Hearing a lot about clean air these days? Pollution. Climate change. Carbon footprints. It is a multi-faceted issue that can be a whole lot to take in. Why is it important? Quite simply, it is because better air quality means better health. In celebrating Clean Air Month this 2015, let’s take a closer look at clean air and how it relates to your daily life.
Clean air – there’s more to it than an air filter…
Clean air is typically discussed in terms of air quality, or the state of the air around you. We’re not just talking environmental concerns either. When air quality is good, your health follows. When it goes bad, you pay the price – dry eyes, headaches, nasal congestion, nausea, fatigue, asthma, lung diseases, infections, cancer, and more. Air quality is determined not only by pollutants present, but the rates at which they are released and dispersed (or trapped) as well.
Have you got it bad? The AQI.
The Air Quality Index reports daily air quality – how clean or polluted the air in your area is – with the help of a color-coated scale:
Green: 0-50 – GOOD
Little or no health risk
Yellow: 51-100 – MODERATE
Acceptable, though some extremely sensitive individuals may experience respiratory issues
Orange: 101-150 – UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE INDIVIDUALS
People with heart and lung disease, children, and older adults, at a greater risk from ozone and particulates
Red: 151-200 – UNHEALTHY
Everyone may experience adverse effects, with sensitive individuals suffering more serious issues
Purple: 201-300 – VERY UNHEALTHY
Serious health effects from exposure, typically accompanied by widespread health alerts
Maroon: 301-500 – HAZARDOUS
Affects the entire population. Widespread health warnings and emergency conditions
When clean air goes bad...
Poor air quality can result from a number of pollutants, both indoor and outdoor, natural and manmade.
A highly reactive form of oxygen typically resulting from fuel combustion. Exposure sears the lungs.
Carbon monoxide (CO)
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless byproduct from gas-fueled vehicles.
Nitrogen oxide (NOx)
Emitted from vehicles, particularly during rush hour “standing,” as well as from power stations. In combination with precipitation, results in acid rain.
Released when fuels such as gas and diesel are not fully burned, resulting in smog.
Most often released by power stations and industrial facilities burning coal and oil. Can also result in acid rain.
Particulate Matter (PM)
Small particles of soot, dust, and fumes released into the air from vehicles, factories, and coal-burning heat sources, and more.
Contains thousands of chemicals.
Toxic spores from the proliferation of mold due to excess humidity in your home.
Carbon-based chemicals that evaporate or off-gas at room temperature. Released from thousands of products, from paints, cleaning supplies, and building materials to glues, fuels, furniture, carpeting, office equipment, and more.
Carbon monoxide (CO)
From improperly vented fireplaces and combustion appliances.
Colorless, odorless, radioactive gas from the natural breakdown of uranium in the earth.
Dust mites, pet dander, pollen, and other triggers.
How can I help keep the air clean?
In your home…
- Never allow cigarette smoke inside your home.
- Add air purifier(s).
- Maintain proper humidity levels.
- Cut down on chemical exposure by reducing pesticide and synthetic cleaner use.
- Opt for natural furnishings.
- Have combustion heat sources and appliances regularly inspected for proper ventilation.
- Ensure your home is properly ventilated - consider whole house ventilation.
- Upgrade lighting to LEDs or CFLs.
- Operate appliances (dishwashers, washers, dryers) only when full.
- Opt for energy efficient appliances and electronics.
- Reduce/reuse/recycle waste materials.
Outside the home…
- Consolidate errands into as few trips as possible.
- Walk, bike, carpool, or use public transportation.
- Drive with a light foot and avoid engine revving.
- Turn off the motor if you idle longer than one minute. (NOTE: This is illegal at stoplights!)
Heating and air also causes air pollution:
- Insulate and weatherize your home to reduce fossil fuel consumption (heating and air needs).
- Keep windows closed when operating your heat/air.
- Adjust the temperature when you are away from home to conserve energy, or upgrade to a programmable thermostat.
- Have your system professionally serviced annually to improve efficiency.