How Does Air Quality Affect Health?

Air that is clean and pure is a daily necessity for survival. Clean air can truly improve your quality of life. But because it’s intangible, it’s frequently disregarded and taken for granted. That’s why the quality of the air you breathe is so important.

Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. The extent of the threat posed by air pollution is probably far greater than most of us think. Unfortunately, the air we breathe on a daily basis has gotten more polluted in recent years. In fact, nine out of 10 people now breathe contaminated air, which kills seven million people each year. It has evolved into a global health threat from which we cannot truly escape, regardless of where we are, even in our own homes.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) defines air pollution as a mixture of dangerous chemicals originating from both man-made and natural sources. Traffic-related air pollution from motor and vehicle emissions; ozone or smog at ground level; noxious gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides; and particulate matter (PM), which is made up of compounds like sulfates, nitrates, carbon, and mineral dust, are all examples.

Air pollution is a major environmental issue that can cause a variety of diseases, and it has been demonstrated to have a significant role in a number of global fatalities each year because it affects practically all of our body's systems.

Children, pregnant women, the elderly, low-income minorities, and people with compromised health due to heart and lung ailments are among the most affected groups by this worldwide burden. According to research, there were 6.67 million global deaths from air pollution in 2019, with roughly 500,000 newborn deaths.

So, How Exactly Does Bad Air Quality Affect Our Health?

Air pollution can affect nearly every system in our bodies, which is why it's often referred to as a "silent killer." According to recent data, lung cancer, stroke, heart disease, and lung disease are all linked to air pollution and account for 29% of global deaths, 24% of stroke deaths, 25% of heart disease deaths, and 43% of lung disease deaths.

Respiratory Diseases

As described by The Clean Breathing Institute, the effect of air pollution on the respiratory system ranges from minor upper respiratory irritation to more serious chronic problems, lung cancer, and acute respiratory infections. It also commonly causes lung irritation, cough, runny nose, nasal congestion, phlegm, dyspnoea, wheezing, sneezing, chest discomfort, and a dry or irritated throat. 

Although these don't sound as serious, they can still disrupt daily activities and even lead to more severe respiratory problems. Moreover, dirty air also triggers asthma for a lot of people. In the US alone, over 20 million people, including children, suffer from asthma, an incurable chronic respiratory disease. Unfortunately, common air pollutants can trigger asthma, which makes it even harder for people who are already suffering with the disease. 

Cardiovascular Disease

Similar to respiratory diseases, bad air quality can also affect your heart short-term and long-term, as exposure increases the risk of heart diseases. In 2004, the American Heart Association released a study that concluded that air pollution can contribute to various cardiovascular illnesses and even mortality. Moreover, it was mentioned that even short-term exposure to pollution can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, arrhythmias, and heart failure. 

The elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions are more prone to experiencing these. Long-term exposure can even lead to death. 

What Can You Do to Lessen the Risk of Air Pollution Exposure?

Change should always start within, so what better way to minimize the risks than by starting in your own home? 

Be Air Aware and Lessen Your Exposure

Awareness is truly key, so don’t be complacent just because you don’t see it or hear it. Check the air quality daily in your area by visiting AirNow. When pollution levels are high, avoid participating in outdoor activities and stay indoors instead to minimize risks.

This will be especially important for people who live in areas where there are wildfires (or areas where wildfire smoke can spread).

Invest in an Air Purifier

You can’t really control the world around you but you can always begin by breathing cleaner air in the comfort of your own home. Get yourself an air purifier and protect your loved ones from viruses, bacteria, allergens, harmful chemicals, odors, and mold. Sans offers four layers of protection and can even trap the particles that cause COVID-19. 

Be sure to opt for an air purification system that uses a medical-grade HEPA 13 filter — replaceable, not washable. This provides the ultimate protection from viruses, germs, and bacteria in the air. 

Quit Smoking and Stay Away from Smokers

You’ve probably heard this before and we’ll say it once more: Smoking kills. Protect yourself and your loved ones by kicking the habit or, if you’re not a smoker yourself, by simply staying away from people who do so that you can avoid secondhand smoke

Clean Your Home Thoroughly and Regularly

How often do you clean your home? Floors, carpeting, high-touch surfaces (your computer keyboard/mouse, doorknobs), sponges, hand towels, the tub/shower, toilets, your kitchen sink — all of them are home to countless germs. If you have pets, you’re going to need to be even more diligent about cleaning.

Can you totally control the quality of the air you breathe? No. But indoors, you have a much greater say. Follow these tips and you'll be breathing easier in no time.

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