What are the symptoms of poor air quality?

High temperatures when mixed with wind, pollution and airborne particles can deteriorate the ambient air quality. This harmful mixture can have adverse effects on our health. 

So in this article we will discuss the symptoms of poor air quality, which main pollutants make the air quality poor, where do they originate from and finally how can we protect ourselves from their harmful effects. So read this article till the end to know more. 

What are the symptoms of poor air quality? 

The following are major symptoms of poor air quality in humans: 

  • High concentration of ozone reduces lung functioning. 
  • Causes inflammation of airways
  • Coughing , throat irritation
  • Watery eyes
  • Chest tightness
  • Worsen the condition of asthmatics
  • Emergency visits to hospitals for asthma patients
  • Cardiovascular conditions like; Stroke and heart attack

The two major pollutants that make the air quality poor are Ozone and the Particulates. 

 

How does Ozone and Particulates affect the air quality? 

Ozone

Ozone is one of the most studied pollutants; especially during the summertime. Ozone is an invisible gas which is produced by the reaction between the oxides of nitrogen and hydrocarbons in the presence of sunlight.

The main sources of primary pollutants that take part in the production of Ozone are; oxides of nitrogen and hydrocarbons released from: 

  • vehicular exhaust,
  •  thermal power plants,
  •  industrial emissions, factories, etc.

High temperature is the main precursor of Ozone formation. That’s why Ozone pollution is not a matter of worry during winters.

 

Health effects of Ozone pollution:

  • High concentration of ozone reduces lung functioning. 
  • Causes inflammation of airways
  • coughing , throat irritation
  • Watery eyes
  • Chest tightness
  • Worsen the condition of asthmatics
  • Emergency visits to hospitals for asthma patients

Particulate Matter 

Another pollutant which is the main concern to the researchers  are the fine and coarse particulate matter. These obnoxious particles are released from:

  • vehicular exhausts, 
  • wildfires, 
  • power plants,
  • fuel burning etc, 

These are known to cause several health threats like: 

 

Health effects of Particulates:

The particulates lingering in the ambient air can cause several lung and cardiovascular diseases; such as:

  • Asthma
  • Coughing
  • Runny nose
  • Stinging eyes
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Chest tightness
  • Difficulty in breathing 
  • Cardiovascular conditions like stroke and heart attack.

In one of the studies Gilliland and his colleagues have found that children who live near roadways are more susceptible to asthma and breathing disorders.  The particulate matter is high near the busy roadways. Their research has also shown that the particulate matter can even develop Atherosclerosis in adults, which results in cognitive decline.

What is the Air Quality Index and what is its significance?

In the view of this existing condition, the Environmental Protection Agency has established air quality monitoring systems to keep a record of major pollutants. 

The Air Quality Index tells you whether the air is clean or polluted. This can help us protect ourselves from the exposure of harmful pollutants.  

The AQI monitors the six main criteria pollutants. Depending on the concentrations of each pollutant, the pollutants are assigned a color coded index. This ranges from 0-500. The pollutant having the highest concentration is marked with an AQI value for that day.  

Below is the table showing the Air Quality Index: 

Air Quality IndexLevels Color coding 
0-50  Good Green 
51-100 Moderateyellow
101-150 Unhealthy For  Sensitive Groups Orange 
151-200  UnhealthyRed
201-300  Very Unhealthy Purple
301-500  Hazardous Maroon

 

 

How can you limit your exposure to these harmful pollutants?

Monitor air pollution levels to get insight about pollution levels

You can keep a check on the air quality index of your area to get insight about the pollution levels. There are certain websites designed for this purpose such as the Environmental Protection Agency. These sites can be accessed anytime of the day. You can also contact the local hospitals to get an insight. The local news and radio channels also notify you about the Air Quality Index of your area. 

Check for ozone concentrations

During early mornings, the pollutant concentrations; particularly the ground level ozone, are lower as compared to mid afternoon. So you can plan your activities in the mornings. However, If the AQI has reached harmful levels you can schedule your outdoor activities to the next day. 

However the normal physical activities can be performed indoors under controlled conditions like air conditioners and air purifiers when ozone concentrations are significantly high outside. 

Below is the activity recommendation table that will help you to choose the right time for outdoor activities:

Air Quality IndexShort duration (15 mins )Duration for Prolonged exertion (1 hour)Duration for strenuous activities( 2-4+ hrs)Duration for scheduled activities like sports events 
0-50  Good Safe for outdoor activities Safe for outdoor activities Safe for outdoor activities Safe for outdoor activities 
51-100 ModerateSafe for outdoor activities Safe for outdoor activities Safe for outdoor activities Safe for outdoor activities 
101-150  Unhealthy For      Sensitive Groups Short duration physical activities can be done Ideal for mild physical activities Ideal for mild physical activities with frequent rest periodsIdeal for mild physical activities with frequent rest periods
151-200  UnhealthyShort duration physical activities can be done but watch for symptoms like coughing and shortness of breath Mild exercise can be done but watch for symptoms like coughing and shortness of breath Avoid doing strenuous exercises with frequent rest periods All the outdoor  activities should be reschedule or relocation is ideal in this situation 
201-300  Very Unhealthy Restrict outdoor activity, preferably stay indoorsRestrict outdoor activity, preferably stay indoorsRestrict outdoor activity, preferably stay indoorsAll the outdoor activities should be reschedule or relocation is ideal in this situation

Check for particle pollution concentration: 

Particle Pollution (PM2.5): when the concentration of PM2.5 is high in the ambient air, the air quality both outdoors and indoors gets affected. In this case the amount of outdoor physical activities should be limited. 

In such a case, installing air purifiers and HVAC systems will improve the indoor air quality. 

Given below are the links of few air purifiers and HVACsystems that will keep your house clean and safe:

Air purifier : GermGuardian Air Purifier

  • Features: Germ guardian 5 in 1 air purifier is an electrostatic HEPA air filter and offers a removal efficiency of about 99.97% against particles as small as 0.3 microns. 
  • Efficiently removes harmful germs like viruses, odor causing bacteria, mold spores, mildew, and other allergens like;  dust, pet hair, and other large particles; like PM10
  • The efficient UV-C light kills airborne viruses such as influenza, staph and rhinovirus. 
  • The filter also removes the VOC concentration with the help of titanium dioxide. 
  • The activated charcoal filter is effective against cooking odor, tobacco smoke, fumes, pet odor etc. 
  • Offers quiet operation; with the Ultra-quiet sleep mode it operates on low sound levels to get you a good night’s sleep.  
  • GermGuardian Air Purifiers are ideal for medium to large rooms having an area of about 743 sq ft.

Air purifier: Instant Air Purifier

  • Features: Instant air purifiers are proven to kill 99.9% of Covid-19 virus, bacteria, mold, and other harmful viruses. 
  • With its Advanced 3-in-1filtration; HEPA-13, Activated Carbon, Antimicrobial coating and plasma ion technology it removes 99.97% of pollutants like particulate matter tobacco smoke, pet dander, certain odors and other impurities. 
  • Its advanced sensors offer a 24×7 air quality monitoring with auto fan speed adjust feature.
  • It filters the air in an area of 126 sq ft 5x per hour 
  • With its whisper quiet night mode it offers lower noise for a sound sleep.
  • The filters last upto 8 month, after that it needs to be replaced.

Air purifier: Westinghouse 1701 HEPA Air Purifier with Patented Medical Grade NCCO Technology

  • Features: Westinghouse air purifier uses the patented NCCO technology (Nano Confined Catalytic Oxidation) which kills the harmful pollutants by the action of active oxygen. The harmful pollutants are decomposed into harmless compounds such as carbon dioxide and water molecules
  • This air purifier offers a four stage purification process; namely the Pre-filter, Oxygen Generator, True HEPA filter, and the NCCO Reactor.
  • Westinghouse air purifier is a medical grade true HEPA filter with removal efficiency of 99.97 against allergens as small as 0.3 microns. 
  • When the filter needs to be replaced the filter indicator provides an alert. 
  • The purifier is suitable for large to medium rooms like bedroom, kitchen, office, etc having an area of about 300 sq ft.

Air purifier: GermGuardian True HEPA Filter Air Purifier

  • Features: Germ guardian 5 in 1 air purifier is an electrostatic HEPA air filter and offers a removal efficiency of about 99.97% against particles as small as 0.3 microns. 
  • Efficiently removes harmful germs like viruses, odor causing bacteria, mold spores, mildew, and other allergens like;  dust, pet hair, and other large particles.
  • The efficient UV-C light kills airborne viruses such as influenza, staph and rhinovirus. 
  • The filter also removes the VOC concentration with the help of titanium dioxide. 
  • The activated charcoal filter is effective against cooking odor, tobacco smoke, fumes, pet odor etc. 
  • Offers quiet operation; with the Ultra-quiet sleep mode it operates on low sound levels to get you a good night’s sleep.  
  • GermGuardian Air Purifiers are ideal for medium to large rooms having an area of about 743 sq ft

 

The HVAC system works efficiently towards filtering airborne contaminants and also helps in continuous circulation of air.

Given below are the links of few HVAC systems that will keep your house clean and safe:

HVAC System:  Honeywell F300E1019 Electronic Air Cleaner

  • Features: This can be operated with gas, oil and AC systems. 
  • Efficiency for capturing particles is upto 98%.
  • Has a very low pressure drop

HVAC System: DAIKIN Inverter Air Conditioner Heat Pump System

  • Features: Daikin’s ductless technology offers  greater  energy efficiency; cools and warms up the room fast.
  • Smart inverter technology with integrated inverted variable speed compressor
  • Provides continuous heating and cooling with minimum temperature fluctuations.
  • Quiet operation; with indoor sound levels as low as 37 decibels. 

 

Other FAQs about Air Quality that you may be interested in.

What are the six levels of Air Quality?

What are the indicators of air quality?

What are PM2.5 particles?

Conclusion 

So in this article we discussed the symptoms of poor air quality, which main pollutants make the air quality poor, where do they originate from and finally how can we protect ourselves from their harmful effects.

We hope that you found this article helpful.

Thank you.

References

https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2011/07/bad-air-day

hthttps://www.epa.vic.gov.au/for-community/environmental-information/air-quality/pm10-particles-in-the-air

https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/for-community/environmental-information/air-quality/pm25-particles-in-the-air
https://www.filtrete.com/3M/en_US/filtrete/home-tips/full-story/~/air-awareness-101-air-quality-index-decoded/?storyid=904ac859-c836-4cd1-af67-d6be265570a9
https://www.michigan.gov/documents/deq/deq-aqd-AQI-Actions_327479_7.pdf
https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/for-community/environmental-information/air-quality/ozone-in-the-air
https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/for-community/environmental-information/air-quality/pm10-particles-in-the-air
https://www.filtrete.com/3M/en_US/filtrete/home-tips/full-story/~/air-awareness-101-air-quality-index-decoded/?storyid=904ac859-c836-4cd1-af67-d6be265570a9
https://www.lung.org/clean-air/outdoors/what-makes-air-unhealthy/ozone#:~:text=Often%20called%20%22smog%2C%22%20ozone%20is%20harmful%20to%20breathe.&text=The%20ozone%20layer%20found%20high,troposphere)
https://www.epa.gov/outdoor-air-quality-data/air-data-basic-information
https://www.intechopen.com/chapters/48858

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