The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Air quality refers to the degree to which the air is pollution-free, and it’s determined by measuring pollutants. Air pollutants can be found indoors and outdoors. They come from chemical, physical or biological agents. Emissions are discharges released into the air from sources like factories or vehicles. Poor air quality could worsen lung disease symptoms. When it comes to the importance of air quality for lung disease sufferers, here’s what you need to know.
What is Air Pollution?
The Clean Air Act requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for six common air pollutants. These air pollutants, also known as criteria air pollutants, are found throughout the United States and can be harmful. The six pollutants are ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, lead and nitrogen dioxide.
The pollutants that pose the greatest threat to human health in the United States are ground-level ozone and airborne particulates. Ground-level ozone occurs when oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) react in the presence of sunlight. The emissions from industrial facilities, motor vehicle exhaust, electric utilities, gasoline vapors and chemical solvents are some of the major sources of NOx and VOCs.
Airborne particulates, also known as particulate matter and particle pollution, are a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot or smoke are large or dark enough to be easily seen. However, others are so small that they can only be seen using a special type of microscope, called an electron microscope.
What is the Importance of Air Quality for Lung Disease Sufferers?
When the air quality is poor, breathing can become more challenging, especially if you have a chronic lung disease, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, there are some tips you can follow to help you enjoy the outdoors and breathe better.
Check Your Air Quality
You can check your local air quality index (AQI), and you can search by zip code or by state. The website also provides a quick guide and explains what the numbers mean. AQI values run from low to high. If the AQI value is higher, there is more pollution in the air and more concern for people’s health and well-being.
Air Quality Index Numbers:
0-50 AQI – The air quality is good, and air pollution poses little to no risk.
51-100 AQI – The air quality is moderate, and air pollution and ground-level ozone may cause a moderate health concern for certain people.
101-150 AQI – The air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups. At this level, the general public will not likely be affected by air pollution. However, people with lung disease, heart disease, older adults and children are at a greater risk from exposure to ground-level ozone and airborne particles.
151-200 AQI – The air quality is unhealthy, and everyone may begin to experience some adverse health effects. However, people in the sensitive group, such as people with lung disease, heart disease, older adults and children, may experience more serious effects.
201-300 AQI – The air quality is very unhealthy, triggering a health alert. Everyone may experience more serious health effects.
301-500 AQI – The air quality is hazardous, triggering health warnings of emergency conditions. At this level, the entire population is more likely to be affected.
Keeping track of the air quality helps you stay proactive. If there is poor air quality during the day, stay indoors.
Indoor Air Quality Matters
Indoor air quality also contributes to lung disease symptoms. Dust, irritants and chemicals can build up in your home. People with lung disease usually spend a lot of time indoors, and it’s important to do so on days when outdoor air quality is comprised. Here are some tips to improve indoor air quality:
Dust and mold are common indoor allergens. Keep your home clean by reducing potential irritants. Put mattresses and pillows in dust mite-proof zippered cases. To kill dust mites, wash your sheets and bedding weekly at high temperatures.
Keep your floors clean by vacuuming often. Window treatments, curtains and carpet collect allergens, so it’s important to keep them clean or consider getting rid of them. Consider investing in a good quality vacuum cleaner.
Close your windows during days of high pollution. Keep smoke out of your home. Smoke irritates the lungs. If you have friends who smoke, ask them not to smoke around you or to smoke outdoors and away from your home.
Be Careful with Humidity
For some people with lung disease, a little humidity can help ease some of their symptoms. However, too much humidity can be a problem. Mold likes a lot of humidity. If you use a humidifier, keep it clean to reduce the growth of mold. Also, talk with your doctor about the right amount of humidity to use in your home.
Fix leaks and keep the exhaust fan on when cooking. If you notice water marks on the ceiling or a moldy smell, call a plumber or mold professional.
Test for Radon
Radon is a radioactive gas that can be in the ground naturally, and it contributes to lung cancer. It can get in your home from the foundation. You can buy a radon test kit at home improvement stores.
Use natural and fragrance-free cleaning products. Simple cleaning supplies that are unscented or fragrance-free will help reduce indoor irritants. Try cleaning with products such as hydrogen peroxide, warm water, soap, baking soda and vinegar. Never mix chlorine bleach and ammonia, which creates a toxic vapor. Avoid aerosol sprays and air fresheners.
Purify the Air
Indoor plants such as a fern, spider or aloe vera can help purify your air. You can also use an air purifying machine. If you decide to purify the air in your home, HEPA filters as well as natural air purifiers are good choices.
The importance of air quality for lung disease sufferers cannot be overstated. Keeping your home clean will reduce indoor irritants. Before heading outside, check the outdoor air quality report. In combination with trying these tips, many people have improved their quality of life with stem cell therapy. If you or a loved one has COPD, pulmonary fibrosis, emphysema or another chronic lung disease and would like to learn more about stem cell treatment options, contact us or call (800) 729-3065.