In this blog post, we will discuss “What can bad air quality do to you?” The post will first address what can harm your overall lifestyle. Then, it will outline in detail the effects of bad air quality on you. In the end, the article will provide some solutions to minimize air pollution.
What can bad air quality do to you?
Bad air quality can affect you in multiple ways. Here’s the list of it:
- Body Health
- Mental Health
- Scenic Beauties
- Economy loss
- Food and water you have
But first, let’s see the details of how these parameters, as mentioned above, can get affected.
What can harm my lifestyle?
The main culprit to harm your lifestyle is air pollution. As per the World Economic Forum, air pollution is the fourth largest killer in the world. The introduction of harmful agents into the atmosphere is known as air pollution. The toxic agents are known as pollutants. These pollutants are derived from natural and human activities, and they can be chemical or biological.
Major pollutants present in the air are particulate matter (PM), ground-level ozone (O3), NO2, SO2, and CO. Air also has lead, allergens, bacteria, viruses and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Besides climate change, air pollution has become a significant environmental risk to human health.
Therefore, striving towards minimising air pollution can also help to improve climate change mitigation efforts. In addition, reducing emissions will enhance the quality of air.
What is indoor and outdoor pollution?
Air pollution in the outside environment is called ambient pollution or outdoor pollution. Some of the examples are the transportation sector, energy generation, industries, dust storms, etc. Air pollution created inside any closed structure is called indoor pollution or household pollution. Cooking activities, cleaning and dusting of house, use of scents and perfumes, etc. Are some of the examples of indoor air pollution.
Let’s see what Air Quality Index is.
What is AQI, and what levels make it unhealthy?
Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has determined the air quality index (AQI) to know the air quality you inhale. The table given below will show how the air quality index looks like.
|Air Quality Index (AQI)||Levels of Health Concern|
|(When the AQI is in this range)||(air quality conditions are)|
|0 to 50||Good|
|51 to 100||Moderate|
|101 to 150||Unhealthy for Sensitive group|
|151 to 200||Unhealthy|
|201 to 300||Very Unhealthy|
|301 to 500||Hazardous|
The primary purpose of AQI is to inform residents about the impact of local air quality on their health. The Environment Protection Agency calculates the AQI for five major pollutants: ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide.
The meaning of the Air quality index as mentioned earlier categories are as follows:
|Air quality is considered satisfactory; air pollution is of little or no risk.|
|Air quality is acceptable; some pollutants present in the air might be dangerous for a minority of people who are very sensitive to air pollution.|
|Members of sensitive groups may get ill effects. However, the general public is likely not to get affected.|
|This air quality level can pose a threat to everyone. However, members of sensitive people may experience more severe effects.|
|Emergency level of air quality; Entire population might be affected|
|Health alert: Every person breathing such air quality may get serious health issues.|
Thus, it is clear that excluding the first two levels are relatively good to venture out and to do various outdoor activities. However, the last three levels will give you or other adverse effects by inhaling dirty air. The above section will explain the health effects due to polluted air.
After getting the clarity of the basics, let’s dive in to discover more about the relation between air quality and cold-like symptoms.
Now let’s dive into the details of how bad air quality can disrupt our lifestyle.
Effect of Bad Air Quality on You
Air pollution causes detrimental effects on human health. It can affect your body, from the hair on your head to nails on your toes. The pollutants, especially particulate matter (PM2.5), can deeply penetrate your lungs, and through them, they can be dissolved into the bloodstream. Such a dissolving process can make your blood oxygen-depleted and can result in various dangerous effects. While the short-term effects recover quickly and can be treatable, long-term effects take much more years. WHO has already declared particulate matter as a carcinogen. The impact on human health are:
Air pollution has also taken a toll on mental well-being. Severe deterioration in air quality can result in damaged cognitive skills in children and adults. It can also lead to depression. In addition, the researchers in the University of Michigan’s School of Natural resources and Environment have studied that air pollution can also affect children’s academic performance.
Air pollution can affect some of the vulnerable sections of the world. For example, women and children in rural areas of developing countries are more vulnerable to lung diseases due to high exposure to biomass such as animal dung, wood, etc., during cooking.
WHO has also claimed that low and middle-income countries suffer significantly due to pollution as the air quality standards pass the safe guideline limits.
Prolonged exposure of pollution on human settlements and any historic structure can cause degradation of it. For example, one of the air pollutants, soot, can get accumulated on the exterior walls of the buildings. This causes a displeasing appearance. The extended exposure to high levels of air pollution can also lead to corrosion of construction materials used. One of the classic examples is the magnificent Taj Mahal.
Air pollution in the form of acid rain has not even spared beautiful structures like the Taj Mahal. Acid rains have caused discolouration of the marble-made Taj Mahal, making it turn yellowish in appearance.
Acid rains are also responsible for the corrosion of metals used in the structures. Other materials which get affected due to air pollution are limestone, nickel-plated steel, galvanized steel, marble and paints. If you don’t know, acid rain is formed when airborne pollutants form clouds and condense in the atmosphere.
If air pollution is not taken seriously by you, your friends, or your elected political leader, it will cost you the scenic beauties. Your vast lush green natural grasslands or green rich forests might be replaced arid and barren lands. Unfortunately, it sounds depressing. But, here’s why I am predicting this.
Air pollution can considerably affect the soil and water health of the Earth when the toxic pollutants develop into clouds and condense to form acid rain. Acid rains are also called acid precipitations. Acid precipitation is completely acidic. Acidic precipitation changes the soil’s pH level when it comes in contact with land surfaces and water bodies.
Even the warmer air alters the temperature of the soil, which changes the composition of the bacteria. The acidic deposition is of two types, namely, wet and dry. Acid rain is a wet type of acidic deposition that causes soil erosion and affects the ecosystem. In contrast, dry deposition occurs when small acid particles and gases such as sulphur dioxides and nitrogen dioxides fall on the Earth’s surface.
Now, acidic precipitation results in soil degradation. The soil acidic in nature decreases the ability to retain many nutrients such as calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and potassium (K). The agricultural run-off or water on the soil gets absorbed and seeps through the soil. As a result, the aquifers or groundwaters are also gets affected.
On the other hand, the acidic rain falling on the water bodies pose a significant threat to aquatic life. The constant fluctuations of water temperatures and the nutrient composition imbalances fish population and other wildlife depending on it.
The aquatic life in the oceans has been at significant risk due to air pollution. Corals, mangroves and seaweeds are degrading due to air pollution. In addition, fishes are dependent on these habitats for survival, posing a threat to their population.
Additionally, fishes are finding it difficult to breathe because of depleting oxygen supplies. World Meteorological Organisation says that around 90% of the greenhouse gases get trapped in the oceans.
Plants’ immune system behaves just like how the human immune system weakens due to air pollution. This can lead to an increased risk of insect infestation. The University of Colorado recently informed that pine trees are more sensitive to damage from pine bark beetles. Newsweek story in 2008 reported that pine beetles were responsible for destroying around 22 and 1.5 million acres of pine trees in Canada and Colorado, respectively.
Thus, if you don’t pay any heed to your health, the air quality you have taken in, then it may cause you a bomb. You need to only pay for medicines and hospital bills; that’s how your money from the wallet will fly. Besides, if your region is known for tourism, the deterioration of historic structures and wildlife and the green covers can make it impossible to attract new tourists. Thus, the tourism sector will go into loss.
Air pollution also creates a hindrance to the growth of the economy. For example, poor air quality makes you less productive at work. In addition, less visibility due to dust pollution affects the business’s logistics and supply chain management.
Smog conditions in cities can also lead to a one-day lockdown in the region. Finally, the contact of harmful pollutants with structures can lead to deterioration.
This can eventually lead to additional costs of restoration or demolition. In addition, fishing and agricultural communities can receive a lot of economic losses due to less productivity in crops and fish farming.
Harmful pollutants produced from the industries results in a direct impact on the wildlife. Just like humans, air pollution also affects animal health. Industrial air pollution causes considerable damages to the animals, such as:
- Inflammation of eyes and other vital organs
- Respiratory ailments and cardiovascular diseases
- Bioaccumulation and disturbance in a food web
- A disrupted pattern in migration pattern and reproduction activities
- Physiological stress and anaemia
Some pollutants even change the distribution patterns of the existing species making them endangered.
Recent studies have shown that indoor air pollution affects dogs’ health severely.
Prolonged exposure to indoor air pollution can increase the risk of tumours. Particulate matter pollution can lead to cardiac arrest in pets. Increased ozone levels in the air can cause an impaired immune system in toads.
Air pollution can also affect amphibians’ physiology and behavioural pattern. For example, coal power plants are affecting the respiratory systems of birds.
The acidification of wetlands and other water resources have resulted in the depletion of fishes. This has affected populations of birds depending upon wetland systems or fishing.
Insects are also vulnerable to air pollution. Even the slightest change in the air quality forces insects to relocate, which disrupts the —some ecosystems food chain of the insects which are resilient to air pollution digest organic waste less effectively.
Food and water you have
The food and water you have on your plate can also get affected due to direct and indirect air pollution. You must also be knowing. Air pollution can considerably affect the soil and water health of the Earth when the toxic pollutants develop into clouds and condense to form acid rain. Such acid rains change the PH value of the soil as well as the water bodies. The decreased nutrition value of the ground and the contact of pollutants such as ozone with the leaves of the plants make the crop yields nearly less helpful for your body. This can generate a restless feeling in your stomach, leading to diarrheal issues. The same thing is caused by drinking poor quality water. Many untreated effluents are discharged into the water, and its acidification due to airborne pollutants such as sulphur oxides can disintegrate gut health.
In the next section, I will elaborate on the solutions to reduce air pollution.
What can I do to protect myself from air pollution?
I will elaborate on some of the measures to protect yourself from air pollution.
You can also fight the effects of air pollution by maintaining personal hygiene:
- You can cut your nails short to avoid the accumulation of dirt.
- You can also practice mouth gargling after coming home to free your mouth from unwanted guests.
- You can also brush twice a day to keep airborne infections at bay.
- You can also take steam therapy at home to cleanse your lungs.
Smoking cigarettes, hookahs (shisha), electric vape or any other types of cigars are not at all suitable for your health. It’s best to stop smoking. Active and passive smoking provides the direct entry of harmful pollutants into your body. This causes the risk to your respiration and other organs dependent on it.
Physical activities have many benefits to your body. It not only improves your stamina and immunity levels but also helps to increase your lung capacity. Yoga, sanas, swimming, running, cycling, brisk walking and dancing are some of the best forms of exercise to improve your health.
The majority of people in the world don’t breathe properly. However, correct breathing techniques can keep illnesses due to air pollution at bay. A pranayama is a form of yoga asana which helps to improve breathing methods and lung functionality.
Some of the pranayama types that help you fight air pollution are Kapalbhati, Anulom Vilom, Chandra Nadi, Surya Nadi and Bhastrika. It is strongly recommended to learn this art of breath from a well-certified yoga trainer.
You can also increase your lung muscles by simply taking a deep breath and holding it for a count of 10. Then, slowly breathe out the air. If you can keep your breath for a longer time, then you have good lungs health.
Always go for a well-balanced diet to remain fit and strong. Consistent eating of junk and fast food will increase the risk of obesity and other diseases. In addition, such people are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of air pollution. Instead, add more fresh veggies and fruits to your diet. Also, you can consume less meat to minimise carbon footprints.
You can also add anti-inflammatory foods as these types of food help to cleanse your lungs effectively. Anti-inflammatory foods which I recommend are:
Immunity booster drinks
You can do your immunity booster drinks by using readily available items in your kitchen. Immunity booster drinks help to cleanse your lungs. Some of the DIY immunity booster drinks are as follows:
- Take a glass of warm white milk. Add half a teaspoon of turmeric powder to it. Also, add two strands of saffron to it. Drink it at night before sleeping. You will get good sleep, and you will be relieved from chest congestion.
- Boil water by adding half cinnamon stick. Drink the spice-infused water once a day. Your sinuses would be cleared up.
- Buy an excellent green tea. Prepare a green tea by following the packet instructions. Have it whenever you feel irritation in your throat.
- Take some crushed 1 or 2 peppercorns, a half-inch of a blade of lemongrass and 1 inch of grated ginger and half a teaspoon of turmeric powder. Add everything in one glass of boiling water and reduce it to half a glass. Drink two tablespoons of this spice-infused warm water every after three hours. Adding honey is optional.
- You can also drink warm water and add honey if you want. Honey helps to relieve throat irritation.
Mask can prevent you from inhaling the polluted air. You would be able to work in contaminated areas without any fear of allergy infections and stress.
Masks I recommend
|Name||Why I recommend it|
|BASE CAMP CROSSDUST MASK||EAPI Filter Technology & Advanced NanotechnologyUser FriendlyMore Durable Six layers face maskFilter materials of the dust mask: Double-Layer Melt-blown with Electrostatic Adsorption Performance, Activated carbon, Non-woven Polypropylene|
|NIOSH approved N95 mask||Four layers mask Flexible nose pad, dual strapsDisposable maskEasy to breathe|
|BASE CAMP Reusable Cloth Face Mask||Three layers mask; 100% cotton Skin-friendly and breathablePocket to add additional filterReusable Mask|
How can I individually reduce air pollution?
You can always try your level best to minimise air pollution. The following are the methods to reduce air pollution at an individual level.
Encourage tree plantation drives amongst the communities. You can be a green saviour of your region. Trees are the natural air purifiers of the environment, and it supplies us with clean air.
Municipal councils or the local authorities can develop urban forests to increase the green cover of the locality. They can also plan to create vertical green walls to improve oxygen levels of the region naturally. But don’t forget to plant only indigenous trees.
Human/ religious celebrations in eco-friendly ways
Nowadays, many couples celebrate gender (of their baby) revealing parties by bursting firecrackers. But, unfortunately, these firecrackers can transform into massive wildfires if they are burst near trees.
Thus, you can celebrate such celebrations by planting trees in your nearby barren land. Bursting firecrackers on any religious, festive or personal occasion are only going to harm your loved ones.
You can also celebrate Christmas by not cutting Christmas Trees. Instead, you can buy artificial ones and use them in the coming years too.
Single-use plastic has been one of the major concerns in the environment. Plastic pollution indirectly contributes to the degradation of air quality. Plastic, when burned, releases various toxic gases such as dioxins into the air.
Encourage alternative use of the plastic product. For example, you can wear a cloth bag for shopping. You can also carry your travel cutlery set to a restaurant. Additionally, you can take your water bottle instead of purchasing a packaged drinking water bottle every time.
Use of public transportation
Increase the use of public transport to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion. You can also try carpooling or the cab sharing option. Then, you can also use bicycles instead of scooters. Lastly, you can always opt for walking a shorter distance.
Alternative use of fossil fuel
It would be best to try switching to other fuel alternatives. For example, don’t use wood for the fireplace. Instead, you can wear multiple layers of clothes for warmth. In this way, you can conserve energy. Additionally, you can also install solar panels on house roofs to convert solar energy into electricity.
You can also buy electric and hybrid vehicles to minimise tailpipe emissions. Finally, propose or discuss a plan with your mayor or any relevant local authority to promote your region’s renewable energy sector.
Reduction of personal carbon footprints
You can also keep a check on your carbon footprints. For example, you can delete unwanted photos, videos or emails from clouds and email boxes as and when possible. Unfortunately, this unwanted stuff takes a lot of energy, which indirectly contributes to air pollution.
You can also switch off the lights and electrical appliances of the vacant rooms. Try buying local products instead of imported ones. Be vocal about them. You can also discover your own country rather than travelling to different ones.
Air pollution is unpredictable; air pollution in your vicinity can affect people living in Asia and vice-a-versa. However, you can create public awareness about air pollution amongst your community by teaching and interacting with your kids about the importance of good air.
Educate youth by telling them the ill effects of poor air quality. Then, let your country’s future know that they deserve a better place to live!
How can the local authorities improve the air quality of your region?
You can always observe the changes happening in your surrounding nature. If you experience bad air quality or any activities producing air pollution, you can always concern relevant local authorities or the mayor.
Here are some methods which local authorities can do.
Proper disposal of waste
Improper solid waste management of an area is an invitation to many diseases and infections. In addition, burning solid waste in public can cause air pollution, although such practices are rare in the US.
The wastes are mainly disposed of in the engineered landfills and recycled before final disposal to landfills and waste incinerators.
In addition, waste incinerators help to convert waste into energy.
However, many researchers have claimed that gasification technology or waste-to-energy technology may release harmful gaseous contaminants. Thus, it is necessary that waste collectors rigorously segregate the waste before sending it to waste incinerators.
The best solution is to minimise waste at a personal level. Statistically, 70% of the waste generated can be recycled effectively. Thus, strive to recycle your waste at a personal level as much as possible.
Reducing air pollution from agriculture
Stubble burning is still practised in some parts of the US. This event contributes to the degradation of air. Local authorities can help farmers convert this waste into cattle fodder or be transformed into pellets as fuel. In addition, farmers should stop the usage of harmful pesticides or fertilisers to decrease air pollution.
How can I reduce indoor air pollution?
Maintaining household or indoor hygiene
You can decrease poor air quality by adequately maintaining indoor hygiene. For example, you can frequently clean your cupboards and open decks to avoid an accumulation of dust particles. You can then vacuum your carpets and sofas at least twice a week.
Make sure your doggies and cats are well-groomed. Use chimneys and exhaust fans in kitchens. You can also install an exhaust fan in washrooms. Always make sure you are keeping your house well ventilated.
Keep doors and windows open when possible. Maintain the health of electric appliances such as heaters, humidifiers, AC, fans, air ducts and so on at regular intervals of the year. Avoid overuse of strong perfumes or strong scented candles indoors. You can additionally use indoor plants to make your indoors more lively and fresh.
Indoor plants do the same work as outdoor ones- they help to purify indoor air naturally. These indoor plants are also easy to maintain.
The indoor plants which I recommend are as follows:
- Snake plant
- English Ivy
- Peace Lily
- Red-Edged Dracaena
- Boston Fern
- Spider Plant
- Weeping fig
- Bamboo Palm
- Rubber Plant
Air purifiers help to improve indoor air quality. The risk of getting air pollution-related diseases decreases due to the use of air purifiers. Air purifiers having good HEPA filters do an adequate job of filtering pollutants.
Air Purifiers I recommend are as follows:
|Name||Why I recommend it|
|Blueair Pro XL Air Purifier||99.7% of airborne pollutants such as mould, allergens, smoke particles and pollens are captured.|
|AIRMEGA 400S||Reduction of 99.97% of particulates of 0.3 microns. Also responsible for reducing more than 99% of VOCs, NH3 and CH3CHO.Washable and permanent pre-filters are available|
|Blueair Pure 121||Includes 3-part filtration system. Captures 99% of common airborne PM 2.5 pollutants such as allergens, odours, smoke, mould spores, dust mites and pet dander.An activated carbon filter removes common odours caused by smoke, pets, and gases (VOCs) and smoke caused by wildfires.|
The humidity levels in the office should be maintained between 30 and 50% in the office. This range helps to keep dust mites, mould and other allergens under control. In addition, when AC or heater makes the air in the room dry, humidifiers can maintain correct humidity levels.
Humidifiers I recommend
|Name||Why I recommend it|
|Amazon Basics Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier||4 litre of tank capacityAuto shut-off feature and 12 or 24-hour timer settingsIt can be used in both seasons|
|MOVTIP Humidifier||Portable Mini-humidifier500 ml capacity, still produces longer mistsEasy to operate|
|LEVOIT Humidifier||It can be used for both seasons6 litres of capacity Easy to clean and has a remote control|
Dehumidifiers also work similarly to humidifiers. It controls the high levels of humidity in the office.
Dehumidifiers I recommend
|Name||Why I recommend it|
|Pro Breeze Dehumidifier||Can extract 50 pints of moisture a dayEnergy-saving auto-off systemBuilt-in Humidity sensor|
|HOmeLabs Dehumidifier||Eliminates moistness, odour controllerEasy to cleanRemovable water tank|
|TCL Portable Dehumidifier||20 pints of moisture removed per dayIt can be operated at low temperatures tooEasy to maintain|
Other FAQs about Air Quality that you may be interested in.
In this blog post, we discussed “What can bad air quality do to you?” The post first addressed what can harm your overall lifestyle. Then, it outlined in detail the effects of bad air quality on you. In the end, the article provided some solutions to minimize air pollution.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): What can bad air quality do to you?
What does poor air quality due to humans?
Poor air quality can immediately cause dryness and irritation of the nose, eyes, throat and cause shortness of breath. In addition, it can aggravate asthma and other respiratory ailments.
What happens when you breathe unhealthy air quality?
Breathing unhealthy levels of air quality can exacerbate asthma or allergy issues. It can also lead to difficulty in breathing. In addition, prolonged exposure to elevated levels of air pollution can increase the risk of other diseases to the heart and other vital organs. It can also lead to cancer.
What are the symptoms of poor air quality?
The symptoms of poor air quality are as follows:
- Dryness and irritation in nose, throat, eyes and skin.
- Sneezing and coughing
- Difficulty in breathing
Can you go outside with unhealthy bad air quality?
No, you cannot go outside in unhealthy air quality. Going outside in such polluted air will affect lung functionality. It will generate cough, cold and sinus issues. It will also make you feel sluggish.
How can you protect yourself from harmful air quality?
You can protect yourself from harmful air quality by doing the following:
- First, be informed and check the AQI before going out. Second, avoid going outdoors if the AQI is unhealthy.
- Use a good quality mask to protect yourself from air pollution. Cover your nose and mouth carefully with the mask.
- Use air purifiers when you are inside your house. Change its filter if needed.
- Close windows and doors if there is heavy smog or wildfire smoke outside.
- Don’t overstress yourself, be calm and enjoy indoor therapeutic activities.
Who has the worst air quality in the US?
Los Angeles has the worst air quality in the US.
Brown, J., 2019. How dirty air could be affecting our gut health. BBC Future. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190128-how-dirty-air-could-be-affecting-our-gut-health
Canada.ca. 2021. Air pollution: effects on soil and water – Canada.ca. [online] Available at https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/air-pollution/quality-environment-economy/ecosystem/effects-soil-water.html
Mackenzie, J. and Turrentine, J., 2021. Air Pollution: Everything You Need to Know. [online] NRDC. Available at https://www.nrdc.org/stories/air-pollution-everything-you-need-know
National Geographic Society. 2021. air pollution. [online] Available at https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/air-pollution/
Shi, Z., 2014. Why air pollution reduces crop yields. [online] World Economic Forum. Available at https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2014/11/air-pollution-reduces-crop-yields/
Unece.org. 2021. Air pollution and food production | UNECE. [online] Available at https://unece.org/air-pollution-and-food-production