Air Quality

Air Quality

We hear about air quality from many sources, from the weather report to vacuum cleaner commercials. The air we breathe can carry many tiny particles that will affect your health, especially if you are an allergy sufferer. Common contaminants in the air include dust, pollen, and smoke. Air in well-insulated houses can concentrate not only these contaminants but fumes and vapors from household chemicals like chlorine bleach and cleaners. Getting enough fresh air where you live may be as simple as opening a window or as complex as filtering and ensuring proper humidity in an apartment or office HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) system. Use of smoke removers and air filters (either electrostatic or HEPA) may improve indoor air quality.

Recently Answered

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    A , Allergy & Immunology, answered
    Research done decades ago by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) found that certain house plants can actually "clean the air" of pollutants and dust. A growing amount of plant researchers are identifying various plants that will remove pollutants from your home or place of business. These plants are peace lily, English ivy, weeping fig, devil's ivy, flamingo flower and mother-in-laws tongue. It is estimated that the average size home will benefit from between 6-12 plants.
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    A , Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease), answered
    Home air filters sound like they'd be the best things for your lungs since snorkeling tubes. After all, when used and maintained properly, they can filter allergens out of the air.

    Unfortunately, many people don't see big benefits after bringing an air filter home. Why? The primary reason isn't a mechanical malfunction, but an owner malfunction. Most people don't service the air filters regularly, so they're not that effective. They don't clean or change components as the directions recommend. If you stick to regular maintenance, however, air filters can be useful for taking allergens out of the air.
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    A , Internal Medicine, answered
    Particulate matter differs from ozone, carbon monoxide and other pollutants in that the term does not refer to a specific chemical but rather a very complex mixture of numerous particles of varying sizes and chemical properties. In general, the higher the concentration of particulate matter of a certain size, the more likely you are to have premature heart and lung disease. The smallest and midsized particles seem to be the most potentially injurious.

    Particles that are 10 microns or less in diameter (PM10) are the most easily transported via air (larger particles fall to the ground quickly) and therefore are the most commonly measured particles when analyzing air pollution. Of these, particles in the range of 0.1 to 10 microns are most readily breathed in and retained in the lungs. In fact, the most recent research is focusing upon particles in the 2.5 and smaller micron range (PM2.5) as being perhaps the most important for human disease.

    Particles that are smaller than 0.1 micron but greater than in the nanotechnology range are breathed in or out, thus, not retained in the lung. These sized particles do not seem to cause immune dysfunction in the lung, making them less of a problem. Particles greater than 10 microns rarely make it into the lungs -- your cilia in your airways block their entranced and clear them out.
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    A , Allergy & Immunology, answered
    Most schools are poorly ventilated. Schools from the '70s were built to have low energy loss -- an admirable goal itself. However, a certain amount of air circulation is required for people in a building, and a percentage of this should be fresh air from outside; some of these building went overboard trying to conserve energy and thus do not meet these standards. A study of radon in schools by the Government Accountability Office (then known as the General Accounting Office) found that over half of those surveyed had poor ventilation, which traps allergens.

    If there is any dampness in a building like this, a toxic mold called Stachybotrys chartium may grow. One school in Connecticut was so moldy that it had to be torn down.
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    A answered
    Thanks to recent technology, the EPA and the National Weather Service have developed downloadable apps for smartphones that allow you to do just that. The AIRNOW app will let you check levels of pollutants and ozone by zip code. It now tracks more than 400 cities across the nation. The UV Index app offers ultraviolet (UV) radiation levels by entering your zip code as well. Having this information can be especially helpful to people who struggle with lung disease, parents who want to be cautious as far as safety outdoors, and for seniors who may be more sensitive to these variables. You might also motivate your teen to be more health conscious if you can impress him with an app!!
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    A , Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease), answered
    In chili recipes and golf swings, little changes can make a big difference. The same holds true for managing your air quality. Since you can control (at least partly) what goes in and out of your mouth and nose, you have some say about the quality of air waiting to enter your system.

    Sure, living in today's society means that we'll be exposed to some toxic substances as pollution, carbon monoxide, and some morning-drive DJs. But you can take steps to avoid being exposed to many pollutants.

    Here are some tips, ranging from easy to not so easy:
    • Don't store any toxin-containing substances within your home.

    • Keep plants in your home. Simply, plants improve air quality because they produce oxygen, increase the oxygen in the room, and remove pollutants from the air.

    • Keep your windows open at times to let in fresh air. The better sealed a house is, the more you lock in toxins emitted from newer construction materials.

    • Keep your windows closed when on the freeways in large cities (or take the side streets). Did you know that driving for one hour on a Los Angeles freeway exposes you to the same amount of carbon monoxide as the average tunnel that's not well ventilated?

    • Clean your air ducts every three years.

    • Make sure your home doesn't harbor radon, asbestos, or mold. You should test for all three before buying a house. But if you didn't do it beforehand, test for them now.

    • Consider changing jobs. If you can avoid jobs where you exposed to pollutants and toxins, it can have a RealAge effect of making you up to 2.8 years younger. That's because avoiding pollution at work decreases arterial hardening and decreases all diseases related to arterial aging, like infections of the lung, asthma, heart disease, stroke, and memory loss.

    • Consider changing cities. If you're itching to move, head to one of U.S. cities that has very low levels of air pollution, as ranked by the American Lung Association's annual State of the Air report. The report ranks cities on both ozone and particle pollution. The smallest pollutants get the furthest into your lungs, which can have a detrimental effect on your immune system, as well as increase the rate of inflammation in your lungs, arteries, and entire cardiovascular system.
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    Humidity can cause the temperature to feel warmer than it really is. Humidity can be harmful if the humidity level and the temperature are high. For example, if the temperature outside is 92 degrees F and the relative humidity level is 65 percent, then the temperature outside will feel like 103 degrees F.

    (This answer provided for NATA by the Washington State University Athletic Training Education Program.)
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    A , Internal Medicine, answered
    Molds produce mycotoxins, which weaken or kill the things they live on or compete with. Short-term exposure can cause breathing problems, and the research indicates that long-term exposure may also be linked to cancer.
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    A Nutrition & Dietetics, answered on behalf of
    Ozone is created when the sun’s heat and light act upon gases and pollution in the air. It’s bad to breathe -- especially for people with asthma, and especially during May to September, the “ozone season” when ozone levels are highest.
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    The percentage of oxygen is the same at sea level as it is at high altitudes, which is roughly 21 percent. However, because air molecules at high altitudes are more dispersed, each breath delivers less oxygen to the body. A breath at 12,000 feet (3,657.6 m), delivers 40 percent less oxygen to the body than it does at sea level. At 18,000, feet, a breath takes in 50 percent less oxygen. As a result of this difference, you should expect to feel short of breath during and shortly after physical activities, such as mountain climbing or biking,at higher altitudes.