Why Worry About The Air We Breathe
Say it isn't so! Now, we have to worry about actually breathing?!?! Worrying is never good for your health, but, yes, we need to pay attention to the air quality of what we and our families are taking into our lungs. According to this round-up of studies on air quality and pollution, our air is a lot dirtier than we think and it is a topic we need to spend a little time on. But, the outdoor air is not all we should consider thinking about. After all, a majority of our time is spent indoors, where air quality can be many times worse! But, let me assure you, there are plenty of actions you can take!
But, before we get to the good part -- the actual solutions to this issue -- here is what even more studies (different from the ones mentioned above!) are saying:
- Smog could lead to lung cancer.
- Bad air may even cause weight gain.
- Long-term exposure to bad air may increase your blood pressure.
- Stroke and anxiety can be added to the list of results of breathing dirty air, too.
- Even a bit of dirty air can lead to pregnancy complications and adversely affect the fetus.
- Dirty air greatly aggravates asthma and COPD as well as other lung conditions.
Q /A with Air Quality Expert, Yann Boquillod
As I promised, here is the good part . . . expert tips on how to breathe cleaner air at your home that you can incorporate today!
Please meet Yann Boquillod. He is someone so concerned about air pollution, he actually did something about it! And, what he did not only helped his family, but it can help you and your family breathe cleaner and rest easier, too! Yann began AirVisual with an app and web platform to provide free air quality monitoring and forecasting to help you plan your outdoor activities to optimize your health. Now, he has expanded to provide even more detailed information for you. Come see what Yann has to teach us about where the dirty air comes from, how it affects us, a particular air pollutant we really need to be concerned about and simple actions to reduce or eliminate it for much better health.
THM: 1. You are CEO of Air Visual, a web platform bringing important air quality information right to our fingertips - literally! Please tell us a bit about your background, how you became interested enough in the topic to begin this venture and why it is so important to you.
Yann: The key thing is knowing the data for the air you breathe. If you want to protect yourself from polluted air and you don’t have the data, you can’t do that properly. As a father living in Beijing, I had the personal goal of wanting to know what my children were breathing so I could protect them. My background is in technology and IOT, so I was in a unique position to collaborate with big data specialists, programmers and others to get air pollution data out and make it available to everyone.
THM: 2. I can understand being a parent in Beijing, air quality would be a big concern for your family! I have covered this topic a bit on the blog as I feel it is an important issue, but can you please help me convince my readers at THM even more, why they should be paying more attention to this health topic and why they should care?
Yann: Even in the United States, where air quality is considered to be pretty good, there are statistics showing that 200,000 people die prematurely from breathing polluted air every year.
The biggest threat is ultra-fine pollution caused by combustion, with vehicles being a major source. Since it can be fairly invisible, even at unhealthy levels, it’s important to grow awareness that it is in fact around us, everywhere we go. Most people don’t realize that symptoms like headaches and drowsiness, a stuffy nose or sore throat can be indicative of air pollution - and health effects in the long term are much more significant.
THM: 3. Some of the symptoms you mentioned I would never think to attribute to poor air quality. Please tell us about the different types of indoor and outdoor air pollution and their effects on our bodies and minds a bit more.
Yann: There are actually a number of air pollutants which can cause adverse health effects. The U.S. air quality index takes 6 into account in calculating an overall air quality reading. One pollutant, however, is more ubiquitous and, in our daily lives, frequently the most dangerous pollutant we encounter. That’s PM2.5. What makes it so dangerous is that these particles are super small in size. When inhaled, it’s not always able to be filtered out by our nose and lungs and can be directly absorbed into the bloodstream.
The other thing is that usually PM2.5 is a precursor for other pollutants, indicating other pollutant concentrations should be high as well. Inhaling this type of air pollution can cause everything from irritation to the lungs and stuffy noses to high blood pressure, heart attacks, lung cancer and strokes.
Indoors, humans and animals naturally create another air pollutant, CO2. It’s not especially harmful, but at fairly common high levels, it can cause headaches, drowsiness and poor decision making. More importantly, it’s an indication of stagnant air which tends to have less oxygen, and more bacteria, mold and other harmful particles, like VOCs.
THM: 4. Great information on those small particles that can really cause the harm! Thanks, Yann. What are the top sources of indoor air pollution in our homes and how do we counteract the harmful effects?
Yann: Top sources in our home tend to be from our stoves, fireplaces, cleaning supplies and odor masking fragrances. If you live near a roadside, there's also a chance your windows and doors could be leaking in polluted air.
Preventative actions should depend on the source. A few easy tips are:
- Always turn on your overhead vent when cooking, and to keep it running for a few minutes even after you’ve finished.
- Avoid using incense and odor killing sprays.
- If the air is clean outdoors, open your windows frequently, particularly after using any chemical cleaners.
- If your window seals aren’t tight, buy some seal strips so you can block out dirty outdoor air when you need to.
- If you live near a busy roadside or factory - I recommend getting an air purifier so that you filter out dirty air that may seep in (dirty air permeates into buildings very easily!).
THM: 5. Those are all really easy measures we can all take each day to improve our air! Besides these practical ones, how do we take it a step further? What other critical measures that any of us should do right now to improve our indoor air quality? Can you recommend any special tools or tricks?
Yann: Sure! Three top actions are:
- Come to understand your air quality. Basically, come to know what your sources of air pollution are - if there is air pollution outdoors, or how it’s generated in your home. So. the first tip is to understand how polluted or stagnant your air is.
- Once you have the data, you can identify the sources.
- Find solutions.
THM: 6. Yes, that makes sense! It seems that understanding and improving your air quality could compare to finding what pollutants are in your water sources that many of us want to filter, too.
You have recently released a new product, the Air Visual Node, a device to provide instant air quality information for both indoors and out. So exciting! And, you are offering a discount on the product as well for THM readers. (See next section for details.) Please tell us more about this tool, who can use it and how it is different from the free app that you provide as well on your site.
Yann: The free air pollution monitoring app that we have, first of all, it uses public outdoor government data, so of course the coverage is not the best, primarily because air quality is very localized. So if you want to know exactly what the air quality is in your backyard, (say for example if your neighbor is grilling food or burning wood), then you need to know what the air quality is at your very specific location. That’s where the Air Node comes in - to provide a simple and understandable means for knowing what’s in the air around you - whether it’s indoors or out.
The free app and website are only to show you measured data at some specific points, but that doesn’t mean that’s what you have in your backyard, indoors, or wherever you spend most of your time.
THM: 7. So, the Air Visual Node tells us about the particularly harmful small particle air pollutants you were telling us about. It is also personalized for the individual as it determines the actual air you are breathing at that moment and where you are so that you can take immediate corrective measures.
I can see this tool working for many families, and with the discount running now, for under $170, it could be an economical choice as the device goes where we go - on vacation and at home or even if we move. But how does the tool actually work? What is required of the user? For example, should the user check it upon awakening? Check it before bed? Keep in a certain location? How do we use this tool the most effective way?
Yann: The tool is simple! You just turn on the AirVisual Node and within a few seconds, you’ll be able to get a very good reading of your current air quality. Beyond that, you’ll also receive specific recommendations on how to improve the air in your home.
The Node is a device that runs 24/7, measuring air quality in the long term to see how your home behaves in order to help identify air pollution sources. We call it a comprehensive solution because it really covers every aspect of air quality - from how your air has been and how it is now, to how the air quality will be (with the outdoor air pollution forecast).
I check the Node every morning when I wake up to see what I was breathing throughout the night. Then, I usually glance at the forecast to see if it’s a good day to go for a run or play outside with my kids.
THM: 8. That is simple and very useful! I like the fact it actually gives you solutions to the problems of each of our individual air quality issues. So, with new studies on the topic coming out every day, how do you keep users abreast of new research? And, do you update the node to keep up with new data? Will there be free downloads, etc.?
Yann: We use the website and app, as well as social media, to help inform users and keep them aware of air quality issues.
As for the Node – we’ve implemented over-the-air software updates that allow users to download free software upgrades with the click of a single button. It really makes staying up-to-date and getting the most of your Node very simple. Gotta love technology!
THM: 9. Yes, I love it when technology makes our lives easier, healthier and more efficient! Where can readers learn more about this topic? Are there books, websites that you feel are especially helpful? Please include your website as well, of course!
Yann: Of course, our Air Visual website and app shares blogs, community research, and news articles. Our hope is that as the community grows, and as people start conducting their own home experiments with the Node - people will want to contribute their own findings.
For those wanting to delve a bit more into some interesting air pollution topics, Urban Emissions is a great blog that addresses a number of different air quality related topics.
THM: 10. I learned so much, Yann. Thank you for being our air quality guru today and showing us the critical role our air quality plays in our daily lives and health. And, even more importantly - what we can do about it! Is there anything else you want to share with the THM readers that may help us all clean up our air and our lungs!
Yann: Yes, one of the greater goals of AirVisual is to grow air quality data worldwide. Currently, we have a real-time air pollution map that reports air quality in more than 30 countries and 8,000 different locations. With the Node, we are able to fill in government data gaps so that we can better predict air quality trends and discover the impact of various sources. In this way, we like to say we are democratizing air quality. By purchasing a Node for outdoor placement, anyone can help protect their community and affect local policies so that we can all breathe a little easier.
Discount on Air Monitoring Device: Air Visual Node
If the studies listed here, as well as Yann's informative interview on our air quality problems, have convinced you that the air you and your family breathe is something to do something about . . .
For under $170, you can have a portable device that goes where you go, wherever you move or even on vacation, for you and your family to find the best solutions to breathe cleaner and rest easier in one easy step! And, remember, future node updates are free!
For Even More Information On The Topic . . .
- Here are tips on air purification at home that I follow every day!
- Please don't fill your home with harmful synthetic fragrances! I have 5 easy natural ideas to make your home smell great!
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