Breathing cleaner air improves your life


Pollution affects our planet in a number of ways. Though the presence of plastic in our oceans and CO2 emissions dominate our awareness, very little attention is paid to the quality of our air. Americans have a hard time comparing their 'clean' cities to the smog in bustling metropolitan areas across China, but the fact remains that the air we breathe is not as pure as we think it is. But just what is the health impact of air pollution?

Some regions of our country are exposed to certain air quality problems naturally, like the northwestern states that frequently experience wildfires. Though the EPA states that the risk of long-term effects from short-term exposure is low, smoke isn't the only thing in our air. We all breathe in harmful particulates.

"It is absolutely, unequivocally true that particulate pollution does impact health," said Tim Heffernan, a science writer and editor at Wirecutter, a New York Times company.

Surprisingly enough, however, the majority of particulates we are exposed to are present inside the home. Therefore, it is our daily lives (and home upkeep) that puts us most at risk.

"Most of us spend a lot of time indoors," Heffernan said. "And indoor air is more polluted than outdoor air. It kind of comes down to what we have in our homes: pets, rugs, furniture that traps dust. And many homes are not terribly well ventilated."

You may be wondering if you should splurge on an air purifier to right the wrong air in your home. Fortunately, you don't have to: many HVAC units come with basic filters that trap larger particles (like pet hair), and upgrading them to sift out smaller particles requires a simple call to a heating and cooling professional; they'll be able to tell you whether or not your system can be upgraded and what to expect from the process.

It's important to change your HVAC system's air filter regardless of your feelings toward air quality; if too much material and particulates build up inside your unit, you might have to contact someone to fix your HVAC -- your system will be forced to work harder when its filter is clogged, leading to higher energy bills even if you don't need to fix your HVAC system.

Steffan Kasula