What Can You Do to Protect Yourself Against the Effects of Air Pollution?
Significant strides have been made in improving outdoor air quality in the United States since the inception of the Clean Air Act — but despite that, many regions exceed the established limits for at least one common air pollutant, and particle pollution has been on the rise again in recent years.
If you have been worried about the effects air pollution could have on your health, perhaps because you have noticed respiratory symptoms that you think could be caused by poor air quality, you may feel like there is not much you can do to protect yourself. The air is, after all, everywhere. You have no choice but to breathe it in.
Fortunately, that is not quite true — everyone can take proactive steps to safeguard themselves against the detrimental impact of air pollution, which includes an increased risk of lung conditions, heart disease, stroke, and even cancer. The threats come not only from the environment outside, but also from within your home, so the fight against air pollution has to be waged on two fronts.
What Common Pollutants Contribute Most to Poor Outdoor Air Quality?
You may be surprised that the outdoor air quality in the United States has generally improved since the 1970s. Despite that fact, many common air pollutants continue to pose a threat to your health. The most frequent sources of outdoor air pollution in the US today include particle pollution and ground-level ozone pollution. Together, they contribute to higher rates of heart attack, stroke, asthma, and the worsening of other respiratory conditions, as well as higher general mortality rates. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, which are likewise associated with respiratory illnesses, are the two other major threats. Lead pollution in the air, meanwhile, only remains a concern in industrial areas.
Where does air pollution come from? The major offenders will not surprise anyone:
Biological components, too, pose a risk to air quality — and in the environment, pollen released by trees, grasses, and weeds are most likely to have an immediate affect on vulnerable people’s quality of life.
It is further important to note that weather and climate conditions impact the air quality, too. High temperatures, a lack of wind, and low precipitation rates can all lead to air stagnation, causing high pollution concentrations to remain in an area for longer periods of time.
What Can You Do to Protect Yourself Against Outdoor Air Pollution?
Environmental air pollution can sometimes be visible, in the form of smog. This is not always the case, however, and invisible, odorless, pollutants do not necessarily pose any less of a risk to your health. This is why the first thing anybody who would like to protect themselves against the effects of outdoor air pollution should first find out what the air quality in their region is like.
The easiest way to monitor the air quality near you on a daily basis is to check the AirNow.gov site and enter your zip code. An easy color-coded system immediately lets you know whether you need to be concerned, as the Air Quality Index (AQI) you find here measures the air concentration of all the major pollutants:
If you are in good health, you may go outdoors without significant concerns when the AQI falls into the green and yellow zones, and take special measures when it drops into the red zone and beyond. Vulnerable people with conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and severe allergies should start taking steps even when the Air Quality Index indicates yellow or orange.
What Causes Indoor Air Pollution?
On days when the air quality outdoors is exceedingly unhealthy, you may decide to stay inside — and your local authorities are likely to recommend that residents restrict the time they spend outside, too. Unfortunately, remaining in your home does not automatically protect you against air pollution, and in many cases, the air inside a home will be poorer than the air outside.
Outdoor air pollution that makes its way in through open windows and doors, on clothes, and through tiny cracks contributes to indoor air pollution — but many air pollutants also originate within the home. Common culprits are:
What Can You Do to Increase Your Indoor Air Quality?
People who want to take steps to improve their indoor air quality can simultaneously take steps to reduce the risk that pollutants will appear, and to limit their exposure to pollutants that are already present. Some of the most effective ways to achieve this are to:
Could You Benefit from a Mold Inspection?
Mold is a widespread problems in buildings, including residential homes — and this does not only apply to the “most obvious suspects”, like old, poorly-ventilated, and poorly-maintained houses. Mold can easily take hold even in newly-constructed high-rises. The problem may be painfully obvious; you may see green, gray, blue, or black mold growths in your bathroom or basement, for instance. You could also be overwhelmed by a characteristic musty mold smell.
If so, there is no question that you would benefit from a mold inspection. Even if you already know you have mold, you will want to know precisely what types of mold you are dealing with and what conditions are making it possible for mold to grow.
Even people who neither see nor smell mold may have a mold infestation, however. Anyone who has a chronically humid home, has recently had water damage, and has or suspects that they have leaky pipes or gutters should consider the possibility that mold may be growing in their home. Those people who have taken all the right steps to improve their indoor air quality but still suffer from symptoms like nasal congestion, skin rashes, a sore throat, coughs, shortness of breath, and chest tightness should also consider having a mold inspection performed.
Are you ready for a mold inspection? It may seem easy to ask the same company that could also carry out mold remediation plans to do it for you, but an independent mold inspection only company like MI&T is free from commercial biases and will only give you the facts. After our thorough visual mold inspection, we take air samples that are analyzed at an independent laboratory to inform you precisely what concentration of mold spores is present in your home, and what types of mold you are dealing with.
Armed with your detailed mold inspection report, you will be free to engage a mold remediation company as a fully-informed consumer, or to take steps to eliminate your mold infestation yourself. Once complete, an important source of indoor air pollution will be gone from your home, something you can confirm with MI&T’s clearance testing.