The consequences of poor air quality over long periods of time, for both humans and the rest of the natural environment, are appearing all across the globe. In fact, the effects of poor air quality are so intense in certain areas, the WHO estimates, “… air pollution causes about 2 million premature deaths worldwide per year”. Global warming, photochemical smog, acid rain, and depletion of the ozone layer are only a handful of the side-effects of our globe’s deteriorating air quality. Even in the United States where, for over 5 decades, we have had legislation specifically designed to tackle this issue, the adverse impacts of air pollution are undeniable.
For instance, the Pacific Northwest region of the United States has had consistently bad air quality for decades. On any given day, this area (including Washington, Oregon, and Northern California), will be ranked “Unhealthy” to “Very Unhealthy” due to the high levels of ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide: the five major air pollutants measured by the EPA to gauge an area’s air quality. Current air quality dangers in the Pacific Northwest are fueled by annual wildfires. The smoke from these fires contains copious amounts of gases and fine particles that remain in the air and in the environment long after the fires have been put out. However, natural emitters of these substances are only responsible for a fraction of the pollution in our air. Anthropogenic sources in the United States, and worldwide, are the largest contributing factor to poor air quality.
It is no secret that industrial agriculture is one of the largest contributors to climate change; the production of beef in the United States alone accounts for 3.3 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions, not including any other form of agriculture or the resources it takes to distribute these goods. Significant amounts of pollutants are constantly being released from CAFOs, such as ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, and pesticides, into the surrounding areas. Due to the concentration of these chemicals, farmers and other individuals living in close proximity to agricultural sites are particularly susceptible to the adverse health effects of poor air quality.
Although major improvements in air quality will take the cooperation of many big businesses, organizations, and politicians, there are actions we can take on an individual level to improve the quality of our air at home!
Number 1: Make Your Home a No-Smoking Zone! Cigarettes contain over 4,000 chemicals that have been proven to cause or worsen certain health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, asthma, other respiratory illnesses, and certain cancers. Health experts suggest that eliminating second-hand cigarette smoke is the single most important aspect of keeping the air quality of your home clean.
Number 2: Skip Aerosols and Air-Fresheners Altogether! Using natural essential oils and plant extracts rather than synthetic air fresheners can reduce the amount of chemicals being put into your air. Here is a recipe for a natural air freshener:
“A common way to use essential oils as a way to freshen the air in your home is by following this recipe.
- 1/2 cup strong rosemary infusion
- 1/2 cup witch hazel
- 20 drops pine essential oil (Pinus sylvestris)
- 20 drops lemon essential oil (Citrus limon)
Mix your ingredients together in a spritzer bottle, shake well, then spray away!”
Number 3: Pot a Few Plants! Along with being an aesthetically pleasing part of your home decor, certain plants such as aloe vera, ferns, or spider plants act as living air purifiers by absorbing chemical pollutants put out by synthetic materials many of us use at home. However, if you are a parent or pet-owner, some of these plants may be poisonous if ingested. It is important to do your research to find the plant that is best for your home.
Number 4: Open Your Windows Regularly! Opening your windows and doors every so often will release the stale air that has built up in your home outside, while allowing fresh air in. This can be a great tool for regulating the humidity in your home, which can reduce your chances of getting dust mites and mold build-up.
Number 5: Go Fragrance-Free! Opting for fragrance free or naturally scented products such as perfumes, deodorants, laundry detergents, dish soaps, air fresheners, etc. will reduce the amount of harsh chemicals being put into your home’s air system.