Did you know that the health of more than half of the world’s population is at risk due to indoor air pollution? In 2012, a study published in the European Respiratory Journal helped shift the focus from outdoor air pollution to indoor air pollution’s impact on respiratory health. Asthma, bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other respiratory effects are linked to indoor air pollution in both urban and rural settings.
Researchers found that indoor air pollution was responsible for 2.7% of the global burden of disease. This figure has steadily increased since the year of publication. This is not surprising as we spend approximately 90% of our time indoors where air pollutant levels can be two to five times higher than outdoors, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Who would’ve thought that your home is often more polluted than your backyard?
The nexus between indoor and outdoor air pollution and lung health cannot be overstated. Thankfully, the entire month of October is dedicated to respiratory health each year.
What Is Healthy Lung Month?
Breathing in dirty air results in air pollutants penetrating deep into our lungs. Thus, the relationship between air pollution and lung health is clear. Exposure to air pollutants can trigger, worsen and provoke respiratory illnesses. October is Healthy Lung Month, a time for education regarding the dangers of air pollution and the importance of lung health.
Throughout history, lung health has captured the attention of healthcare workers and scientists. Prominent lung diseases such as tuberculosis puzzled these communities for centuries. With an increasing number of afflicted individuals from all sorts of respiratory ailments and pervasive air pollution, Healthy Lung Month is paramount today.
How Does Air Quality Affect Lung Health?
On average, you breathe roughly 25,000 times each day. When breathing, our lungs facilitate the circulation of oxygen-rich blood throughout our body in order to expel gaseous waste or carbon dioxide. How might this process be inhibited if we inhale air pollutants that we cannot naturally expel?
Nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), endotoxins, molds, phthalates and persistent organic pollutants contribute to indoor and outdoor air pollution. At any given time, you can inhale one or more of these irritants. Over time, causing irreparable harm to your respiratory system. While each air pollutant has varying effects on your respiratory health, one thing is for certain: your freedom to breathe unobstructed is compromised.
Respiratory infections and diseases air pollution can cause or exacerbate include:
- Lung Cancer
IAQ Solutions for Healthy Lung Month
Utilize Mechanical Ventilation
Before opening your windows and doors, take a look at your local community’s Air Quality Index (AQI) rating. Having a mechanical ventilation system means you can turn to your HVAC system instead of natural ventilation when air quality is poor. Relying on open windows and doors when outdoor air quality is poor will directly result in poorer indoor air quality.
Minimize Exposure to Air Pollutants
In addition to closing windows and doors, you can minimize your exposure to air pollutants by:
- Avoiding wood burning stoves, fireplaces and other wood burning devices
- Reducing or eliminating the use of tobacco products
- Using less toxic cleaning products without harmful chemicals or VOCs
- Walking and exercising outdoors when there is a low AQI value
These are just a handful of simple changes to make in your daily actions. Healthy Lung Month is the perfect time to take on easy lifestyle changes for better lung health!
Invest in a Whole-Home Air Purifier, Humidifier or Dehumidifier
Whole-home solutions ensure a healthier living space. A whole-home air purifier can remove a number of irritants from the air, protecting your lung health. They address the root of pollution before it becomes unmanageable. Humidifiers improve moisture levels in the air in your home, while dehumidifiers reduce the air’s moisture. Both humidity control solutions ensure your home remains in the ideal 40 to 60% humidity range. This ideal indoor relative humidity range helps defend against allergies, asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
During Healthy Lung Month, consider consulting an IAQ experienced home HVAC contractor to determine the best whole-home upgrade for your space. Each home is different, but the good news is that there are helpful solutions for every home health issue.
Replace Air Filters Regularly
Dirty air filters greatly contribute to poor indoor air quality. Each time your HVAC system circulates air through a dirty or clogged filter, less air pollutants are captured and thus spread to every room in your home. This can cause a number of respiratory issues and exacerbate pre-existing issues. Furthermore, ensure that your air filters have a MERV 11 rating or higher! The higher the rating, the better protected you are from allergens, VOCs and other air pollutants.
Install an Indoor Air Quality Monitor
In addition to providing basic climate information (temperature, humidity and air pressure), indoor air quality monitors inform on various air pollutant levels. This will allow you to resolve air quality, HVAC and filter issues before they escalate.
Air pollution, indoors and out, as well as its pervasive impact, is becoming overwhelmingly apparent across the globe. Year-round, it’s important to remain dedicated to education and activism surrounding lung health and IAQ. Healthy Lung Month provides an ideal time to better assess your living space. Your life and the lives of those closest to you depend on it.