Air Quality And Health: What We Do Not Know Can Hurt Us

By Adriana Noton

Air quality and health can be very closely related. The air that we breathe needs to be of good quality for us to remain healthy. There are federal guidelines for the most common air pollutants, and most states also have their own guidelines as well.

Air pollutants can affect us both directly and indirectly. Obviously, we are affected directly by simply breathing the air around us. However, we are affected indirectly as well. Air pollutants can pollute lakes and rivers which ultimately affects our drinking water. They may also affect land which can in time cause problems with our food.

There is an air quality index that monitors air quality. There are around one-thousand distributed around the United States. The levels can go from good all the way down to hazardous.

The federal guidelines only address a small group of common air pollutants. They are called the criteria air pollutants because many believe that they are the most dangerous. These include six pollutants including carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particles, and sulfur dioxide. Each can cause its own health problems.


Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, and colorless gas. It comes from sources like car emissions, heating units, volcanoes, thunderstorms, vegetation at certain stages of growth, and from decaying plants. Carbon monoxide from natural sources is not usually harmful to humans. Other types, however, can affect the central nervous system, and the heart. It causes things like shortness of breath, nausea, and can induce irritability. Children, the elderly, and smokers need to be especially careful as they seem to be affected the most at high concentration levels.

Lead, another pollutant, has several sources. It mainly comes from oil or solid waste incineration, steel and iron production, or production of batteries. In high concentrations it causes things like anemia, damage to the nervous system, kidney failure, or damage to the reproduction organs.

Nitrogen dioxide is another pollutant on the federal guidelines criteria list. It comes from things like power plant or automobile fuel combustion, and from some processes used in some chemical plants. It can be harmful to both animals and humans in high concentrations. It mainly affects lung tissue and makes some people more susceptible to flu or pneumonia. In some cases, it has the potential to be fatal.

Ozone is a pollutant that must be monitored carefully. It can be harmful to both humans and animals. It is a gas at both the upper atmosphere level and at ground level. It is most commonly found in smog. Alerts are usually given when it is present in high levels.

Particle pollutants are liquid or solid particles in the air. At higher concentrations it causes respiratory problems. It is especially a problem for those with asthma or heart disease. It is also carefully monitored.

The federal guidelines also monitors sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide is a colorless gas, but unlike carbon monoxide has a distinctive smell. It combines with the water vapor in the air. It can cause irritation to the lungs and/or throat.

Even with these guidelines in place, there are still some pollutants that are not monitored. Air pollution most definitely affects our air quality and health. We must make sure that the monitoring devices in place are sufficient to protect us all from possible harm.

About the Author: Based in Toronto, Ontario, this manufacturing company specializes in the duct cleaning equipment. They also sell insulation blowing machines as well.


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