several times a month, I wake up to a pungent, rotten egg smell in my house that I recognize immediately from having previously worked in refineries (hydrogen sulfide)…except there are no refineries near me.  One day I decided to find out where the rotten eggs were. 

There are a number of online maps that will show you where active and inactive oil gas wells are.  Some maps give more info than others, and I found that my state has a pretty good one, listing the operators, what type of well (dry hole, oil production, injection or disposal) and data on the well.  I found one dry well less than a mile away.  The field in production closest to me (3 miles away) has 61 wells, 35 of which are in oil production, the remaining mostly dry holes and some disposal. Another one that is 6 miles away has 59 wells, 41 of which are in production, with the remaining as disposals, dry holes and a few injections.  I want to find out which one is throwing the eggs!  It turns out, it may not even be the ones that are in production.  According to Reuters, millions of abandoned (no longer in production) oil wells in the US are leaking methane and other toxic gasses like hydrogen sulfide. Some have been around since the late 1800’s!

SO….it’s not just the rotten eggs that concern me: they seem to go away within several hours.  What about the odorless gasses?  Yes, according to this summary of a study from California, researchers found increased air pollution within 2.5 miles of an oil or gas well, such as PM2.5 (toxic particulate matter), carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, ozone and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).  When a new well is being drilled or reaches 100 barrels of oil production per day, PM2.5 increases by approximately 2 micrograms per cubic meter one mile from the site.  This “small” uptick can be significant, however, because oil wells can remain in production for decades, and a different study concluded that even an increase of one microgram of PM2.5 per cubic meter, increases the risk of death by COVID-19 by 11 percent.  Air pollution becomes worse and more widespread on windy days, which is how I figure I am smelling hydrocarbons from a well 3 or more miles away.  Thankfully I live upwind most days (the pollutants of wells flow away from me most of the time).  And thankfully, I am not surrounded by wells like the residents of southern Los Angeles or those along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. 

A study from Harvard released in January 2022 links increased mortality rate for people aged 65 and over to living close to “unconventional oil and gas drilling” operations, or UOGD.  UOGD includes directional (non-vertical) drilling and  “fracking”, or hydraulic fracturing, which is the injection of high-pressure liquid and materials to fracture shale and stimulate oil and gas production (ipaa.org).  The results point to air pollution from the wells causing the increased mortality, although there are hardly any air quality  monitoring stations near the wells. 

In order to confirm what your nose (or sadly, your overall health) is telling you, you can start monitoring and logging indoor and outdoor quality.  Of course, with indoor measurements you’ll want to note what air purification systems you have running (HEPA filter, air purifier, etc.).  Keep a journal or computer log (the device you use may keep records for you) and also note weather conditions, so that wind, temperature, humidity, precipitation, etc. can be referenced along with the air quality.  You’ll want a sensor that measures VOC and PM2.5 levels, and this unit is a great budget-friendly option to get started!  You can easily travel with it too.

For persistent indoor air quality problems due to oil well emissions, you’ll want to get a HEPA filter for PM2.5.  Depending on the model, the unit may also handle VOCs if it has activated carbon in the filter.  The Air Angel helps in both of these areas because it has polar ionization and AHPCO technology, but pairing it with a stand-alone HEPA filter is recommended.  Check out our post on portable HEPA filters for recommendations!

Who can help us get something done about wellhead emissions?  There are rules of law for well emissions (example), however without the know-how, technical equipment, or access to the well to measure air quality, it’s hard to know whether a well is in violation.  Also, there are many abandoned wellheads, for which it is hard to get anyone to take responsibility in many cases.  So, it’s best to start by trying to contact someone locally, and work your way up.  Start with your city or county representative, as often these officials are aware of problems and resources.  Typically, individual states are responsible for cleaning/managing their own wells, unless there are wells on federal or tribal land, which is managed by the federal government.  Your state may or may not be easy to contact with air quality problems, but give it a try!  For example, Mississippi is not excessively progressive because it only has a couple addresses and fax numbers listed for air quality complaints.  Some states with high drilling activity have started their own “orphaned well” programs, and this 2021 report summarizes the efforts of reporting states to register and close orphan wells.  It has a lot of information about states agencies and websites.  The EPA, also, has an email form you can use.  

Air is one thing that is free, but free doesn’t always mean good.  We urge you to persist in making your indoor and outdoor air as good as it can be!

UltraViolet (UV) energy: what is this weapon of mass sanitation?

UltraViolet (UV) energy: what is this weapon of mass sanitation?

If you think about it, UV energy is really quite a powerhouse weapon.  Everywhere things are exposed to sunlight, certain germs are dying.  It also would kill us in a slow way, if we aren’t careful.   Some of the best benefits of research have been on how to use UV energy for our health. 

Ultraviolet "light" is just beyond the range of visible light (violet) with the shortest wavelength.  This is on the opposite end of red light. Shorter wavelength = more energy, hence it is energy that can harm life.  If you keep going in the shorter wavelength direction, you will encounter x-rays and gamma rays (radiation).

Graph source: waveformlighting.com

UV energy has been in use since the mid-1900’s for sanitation purposes, starting with drinking water facilities and then moving into disinfection of medical facilities and instruments.  Here are some terms in this field:

  • nm (nanometer, a billionth of a meter), used to measure wavelength
  • UV-C: 100-280 nm, the wavelength range of germicidal UV lights, not naturally found at the earth’s surface atmosphere
  • UV-B: 280-315 nm, found in natural daylight
  • UV-A: 315-400 nm, found in natural daylight
  • UVGI (UltraViolet Germicidal Irradiation): this type of  UV light is in the shorter wavelengths of the whole UV range, between 200 and 300 nanometer (nm, a billionth of a meter) wavelength.  

As you can see from the above graphic, UV-C doesn’t naturally appear at the earth’s surface, because ozone in the earth’s atmosphere absorbs it.  UV-A and -B rays are much more common as they are found in sunlight and used in beneficial purposes such as curing and fluorescence applications. 

Traditionally, UV-C is used in germicidal applications because DNA and RNA are susceptible to damage by energy at around 265 nm.  The damage is called dimerization, the breaking of specific bonds found in the pathogen’s genomes (waveformlighting.com).  Damage to human cells is usually quickly repaired by the DNA’s own repair mechanisms, but sometimes it is not; this type of photochemical damage, called pyrimidine dimers, is the primary cause of melanoma.  (wikipedia) Because of the risk of this type of energy damage to humans, the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) has issued Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) for occupational exposure to UV radiation.  These thresholds are based on the irradiance (measurement of energy per unit area in a specific wavelength range) and time of exposure. Since imposing these limits in 1972, they have hardly been changed since then, because relatively few workers (mainly welders and scientists) are exposed to this type of energy on a regular basis. (study) However, the need to sanitize larger areas due to the COVID pandemic, and research into what wavelengths, irradiance and time of exposure most effectively kill the SARS-CoV-2 virus, may change what wavelengths to be “dangerous”.

Bridges, like wine glasses, cannot vibrate in certain frequencies for very long before they “self-destruct” (as in this video).  Similarly, new research is determining which UV frequencies are safe to our DNA while being fatal to viruses, in order to allow people to safely co-exist with UV lights in germicidal frequencies for longer periods of time: 

  •  Inactivation (inhibiting ability to infect) of viruses like SARS-CoV-2 by UV radiation depends on the wavelength, amount of energy, and time of exposure. 
  • Traditional UV systems use wavelengths at or around 254 nanometers. At these wavelengths the light is dangerous to human skin and eyes, even at low doses
  • Skin cells can tolerate shorter wavelengths than eye cells, because the outer layers of skin “shield” the deeper layers that are most sensitive to UV radiation damage.  The layer of tears around our eyes also works to block out germicidal UV rays.
  • New research shows that at wavelengths of 230 nm or less, lower doses of UV light do not damage skin or eyes, yet are able to deactivate the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Specifically, systems that apply energy at the 222 nm wavelength require the lowest dose of energy to inactivate the virus.  These doses could allow people to be in the same space without damage to their eyes or skin, for up to 1 hour 20 minutes.  Another study using this same wavelength (222 nm) showed a 98% reduction in aerosolized Staphylococcus aureus that was released into a 32 m3 chamber in less than five minutes with a high dose of the light.  Ninety-two percent reduction of the bacteria was accomplished with a medium dose of the light in less than 15 minutes, showing that using far-UVC is as effective as increasing baseline ventilation rate by 11 times!

If this research is adopted into higher threshold limits, we could see 222 nm systems installed in malls, restaurants and other public spaces in the future.  Until then, here is what and how can we sanitize at home with UV light: 

  • Masks and frequently used items like keys and sunglasses can be conveniently placed in boxes like this, which use 254 nm light.  
  • CrazyCap is a brand that makes self-cleaning water bottles, which are perfect for hikers and those who really don’t clean them as often as they should (just about everyone?).  It has a UV light fitted into the cap that sanitizes the contents of the bottle. 
  • Keep the clean going continuously with these hidden UV-C sanitizers.  By placing or aiming them out of contact with skin or eyes, the UV radiation will not contact humans as we work or play nearby. 
    • Air Angel is our small, portable sanitizer that draws air in through and radiates it with a UVGI lamp.  
    • Ceiling fans like the Ultra or Haiku incorporate UV-C into the top of the fan motor and aiming it at the ceiling, so that it radiates the air between the fan and ceiling, while the fan constantly circulates air in the room.  
    • In-duct UVGI works in the safety of your HVAC furnace or ducting so that whenever the fan is on, the light will irradiate passing air to quickly sanitize the air in your whole home.  Here is a great list of in-duct UVGI lights. 

Sunscreen and sunglasses are still prescribed when going outside, but hopefully we can safely play under UV light inside sometime soon!

Which light bulbs are most like natural daylight?

Which light bulbs are most like natural daylight?

The quote by Ben Hogan, “All a golfer needs is more daylight” could be said the same of an artist!  As an oil painter, I am frequently disappointed when sunlight starts to fade and I must put up the brushes for the night, because working with artificial light (at least the ones I’ve found) is not the same :(.

Here at HypoAir, we’re all about bringing the best of the outdoors, indoors.  Clean outdoors is where we feel healthiest, so if you need light, why not find a light that is closest to sunlight?  I was all over this quest, to find bulbs I can put in my painting studio!

If you’ve ever had to choose a lighting system or lightbulbs (as in, choose the color, intensity and energy usage), you’ll know that not all white lights are created the same.  Even four models of “daylight” bulbs are different, as shown in this video (make sure you see or skip to the end).  So, what does daylight look like scientifically?

Daylight when viewed by a spectrometer has a peak in the yellow-green areas of the spectrum, like this:

(from video, Which light bulb looks most like sunlight?)

The average consumer in the US goes to a big box store, walks along a wall of lightbulbs and maybe looks at a few sample bulbs that are plugged in to check out the color of the light, then goes home and lives with their choice until the bulbs burn out.  Normally these choices are incandescent (supposedly phased out starting in 2014, you can still find them in most states), compact fluorescent, and LEDs in several varieties. 

According to the spectrometer, the closest competitors in my estimation are the incandescent and higher-end LED (not cheap ones, which flicker).  Major differences include:

  • Incandescent has a huge infrared “tail” which you can see extends way to the right of the graph, translating to non-visible heat energy (it gets very hot!)  Also, there is much less green and blue light.
  • Higher-end LED lacks in red, green and blue light. 
  • The lower amount of blue light in each bulb can be good for your circadian rhythm at night, however in the daytime blue light gives us a sense of energy.

  

Incandescent bulb (bottom) compared to real daylight (top)

Higher-end LED (bottom) compared to real daylight (top)

The spectral evidence in the video completely turned me off to compact fluorescents and cheap LED bulbs, because of the erratic range of the fluorescent in spectrometry, and the flicker of the cheap LED when slowed to 1000 frames per second.  

So, traditional lighting has a few choices that are reasonably-priced and widely available.  Without employing your own scientific equipment, you can take note of two very important measurements that should be on most packages: CCT and CRI.  I say “should” as my own opinion, because it doesn’t seem to be mandatory, but it is highly helpful!

Corelated Color Temperature (CCT) measures the color of the light itself: lower CCT values like 2700K-3000K (measured in degrees Kelvin) are described as “warmer” with more orange and yellow tones, and are compared to the light of traditional incandescent bulbs.  Higher CCT values are “cooler”, in the range of 4000K-6500K, and are more like natural daylight, with more blue tones.  Color Rendering Index (CRI) is a measurement of the way we perceive color under different lights.  CRI for natural daylight is 100%, which means our perception of colors in daylight is most accurate.   

CRI and CCT are very closely related, so that when judging accuracy of color, lighting professionals first define the CCT value being tested, then see whether the color of an object viewed “measures up” to the standards for that CCT.  That said, if you are looking for a daylight experience, you will want values of 4000K and higher (6500K is comparable to sunlight at noon on a midsummer day at the equator), but going higher than 5000K in the home will likely give too much blue light and make your interior seem sterile and cold. (waveformlighting.com)

Lighting companies have given us unique ways to emulate sunlight, including:

  • Full Spectrum Bulbs and filters
  • Fake Suns
  • Changing the light as the day changes via Light Engines

Full-Spectrum Bulbs and filters: worth the cost? 

“Full-Spectrum” lighting started to become popular in the early 2000’s.  It is not a scientific term, but more of a marketing term.  There is no standard with full-spectrum, only the implied comparison to sunlight.   Full-spectrum bulb companies do make advantageous health claims, but according to the National Lighting Product Information Program, NLPIP, “Full-spectrum light sources will not provide better health than most other electric light sources. Recent research has shown that human daily activities are strongly influenced by the solar light/dark cycle.”   Similar results are also the conclusion of a Cornell University study, and studies assembled by a Canadian Government research department.  In fact, full-spectrum light sources use more energy than fluorescents and cost up to five times more!  

Fake Suns

Leave it to the Italians to create a high-quality sunlight experience for any room, at any time of day.  The mission of the Italian company CoeLux is “to foster an innovative solution for lighting, architecture and real-estate industries aiming at creating the perception of an extraordinarily wide space, by means of a genuine physical reproduction of optical atmospheric phenomena indoors.” (coelux.com) Its founder was inspired by a book by Belgian astronomer Marcel Minnaert, Light and Color in the Outdoors, at which point he began to experiment with ways to reproduce anomalies of the universe in the lab.  The illusion of Coelux lights is very apparent in rooms without natural light (underground and interior rooms), so that one could believe they were only a wall away from the outdoors (imagine having a “skylight” in your interior office space, or the basement!). Apparently they are working on sunset and other versions, to keep the illusion going.

Want to build your own artificial sun like CoeLux?  Even if you aren’t a scientist, this is within reach with this DIY video.

Changing the light as the day changes via Light Engines

The video images above took one snapshot of sunlight, most likely during mid-day, but did you know that the spectrum changes as the day wears on?  This is not due to the sun putting out different rays of light because it’s approaching sunset in New York.  That would be weird.  It is due to the way our atmosphere filters sunlight at different times of day. 

This article shows daylight spectrometry at different times of day, and wow, they are different.  In the evening, the amount of blue light drastically tapers, enabling us to get ready for sleep.  The “night” image/graph is of candlelight, which humans traditionally used before electricity and most importantly, before electronic devices!  Then, it compares these graphs to those from LED, fluorescent and incandescent and shows their deficiencies.  The major deficiency is the inability of artificial light sources to change throughout the day, like sunlight does.  

Our bodies can sense time of day and season, due to special ganglion cells in our retina, which measure the amount of blue light hitting our eyes (sunlightinside.com).  Sunlight Inside is one company which created a light engine to mimic the changing view of sunlight, with 2 methods: using different color LEDs that are increased and dimmed, and timing the control of these LEDs to an internal clock based on your location.  The lamps include a number of features that make them quite ingenious:

  • Plenty of light to work at read and work at night if necessary with no blue light so you can go to sleep quickly after turning it off
  • Ability to override the time of day sensor by using an app, so that you can get ready for travel to another time zone (helping to avoid jet lag)
  • Specific models that increase light brightness by 50% to aid against SAD (sunlight affect disorder) or depression

These “light engines” are not cheap, but are quite useful in getting our bodies back to their proper circadian rhythm using artificial sunlight!

Finally…What bulbs create the best daylight experience?   

You can get “daylight bulbs” at the home improvement store, and mainly these are 5000K. However the packaging may not reveal the CRI, or color accuracy.  Expect to pay $4 and up for a high-CRI bulb(90+), and $15 and up for an ultra-high CRI bulb(95+): accuracy doesn’t come cheap!

  • Cree LED bulbs at the Home Depot are high-CRI bulbs at a good value.  This daylight version at 60W is $8 for a 2-pack. (Also available on Amazon as a 24 pack). 
  • Torchstar LED bulbs at Amazon are also high-CRI, with a cost of $5.54 per 100W bulb: this one comes in a pack of 6. 
  • 1000bulbs.com is a great website that allows you to quickly find the right bulb: I quickly narrowed down my choices by searching for high CRI LED bulbs at the top, then using the sorting checkboxes on the left column. 
  • Waveform Lighting has a plethora of information about lighting and a variety of Ultra-High CRI lights for different situations.  They have these for the home, photography, art and more (look under the “applications” tab at the top of the site).  

Here are some more creative ways to get “natural” light inside; the links are mostly videos because seeing is believing! 

  • “Full-spectrum lighting” is sometimes about the filter used over a normal light (makegreatlighting.com) .  This tutorial on how to fake sunlight indoors for photography purposes could be used in everyday life to provide a filter that diffuses light more beautifully. 
  • Sunlight also makes fabulous shadows inside, depending on what it is filtered through outside.  Komorebi is a Japanese word that means “when the sunlight shines through leaves of trees”.  The Komorebi lamp, invented by a London designer in 2017, is actually a projector that shines filtered light on a wall with the patterns of leaves, or reflections of water or a window pane, which can be incredibly peaceful, similar to watching fire dance in a fireplace.
  • 3M makes a sunlight redirecting film that can be applied to upper windows, which redirects the waves of light up toward the ceiling of a room, allowing light to penetrate up to 40 feet(!) into a building.  It reduces glare next to the window, and effectively provides more natural light to the rest of the room.
  • Caia”, invented by another Italian, is a solar-powered robot that redirects sunlight into your home or office.  It was funded by Indiegogo and may have shipped the first products.

More Resources: 

This is definitely an area that we will want to keep our eyes on, as lighting companies continue to research and innovate.  Now it's time to order that ultra-high CRI LED for my art studio!

Home automation makes for a healthier home

Home automation makes for a healthier home

Confession: I have not made it a priority to automate my home via smart technology.  Being an artist, I tend to allocate my budget more for aesthetics, like a nicer couch or new faucets.  There are some devices in which I’m not remotely interested, like a smart toilet (TMI for Alexa!)  but I’m starting to yearn for some of the health benefits of other elements of home automation and I might cave soon!  I want to discuss some unique smart appliances that not only make our lives easier, but make our homes more healthy for all the inhabitants, even pets.

Before I get to the goodies, I must divulge that the type of home automation discussed here (smart home technology) operates on wireless signals, which is a type of electromagnetic field (EMF).  The potential health effects of EMFs is a subject that is debated by consumers and scientists alike.  We at HypoAir have some very healthy clientele who are always in search of what will take them to the next level.  They are constantly judging the health benefits of any technology against any unhealthy aspects of it--as we all should!  That said, I encourage you to research EMF to be aware of the invisible magnetic fields all around us, including in our homes.  Then you can be the judge: are these smart appliances worth it for you?


  • Lighting: set your lights to dim or change color (to less blue ranges) in the evening to cue children and adults that it’s time to get ready for bed.  The easiest way to retrofit your lighting is by installing smart light bulbs, which you can control by voice, app, or your home’s smart system like Alexa (called a “hub”).  Some of the best smart bulbs are: 
  • Air Purifiers: To use smart filtration or not?  It’s possible to set your air purifier on “auto” mode to save energy and only kick on when needed, but several reviews like the Wirecutter tend to believe that either the air quality monitor or its settings in many purifiers may not be optimal, leading to above average pollutants in your home space.  Rather, employ an independent, high-quality air monitor that will give you alerts to bad air quality, in order to get the purifier activated. 
  • Mattresses: Some of us sleep like a log, from the minute our heads hit any pillow, and some of us roll around like a rotisserie chicken (more my style).  For anyone who is on a quest for a better night’s sleep, smart beds may know our sleep better than we do, and can adjust automatically to help us achieve more rest even when we’re in “la-la land”.  The Sleep Foundation has a great page explaining what smart mattresses are and the features they offer.  Most smart beds are air beds, which allow a great range of firmness options.  The ReST bed, Eight Sleep, Saatva Solaire made two “best of” reviews: Sleep Foundation and Tom’s Guide
    • Saatva Solaire: this mattress was rated best for back pain relief, and is also the most non-toxic bed we’ve found.  It was not the most high-tech, because it is only controlled by remotes (one for each side of the bed with no control over the other side: sorry sleeping partners to snorers!) but it is approved by the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), so it’s well-suited to people with neck and back pain (Tom’s Guide).  The best part for those who are VOC conscious: the anti-microbial treatment on the fabric covering is botanical, and includes natural latex and Certi-pur US certified gel-infused memory foam. At about $2900 for a queen model, it is also one of the most economical. 
    • Best all-around: ReST Essential Smart Bed: this one has many bells and whistles and with up to 64,000 firmness combinations on each side in manual mode, it easily suits everyone.  The best part for restless sleepers is how it automatically moves air to different chambers when you switch positions during the night (from side to stomach for example), so that pressure-point pain is avoided (pressure-point pain is what tends to wake up many people).  It’s not the most expensive bed but certainly falls in the mid-upper range of pricing ($3800 for a queen mattress). 
    • Best for hot sleepers and couples: EightSleep The Pod Pro Smart Bed has a water-based climate-control system (water beds are not extinct!) which can be customized for each side of the mattress.  The sensors in their Active Grid layer collect information about your pulse, breathing, movement and sleep quality, and also has a gentle vibrating alarm option to wake you up (a nice alternative to an audio alarm which can wake both people!).  At about $2900 for a queen mattress, this is also a great mid-level priced bed.
    • If you can’t afford a smart bed or just invested in a conventional mattress, you can still get sleep data by using Withings Sleep Tracking Pad, which is a pad placed under the mattress to record your movement, breathing and breathing disturbances, sleep cycles and more.  It can also be connected to your home’s smart system to automatically turn off/on lights or modify room temperature when you get into/out of the bed.
  • There are many “smart watches” out there that connect to apps designed to improve your health, but I have not seen one more stylish than the Withings ScanWatch. It can detect Atrial Fibrillation (abnormal heart beat) and blood oxygen levels, for those who are prone to these health issues!  It works with Apple Health, FitBit, Google Fit and others to monitor your activity and workouts.  It also works as a sleep monitor to record sleep duration, cycles, heartrate data and sleep apnea problems.  All this and a fantastic (30-day) battery life?  Yes please!
  • Smart Garage Doors: Anyone with a garage has at one point wondered: did I close the door? Usually this happens miles away from the house, and adds a level of stress to any trip if you can’t go back and verify.  I’m all for reducing stress, since driving can be stressful enough!   There are kits that can convert your existing garage door opener to a smart door, allowing it to open by voice or app or on a schedule, or you can purchase a smart door from the start. Most require a strong wi-fi signal. The Chamberlain's MyQ Smart Garage Hub is very economical at about $30, is able to check the open/closed status on the door, and open or close it remotely via its app, and it’s highly rated for ease of installation.  Upgrades to this product include a keypad and camera.
  • Pets are a recognized source of comfort and well-being which are often considered family members!  It makes sense then, to be able to care for them 24/7 almost like a family member, even if you have to go away to work or a short trip.  Here are some devices that help with that:
    • Smart Pet Feeders are great to extend your time away from home even if you have pets who like their schedules!  “Leaving out bowls” may work for cats, who tend to be more picky eaters, but most dogs I’ve encountered indeed would eat as soon as you set the bowl down.  Enter the ideal pet feeders that can operate on a schedule, or manually through an app, with the ability to work even if the wi-fi or power goes out.  
      • Pet feeders need to have sizes and features that fit the pet you’re feeding.  PetSafe’s WiFi -enabled Smart Feed Automatic Pet Feeder holds up to 24 cups of food and allows you to schedule meals, dispense a snack, or even “slow-feed”: an option for pets that eat too fast, enabling it to dole out the meal over a 15-minute period.  
      • Fish feeders are great even when you are home, as anyone who multi-task knows that some items may not get the attention they deserve!  This review rated the Eheim Everyday Fish Feeder as best in class due to its ability to dispense many different types of fish food with accuracy, to be mounted in several ways, and customizable feedings up to 4 times per day.  
    • Smart Pet Doors are an excellent way to alleviate stress of not getting home on time to “let the dog out”, while providing more security to your home and pet than the average dog door.  PetSafe Electronic SmartDoor is not app-enabled, but operates with an RFID tag that is attached to your pet’s collar,  to open only when your pet approaches.  It has two sizes: one for cats and small dogs, and another for large dogs.  Other brands operate with the microchip that is implanted in your pet,  No more free meals, Ricky Raccoon or neighbor cat! 
  • Smart flood sensors are awesome!  Anyone who has experienced the stress and cost of flooding, be it from a broken water heater, washer or AC drip pan, knows that this kind of warning could be priceless.  The Govee WiFi Water Sensor 3 pack can produce an audible alarm (100 dB) as well as an app notification, to let you know that water has been sensed.  This model sits directly on the floor of the area to be monitored, and includes the necessary 6 AAA batteries to get them going (2 per device). 

And for some of the plain-old convenience advantages, check out these smart appliances (from Living Things):

  • Set your oven to preheat before you’re even home, to make cooking less time-consuming
  • Set your coffeepot to come on before you need it (ok, old technology for sure but it's updated when you can sync it with the wake-up alarm on your phone!) 
  • Set your washing machine to start in the morning after you loaded it the night before
  • Go on vacation on the spur of the moment, when you have automated sprinklers and doors and cameras.

What is the best smart device you’ve discovered for your home?

Photo by BENCE BOROS on Unsplash

Wildfire Smoke: Not just for California anymore

Wildfire Smoke: Not just for California anymore

Historically most wildfires happened between May and October, and USDA Forest Service employees were traditionally trained knowing that the four months of June, July, August and September have the worst risk.  However, now the Forest Service is shifting to the concept of a fire year.  Because winter snows are melting earlier and rains are coming later in the fall, it’s a sad reality that fires in the winter months are becoming the norm and there is no longer a “season” for wildfires anymore.  Localities change, too:  as of the time of writing this post in early March 2022, there were more than a dozen fires burning in Oklahoma.

Even if you don’t live in an area directly threatened by fire, wildfires can be devastating to your air quality, just like second-hand smoke.  Air currents can carry the smoke up to thousands of miles away, affecting millions.  According to the EPA, “Smoke is made up of a complex mixture of gases and fine particles produced when wood and other organic materials burn. The biggest health threat from smoke is from fine particles. These microscopic particles can penetrate deep into your lungs. They can cause a range of health problems, from burning eyes and a runny nose to aggravated chronic heart and lung diseases. Exposure to particle pollution is even linked to premature death.”  Yikes!

Here at HypoAir, we get many questions on how to protect indoor air from the pollution of smoke outside.  The EPA has excellent suggestions on what to do on this page, most of which need some time to prepare!  So as drought conditions in your state or surrounding areas persist, get ready now by doing the following:

  • Seal doors and windows with weatherstripping, caulk and door sweeps.  
  • Find out how to adjust your HVAC system accordingly: you’ll want to close the fresh air intake and change over to recirculation, no matter whether you have central AC, a window air conditioner or portable air conditioner.
  • Purchase extra MERV 13 or higher filters for your HVAC system, to be used on poor air quality days (caution: read our post on HVAC filters first, as using a filter with too high MERV rating can damage your system). 
  • If you live in an apartment building or condo with little control over the HVAC, consider purchasing vent filter material so you can place them in the vents into your space.  The filter material can prevent smaller particulates in smoke from entering.  Carbon vent filter material will neutralize many VOCs as well.
  • Purchase a HEPA air cleaner (non-ozone producing type) and be sure to have an extra filter or two on hand.  The use of a HEPA filter will take much of the damaging fine particles out of the air you breathe!  During a wildfire or whenever there is bad air quality outside, run the cleaner/purifier on high for an hour and thereafter at "quiet"/medium setting (Wirecutter).  You can check out our post on standalone HEPA filters as a purchase guide.  If you can't purchase one, make one: there are many videos and instructionals online for DIY air cleaners; most only require one or more filters, a box fan, and some cardboard and tape. 
  • Keep a stash of N95 respirator masks on hand.  These are a good source of protection if you have to go outside, or if power is cut to your home and indoor air quality gets bad as well.  The “95” means it blocks out 95% of particulates.   
  • Keep canned and non-perishable food on hand, so that you don’t have to cook during periods of bad air quality.  Cooking indoors increases small particulates and vapors in the air, and you won’t want to turn on your stove exhaust, as that will draw polluted outdoor air into the house.
  • If air quality is very poor (check next point), you’ll want to evacuate to a place with clean, filtered air, like indoor malls, libraries, community centers, civic centers and local government buildings (sfgate.com).
  • Check your local air quality and receive updates from airnow.gov . Fire and smoke maps are available under the heading fire.airnow.gov .  Using an Air Quality Index (AQI) as a measuring tool ranging from 0-500, your local forecast and larger maps can be color coded to show whether an area is good (green), moderate (yellow), unhealthy for sensitive groups (orange), unhealthy (red), very unhealthy (purple), and hazardous (maroon).