There are plenty of reasons to love the month of May. Here in the northern hemisphere, it marks the period between spring and summer when flowers are booming and the weather is warm. May also features a multitude of awareness and celebration days, including Clean Air Month.
What is Clean Air Month?
The purpose of Clean Air Month is to educate the public and generate awareness about air pollution, the impact and importance of clean air, the relationship between air quality and respiratory health and how to improve air quality. The American Lung Association (ALA) first organized a clean air observance week in 1972. It evolved into a full education month in 1994.
ALA was one of the first organizations to discuss the connection between air pollution and lung health. As an organization, their goal is to help prevent lung diseases, improve lung health for all and ultimately save lives. The first clean air week occurred two years after passage of the Clean Air Act in the United States. A monumental piece of environmental legislation, Clean Air Month is a time to recognize the achievements of the Act and how air quality has improved over the past 50 years thanks to air quality regulations. However, Clean Air Month also serves as a time to acknowledge that poor air quality is still a very present issue today and that greater public awareness and understanding can not only lead to action and intervention but a healthier society.
More than likely, you know what a full breath of clean, fresh air feels like. Or perhaps, what it smells like. Our personal clean air associations might differ person-to-person, but the bottom line is–clean air is truly noticeable.
What actually comprises clean air? Clean air contains a natural balance of gases, primarily made up of nitrogen and oxygen and is without harmful levels of pollutants or contaminants. Clean air is safe to breathe and actually benefits our health and the environment. Researchers have even identified the cleanest air on Earth. Spoiler: it’s a region of the Southern Ocean, near Antartica. The air is free of particles and pollutants caused by human activity and industry. By contrast, polluted air that which is tainted by the release of contaminants. Air pollution threatens both human health and the surrounding environment.
What Difference Does Clean Air Make?
Air pollution is deemed a critical threat because of the numerous human health risks and significant environmental consequences pollution presents. Let’s break down the benefits of clean air and some of the surprising ways the air we breathe matters.
For Human Health
The list of health issues, conditions, diseases and cancers that air pollution causes or contributes to seems never-ending. It ranges from more minimal symptoms like a sore throat or a cough to serious symptoms like shortness of breath and high blood pressure. Poor air quality has also been linked to difficulty concentrating and poor sleep quality. Serious air pollution exposure, whether indoors or out, can lead to cancer and even premature death. It’s no wonder experts are endlessly advocating for better air quality.
Let’s look at the health benefits possible with clean air:
- Healthy lungs
- Mood booster and improved mental health
- Reduced chances of developing serious life-threatening diseases, cancers and conditions
- Fewer respiratory symptoms for allergy and asthma sufferers or those with preexisting conditions
- Improved concentration and mental focus
- Stronger immune system
- Increased energy
- Lower blood pressure and heart rate
For Environmental Health
Environmental health is a part of public health focused on addressing and mitigating the environmental factors that impact human health. This does not solely mean nature and weather. It applies to the entirety of our surrounding environments. That means things like plants and infrastructure in our local climate as well as the building materials used in our home. There is a wide range of environmental factors, and clean air is a vital component of good environmental health. This is also where indoor air quality becomes a focus. For indoor environmental health and mitigating indoor pollution sources, it requires active choices and intervention.
For Climate Health
Some sources of poor air quality also contributes to climate change. For example, burning fossil fuels is a source of air pollution that impacts both your health and wellness in addition to the Earth. Climate change is a clean air matter because it is a cyclical issue. Sources of air pollution contribute to climate change and climate change in turn worsens air quality.
Ensuring Clean Air
So, clean air is crucial for many reasons. But what can you do to ensure cleaner breathing air?
Advocate for Healthier Air Everywhere
Clean Air Month offers the perfect opportunity to advocate for healthier, cleaner air–indoors and out. This can take many forms. Maybe it means stressing the need for HVAC maintenance or upgrades to your employer before returning to work or supporting IAQ control methods in your child’s classroom for healthier school buildings. Or even researching air quality in your local area and finding out how your city addresses air pollution.
Improve Your Space’s Indoor Air Quality
As the homeowners’ advocate, we focus on indoor air quality control solutions in the home because it is usually the one and only place you personally can take charge of the air you breathe. For decades, the importance of indoor air quality has gone overlooked. Taking action this Clean Air Month can be as simple as choosing to start intervening in your own indoor space. IAQ control solutions fall into five main categories: ventilation, filtration, purification, humidity control and source control. There is no one set way to go about improving IAQ. We suggest determining what the top air quality issues in your specific space are first. But, more than anything, we suggest starting.
National Clean Air Month 2021
At IAQ.Works, we may hone in on indoor air quality, but we certainly do not neglect how crucial air quality is as a whole. And, of course, the direct relationship between outdoor air quality and indoor air quality. The potential health consequences and quality of life impacts are largely the same, even if the pollution sources differ. Air quality concerns are indoor air quality concerns. Clean air outdoors benefits clean air indoors. And clean air is possible in your home this clean air month.