Why is the air quality bad?

The concentration of pollutants in the air affects the air we breathe. There are numerous factors that affect the air quality. But the two major factors are: the ground level Ozone and Particulate matter. 

However, The weather conditions also determine the pollution levels of a particular area.

So in this article we will discuss why the air quality is bad, what are its factors and health effects. And finally how we can mitigate the harmful effects. So read this article till the end to know more.

Why is the air quality bad?

The air quality is bad mainly because the concentration of two major pollutants namely; Ground level Ozone and particulate matter increases. 

The high concentration of these pollutants causes harmful effects in humans such as; 

  • inflammation of airways
  • Coughing , throat irritation
  • Watery eyes
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Stinging eyes
  • Worsen the condition of asthmatics
  • Emergency visits to hospitals for asthma patients
  • Cardiovascular conditions like stroke and heart attack etc.

 

How does Ozone and Particulates affect the air quality? 

Given below is the table which shows  what are the sources and health effects of ozone: 

Ozone Sources Health effects 
Ozone is a gas which is present in the stratosphere. It protects us from the effects of harmful UV rays. But when formed at ground level it causes several harmful effects. The main sources that release the NOx and volatile hydrocarbons are  Vehicular exhaust, thermal power plants,High concentration of ozone reduces lung functioning. Causes inflammation of airwayscoughing , throat irritation
The ground level ozone is  produced by the reaction between the oxides of nitrogen and hydrocarbons in the presence of sunlight.Industrial emissions, factories, etc.Watery eyesChest tightness
Ozone is one of the most studied pollutants; especially during the summertime. The main sources of primary pollutants that take part in the production of Ozone are; oxides of nitrogen and hydrocarbons released from: High temperature is the main precursor of Ozone formation. That’s why Ozone pollution is not a matter of worry during winters.Worsen the condition of asthmaticsEmergency visits to hospitals for asthma patients

 

Particulate Matter SourcesHealth effects 
Another pollutant which is the main concern to the researchers  are the fine and coarse particulate matter. Common sources include:Dust and  Fire smoke The particulates lingering in the ambient air can cause several lung and cardiovascular diseases; such as:Asthma, CoughingStinging eyes.
The PM10 particles are defined as particles having the size range of either 10 or less than 10 microns. These particles are small enough to enter your throat as well as lungs. 
Vehicular exhausts Industrial emissionsSmoke from wildfires,Chest tightnessDifficulty in breathingRunny noseWheezing Coughing 
Whereas , PM2.5 are the particles having the size of 2.5 microns or smaller. PM2.5 is very small in size. It is mainly found in smoke.Thermal power plants,
fuel burning etc
Cardiovascular conditions like stroke and heart attacks. 

How do the weather conditions affect the air quality? 

Weather plays a major role in determining  the air quality. The different weather phenomena affect the amount of ozone and particulates present in the air. For example: 

  • Bright sunshine promotes the formation of photochemical smog. 
  • during high temperatures. 
  • At higher temperatures the chemical reactions get accelerated.
  • Windy weather and turbulent air promotes the mixing of the air pollutants and helps in their dispersal. 
  • Rain basically reduces the air pollution, by washing away the particulates and other pollutants. 

How can you limit your exposure from these harmful pollutants?

Keep yourself updated with the 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. 

Install air purifiers to remove pollutants from your house

Given below are the links of a few air purifiers that will remove harmful pollutants from the indoor air.

Westinghouse 1701 HEPA Air Purifier with Patented Medical Grade NCCO TechnologyWestinghouse 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 The filter offers a removal efficiency of 99.97% against harmful viruses and bacteria and also removes 99.72% of particulate matter. 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.
GermGuardian True HEPA Filter Air Purifier, 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.   
Instant Air Purifier 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 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. 
Shark HE601 Air Purifier 6 True HEPA With its high speed  six micro fan speed it offers an even distribution of airflow.  Its Clean Sense IQ monitors  air quality, auto-adjusts power and constantly maintains clean airflow. The filter has an efficiency of 99.98% against particle size upto 0.3 microns.  Highly efficient against dust, dander, allergens, smoke, and household odors like cooking, smoking, cleaning products etc.   Ideal for rooms having a dimension of 1,200 square feet. 

 

 

Install air conditioners for a better airflow 

Apart from cooling, the air conditioners also help in ventilation by the circulation of air inside the room.The air conditioner works on a principle that it draws the warm air of the room and replaces it with cool air, thus ensuring proper air circulation. 

You can find the links to some air conditioners in the links below:

Air conditioners         Why i recommend it 
AmazonBasics Window-Mounted Air ConditionerRemote controlled AC with dehumidifier 
Built in filter can be washed and reused 
Comes with an Auto restart and shut off feature 
LG 6,000 BTU 115V Window Air Conditioner  Quiet operation: produces  sound as low as 52d
Comes with three fan speed options and allows customized cooling 
Auto restart feature, provides a cooling upto 260 sq ft and Ideal for medium rooms.

 

Don’t smoke cigarettes 

Smoking cigarettes can release  upto 7,000 chemicals out of which about 70 of them are carcinogenic. The tobacco smoke also affects the efficiency of your air filters. Some of the major chemicals include; benzene, acrolein, formaldehyde etc. These toxic chemicals have several health hazards including lung cancer. 

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

How to improve air circulation in a room without windows

How to Improve Air Circulation in a Room

How to improve air intake on a car

Conclusion 

So in this article we discussed why the air quality is bad, what are its factors and health effects. And finally how we can mitigate the harmful effects. We hope that you found this article helpful.

Thank you.

References

https://www.weather.gov/wrn/summer-article-clearing-the-air
https://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.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.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

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