Monthly Archives: April 2023

The Not-So-Silent Killer: Roads and Highways

The Not-So-Silent Killer: Roads and Highways

Even with the shift towards the ability to work from home, some jobs require proximity to cities, which cause people to live in places adverse to their health.  In a recently published study from the University of Leicester in the UK, researchers identified that road noise, such as the rumble of engines, honking and braking, causes hypertension (increase in blood pressure).  The study reviewed the status of 240,000 people over 8 years and looked at the correlation between the noise of where they lived (using addresses and computer modeling tools) and their blood pressure.  It also adjusted for air pollution, because we know that fine particulates and nitrogen dioxide can also have effects on blood pressure.  It turns out that plain old traffic noise was enough to cause an increase in hypertension, even though those who are also exposed to more air pollution had the highest risk.  

Ok, so what do you do if your housing choices put you squarely in traffic central?  

Consider where the noise comes in the most, and try one or more solutions for that area, which may be enough to dampen most of the sound coming in.

Windows on an outside wall facing a busy street will certainly be the source of most of the noise, and there are several ways to block out most of it.  Single pane windows are very noise-transmissive, and double pane are a bit better, but each of them can be improved significantly with custom window inserts like those offered by Indow.  If you are a renter or don’t own your house, replacement windows are likely out of the picture, and more expensive than these inserts.  The company can provide a laser measuring system if you’re unsure about the squareness of your windows (for older homes), and once fabricated, Indows can easily be installed by one person (or two people for a large window).  The compression fit keeps them snugly in place to block sound.  

If you are not inclined to pay for window inserts, you can make your own foam board inserts to sleep soundly at night when the window’s not needed!  Just pick up a large sheet of foam board and measure and cut it carefully to the exact measurements of your window casing, attaching handles/pulls to the top and bottom of the inserts to help you install or remove them.  They can be stored in a closet, or behind long drapes during the day when they are not needed.

If you don’t want the expense of window inserts, acoustic caulk may help.  You’ll want to remove the existing caulk and replace it with the acoustic caulk.  It’s not a quick job, but if your windows are older and haven’t been caulked in a while, it will also provide needed thermal sealing too.

Thick, heavy curtains like these are much easier to install than caulk, come in a variety of colors, and are specifically made to block noise.  

Plants need light, so placing them near a window will benefit them and you–they can also absorb noise!  Plants with thick foliage and fleshy leaves are the best at absorbing and deflecting it.  This article lists a  number of plants in different styles and heights that can be placed on the floor, on stands or hung from the ceiling to deaden sound.  As a plus, some plants also absorb VOCs that can seep in around the windows from the vehicles outside.  Areca palms, rubber plants, Dracaena (Janet Craig variety), ferns and  peace lilies are common to both of these lists!

A few more Tips for Dealing with Noise from the Street can help for walls that face the street:

  • Bookcases with lots of books

  • Portable closets like armoires

  • Hang a thick tapestry or quilt as a statement piece on the wall

  • Hang large or small art canvases with the backs filled with foam board

And finally, all the other places that sound can enter and bounce around your space:

  • Add thick, cushy rugs (if you have the ability to keep them clean, of course!)

  • Install door sweeps/seals (many are easy to install with adhesive or slip-on type)

  • Add a thick curtain with retractable rod if you have an entrance hall that emits noise

  • If you like music or audio books, try listening to them with sound-canceling headphones to have a studio-feel while relaxing, working out, cleaning or just walking around.

For tips to get a more restful night’s sleep, check out our post on Maximizing Your Sleep.   We want you to have the healthiest home possible, so whatever you can do to reduce outside noise in your space will be worth it, for your heart and for your mind!

Photo by Josh Eckstein on Unsplash

7 Ways Air Quality Impacts Our Skin Health

7 Ways Air Quality Impacts Our Skin Health

Pollution is not only harmful to internal organs: it can also damage the body's surface. Here is the connection between air quality and skin health.

While we often think of air pollution as affecting our respiratory system, its effects go beyond our lungs. It can also be detrimental to other organs.  The skin is the largest organ in our body and serves as a protective barrier against external factors such as pollution, UV radiation, and other environmental stressors. However, when exposed to poor air, the body's ability to protect itself can be compromised, leading to many problems. From dryness and premature aging to acne and eczema — air quality impacts skin health in a big way.  Below, we will analyze the seven most common ways air quality impacts skin health.

1. Dryness: making the skin dry, flaky, and itchy

Poor air quality can have a significant impact on the skin's natural oil, leading to dryness, flakiness, and itchiness. Particulate matter such as PM2.5, can penetrate the layers of the epidermis, causing oxidative stress and inflammation that disrupts natural oil production. Indoor pollutants, like smoke and volatile organic compounds for example, can also contribute to skin dryness and other issues.

It is essential to take protective measures against the detrimental effects of poor air quality on the skin's natural oils. This includes using a gentle cleanser, moisturizing regularly, avoiding heavily polluted areas, and using a humidifier when necessary to add moisture back into the air, so that relative humidity stays between 40-60%.

2. Premature aging: the destruction of collagen and elastin

Exposure to these same pollutants can break down collagen and elastin, proteins that give the epidermis its firmness. When these compounds are destroyed, skin can become saggy, loose, and more prone to wrinkles. Moreover, exposure to ultraviolet radiation, especially in polluted areas, only exacerbates this process.

To safeguard yourself from contaminants and UV rays, you should utilize protective clothing, apply sunscreen, and stay away from places with high levels of air pollution for extended periods.

3. Acne: clogging pores and causing inflammation

Pollution affects the appearance of our skin on the surface and changes it underneath. Inflammatory acne, characterized by red, swollen pimples, is particularly sensitive to air quality. Environmental contaminants, such as tobacco smoke, clog pores and irritate, leading to inflammation and blemishes.

Keeping up with a consistent skincare regimen that involves cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing is crucial in countering the harmful impacts of air pollution on the skin.

4. Pigmentation: affecting melanin production

Harmful substances from polluted air can penetrate the skin and stimulate melanin production, the pigment that gives skin its color. Increased melanin can lead to dark spots and blemishes on the body. These pigmentation problems can be more pronounced on skin areas that are frequently exposed, such as the face and hands.

Ultraviolet radiation can contribute to pigmentation issues, the intensity of which decreases depending on air quality.  It can lead to a harmful and uneven tan.

5. Eczema: irritating and exacerbating diseases

Eczema, a chronic inflammatory skin condition, can be particularly sensitive to environmental factors such as air quality. Pollution not only triggers flare-ups but can also worsen existing inflammatory symptoms.

Indoor pollutants such as dust and pet dander can also contribute to eczema flare-ups. The presence of these harmful substances can irritate the skin and prompt the body's immune system to react, resulting in the manifestation of disease symptoms.

To minimize your exposure to eczema, avoid areas with polluted air and wear protective clothing. In cases where disease flare-ups persist, medical treatment may be necessary. A dermatologist may recommend topical creams and ointments to reduce inflammation and soothe irritated skin, as well as oral medications in severe cases.

6. Rosacea: causing skin redness, flushing, and inflammation

Rosacea is also a chronic inflammatory skin condition characterized by redness, visible blood vessels, and small, pus-filled bumps on the face. Although the exact causes of disease are not yet fully understood, environmental factors such as air pollution can trigger its exacerbation.

Exposure to pollutants, along with UV radiation, can cause skin inflammation. It underscores the importance of protecting the skin from both contaminants and UV radiation during condition treatment.

7. Sensitivity: depriving the skin of its natural protective barrier

Air quality can also affect skin sensitivity, especially in people with pre-existing conditions. Exposure to pollutants and irritants can cause inflammation and damage the skin barrier, leading to increased skin sensitivity and the development of new types.

Then again, the composition of the air, such as nitrogen dioxide or particulate matter, can react with UV radiation to produce free radicals that can damage the skin, leading to the development of sensitivity.

Final remarks

Air quality can have a significant impact on the skin, resulting in various problems such as dryness, premature aging, acne, pigmentation, eczema, rosacea, and skin sensitivity. Such habits as smoking, environmental stressors, and UV exposure can exacerbate these issues.

As a countermeasure to the harmful effects of air quality, red light therapy can be a powerful tool since it is effective in treating and preventing several skin disorders, including acne, rosacea, and premature aging. According to the Heliotherapy Institute, this procedure can be more effective, cheaper, and safer than invasive methods.  You can check with a dermatologist to see if they offer powerful in-office red light therapy.

Fortunately, we can do something to protect our skin from harmful irritants in the air. Wearing protective clothing, using air filters, keeping your home at optimal humidity (40-60% relative humidity) and avoiding heavily polluted areas can help keep your skin healthy and vibrant.

Article by Benjamin Allemon

New methods to accelerate wound healing

New methods to accelerate wound healing

Although bandages and antibiotic ointment are staples in my house, doctors have need of more advanced treatments for wound healing beyond these simple first aid tools. By researching how our skin heals, they have incorporated pH adjustment, ions and lasers to help those who suffer from large or slow-to-heal wounds.  These are very non-invasive ways to help get patients back to their normal function more quickly and with less pain.

What’s your pH?

In our article on alkaline water, we discussed pH: what it is and that our bodies regulate the pH of our blood and tissues carefully.  Scientists took information on healthy tissue and compared it to wounds.  According to the 2021 book Digital Health: Exploring Use and Integration of Wearables (chapter 6), healthy skin has a pH value of approximately 5.5 (acidic), but for infected wounds, the pH value is in the range of 7-8.5 (neutral to alkaline).  The alkaline nature of pH in the wound is due to the presence of bacterial colonies and enzymes. When a wound is kept in an acidic condition, the fibroblasts proliferate more actively and the wound healing process is stimulated more while an infected wound shows a slightly alkaline pH environment due to certain enzyme activities, bacterial colonization, and formation of protein structures.  Consequently, several research groups have developed dressings which incorporate pH-sensitive materials.

In addition, this theory of how acidic environments prevent or retard infection holds true for other entry points of infection in the body:

Consequently, those tissues that are closer to neutral pH or alkaline, may be more susceptible to infection:

  • The normal pH for the esophagus is close to 7.0. (Johns Hopkins)
  • The eyes: “The normal physiological pH of ocular surface in humans to be 7.11±1.5. They also showed an increase in ocular surface pH early in the morning and a gradual increase in pH to more alkali levels during the day.” (2014 NIH article)
  • According to, “ A normal blood pH level is 7.35 to 7.45 on a scale of 0 to 14, where 0 is the most acidic and 14 is the most basic. This value can vary slightly in either direction.” 

Hence, it’s very important that microbes are stopped at our body’s first lines of defense!  Acidity is one way of preventing infection and speeding healing, but scientists have discovered that ions can also help.  As you may know, there are two varieties of ions: negative and positive.  They work in different ways to assist healing.  

Negative ions can be applied via negative ion misting machines (using sterilized water), corona devices, or bipolar ionization (like HypoAir units).  They produce negative ions by the hundred-thousand or millions, while normal air only has hundreds or thousands of the ions.  Negative ions were found to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in this 2021 study.  In this 2022 study, it was inferred that increased wound healing was due to a hydrogen peroxide scavenging effect provided by the ions.  

On the other hand, excess positive ions in the air do not promote healing, but positive ions produced by copper and silver are often used in bandages to do so.  These metals produce positive ions when they are placed in contact with the skin or wound, which enhance angiogenesis (formation of new blood vessels), anti-inflammatory power, as well as being anti-microbial to prevent infection during healing. (2014 study)  To increase contact and ions produced, researchers have designed bandages with nanoparticles of silver and/or copper.  

Lasers are another tool in the box for doctors to help their patients heal.  Traditionally low-power lasers and LEDs have been used in phototherapy of large or otherwise slow-healing wounds.  However, high-power unfocused lasers have also recently been used.  The advantage of lasers for wound healing are that they reduce pain, inflammation and exudates (weeping of fluids from the wounds), as well as reduce scar tissue and help the body to granulate tissue in a more organized way.  Laser sessions last only seconds to minutes and are painless for the patient, and in a matter of weeks they can see new skin being formed to close the wound.

Our bodies can normally heal themselves with simple wound care, but infections and  co-morbid conditions like diabetes or circulation problems can severely impact healing.  That’s when harnessing wound pH management, applying positive or negative ions, or laser therapy can help get the healing going.

Are you TILTed?

Are you TILTed?

People who have lived with chemical sensitivities for some time become more educated about their bodies and what makes them feel bad.  The upside to knowing your sensitivities is that you can (mostly) avoid products and situations that will worsen your health, but the downside is that these products and situations can become ubiquitous, and dramatically change your social, work and home lives!  For many people, the onset of chemical sensitivities can be related to an over-exposure to one thing, like renovating a moldy bathroom, or staying in a hotel room that was cleaned with overly-noxious chemicals.  However, others do not have a clue about what caused the onset of sensitivities.  For each, navigating their daily life becomes a strategy of finding out and avoiding chemicals that trigger symptoms.  

If you are able to consult a doctor who treats chemical sensitivities, they will likely discuss conditions like “Mast Cell Activation Syndrome” (MCAS), or “Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome” (CIRS).  These syndromes present differently in different people and have overlapping symptoms, but there are physical tests and questionnaires that can help the doctor diagnose and treat them.  If you are in the beginning stages of treating sensitivities, it’s certainly helpful to become knowledgeable on your own, and researchers at the University of Texas have made it a little bit easier to zoom in on what makes you feel sick with a couple of free online tools.  In the expensive world of healthcare, we are all for “free”!

In their recent article “5 Types of Household Items to Avoid if You Have a Chemical Intolerance”, researchers introduce the two-stage process called toxicant-induced loss of tolerance, or TILT.  First, there is a major or chronic exposure to environmental agents such as pesticides, solvents or indoor air contaminants. Then, multi-system symptoms are triggered by a series of lower-level exposures to substances you may have previously tolerated like cleaning products, fragrances, foods, drugs or food and drug combinations.   This can explain why, after a major chemical exposure, you may feel sick in the vicinity of things that never affected you before, like certain laundry soaps or refueling your car at the gas station.  (The article above is super-helpful, including several recipes for homemade, non-toxic cleaners that anyone, TILTed or not, should try!)

To broadly test for TILT, they have developed a really quick questionnaire of 3 questions (within the article).  If you answer “yes” to one or more of those questions, they have a more detailed questionnaire of about 10 pages (all online click-through scales, no paper and math involved!) which can help you identify the types of chemicals and the parts of your body they affect the most.  Although I answered “yes” to food allergies, thankfully the more detailed questionnaire suggested I didn’t have TILT.  The organization has a page that describes TILT with a video of a man who grew up on a farm and the over-exposure to various dangerous chemicals that probably contributed to his sensitivities.  You can find more stories of different people with their triggers and symptoms here

This organization is dedicated to educating the public and also traditional healthcare workers like doctors, nurses and hospital staff about TILT.  On their provider resource page is a video describing the current problem: healthcare workers frequently don’t ask questions about chemical exposure when someone presents with symptoms.  

If you do find you have been TILTed, you can share your story or register to help the organization with future studies here.  At the very least, you can take the results of the surveys to your own healthcare provider to make sure they are aware of your sensitivities in planning your treatment.  The complexities of the chemical world we live in are making it more and more difficult to live well, but knowledge goes a long way toward that goal.

Photo by Rex Pickar on Unsplash