Sustainability Tip: Here are 3 ways to monitor and improve air quality in your home
Did you know that toxins from wildfire smoke can travel thousands of miles from the actual fire and can greatly affect air quality? We don’t think of Eagle County as a place with poor air quality, but it can change quickly and pollution can travel thousands of miles. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, Colorado averages 42 unhealthy air quality days per year and has seen a 57% increase in vehicle miles traveled since 1990, another main factor in air quality.
Air pollution is not always visible, and it’s hard to fight a problem that we cannot see. That’s why companies such as PurpleAir and Breezometer are doing all they can to make air quality more transparent. PurpleAir and Breezeometer encourage local businesses and homes to install monitors that give real-time data about local air quality. Additionally, Breezeometer offers an app that provides a map of real-time air quality data and alerts users when air quality is poor in your area. Air quality fluctuates throughout the day, and Breezometer helps people know where and when it is safe to do outdoor activities.
The quality of air inside your home is equally as important as the air outside your home, and there are many factors that contribute to indoor air quality. Everyday products such as glue, printing inks, paint, cleaning agents, aerosol sprays and personal care products produce volatile organic compounds. VOCs are chemical byproducts that release into the air when we use fossil fuel based products.
The Center for Health, Environment & Justice performed a study on new PVC plastic shower curtains, and they found that more than 108 VOCs were released in a span of 28 days. When VOCs interact with other molecules in the air, they create pollutants that can be dangerous for both the environment and our health. Thankfully, there are certifications that help manufacturers produce, and help consumers choose, products and materials that have low chemical emissions.
Here are three tips for improving and being aware of air quality:
• Download the Breezometer app. Track real-time data about local air quality before committing to strenuous outdoor activities.
• Purchase low emitting products. When shopping for new products, look for GreenGuard-certified products that have been approved for low emissions.
• Air it out. When you do use chemical or strongly-scented products, make sure to open a window and turn on a fan.
Stephen Beane is the Actively Green intern at Walking Mountains Science Center. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.