In many parts of the world, air quality is huge health issue. While a recent article from the Washington Post reports that air pollution rates have fallen in both the United States and Europe, they’ve also (not surprisingly) risen in parts of the world like China, India and the Middle East, where emissions standards aren’t as stringent and populations are soaring. And while air pollution is on the decline here in the US, there are still instances like the recent gas leak in Porter Ranch, California, where residents were subjected to the fumes from a methane leak for months.
There’s no question that air quality – whether outdoor or indoor – is a major factor in the health and well-being of people everywhere. And while there’s little one can do about their outdoor environment (shy of moving to a different climate), cleaning up your indoor air environment is much more achievable. Asthma rates in both children and adults have consistently been climbing over the years: nearly 26 million Americans have asthma, including more than 7 million children. Indoor pollutants that contribute to asthma include dust mites, fungi, molds, and tobacco smoke. These contaminants play a huge role in the health of asthmatics, as well as those who have allergies or other breathing sensitivities. Some of the leading contributors to poor indoor air quality include ventilation problems; combustion products (fireplaces, furnaces, wood stoves); volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like paint fumes and off-gassing from new furniture or carpet; and bioaerosols, which are airborne contaminates like mold, bacteria, mites and pollen.
There are several of telltale signs that you could be experiencing the effects of poor quality indoor air. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) – similar to the US’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) – lists the following as common side effects stemming from exposure to poor air quality:
- Dryness and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin
- Shortness of breath
- Hypersensitivity and allergies
- Sinus congestion
- Coughing and sneezing
They also note that people generally affected notice their symptoms begin when they’re in a specific environment with poor indoor air conditions, and feel better after they have left that particular area.
Removing factors that directly contribute to poor air quality is certainly an important step to cleaning up your indoor environment. Fixing leaks, adjusting the humidity levels, removing mold and mildew, vacuuming regularly and using fewer chemicals can all go a long way to creating healthier air. Depending on your needs or sensitivities, you might also consider investing in a high-quality air purifier that’s designed to run 24/7 and utilizes better-than-HEPA filtration, ionization and has the capabilities to destroy up to 99% of contaminants in the air and on surfaces.