So far, we’d be hard-pressed to see a silver lining in the pandemic that has ravaged the world.
More than 3 million confirmed cases around the globe. Well over 200,000 deaths from the virus.
And America has been hit the hardest. With more than 1 million confirmed cases and over 60,000 deaths.
Stay-at-home restrictions keep getting extended. And now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is saying things might get even worse next winter.
Outdoor Air Quality Improving
But one thing has improved during this crisis. And that’s the quality of outdoor air. With many businesses and industries temporarily shuttered and many people quarantined, that would make sense.
Cities around the world with normally poor air quality are seeing reductions of deadly particulate matter. By up to 60 percent from 2019.
That’s according to a new study from IQAir. It’s a global air quality information and tech company.
They say seven of 10 cities they studied saw significant improvements in air quality over the past couple of months.
But Pollution Will Return
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution kills 7 million people annually.
The CDC, WHO and everyone else understands that air pollution in cities will rise again. Once the world returns to normal activities.
But it’s become obvious that behavior changes can make a difference on a deadly, global problem.
“Out of these extraordinary circumstances, we can see how changes in our society’s activities can have a momentous difference on our environment and the air we breathe.” So says Kelsey Duska of IQAir.
Designated Month Brings Awareness
May is Clean Air Month in the U.S. So, this is a good moment to talk about the problem of air pollution and how it affects us.
The American Lung Association has sponsored Clean Air Month since 1972. They wish to educate people about air quality. And how cleaner air can positively affect their health.
Toxic air pollution is linked to serious health conditions. Including upper respiratory problems. And it can exacerbate pre-existing conditions including asthma.
The designated month includes a variety of special days in certain states. Such as “Bike to Work” days and “Share a Car” days.
6 Ways to Help
In four weeks, Clean Air Month will be over. But there are some things we can do year ’round to help keep outdoor air clean.
Among the ways suggested by IQAir are:
- Walking or biking rather than driving
- Using public transportation
- Using ridesharing apps
- Designating one day of the week for errands that require a car
- Asking family, friends or neighbors to combine their errands with yours in one car
- Using solar and wind power when possible
As I’m sure you’ve heard, indoor air quality can be even worse than outdoor air quality.
Here’s a stunning statement from the Environmental Protection Agency.
“In the last several years, a growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air. In even the largest and most industrialized cities.
“Other research indicates that people spend approximately 90 percent of their days indoors. Thus, for many people, the risks to health may be significant due to exposure to air pollution indoors than outdoors.”
Invisible Problem Is Real
That 90 percent estimate has no doubt risen over the last few months. Due to stay-at-home restrictions in nearly every state.
And that means we’re spending even more hours breathing air that probably contains harmful contaminants.
One of the challenges with tackling indoor air quality is that we usually can’t see the problem that’s right in front of us.
We can observe dust bunnies on our floors and walls. And we can see when countertops and other areas need cleaning. But contaminants in the air are pretty much invisible. So we just assume we’re breathing clean air.
Plenty of Contaminants to Go Around
Among the things found inside homes and offices that negatively harm air quality are asbestos, formaldehyde and mold.
As well as bacteria and viruses, cleaning supplies and dust. Plus lead, pet dander, second hand smoke and volatile organic compounds.
One way to learn if you have an indoor air quality problem is by determining whether you breathe easier when you’re away from home.
Obviously no one should be smoking indoors. And the humidity should not be above 50 percent. Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner if one is needed.
Ventilation Is a Key
A key to keeping indoor air quality fresh and healthy is proper ventilation. When the weather permits, keep windows open.
Use ceiling fans to better circulate the air in your home. Make sure exhaust fans in bathrooms, the laundry room and over your stove are working properly.
Check to see if there is standing water anywhere. Including in the basement. If so, get rid of it. Keep the door leading from your garage to your home closed.
All household chemicals, paints and solvents should be stored in a garage or basement. And have your home tested for radon. Don’t use scented candles or fragrances to hide odors.
We talk a lot about preparing for a crisis that might be coming. Indoor air quality is a problem that’s already here. Let’s do something about it so that we and our families can breathe easier.