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How clean should your air be?

What level of air pollution is safe? How does one measure pollution? Here’s how to reduce your air pollution exposure and how it can improve your quality of life.

You probably don’t always notice when air pollution affects your health. 

But the effects of air pollution can add up over a lifetime. And despite what many say, there is no safe level of air pollution.

As air quality around the world worsens from industrial pollution, wildfires, and climate change, millions of us are taking notice. Monitoring the air quality is not just smart – some say it might be critical to your personal health. Many people monitor their air quality with websites and/or mobile apps.

Even if you haven’t personally used air quality data, you’ve probably been affected by it. In fact, in the United States, many schools keep kids from playing outdoors when poor air quality is recorded by the Air Quality Index (AQI).1 Additionally, in China, extreme levels of airborne pollutants regularly make the news.2 

But getting accurate air quality data can be difficult. Different countries use different standards. And the data shown at any given time may not be up to date or accurately reflect the levels of air pollution you’re exposed at the time.

So does it matter where you get your air quality data from? The short answer is a resounding yes – getting accurate data on a daily (or even hourly) basis can make a huge difference in your health.

That’s why it’s crucial to have the most accurate air quality data possible so that you can protect yourself and your family from real-time air pollution exposure.

So here is what you need to reduce your personal air pollution exposure: real-time, hyperlocal data that shows you exactly what’s in the air you’re breathing.

How do I understand and interpret air quality data?

The World Health Organization (WHO) regularly establishes a set of air pollution standards that it calls “Guidelines” for different types of air pollution in different environments.3

To do this, the WHO sets a guideline value called a mean (or average) that establishes a ceiling for reasonable levels of exposure to a specific air pollutant for a defined period. This period may be only 24 hours  or an entire year. 

The WHO considers anything above the annual mean value of 10 μg/m3 for exposure to particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) unsafe and unacceptable. The WHO may take specific policy actions against areas with air pollution that goes beyond the guideline values.

In fact, PM2.5 is proven to be dangerous to your health, even in small amounts.

Research has shown the impact that PM2.5 has on human health. A review in Particle and Fibre Toxicology of 27 important studies on particulate matter published between 2005 and 2017 found that even the short-term inflammation caused by exposure to PM2.5 can significantly increase the risk of DNA damage, cancer, and the symptoms of many heart and respiratory conditions, including asthma and pneumonia.

This means that even exposure to PM well under the WHO guidelines can still have a long-term impact on your health. 

As already mentioned, there’s no safe level of air pollution. But this yearly 10 μg/m3 mean is the absolute maximum acceptable level of PM2.5 by WHO standards. Anything beyond that is considered a dangerous level of PM2.5 exposure.

So how do I reduce my daily air pollution exposure?

It’s important that you reduce your current air pollution exposure every chance you get – and this becomes a lot easier when you have access to hyperlocal data in your immediate area that can inform how you reduce your exposure on a real-time basis.5

Here are some ways that you can take action right now to reduce your daily air pollution exposure.

Wake up and check your air quality

Use the AirVisual air quality app to access real-time air quality data and prevent yourself from being exposed to air pollution in the first place, such as by shutting windows to keep outdoor pollutants from getting into your home.

The AirVisual app shows you exactly how much air pollution you’re exposed to at home, at work, and outdoors (based on locations that you set in the app). The app allows you to see your regular exposure as well as when it improves. 

The AirVisual app also gives you a 72-hour air quality history and forecast so that you know what to expect and can plan accordingly.

You can also help your family monitor their air quality at home by setting up an air quality monitor like the AirVisual Pro outdoors and indoors. 

AirVisual Pro uses a hyperlocal sensor to assess air quality in your immediate environment, such as inside your house or in an outdoor area like your backyard. Then, it provides specific recommendations for reducing your air pollution exposure based on your real-time air quality data. 

This air quality monitor also displays hyperlocal data alongside live, outdoor air pollution data from validated air quality sources, including other public AirVisual monitors. It allows you to put your data into context with larger air pollution patterns. 

Indoor and outdoor air quality can vary significantly, so being able to compare your indoor data to what awaits you outoors can help you better plan ahead to reduce your air pollution exposure.

There are plenty of solutions to help you breathe cleaner air – click here to find a dealer and get the air quality solution that’s right for your needs.

Help your community reduce air pollution exposure

Air quality not only affects individual health but also impacts every dimension of a community, including school performance, property values, and public safety.6 

Use the free AirVisual air quality app to learn about the air pollution patterns and sources that affect your community.

Know someone in your community that’s passionate about the rigorous science behind air quality? These citizen scientists (this may even be you!) can turn AirVisual Pro monitors into public air quality monitoring stations to share real-time, hyperlocal air quality data with everyone who needs it.

Be an advocate for your community’s air quality by sharing air quality data. This shows people exactly how their local air quality affects them, helping educate and mobilise people to reduce their daily exposure and improve their health. 

Learn about global air quality

Use any other live, accurate, and real-time data points you can find, including IQAir AirVisual Map, an interactive list of over 60,000 air quality sensors with detailed histories and forecasts for all monitored areas as well as references to the data source (such as NASA or air quality monitors used by embassies).

All these air quality measurements used together can help you more easily reduce your daily exposure to air pollution and can help improve your overall health and quality of life.

The more you learn how air pollution works and how it affects you, the more you can learn how to protect yourself and live your healthiest life.

Article Resources

[1] Air quality and outdoor activity guidance for schools. (2014). https://airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=flag_program.activityguid 

[2] Wood J. (2019, August 5). China’s pollution is so bad it’s blocking sunlight from solar panels. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/08/china-air-pollution-blocks-solar-panels-green-energy/ 

[3] Cho R. (2018, June 26). What you should know about air quality alerts.
https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2018/06/26/air-quality-alerts-pollution/ 

[4] Loxham M, et al. (2019). Health effects of particulate matter air pollution in underground railway systems – a critical review of the evidence. DOI: 10.1186/s12989-019-0296-2

[5] Air quality guidelines – global update 2005. (2006). https://www.who.int/phe/health_topics/outdoorair/outdoorair_aqg/en/

[6] Car study 2012. (2017). https://www.ecocenter.org/healthy-stuff/reports/car-study-2012 

[6] How air pollution is destroying our health. (2018). https://www.who.int/airpollution/news-and-events/how-air-pollution-is-destroying-our-health 

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