Dust, mold and chemicals ranks as just a few indoor air hazards

January 10, 2012

Many home inspection services can help homeowners find indoor air hazards, such as dust and mold. Thinkstock

Americans spend up to 90 percent of their time indoors, according to Aileen Gagney, environmental and lung health program manager for the American Lung Association in Washington.

And indoor air can be up to five times as polluted as outdoor air, she said. That can be a very serious problem for the very young and the very old, as well as those with asthma and other lung problems.

And not incidentally, Gagney said asthma rates have shot up what she called an “amazing” 70 percent in 10 years.

Gagney obviously is well versed on the topic of indoor air pollution. She easily rattles off dozen of tips for cleaning your indoor air and can speak personally about the possible effects of indoor air pollution.

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Winter burning poses air quality health risks

December 13, 2011

Winter in the Pacific Northwest means stagnant air — a health risk for some people.

Conditions from November through March often cause stagnant air. Pollution from outdoor burning, wood stoves and fireplaces gets trapped and collects near the ground.

The air pollutants can be harmful for people suffering from heart disease, diabetes, asthma and lung diseases. Pollutants pose the most risk to children and older adults.

Officials imposed several burn bans across the state in recent weeks due to poor air quality. Smoke contains fine particles and toxic gases.

The state Department of Health urges people to check for bans at www.waburnbans.net. Health officials also recommend people check air quality at www.airwatchnw.org before heading out for outdoor activities. Learn more about how air quality affects health at www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/ts/outdoorair.htm.

“People with asthma and other breathing problems need to pay special attention to air quality, especially this time of year,” state Health Officer Dr. Maxine Hayes said in a statement. “Often, people with health conditions get sick sooner than healthy people when air quality is poor.”

State adopts changes to emission testing

August 30, 2011

The owners of some vehicles may no longer need to undergo emission testing after July 2012, as the state Department of Ecology prepares to enact rule changes to the testing program.

The state requires certain vehicles in King County and other densely populated areas to undergo emission tests to reduce air pollution.

Under the rule change required by the Legislature and due to go into effect next summer, all 2009 and newer model year vehicles do not require testing. In addition, additional businesses may be authorized to conduct tests. The rule change also eliminates some emission tests.

The measure calls for the same standards to be used for all 1995 model year and older gasoline vehicles. The rule change exempts light-duty diesel vehicles from testing and tightens test standards for heavy-duty diesel vehicles. The measure nixes the gas cap test and dynamometer testing.

Department of Ecology officials posted the complete rule and supporting documents on the agency’s air quality website. The agency announced the impending rule change Thursday.

The agency accepted public comments on the proposal in March and held a public hearing on proposed changes in Federal Way.

Besides King County, vehicles in Clark, Pierce, Snohomish and Spokane counties undergo emission tests.

If a vehicle needs to undergo the test, the owner receives a reminder inside his or her tab renewal notice or email reminder reading, “This vehicle must pass a Washington emission inspection.” Then, the vehicle must be tested before he or she can renew the tabs.

Bacteria detected in East King County air, but poses no health threat

July 26, 2011

NEW — 1:45 p.m. July 26, 2011

Monitors detected a bacteria capable of causing infectious tularemia in a daily air sample from East King County on Monday, but public health officials said the bacteria level is low, close to the detection limit and does not pose a threat.

Officials said a later test detected none of the bacteria in the air.

Since establishing a federal air-monitoring system in 2003, similar positive test results related to the naturally occurring bacteria have been common elsewhere in the United States. The bacteria detection Monday is the first time a sample in the Puget Sound area tested positive.

The bacteria, Francisella tularensis, is found throughout Washington and is commonly carried by rabbits, squirrels and other rodents. Tularemia rarely infects people. Only one to 10 human cases occur statewide in a typical year.

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Cedar Grove Composting ordered to pay fine for odors

July 19, 2011

The state ordered Cedar Grove Composting to pay $119,000 in fines July 14 for odor violations at a facility in rural King County near Issaquah and another in Everett.

The fines resulted from 13 violations from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency in 2009 and 2010. The composter appealed the violations to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board, but the panel denied the appeals.

“It’s about time. We’ve been waiting for someone to hold Cedar Grove accountable for their noxious odors,” Citizens for a Smell Free Snohomish County founder Mike Davis said in a statement. “We’re tired of Cedar Grove denying any responsibility and blaming everybody else while people all around the region can’t even enjoy their own yards because of the huge stench.”

The commercial composter is near the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill between Issaquah and Renton.

In a 66-page ruling, the Pollution Control Hearings Board said “odors emanating from the facilities have interfered with the reasonable enjoyment of life and property of a large number of surrounding residents.”

Summer burning moratorium goes into effect Wednesday

June 14, 2011

NEW — 5 p.m. June 14, 2011

Eastside Fire & Rescue crews responded to 14 brushfires in May and June — and a heightened risk for fires accompanies balmier and drier days ahead.

The agency’s burn moratorium goes into effect Wednesday for residents in Issaquah, Sammamish and nearby communities. Though a rain-soaked spring may make such a moratorium seem unnecessary, summer means a heightened risk for fires. The moratorium is in effect through Sept. 30.

For summertime cookouts, propane, natural gas and charcoal fires do not require a burn permit. Other fires require a free burn permit from EFR. Call 313-3200.

Fires cannot be larger than 3 feet in diameter and 2 feet high. Use only dry, seasoned wood to fuel recreational fires.

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Guest Column

April 20, 2011

Innovative, ambitious ‘green’ programs earn their keep in Issaquah

Just a few years ago, many people considered sustainability a fad. The prediction was that cities passionate about recycling and green living would abandon sustainability when hard-pressed to stretch city dollars and services.

That didn’t happen. In fact, communities like Issaquah stand tall on Earth Day because of innovative and ambitious sustainability programs that are actually reducing costs. Here’s how:

Waste reduction for Issaquah businesses: The city of Issaquah and Waste Management are partners in innovative outreach to boost commercial recycling. As a result, Issaquah has sent less and less garbage to the landfill every year since 2005.

The city’s new food packaging ordinance is a prime example of an aggressive effort that’s paying off. It requires restaurants and food service-related businesses to compost and to use “to-go” packaging that is either recyclable or compostable. Since October, 90 local businesses have signed up for food waste collection, diverting 600 tons of food waste from the landfill. That’s roughly 60 Waste Management trucks full of food waste.

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Puget Sound Clean Air Agency lifts King County burn ban

January 4, 2011

NEW — 4 p.m. Jan. 4, 2011

Light up the fireplace to chase away the chill — the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency lifts the King County burn ban at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Puget Sound Clean Air Agency meteorologists said air quality should improve as a weather system pushes into the region Tuesday.

The agency issued the Stage 1 burn ban Monday due to increasing air pollution and forecasted stagnant weather conditions.

Such a ban prohibits burning in fireplaces and uncertified wood stoves or inserts, unless residents lack another adequate source of heat. No visible smoke is allowed from any wood stove or fireplace — certified or not — beyond a 20-minute start-up period, and even if the fireplace or wood stove is the only adequate source of heat.

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Fireplace use is prohibited during King County burn ban

January 3, 2011

NEW — 9:30 a.m. Jan. 3, 2011

Forget about lighting up the fireplace to fight the January chill.

King County is under a Stage 1 burn ban due to increasing air pollution and forecasted stagnant weather conditions.

The ban prohibits burning in fireplaces and uncertified wood stoves or inserts, unless residents lack another adequate source of heat. No visible smoke is allowed from any wood stove or fireplace — certified or not — beyond a 20-minute start-up period, and even if the fireplace or wood stove is the only adequate source of heat.

Residents should instead rely on a cleaner source of heat, such as a furnace or electric baseboard heater, until air quality improves, the public health risk diminishes and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency lifts the ban.

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State: Wildfires could lower air quality across Washington

August 17, 2010

NEW — 8 a.m. Aug. 17, 2010

Smoke from wildfires in Washington and British Columbia could impact air quality throughout the Evergreen State, the state Department of Ecology announced Monday.

Forecasters expect the trend to continue for the next few days, but some the hazy skies could start to clear by Wednesday.

“Smoke from a wildfire can travel rapidly, affecting air quality hundreds of miles downwind from the fire’s location,” Stu Clark, air quality program manager for the agency, said in a news release. “Smoke pollutes the air you breathe and harms your health, especially if you have existing health conditions.”

The state Department of Health recommends for people sensitive to air pollution limit the time they spend outdoors.

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