Breathe Easy: Unmasking the Secrets of Indoor Air Quality for a Healthier Life

by | Jul 4, 2023

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Synopsis

In this episode of The Modern Vital Podcast, host Dr. Ben Reebs interviews Jon Thomas, an indoor air quality specialist, about environmental factors and effective solutions for improving indoor air quality. Jon shares his expertise gained from his background in the forest products and food waste compost industries, as well as his experience as a consultant in the natural health industry. He emphasizes the importance of understanding the main variables and concerns in indoor air quality, such as source control and the mitigation of pathogens and allergens.

Jon discusses the difference between filtration and purification, highlighting the limitations of HEPA filters and the benefits of active purification systems that mimic the natural outdoor air purification process. He provides practical tips for individuals looking to improve their indoor air quality, emphasizing the multi-level approach that includes proper ventilation, regular maintenance, and the implementation of purification systems. Jon also shares compelling stories of how purification systems have significantly improved outcomes in various settings, such as reducing absenteeism in schools and eliminating healthcare-acquired illnesses in hospital ICUs.

Throughout the interview, Jon stresses the importance of investing in indoor air quality solutions that are effective and tailored to the specific needs of the space. He encourages listeners to prioritize the health and well-being of their indoor environments, highlighting the potential long-term benefits in terms of productivity, cognitive function, and overall quality of life. Listeners are invited to reach out to Jon for further information and guidance on improving their indoor air quality.

Listeners are encouraged to reach out with questions, suggestions, or feedback, and to join the next episode of The Modern Vital Podcast for more insights into health and well-being.

If you’re looking to dive deeper into understanding the intricacies of chronic disease and its impact on your overall well-being, consider checking out Dr. Reebs’ book, “The Serpent & The Butterfly: The Seven Laws of Healing.” In this book, he discusses thyroid health and much more to help you on your journey to optimal wellness. Click here to purchase your copy: https://www.drreebs.com/serpent-butterfly-book/

Additionally, if you’re interested in a supplement designed to directly support your digestion, we recommend trying Digest: Gentian & Skullcap Capsules. These capsules are formulated with natural ingredients that can help improve and support overall digestive health. To learn more and purchase, visit: https://www.drreebs.com/digest-gentian-skullcap-capsules/

Thank you for joining us on The Modern Vital Podcast. Your support means the world to us, and we hope you continue to find value in the information we provide. Please remember to subscribe, leave a review, and share our podcast with others who might benefit from this content. Until next time, stay informed and proactive in your pursuit of health and wellness!

Complete Transcript of Episode 13126431

Dr. Ben: On today’s episode of The Modern Vital Podcast, we’re going to talk about environmental factors in indoor air quality. Today we have a special guest and friend, Jon Thomas, an IAQ or indoor air quality specialist, with Everyday Air Systems, a company which provides effective solutions to indoor air quality.

Jon has an extensive background in forest products and food waste compost industries, as well as he was a consultant in the natural health industry for many years. He brings a wealth of diverse expertise to the field of air quality and environmental solutions. His passion for creating healthier indoor environments and his commitment to sustainable practices make him a valuable resource for individuals and organizations seeking to improve their indoor air quality and to promote overall well-being. Welcome to the show, Jon. 

Jon: Thanks, ben, great to be here.

Dr. Ben: So glad to have you. So I usually kick off with this kind of question for everyone. I’d love to hear a little bit about how you found your way to specializing in indoor air quality.

Jon: Yeah, that’s a great question. Most of that revolves around the food waste composting. That’s really where things started to look at different types of odor reduction or basically air quality control. You know, when you’re doing those steps of composting, you’re obviously creating a lot of odors, you’re creating a lot of off-gassing, and those are things that you want to try to mitigate through. A myriad of different processes are available to you, but really understanding what you’re emitting and what you’re doing really kind of dictates what you can and can’t do to basically clean the air, scrub the air.

Dr. Ben: So when we’re talking about indoor air quality, what are the main variables you’re looking at, what are your main concerns?

Jon: Main concerns are really looking at sort of source control, right? I mean you can’t necessarily control 100% of what is introduced into your indoor space, right? Meaning the pathogens or viruses that are brought in, whether that’s through, you know, people or dogs or pets or whatever it is. There’s a lot of different things that can introduce that. It’s really a matter of understanding that this is an indoor space. It is being pathogens, viruses are being introduced. What are we doing to mitigate those or to eliminate those?

Dr. Ben: Right. I mean, you know, here in the Pacific Northwest we have a ton of mold. I mean, as a naturopathic doctor I see a lot of mold. And then of course there are a lot of allergies. You know, Eugene is the world’s capital of allergies, with Willamette Valley. Are you also taking into account allergens?

Jon: Right, exactly. So you know you look at the mold and mildew issues. I mean that probably has a lot to do. I’m sure there’s a correlation there with people who have asthma or breathing problems or sinusitis or whatever it may be. You know, itchy eyes. Because you know we do, as the EPA states. I mean, as humans, we spend over 90% of every day indoors. And so if we’re not looking at basically cleaning or metering, at least monitoring the indoor air quality, then you really don’t understand maybe why you having these you know symptoms of asthma or bad sleep or itchy eyes or anything like that, or colds more often in the winter than the summer, things like that nature so.

Dr. Ben: Is there a way to effectively know basically what’s in my home or what’s in my office?

Jon: I mean there are different monitoring systems that you can purchase, uh, that you can look at there, and they’re not not all created equal. Uh, certainly, you know you can’t manage, we don’t measure right. But at the same time, if you’re spending this much time indoors, it’s pretty much a guarantee that that improvement is necessary. And really looking at this, the improvement would be part of understanding exactly how are you doing that? You know, is this a matter of looking at the cleaning? Like you know, are we doing purification, are we doing filtration?

And that kind of goes back to the pillar of indoor air quality right, source control, purification, ventilation and filtration well.

Dr. Ben: Yeah, I mean you know we’re talking a little bit earlier and you know there’s a recent study by the EPA showing that sixty percent of indoor pesticides are reduced just by having a doormat and not letting the kids, you know, walk in with shoes, not letting the dog just traipse in, at least you know, at its own leisure. Do your systems, or just do you know of technology that will actually clean the pesticide residues and the persistent organic pollutants from a home, or is it more of the biological, you know, like the molds and the viruses and the bacteria?

Jon: Yes, there are two. There’s technology out there that basically can look at anything organic, right, so that that would include any of those viruses or different, different types of pathogens. Uh, you know different things out there that basically are alive right there. They’re going to be sort of like positively charged. Those basically can be attacked in, neutralized through purification processes, uh, so that that does exist. And I think that that’s really the key component that people have to realize, because that’s why we just did a three-year global pandemic. You know, shut down, the economic shutdown, because of something we can’t see. Right, it’s something that’s on surfaces, is in the air. We can’t see it, but ultimately it’s something that is affecting us, in a negative sense, indoors. So you know that, you know, flies right kind of in line with the EPA studies that say, as a general rule, indoor air is two to five times more polluted than outdoor air.

Dr. Ben: Wow, I didn’t know that, but that makes sense. Uh, you know, I think the best example of what you’re talking about here in the Pacific Northwest, is mold, because it’s silent. Uh, in those cases it doesn’t smell. I mean, if you do, if you have that musty smell, there’s probably more, but most of time you can’t smell it, you can’t see it. And then it’s amazing that the mycotoxins that are released by the spores, that literally bioweapons are built from mycotoxins, right, these mycotoxins are one five hundredth the size of a spore and, uh, they can go right through an N95. Uh, you know that they can penetrate through almost anything and they’re inert, they’re not alive, but they can just poison us. And so, uh, you know, it’s interesting to think of taking out them, the spores, but then you might have these mycotoxins that are still there right, and that’s it.

Jon: That gets into the difference between, say, filtration and purification, right? So filtration is going to filter, assuming that the filters the correct size, uh, and also that the microtoxin or any type of mold reaches the filter, right? So if it never gets there, doesn’t do anything, uh, and that’s going to capture in store where, when you look at purification, that’s a destruction or elimination, right, so that can handle things throughout indoor space and doesn’t need to worry about…did the air or the microtoxins or mold travel through the unit? Now this is actually going out searching and destroying one hundred percent of the time, 24/7.

Dr. Ben: Now one thing you’ve said, you know conversations is that HEPA filters really need to be questioned or looked at a little more deeply, because I know they’re very beloved. And then also you’ve talked about how filtration, purification, are often just thought of as the same thing by, you know, by the mainstream. Can you touch a little bit on HEPA filters and then the difference between purification and filtration and what to look for?

Jon: Correct. Correct. So that that’s a great point, because I think that’s really part of the communication in education that is occurring. It’s maybe not as fast as we would all hope, but it’s definitely occurring in the sense that, you know, you can see things that are marketed maybe as an air purifier when actually it’s a HEPA filter. Right, so a filter only filters what goes through the filter. I hope that the pathogens or mold mildew reach the filter. I hope the filter is the right size to capture those…that size of whatever it is…pathogen or virus it is, you know. I hope that the circulation in the air, you know, pushes that through the filter system and it captures in stores, which, again, capture and store. I mean, are you, you know, going to take it out to dinner later or what? Why are you capturing and storing it? Right? There’s no need for that.

Where, when you look at the other side of the equation, which is purification, this is where you’re eliminating or destroying throughout the room and through and on surfaces, rather than waiting for the air to actually have to travel through the unit, right? I mean, if, for example, in a classroom there’s 25 people, you know, in a classroom, they all enter, you close the doors and windows, you begin teaching and if there’s one you know child, that’s ill, that’s exhaling 15 to 20 times a minute, you know that’s spreading all over the room and the people next to them and on desks and chairs, and so then that’s being spread, or you know it’s being basically transmitted to other people very, very easily, where, when you have something like a purification system that’s actually expelled into the air and it falls on surfaces, it’s attacking that as it’s being introduced. And so therefore significantly reducing transmission in ultimately, probably any type of absenteeism.

Dr. Ben: So how is this done in a safe way? I mean, I know you’ve talked a little bit about how it was first designed at NASA and it’s a safe and effective way of kind of piercing the cell membrane and basically killing biological, you know, mold and viruses and bacteria in the air. Like how is this done?

Jon: Well, basically, like I said, we go outside for a breath of fresh air and that’s because that process occurs naturally outdoors. And that’s a process from some of the particular UV light rays that are coming from the sun. And it’s not the UV that’s actually doing the purification, right, creating these sort of micro molecule scrubbers like air scrubbers. It’s the catalyst that creates those hydroxyls that are going out and basically scrubbing the air right. So that process occurs naturally outdoors. We’ve just mimicked that process, basically at Active Pure and brought that indoors.

Dr. Ben: So this is basically a form of biomimicry?

Jon: Correct. We are just bringing the process of fresh outdoor air indoors, and that’s really important, I think, because, as we’ve gone through the years, we’ve created buildings and homes and offices that are more and more energy efficient, which means they’re more airtight, and so we’re creating these microbiomes indoors and ultimately, that microbiome is only as healthy as what’s being introduced into that system or as healthy as the occupants that are indoors.

Dr. Ben: So when these biological species have been broken down into amino acids and debris and so on, presumably they would end up in the carpet or they might just be in the air for a bit, kind of settling almost like dust. Is that true? Or do they actually just kind of disappear eventually?

Jon: Yeah, they pretty much disappear in the sense that they’re being broken down to the molecular level, right. So it’s not even, it’s an inert substance at this point. So it’s not a matter of necessarily accumulating, right? I mean, obviously the accumulation of molecules would have to be pretty dang big and it would probably form into something else before that would happen. So this is just basically destroying and eliminating it, just as similar to the CO2 that basically we expel as we exhale indoors.

Dr. Ben: And how does this process work? I mean, you think of it in medicine, right. You’ve got an antibiotic that doesn’t really know the difference between certain species of bacteria and it’ll kill some of the good commensals, some of the bad pathogenics, etc. And it’s more targeted for a specific infection, but it’s going to basically wipe out part of the ecosystem and then it has to come back. How is it that one of these let’s say I was to implement one of these indoor air systems that would kill stuff in the air? Is it possible that it would also kill some of the good stuff in the air, or is that really not important?

Jon: No, because it’s similar. Like again, we’re mimicking the natural process outdoors, right? So there’s no negative effect to your skin or to your lungs or to you in general breathing clean, fresh air, right, because of the way that our bodies have adjusted to the micro molecules, basically that are the air scrubbers, so it’s really their consistency of hydrogen, oxygen, and water is sort of the byproduct. So obviously that doesn’t affect humans or animals or anything in that sense, but it’s just a matter of creating that specific molecule that is created naturally outdoors. That’s gonna go after and clean the air and scrub the air in an indoor space.

Dr. Ben: I see. So then the microbiome like in the humans and the animals living in the space is gonna be affected in a beneficial way, because basically the system will keep in check pathogens in the air that might be exacerbating asthma or causing a mold infection, et cetera.

Jon: Yes, correct, yep, that’s exactly right.

Dr. Ben: Well, as far as this technology goes, I mean, what are a couple of practical tips you can give people? I mean, how do we learn about this? How do we go? You know, should I just go to Amazon and get a HEPA filter? Or you know what are the next steps that one should take? Because I know that you know a lot of people are probably thinking, “Oh my goodness, it’s gonna cost me $10,000. I’m gonna take this hospital grade, you know, system in my house. How would you answer that question for consumers?”

Jon: I would say that looking at indoor air quality is a multi-level approach, right, there’s no one quick fix or one thing that is the ultimate solution, right? I mean think of like something like a purification system as sort of a seat belt. You know, in a high velocity impact crash, right, it doesn’t guarantee that you’re not gonna get hurt necessarily like similar to like you wouldn’t get sick at all, but it’s going to definitely help. And so that multi-level approach really comes down to, you know, things like cleaning your carpet and cleaning your duct system on a regular, routine basis, similar to cleaning, you know, changing your filter rather, and your HVAC system. And then you know, filtration is fine, it does have its benefits, right? Of what is, assuming that it’s the correct size, assuming that you have good ventilation and circulation right throughout the indoor space. But then looking at also that purification is a very big component of this as well, because there are things that aren’t gonna be touched, whether it’s surfaces or particular pockets of air that maybe are areas that have bad ventilation or circulation, and so the purification system is going to help that, because it’s going to help mitigate all of this.

And really it’s looking at the scientific studies, right, a lot of the scientific studies that we’ve done that have been sort of before and after, and I think that’s really important because you’ve seen studies done before and after. Say, a classroom that’s set idle for the weekend, you can go and take tests, look at surfaces in the air samples and then look at it when you know it’s noon on a Wednesday, right after the week has started. It’s much, much different, right? Those numbers are through the roof higher right, just skyrocketed. And so it’s really an understanding of, like the treatment load that’s necessary for space, very similar to this scenario that I use with folks as they are a 12 x 12 office. If it’s my office and I get five visitors a day, that’s a different treatment load than if it’s a 12 x 12 break room in a manufacturing facility that gets 15 to 20 new people every 30 minutes.

Dr. Ben: Right, Right, that makes a lot of sense. Well, what are a couple of? I’d love to hear a couple of stories you’ve seen just with, maybe, clients or colleagues who applied one of these systems, that you could be a hospital or could just be a small business or even just a home where it was highly sensitive. Individuals like to have a couple of stories of people who saw significant improvement in their outcomes.

Jon: Yes, I mean, looking at this, one of the things to understand is, just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not a problem, right? And we’ve seen that already through the pandemic. I mean that basically was a global shutdown. So it’s different studies that we’ve seen, basically our like, say, an ICU, so an ICU had about three to five different what they call HAIs…healthcare acquired illnesses. So you go in for stitches, you come out with staph, you know, and so that’s a really big liability and issue. And in implementing the psychology active cure we actually went immediately to zero and maintained that for quite a few months and actually have a peer reviewed study on that.

Different things that I’ve seen from the standpoint of looking at, say, something like a school doing studies on a large school system with over a thousand students, we actually reduced absenteeism by over 53% in a year. Now that’s a kind of a little bit of a difficult number to nail down, just because absenteeism you never really know what that’s from, but we try to really look at the sick absenteeism. So 53% is an enormous number. And I imagine if you could reduce that in your business, say by 20 to 25% per year, what that does for productivity, for return on investment. You know employee satisfaction, metrics, just overall improving your health and safety protocols.

Dr. Ben: That’s incredible. So if I purchase a fairly standard, highly reviewed HEPA filter from Home Depot or Walmart or Amazon I mean you name it, is it gonna help much Or is it? I mean, how is it gonna help, or is it overrated?

Jon: I think it’s overrated because you don’t really have a sense. There’s no science behind it, right? You don’t know what the treatment load is, you don’t know what’s being introduced to that area. It’s only gonna filter what makes it through the filter. So you get into sort of the passive and the active, right? So passive is something that has to travel through the unit to be to be you know, basically for it to be processed. If you look at something that’s active, that’s actively working all the time, right? So it’s a pretty big difference. The HEPA filters it’s not necessarily if you have one and you wanna go to purification, you have to get rid of your filter. It’s a good addition. It’s just that HEPA filters are not a primary method to mitigate indoor air quality.

Dr. Ben: So, then, you’re making a really compelling case, for, you know, rather than spending 400 bucks on some high-end HEPA filter, taking that money and then putting it toward a purification system that might cost a couple thousand dollars, but then it’ll actually work.

Jon: It works right, and it pays for itself. Its, you know, ROI is quick and continuous because of the productivity and you don’t get sick as often. I mean, imagine if you spent a couple thousand dollars on a unit, put it into wherever, and you had one month less of sick time, you know, or even two weeks. I mean that pays for itself very, very quickly, right, in the sense that you’re being more. You know, productivity is higher, cognitive function is higher. They’ve proven that in a million studies on indoor air quality and CO2 levels having an effect on cognitive function and therefore productivity. So it really pays for itself quickly. Yes, it’s an investment. Yes, it’s something you can’t see, but you’re solving a problem before it occurs. You’re being reactive versus proactive.

Dr. Ben: So what’s the just for listeners what’s kind of a price range people are looking at? I mean, like, let’s say that I mean I have a lot of families that have mold or, you know, maybe there’s a couple of members of the family who have Lyme disease and they have multiple chemical sensitivities and they’re constantly purifying their air, filtering their air, opening up all of their windows, you know, and just one bad incident can mean a lot to them. You know, one bad exposure can set them back several days. You know, what kind of prices are we looking at? Are we looking at $5,000 to $10,000 to get one installed at a 2,500 square foot home?

Jon: Or I would say, yeah, that’s a great question. And it’s hard to give it an exact price, so I like to keep it in a range, not knowing what the treatment load is right, so you can’t prescribe what you don’t know what the problem is right. So it’s usually somewhere between $1 to maybe $3 a square foot right, and that’s what I use.

That just as a general basis starting point, and then you would have to look at the treatment load necessary in those areas. And you know, in the purification process too, there’s a lot of people that are moving in that direction and that’s great. But there are different methods and definitely those are not all created equal as well. So do your research on those as well.

Dr. Ben: Well, Jon, it’s been awesome having you on. Just one last question before I ask for your contact info. Sure, do you have like a clinical pearl or a practical pearl for people? You know just something they can do today. You know, maybe they’re like oh man, I don’t have the 10 grand to go out. You know, and I’ve got this HEPA filter and now I don’t even know if it works. You know, like, do you have something that they could take home with them? You know just that that could maybe help their air quality be better.

Jon: Yes, I mean, at any given time, circulation or ventilation is always a good thing. And that always needs to be a focus and always will be. Just to understand what air is being circulated, right. Is it good quality air, and that ventilation is going to help. No matter what, even if there’s just some kind of air movement whether that be fans or you turn on your, you know your HVAC system or whatever it is getting that ventilation is always, always gonna help. So that’s something to think about. Whether you’re at home or the office or wherever, that’s definitely something to think about and to keep to maintain as well. I mean, lack of ventilation will always, always be the result will always be, you know, higher rates of pathogens, viruses, co2, all very bad, bad things. So ventilation is definitely looking at all the time.

Dr. Ben: So having just HVAC up and going and just making sure everything’s ventilated?

Jon: Right, right, and that’s right, and so you know. That, I think, is the key. But then if that falls right back into, you know you’re making sure that your duct systems are clean. Right, because if you’re turning that on and, hey, I’m circulating the air, but then your duct systems are filled with mold and mildew or dust, you’re just recirculating that bad air. So it’s really an understanding that this is a multi-level process and there are different steps that need to be addressed. Whether it’s source control, whether it’s ventilation, whether it’s purification or filtration. All of those things need to be looked at as one in order to maintain a healthy and quality indoor air system.

Dr. Ben: Well, thanks for that. That’s really helpful. And yeah, in environmental medicine really the first thing we do is just avoid and get out of the way, right? I mean, if there’s an exposure, get away from it, avoid it. That’s always the first rule. But you’re making a really compelling case for cleaning, dusting, cleaning one’s carpets, controlling that source if we can identify it, getting everything ventilated. I mean, that can go a long way. I mean, like I recently had my HVAC redone and it was a couple hundred dollars to have them come and it was a great investment, not bad at all.

Jon: Yeah, to clean the duct system. Yeah, that should be a regular maintenance schedule, similar to when you change your filters in your HVAC system, and that’s going to help tremendously. And then, of course, once you clean it, and you have it cleaned, let’s keep it clean. And a lot of that has to do with purification, because you’re going to continually be introducing dust as you open the windows in the summer or, like you said, wearing your shoes indoors or even just more and more people indoors and exhaling, right, so you’re always introducing pathogens. You can’t necessarily control what’s introduced, but you can look at how you’re going to mitigate or handle those when they’re introduced.

Dr. Ben: Well, thank you so much, Jon, for being on The Modern Vital Podcast. Where can people reach out to you? Where can they find you on the internet. Or how do they contact you?

Jon: You can find us at activepure.com or everydayairsystems.com, And then you can reach me at my email address, jon@everydayairsystems.com.

Dr. Ben: Great, We’ll make sure to leave it in the show notes as well. That concludes today’s episode of The Modern Vital Podcast. We would love to hear from you. We really value your feedback. If you have any questions or suggestions, please reach out to me at ben@modernvital.com. Also, please leave us a review if you enjoyed this episode and we look forward to having you join us next week for another exciting episode of The Modern Vital Podcast.

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About Me

Dr. Ben Reebs, ND, is an award-winning, naturopathic physician with a focus in environmental medicine, which looks at how environmental factors can cause chronic disease. He specializes in chronic infections, autoimmune disease, and digestive health.

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