Scientists Just Discovered Exactly What Air Pollution Does To Your Arteries

Posted by Joe Klatte on

Air pollution has been linked to heart disease for years, prompting concern as well as some skepticism, as the physiological steps showing a cause-and-effect have gone less understood. But now, a multi-year study has for the first time documented that air pollution thickens blood and hardens arteries, a condition that causes cardiovascular problems like heart attacks and strokes.

“What’s new here is the linkage between air pollution and actual evidence of progression of atherosclerosis, the underlying disease process that leads to most [heart] attacks and strokes,” Joel Kaufman, lead author and University of Washington professor, told ThinkProgress. “The study provides important new information on how pollution affects the main biological process that leads to heart disease.”

The decade-long study, published Tuesday in The Lancet, found that Americans living in areas with more polluted air suffer from accelerated rates of atherosclerosis — at times rates about 20 percent higher than those living in less polluted areas, Kaufman said. This harm to arteries may stem from air pollution triggering cell inflammation, he said, and affect the white blood cells that are involved in protecting the body against both infectious disease and foreign invaders.

Atherosclerosis refers to plaque building up inside arteries that carry oxygen-rich blood to the heart and other parts of the body. The disease disrupts the flow of blood, posing serious cardiovascular complications. Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Atherosclerosis is also common as it occurs in 80 to 90 percent of Americans over the age of 30, and leads to cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in people over 45.

For years, scientists have been successful in associating air pollution and vehicle-related emissions with overall mortality, cardiovascular mortality, and cardiovascular disease, to name a few. They have even been able to calculate mortality figures linked to air pollution. Just in February, the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study, the most comprehensive international effort to measure epidemiological trends worldwide, calculated that about 5.5 million people prematurely died in 2013 because of indoor and outdoor air pollution. And before that, in September of 2015, another study found that outdoor air pollution kills 3.3 million people worldwide, a number set to double in the next 35 years if emissions continue unabated.

However, past epidemiological studies, though illuminating in quantifying a problem, often depended on data sets collected for other purposes and couldn't delve further into some of the factors at play. In turn, Tuesday's paper is considered the most in-depth study of air pollution exposures ever applied to a large study group to examine pollution and cardiovascular health. "By following adults over 10 years, we were able to ask if people who live in places with more pollution have a faster thickening of their blood vessels over time," Sara Adar, author and assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan, told ThinkProgress via email.

Funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institutes of Health, the study was based on more than 6,000 people with no history of clinical cardiovascular disease in six states. To make sure that it was all encompassing, researchers recruited middle-aged and senior men and women from four ethnic groups: white, Hispanic, African American, and Chinese living in different corners of the country. They then conducted body scans to assess participants' arteries as they calculated, via air monitors and other methods, each participant's exposure to PM 2.5 — a pollutant that comes primarily from the burning of fuels — as well as exposure to nitrogen oxide, nitrogen dioxide, and black carbon.

By the end of the study, researchers were able to track more than 3,600 people and realized that those living in more polluted places like Los Angeles suffered from worse calcium plaque in their arteries. Calcified plaques in the coronary arteries have been consistently associated with cardiovascular disease.

"These effects seem to come across people regardless of their race or ethnicity, regardless of their socioeconomic status," said Kaufman, who now aims to use the data set to quantify the influence that air pollution has on heart attack rates.

Another major finding of the study is that air pollution at levels below regulatory standards also accelerates the progression of atherosclerosis. With that, the study raises questions about the quality of the air that people need to avoid environmental harms — particularly because it found that air quality has been in general improving in the United States. "Exposures are quite a lot lower than what they used to be, but we still are seeing these effects," said Kaufman. "So the question is, how low do we need to go to see the bottom of these effects?"


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Where there's smoke, there's wild fire

Posted by Joe Klatte on

We noticed something a bit strange yesterday as we drove into RZ Headquarters. The typically crisp, clear Minneapolis skyline was unusually hazy. Being the air quality enthusiasts that we are, we conducted a little research to see what was happening to our air. Turns out, wildfire smoke from Kansas was passing through and significantly raised our air quality index. Our air was affected enough for The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to issue an air pollution advisory for parts of Minnesota.

Fires this early in the year seemed strange, so we dug a little deeper and what we found wasn’t pretty. Recently, fires are starting earlier in the season and their frequency is increasing. In the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Manitoba, twice as many fires were recorded last year than their 25-year averages. This year, fire season started on March 1, a month ahead of the norm.

Fires have become a continual threat in some places, burning earlier and later in the year, in the United States and abroad. The 10.1 million acres that burned in the United States last year were the most on record, and the top five years for acres burned were in the past decade. The federal costs of fighting fires rose to $2 billion last year, up from $240 million in 1985.

According to the New York Times, a leading culprit is climate change. Drier winters mean less moisture on the land, and warmer springs are pulling the moisture into the air more quickly, turning shrub, brush and grass into kindling. Decades of aggressive policies that called for fires to be put out as quickly as they started have also aggravated the problem. Today’s forests are not just parched; they are overgrown.

Across North America, fire departments are gearing up for a big wildfire season and you should be too. Wild fire smoke isn’t something we want to be breathing in too much of. The smoke contains fine microscopic particles that can get into our eyes and respiratory system causing health problems such as burning eyes, runny nose, and illnesses such as bronchitis. Fine particles also can aggravate chronic heart and lung diseases - and even are linked to premature deaths in people with these conditions.

Children also are more susceptible to smoke for several reasons: their respiratory systems are still developing; they breathe more air (and air pollution) per pound of body weight than adults; and they're more likely to be active outdoors. 

It's important to limit your exposure to smoke, especially if you may be susceptible. Here are some steps you can take to protect your health during wildfire season: Pay attention to local air quality reports. Limit physical activities outdoors when AQI is high. Take steps to keep indoor air as clean as possible. Wear a mask when applicable.

Trusted by wild land firefighters across North America, RZ Masks are an excellent source of wildfire smoke protection. Our active carbon filters are designed to filter particulates down to 0.1 microns. Paper dust masks - the kinds you commonly can buy at the hardware store - are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust. These masks generally will not protect your lungs from the fine particles in smoke.

If you’re living or visiting somewhere that’s affected by wildfire smoke this year make sure you take proper steps to protect yourself, especially if you belong to one of the susceptible groups. It also doesn’t hurt to try a rain dance here and there.

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RZ Testing Facility Expands

Posted by Joe Klatte on

   Nelson Laboratories is a crucial element to the RZ Mask. Our filters have been tested at Nelson’s state-of-the-art facilities allowing us to stand behind our claim of 99.9% filtration down to 0.1 microns.

   Out of Salt Lake City, Utah, Nelson is the largest U.S. provider of life-cycle microbiology testing services for the medical devices, pharmaceutical and tissue industries. They solve complex problems, providing precise test results, and delivering value through superior testing solutions and service to ensure the safety and efficacy of every product.

   Recently, Nelson made a big announcement; they were acquired by Sterigenics International. Sterigenics is the leading global provider of contract sterilization, gamma technologies and medical isotopes, and a portfolio company of Warburg Pincus and GTCR. Operating out of 48 facilities in 13 countries across the Americas, Europe and Asia, this acquisition creates the largest fully integrated global sterilization and lab
services operation.

   “This is a significant strategic acquisition to help build out Sterigenics’ lab testing and service capabilities on a global scale, enabling us to better serve our multinational customers,” said Michael Mulhern, CEO of Sterigenics International. “We will continue to explore additional expansion opportunities for our lab services to meet our customers’ growing needs.”

   Jeffery Nelson, President of Nelson Labs announced, “Sterigenics will be a great partner, and will provide the global access and ongoing investment necessary to ensure long-term growth of the lab services business,” said. “They are a global leader in contract sterilization and sterility assurance serving the same markets as Nelson Labs. This is an excellent cultural fit, and I’m excited for the opportunities this will bring for our teams and our customers throughout the world.”

   For us at RZ Industries this is great news! Our exceptional partner in product testing just got stronger. As we continue to grow and introduce new products they will be tested in one of the most advanced and cutting-edge laboratories in the world. We hold our products to an extremely high standard and this ensures, going forward, we will know with absolute certainty that these expectations are met. We couldn’t be more excited at what the future holds; big things are coming!

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Woodworking - What you should know.

Posted by Joe Klatte on

   Woodworking is an incredibly impressive art form and something I wish I was able to do even remotely close to decent. My grandpa was an incredible woodcarver and I used to love going over to his house as a kid and looking at the countless pieces. The old wooden ship replicas were my favorite. The details were so intricate and accurate that I would spend hours looking them over. I also remember his work shop distinctly, the tools, the smell of saw dust, the latest project on the work bench; it was really a cool

   Recently, woodworking has been a topic of conversation here at RZ and it’s given me a chance to do some further research. Something important that I found, and the topic of this post, is the health risks associated with saw dust.

   The most common way that wood dust affects a woodworker is by being an irritant to our eyes and our lungs typically resulting in itching, sneezing, coughing, runny nose, rashes, and asthma-like breathing problems. Long-term damage can be a bit more dramatic. What a woodworker needs to be concerned about is what’s called coarse inhalable particles (ranging in size from 2-10 microns). These tiny bits of sawdust hang around even after the tools have stopped running. The particles get inhaled and cause
very small wounds and scarring to our lungs: each time this happens, it causes a very small amount of irreversible damage. The immediate effect is unnoticeable, but over long periods of time, this can result in significantly decreased lung capacity, and a number of other health issues.

   OSHA states, “Exposure to wood dust has long been associated with a variety of adverse health effects, including dermatitis, allergic respiratory effects, mucosal and nonallergic respiratory effects, and cancer. Contact with the irritant compounds in wood sap can cause dermatitis and other allergic reactions. The respiratory effects of wood dust exposure include asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and chronic bronchitis.”

   The skin and respiratory system can become sensitized to wood dust. When this happens, we can suffer severe allergic reactions (such as asthma or dermatitis) after repeated exposure to dust. Certain species of hardwood—such as oak, mahogany, beech, walnut, birch, elm, and ash— have been reported to cause nasal cancer in woodworkers. This is particularly true when exposures are high.

   Luckily, there are various ways to limit the amount of dust created while woodworking. Having local exhaust ventilation (LEV) will remove dust at its source. I won’t go into details about LEV’s, however OSHA has a great page on their website about LEV’s and controlling wood dust. 

   Perhaps the best way to prevent the inhalation of dust is to use a dust mask. Not just any old dust mask either. You want your woodworking mask to have the same level of quality and craftsmanship that you put into your work. You want something that will seal, be comfortable, and function properly. The RZ Mask does just this along with several other unique features that make it a fantastic woodworking mask.

   A few of these unique features include, one-way exhaust valves, Hepa filters, and washable mesh or neoprene. The one-way exhaust valves allow exhaled air to escape the mask. This keeps the inside dry and comfortable while also preventing fogging of safety glasses. The Hepa filters allow for effortless breathability and significantly add to the comfort of the mask. The mesh and neoprene masks that we offer give woodworkers two different options of material to house their filter. The neoprene is fantastic in cold weather keeping skin nice and warm. The mesh material is great in heat because of it allows for increased airflow and the skin gets to breathe and stay cool.

With all this said, if you’re a woodworker I hope that you take proper safety precautions and keep dust out of your lungs. We are proud to provide a product that keeps you happy, healthy and carving longer.

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RZ Product Breakdown

Posted by Joe Klatte on

    If you’re considering RZ Mask as an option for respiratory protection there are a few things you should know. While we offer many different colors and designs; there are only two types of masks, M1 Neoprene and M2 Mesh. Both masks are capable of housing each of our four available filters. There is a combination of mask and filter that are ideal for, but not limited to, specific environments and activities. In this post, we will identify differences and similarities in masks and filters and discuss their distinct advantages as well as scenarios where they would be most useful.

M1 vs M2

   The M1 is our original mask. Introduced in 2010 and built out of 4 way stretch neoprene. The M1 keeps skin at an ideal inner temperature and performs exceptionally well in cold weather. The ability to block wind and keep skin warm is the M1’s distinct advantage over the M2. The M1 also has the most options for colors and designs. This mask can be hand washed and air dried after removal of valves and filter.

   The M2 is our newest mask. Introduced in 2015 and constructed out of moisture wicking mesh material. The mesh material allows for increased airflow, keeping skin cool and making the M2 ideal in warm weather. The ability to allow the skin to breathe and stay cool is the M2’s distinct advantage over the M1. This mask can be hand washed and air dried after removal of valves and filter.

   Other than the distinct weather related differences of the M1 and M2, they have many similarities. Both are very durable and lightweight. They can even be folded to fit into a jacket or pant pocket. Both have a low profile design and maintain a full range of motion. The masks will fit comfortably under full-face helmets. Both masks form a tight seal for maximum filtration. Both masks have exhalation valves and adjustable nose pieces to prevent condensation build up and fogging of glasses or goggles. Finally, both masks are designed for maximum comfort using premium materials.

F1 vs F2 vs F3

   The F1 Active Carbon Filter is our original filter and will remove 99.9% of particulates down to 0.1 microns. This filter offers protection against a wide array of respiratory hazards including dust, odors, allergens, bacteria, smog, smoke, organic chemicals, pet dander, tobacco smoke and more. The breathability of this filter is slightly restrictive compared to the F2 and F3 and is ideal for lower intensity activities and normal breathing rates.

   The recently introduced F2 HEPA Filter will remove 97% of particulates down to 0.1 microns. One important feature of the F2 is that it does not have Active Carbon making this filter effective against dust and particulates exclusively. Another important feature of the F2 Filter is that it has 40% better breathability compared to the F1. The ability to breathe effortlessly through the F2 makes this filter exceptional during higher intensity activities and increased breathing rates.

   The F3 HEPA with Active Carbon Filter is our premium filter and rated at 97% down to 0.1 microns. This filter offers the best of both worlds and combines F1 protection from a wide array of particulates with the breathability that the F2 offers. This filter is also excellent for higher intensity activities and increased breathing rates.

Mossy Oak Hunting Mask

   Lastly, the Mossy Oak Hunting Masks come stocked with two F1-Scentless Filters and one normal F1 Filter. The Scentless Filter is specifically designed to absorb the odors of your exhaled breathe increasing scent concealment while hunting. The Mossy Oak Mask also offers increased camouflage and cold weather protection. The Mossy Oak Mask can house any of our four filters. The Scentless Filter can fit into both the M1 and M2 masks.

Closing Remarks

   It is important to use the right tool for the job. By knowing the attributes and strengths of each of our masks and filters, you can be prepared for the conditions you’ll be facing while using your RZ Mask.

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