Air is an important resource we all take for granted.
The average human breathes in over 3,000 gallons of air each day, but there are many pollutants in our environment that affect the quality of the air we breathe.
Air pollution is the introduction of harmful materials into the atmosphere.
Primary air pollutants are harmful substances released directly from a source.
Secondary air pollutants are compounds converted into harmful substances through chemical reactions (ie, the smog in Beijing is a secondary pollutant).
Anthropocentric air pollutants can come from point or mobile sources, while fugitive pollutants are unintentional leaks.
The EPA lists the six air pollutants as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, ozone and lead.
Breathing in polluted air is bad for human health and the environment, and can result in medical issues (asthma, emphysema, cancer) and environmental issues (smog, acid rain, ozone depletion, climate change).
It’s a global problem that can only be tackled if every individual changes some part of his or her behavior and lifestyle to assist in reducing the number of pollutants emitted into the environment and cleaning up already polluted air.
In 2012, an estimated 7 million people died due to air pollution.
Over half of those deaths were linked to indoor air pollutants from stoves, open fires and smoking.
No location is safe from the effects of air pollution, including your own home.
Believe it or not, the home itself is filled with many hidden air pollutants that people don’t realize.
In one home alone, there are:
- Chemicals released from modern building and furniture
- Combustion gases from fireplaces and stoves
- Chemical fumes from paints and solvents
- Gases seeping through foundation
- Mold and bacteria
- Chemicals from cleaning products
- Carbon monoxide fumes from garages
- Cigarette smoke
The carpet you have can be home to biological pollutants.
Those old forgotten paint cans in your basement can be emitting hazardous fumes.
That new couch you purchased is releasing organic gases as you read this.
The gases are invisible. Most are odorless, and they can seep through walls and under doors.
When I say they’re everywhere, I mean everywhere.
Yes, global air pollution is a threat to our environment.
But before you try to save the world, why don’t you save yourself first? We need you to be alive to help make a difference in any way.
Here are seven simple steps to improve indoor air pollution in your home:
1. Open the windows as much as possible.
Letting fresh air in helps circulate the air. Opening windows will allow all those fumes to exit your home.
2. Clean all filters regularly.
Cleaning filters such as air conditioners, air purifiers and vacuums will help minimize contaminants in the air.
This -- combined with opening windows often -- will make sure you are breathing in fresh, clean air.
3. Make DIY home goods that won’t emit harmful chemicals.
Not only is it fun making your own products like air fresheners, simmer pots and all-natural candles, these products will make your home smell good without polluting the environment.
4. Decorate your home with houseplants.
Houseplants will not only beautify your space, they will also help fight air pollution.
Plants provide us with a natural air cleaning cycle.
5. Use eco-friendly, non-toxic cleaning supplies and low-volatile organic compound paints.
Anything that emits any odor is known as a VOC.
Gases that emit odors are just as bad as gases you cannot smell.
6. Don’t buy carpets.
The fewer carpets you own, the better, since they trap moisture and are home to pollutants.
If you do have carpets, try to keep your humidity levels below 50 percent. Also make sure there is proper ventilation to reduce and eliminate mold and dust mites.
7. Get tested for radon.
Radon causes approximately thousands of lung cancer deaths in the US every year.
It’s colorless and odorless, and can get into any type of building.
These are just a few simple steps people can take to clean up the air in their homes.
Once you are able to make these small behavioral and lifestyle changes, you can then take the extra step and work to reduce outdoor air pollution.
But first things first: Before you help others, make sure you help yourself.