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The Invisible Threat: Understanding the Importance of Air Quality

Updated: Mar 7




New York City Orange sky from Canada wildfires

Orange skies and smokey smells. If that description sounds familiar, you are likely residing on the East Coast of the United States right now (like me) or live on the West Coast and are used to forest fires. In my 21 years of living, I never seen anything like this. Canada’s wildfire smoke made its way down, creating many places with AQI (Air Quality Index) ranging from unhealthy to hazardous. This is something I don’t typically see wellness bloggers talk about, which is strange because environmental wellness also is a huge aspect of the wellness category that can hinder the development you make as an Asthma girlie, I want to share all I can about the importance of air quality.



Which of the following best describes your attitude towards air quality?

  • It's a top priority for me

  • It's important, but not my top priority

  • It's not a big concern for me


Things That Impact Air Quality


Before I dive in on the reasons why it's important to pay attention to air quality, I wanted to start the post by listing some things that can impact the air quality and examples of each:



Outdoor air pollution

  • Vehicle emissions: exhaust fumes from cars and trucks; Emissions from buses, motorcycles, and other motorized vehicles.

  • Industrial emissions: Manufacturing plants, Power plants, Refineries, Chemical and petrochemical plants, Mining operations, and Construction sites

  • Burning fossil fuels: burning coal to generate electricity, burning gasoline in cars and trucks, and burning oil in power plants and refineries.

  • Natural disasters: forest fires, dust storms, etc.

  • Smoking

Indoor air pollution

  • Household cleaning products

  • Candles and incense

  • Cooking with gas stoves and ovens

  • Smoking indoors

  • Mold and mildew

  • Building materials and furnishings, such as paint, carpets, and furniture



6 Reasons why poor air quality is Dangerous




1. It can cause respiratory problems such as asthma and bronchitis


According to the American Lung Association, air pollution can cause asthma attacks and worsen symptoms for those with asthma. Air pollution contains tiny particles, such as smoke, dust, and chemicals, that can irritate the airways, leading to inflammation and narrowing of the air passages, making it harder to breathe. Long-term exposure to air pollution can also increase the risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. These conditions are characterized by inflammation and damage to the airways, leading to breathing difficulties, coughing, and excess mucus production. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the air quality around you and take necessary precautions to avoid exposure to polluted air, particularly for individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions.


2. It can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke


According to the American Heart Association, exposure to air pollution can cause inflammation in the body, leading to plaque buildup in the arteries. This buildup restricts blood flow to the heart and brain, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Poor air quality has been linked to increased hospitalizations and deaths due to heart disease and stroke, making it a serious public health concern. It is important to note that the risk of heart disease and stroke is not limited to individuals with pre-existing cardiovascular disease; exposure to air pollution can increase the risk for anyone, regardless of age or health status.



3. It can worsen existing conditions such as allergies and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)


Higher levels of pollutants can cause an increase in the severity and frequency of asthma attacks, COPD symptoms, and allergy symptoms. The American Lung Association states that "particle pollution can increase susceptibility to respiratory infections and aggravate asthma, COPD, and heart disease. It can also interfere with the growth and function of the lungs, and can even contribute to premature death". In addition, a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that exposure to higher levels of air pollution can increase the severity of allergic reactions, including hay fever and eczema.


4. It can cause headaches, dizziness, and fatigue


Poor air quality can cause headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, two common air pollutants, can cause headaches, dizziness, and nausea even at low levels of exposure. In addition, exposure to particulate matter, such as dust and soot, can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, as well as fatigue and shortness of breath.


5. It can harm the environment and contribute to climate change


Poor air quality can harm the environment and contribute to climate change in a number of ways. One major way is through the release of greenhouse gases and other pollutants into the atmosphere. These gases trap heat from the sun in the Earth's atmosphere, leading to a rise in global temperatures and contributing to climate change. Additionally, air pollution can harm plants and animals, leading to disruptions in ecosystems and food chains. It is important to address air quality issues not only for human health but also for the health of the planet. In addition to contributing to climate change, poor air quality can also damage the ozone layer. The ozone layer is a region of the Earth's stratosphere that contains high concentrations of ozone molecules, which block harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. However, certain human-made chemicals, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), can destroy ozone molecules, leading to a thinned ozone layer and increased levels of UV radiation reaching the Earth's surface.


6. It can contribute to cancer


I spoke to someone who educated me on pleural mesothelioma, which is a form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Below is the summary shared with me along with two resources that I added to the source list below.

Exposure to asbestos causes pleural mesothelioma when a person inhales or ingests asbestos fibers. Once inside the body, these asbestos fibers get trapped in the mesothelium or very thin tissue that lines certain organs. The duration and intensity of asbestos exposure can affect the risk of developing mesothelioma and initial mesothelioma symptoms can include shortness of breath, chest pain or abdominal distress.

Summary from Nomhle M., Asbestos.com


List of sources to checkout:


Small ways to improve your air quality


If the air is hazardous levels, stay indoors if you can and if you have to go out wear a n95 mask


When the air quality is hazardous, it means that the air is filled with pollutants that can be harmful to breathe. Staying indoors can help reduce exposure to these pollutants. If you must go outside, wearing an N95 mask can help filter out some of the pollutants and provide some protection for your respiratory system. However, it is important to note that N95 masks are not foolproof and should be used in conjunction with other measures to improve air quality, such as reducing outdoor activity and closing windows and doors.


Keeping your home clean and well-ventilated


Keeping your home clean and well-ventilated can help improve air quality by reducing the amount of indoor air pollutants. Household cleaning products, candles, and cooking with gas stoves and ovens can all contribute to poor indoor air quality. Using natural cleaning products, opening windows, and using exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom can help remove pollutants from the air and improve ventilation. This can help reduce the risk of respiratory and other health problems associated with poor indoor air quality.


Invest in an air purifier


Investing in an air purifier can help improve air quality by filtering out pollutants and particles from the air. Air purifiers work by drawing air through a filter, which captures pollutants and particles before releasing clean air back into the room. This can help improve indoor air quality, particularly in areas with high levels of outdoor pollution or in homes with poor ventilation. However, it is important to note that not all air purifiers are created equal, and some may be more effective than others at removing specific pollutants. It is important to do research and choose an air purifier that is effective at removing the pollutants you are most concerned about.



Using natural products


Using natural products can help improve air quality by reducing the amount of harmful chemicals released into the air. Many household cleaners, candles, and air fresheners contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can contribute to poor indoor air quality. These chemicals can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat and can cause headaches, dizziness, and other health problems with long-term exposure. Using natural products, such as vinegar and baking soda for cleaning, can help reduce the amount of VOCs released into the air and improve indoor air quality. When it comes to candles, natural options such as beeswax and soy wax candles are better choices than traditional paraffin wax candles. They tend to burn more cleanly and produce less soot than paraffin wax candles, further reducing their impact on indoor air quality.



Put this on your radar: We need to talk about this



I remember on my field to a Fragrance house, them talking about the differences of needs in consumers in different regions. You are probably asking what this have to do with this post so I will add in the video showed how in China, they did not like using so much fragrance in their home (the scene was referencing air fresheners) but how in America they love scented products a lot more. This stood out to me because the presenter was saying the data was reflective because since where they lived had so much pollution to q point where they were afraid to open their windows they would try to limit the fragrances inside. I found that fascinating but if I am going to be honest, I didn't think of this as much as I should've until the sky turned orange.


The past days were a wake-up call. Like any other wellness blogger, I do speak about self-care and more motivational/inspiring stuff a lot, but I never took the time to address things that shouldn't be overlooked when speaking about health and self-improvement. I think people tend to avoid it because it is a heavy topic and it feels so dystopian and terrifying to see the world literally be up in flames.


However, I don't think we have to always perceive these things as negative. I feel like we can look at events of the world and become more grounded in what we value. I believe the things we get angered about, sad about, or even scared about are a compass to the things we care about at our core.

___



Do you think enough is being done to address air quality issues?

  • Yes

  • No

  • Unsure



Thank you for reading and if you have anything you want to see more of, be sure to comment with suggestions or email me. Remember to subscribe to my Youtube channel, and follow my Tik Tok, Instagram, and Twitter to connect and stay up to date. I am excited about my next blog post so make sure you come back. Until then, there’s a lot more content coming soon. I hope you have a good day, evening, or night.



Until next time,

xoxo Lay 💋

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