The Ins and Outs of Air Pollution

air pollution. Photo by Alexander Tsang on UnsplashWe hear the term ‘air pollution’ on a regular basis, but do we really know what causes it? Better yet, do we have a clear answer on how it affects the earth? There are many substances humans pollute the air with whether it be from manufacturing plants, the exhaust from our vehicles or even the aerosol cans our hairsprays and cleaning products come inside. But what does the combination of all of that really do to our ozone layer and the air we breathe and what can we do to make it better?

What Causes Air Pollution

There is a combination of different sources that are responsible for air pollution and there are parts of the world that suffer more than others, but some of the biggest contributors are large corporations that specialize in coal mining and fossil fuels. During coal mining, many toxins that are extremely bad for the environment are released into the air, like carbon dioxide and methane. These toxins are directly related to global warming as they both trap heat and increase the earth’s temperature. While it’s true there are only trace amounts released, enough coal mining is done around the world that it has a negative impact on our air quality and only adds to air pollution.

Going up against big corporations like this to attempt to get them to stop polluting the air is no easy feat and not one you can accomplish on your own. That’s why there are lobbying groups that do this. These groups are often associated with a nonprofit organization, and they’ll use available resources to lobby for or against legislative changes. If reducing carbon emissions and air pollutants are causes you’re passionate about, consider finding a local group that supports these missions.

Reducing Carbon Emissions at Home

There are lots of things we do personally that certainly don’t help with air pollution. The first thing that comes to mind is usually the smog and smoke from the cars that we drive. Did you know that our homes are often a contributing source to air pollution as well?

When we heat and cool our homes, these processes produce carbon emissions that pollute the air. This is caused by the carbon dioxide that’s released into the environment by the oil or gas we use when heating our houses.  It’s not reasonable to say we’ll forgo these conveniences completely, but there are a few things we can do to decrease our carbon emissions.

First, it’s helpful to prep your house for the elements. In the winter, check to see if your insulation is doing its job. Instead of trying to fight the cold temperatures by cranking up your thermostat, make sure your windows and doors are properly insulated. You can buy window film insulation, thermal curtains, add weather stripping or even add some extra caulk around your windows to help keep the cold air out. Your windows alone can allow a significant amount of cold air inside, but if you insulate them, it will greatly reduce your heating bill and carbon emissions.

In the summer, it’s the heat you’re up against. Nobody wants to sit around in a sweltering house all day, but don’t turn off your air conditioning unit just yet. Just like you shouldn’t fight the winter chill, don’t fight the summer heat. Make sure that before the temperatures crank up you replace your air filters with clean ones. This prevents your HVAC unit from working overtime to push that cold air through the vents and expending more energy than necessary.

Air Pollution and Our Health

The environment isn’t the only thing that suffers from the effects of air pollution. Studies have shown that poor air quality has many negative effects on our health and it’s directly related to ‘particle pollution.’ While the culprit particles are invisible they’re constantly swirling around our heads and inhaled into our lungs. Poor air quality affects our health in several different ways. It can cause excess fatigue, breathing problems, allergies and even headaches.

Particle pollution is made up of a variety of different things including dust, pet dander, microorganisms like mold, and even bacteria. If you or someone you live with smokes inside the home, that’s another pollutant that is bad for your health. But it’s not just tobacco smoke either. The particles from your stove or fireplace also make their way into their air and down into your lungs.

It might seem like you’re powerless to stop them. However, there are some tips you can put into place to help. You’re not going to be able to get your pet to stop shedding our to keep dust from invading your, but you can invest in high-quality air filters.

High-quality air filters put into place in your air conditioning and heating unit are huge helps in reducing indoor air pollution. These filters help trap dust and debris as they cycle through your vents and keep them from being inhaled. You can purchase these at your local hardware store and generally fairly inexpensive. You can also invest in air purifiers. Air purifiers are a great way to clean up the air you breathe inside your home and making breathing easier for your family and even your pets.

There’s not one single solution that’s going to solve the problem of air pollution but by taking a few extra measures we can reduce our effect on the ozone and the environment.