Here are some suggestion for air quality improvements which are within our control.
Air quality is very poor in some neighbourhoods and some countries. The common culprits are industry and transport.
It's not so easy for most people to change their location in order to get away from pollution sources. Taking on the polluters is - inevitably - a political battle and one which can take years in many cases.
This short article focuses on a few things that we can do to help lessen the load on ourselves and our communities.
As personal transport causes quite a lot of pollution it makes sense to reduce our reliance on it where possible. Air quality improvements may - eventually - be noticeable for ourselves and others if we reduce our reliance on private transport.
Here are a few ideas. For more detail on some of these ideas, please check out the Car section in Green Transport.
These suggestions for air quality improvements generally do not cost anything and some even save you money!
Clean, fresh air should be our birthright.
It always amazes me that many people seem to be willing to travel enormous distances to work and spend huge amounts of time travelling each day.
In England it has become almost fashionable to live in France and commute to London! And there are lots of people who think nothing of getting in a car and driving 50 miles (each way) to work each day. I have even heard of people living in Spain and commuting weekly to Britain.
It would be great if governments could subsidise people to live close to their work. Already, public employees in the Netherlands are expected to live close to their work - or move closer if they take a new post miles from home.
Some companies will help fund moving nearer to a new job but unfortunately this is not yet common practice.
Air quality improvements are often needed inside our homes, too.
Air pollution is often less indoors than outside, especially in neighborhoods where industry is dominant or where there are busy roads.
Nevertheless, there are many indoor pollutants, too. Carpets and home fabrics can give off volatile gases which affect air quality. Perfumes and personal body care products can be a source of pollution.
It's worth giving consideration to the items that you bring into the house in terms of the chemicals that were used in manufacture. For example, memory foam mattresses are a source of VOCs - volatile organic compounds which can have an adverse effect on health.
Even the gas we use for cooking may leave traces in the air which affect some people. Many common kitchen appliances are made using industrial processes that leave a chemical coating which may take a long time to disappear. In the meantime, those chemicals can affecting the quality of air in the home.
Modern furnishings such as sofas and armchairs are often treated with flame retardants which are quite volatile, giving off gases into the air.
It can be difficult to arrange air quality improvements within your home if many of the items you already have are emitting volatile gases or other toxic chemicals. The best route to good quality air is to studiously avoid the more synthetic and toxic products and to opt for products made from natural materials wherever possible.
Be careful what you buy! Be careful what you allow into your home.
Fortunately, there is a growing number of companies which supply household products made from natural materials and which use an absolute minimum of chemical agents in manufacture.
Another source of noxious chemicals is house timber treatments. Some chemicals used to banish insects and moulds can be very toxic indeed. This subject will be explored in a separate article. If you are planning timber treatment, take advice on possible long-term environmental pollution from reputable professionals.
Home air quality can also be helped with the aid of some pot plants which help remove toxic gases from the air. Spider plants, for example are well-known for their ability to improve air quality.
Decent ventilation is also a must if you live in an area where the air is relatively pure. Open doors and widows to create a through draft whenever the weather is suitable. This allows an exchange of stale air for fresher air throughout the house. You may still notice hard-to-reach dead spots where the air remains relatively still. A good quality natural air freshener can also help.