A is for April,Allergies and Air Conditioners
Overnight, literally, the cherry trees and lilacs have bloomed on our block. Flowering plants, which held back during a cold April, are now “just exploding” in the warmth, Professor George Hedrey of Queens College said in a New York City scientists’ talk on climate change. Meanwhile, the allergic are exploding in sneezes.
Central Park in 2007 is 2 degrees F. warmer, on average, than in 1907. The first blooms of spring are arriving earlier throughout the U.S., Dr. Hedrey said. Southern plants are moving north. And ragweed, powered by higher atmospheric levels of CO2, the greenhouse gas, is doubling its pollen production.
Allergy season is arriving earlier and lasting longer, according to the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School. How to cope?
The Pollen Dodge:
Check local weather reports for air quality, including pollen counts and smog, which can make allergies feel worse. If pollen’s high, exercise or do errands in the morning, before airborne particles rise with the heat, and close windows, especially later in the day. For local pollen levels, http://www.weather.com/activities/health/allergies/?from=secondarynav_season
When necessary, turn on the air conditioner to filter pollen and pollutants out. April is a good month to buy before demand and prices escalate. For energy- and emissions-saving models that are at least 10% more efficient than conventional ones, see http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=roomac.search_room_air_conditioners.
Cool Tip: Turn a.c.s off when you don’t need ‘em, and keep your thermostat at 72 degrees or higher in warm weather. For every degree above that, you’ll save 121 lbs. of carbon emissions.
While global warming will mean milder winters and less heating demand for much of the U.S., more and longer summer heat waves will increase air conditioning demand that will “more than offset any reduction in heating,” accrding to Professor John Waldman of the City University of New York Institute for Sustainable Cities.
Use a doormat and leave shoes by the door so particles don’t get tracked in. Natural coir and jute, groovy striped doormat, $21.95 at www.crateandbarrel.com.; striped or bird-and-leaves pattern coir doormats, $19.95 at www.target.com Colorful recycled flip-flop doormat, $49 from www.VivaTerra.com,featured in Elle Magazine (check out their stylin’ green May issue! www.elle.com)
Death to Dust Mites: These microscopic mites infest rugs, drapery upholstered furniture and bedding, and their droppings are a potent allergen. Eliminate them by washing pillowcases, sheets and duvet covers twice weekly in hot water. For extra protection, you can zip your mattress and pillows into a cotton barrier-cloth encasement, on sale right now from $65-100 at http://www.allergybuyersclubshopping.com/cottonmattressencasings.html. They sell organic cotton encasements, too. Or try your nearest home products store. Avoid encasements made of vinyl, which is softened with toxic phthalates. For more on phthalates, see http://greenerpenny.blogspot.com/2007/04/give-me-that-sexy-green-bodywithout.html.
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