Air Quality Monitoring: How to Know When the Air is Polluted

Clean air.

We all know how important it is, but do we know when the air is clean or when it’s dirty?

Many of the most harmful airborne pollutants are difficult to trace with the human eye or nose. So, how can you possibly know if your home or your city is polluted?

Fortunately, there are a few technologies and resources you can use to make sure the air you breathe is clean and healthy.

air quality monitoring

Air Quality: Why it Matters

It’s easy to take for granted, so let’s take a quick look at why air quality can make a big difference in your overall health.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there are many different substances that can cause issues with your health, but they focus specifically on six: ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, lead, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide.

While other airborne contaminants are certainly a concern, these six are often more common, making them a particular hazard. These chemicals can harm your health as well as the environment, and they can even cause damage to property.

Spare the Air provides a good summary of the threats from air pollution. These chemicals, they say, have been linked to many different health issues, including problems with respiratory function and damage to the lungs. They have been linked to accelerated aging in the lungs and even a shortened lifespan. The organization also mentions that the threat of air pollution is particularly threatening to young people, elderly, and pregnant women.

For more information on the direct effects of air pollution, please see our article Causes of Poor Air Quality and How to Combat Them.

air pollution in city

Measuring Air Quality in Your Area

Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to maintain clean and healthy outdoor activities. It starts, however, with having the right information on current air quality.

The EPA is one of the best resources for air quality information across the country. They operate air quality monitoring stations from coast to coast, providing valuable information to people in all states. If you are at all concerned about air quality in your area, visit the EPA’s monitoring website for more information.

The information collected at these sites is provided at AirNow.gov. Using this site, you’ll find an up-to-date map that shows the air quality across the country. Much like a weather radar, the information is provided in coded colors, with different colors representing different quality levels. “Good” is clear, “Moderate” is yellow, and so forth. The levels go all the way to “Hazardous,” which is a health warning of emergency conditions where the entire population will likely be affected. Fortunately, hazardous conditions are extremely rare.

Many states also provide information on current air quality and pollution levels. New York, for example, has a complete line of resources provided by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation. They measure levels of pollutants and report the results; in many cases the information is available through various media, such as radio and television.

If you live in a high pollution city, it’s a smart idea to check up on the local air quality whenever possible. If pollution levels are high, you may want to make temporary changes to your outdoor activities.

Monitoring air quality is often not enough. So, the EPA also provides enforcement though various means, Under the Clean Air Act of 1970, the EPA is able to set air quality standards and regulate emissions from vehicle, facilities, and other sources. The EPA has the authority to not only set standards, known as the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, and measure pollutants from specific sources, they can also take steps to reduce or stop the emissions. They do not, however, have free reign to levy fines or penalties without due cause and legal procedure.

If a violation is suspected, the EPA can first take a step called a Civil Administrative Action. This can include a notice of violation or an official order (with or without penalties) for the person or group to bring their operations into compliance.

If more action is needed, the EPA can make Civil Judicial Actions, which are lawsuits against the alleged polluters who have failed to comply with an administrative order. These lawsuits can bring money to compensate the EPA for cleaning up a site or simply require the individual or organization to take action.

If these measures don’t solve the problem, it is possible for the EPA to file criminal charges against an alleged offender. These cases, however, are reserved for only the most serious cases, but a conviction can result in fines or even imprisonment.

air quality station

Measuring and Cleaning Indoor Air Quality at Home or Business

As you likely know, indoor air can be just as threatening as outdoor air. In fact, the EPA has stated that poor indoor air can cause symptoms ranging from headaches to heart disease. Common indoor air pollutants include fuel-burning products, building materials, household cleaning products, and even heating and cooling systems.

While you may have to rely on government programs to gauge the outdoor air, you can measure the quality of indoor air all by yourself. Thanks to interior air quality monitors, you can have reliable information on the current state of your air, allowing you to make the right choices for your health.

Many of these products come in the form of alarms. Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are, after all, a form of air-quality monitoring. The modern detectors, however, can be connected to your smartphones and modified to meet your needs. For example, you can turn it off when the alarm detects faint levels of smoke while you’re cooking in the kitchen.

Other products can give you information on the current levels of contaminants in the home or building. AWAIR, for example, has products that measure airborne dust, chemicals, carbon dioxide, and even humidity levels. The information is delivered in an easy-to-use 100-point grading scale, so you won’t need a master’s in chemistry to know if the air in your home should be improved.

If you want information on both the indoor and outdoor environments, there are products that provide this information. Some products come with two stations, one for indoors and one for out, giving you comprehensive air quality information as well as stats for temperatures, humidity, and atmospheric pressure.

World-Class Air Purifiers for Home and Office

If you have monitored the air in your home or town and feel the need to make changes to your indoor air quality, contact the team at Oransi today.

We have the resources and knowledge to help you make the right decision for home and office, helping you create clean air for everyone!