Good Air vs. Bad Air—Why You Should Care

When studies show that the death rate due to air pollution is practically three times that of car accidents per year, it strengthens the argument that we should be concerned about the quality of the air we breathe. The World Bank, a repository of development knowledge, and the Health Effects Institute, a non-profit organization funded by the EPA and the automobile industry, reported that about 100,000 deaths occurred in the United States in 2016, three million globally, relating to air pollution; only 35,000 were due to car accidents.

Outdoor Air Pollution

In 1970, the Clean Air Act was passed allowing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate emissions to protect public health. We’ve made progress because of it, but if you add climate change to the equation, meeting anti-pollution standards gets harder. Smog and soot are the two greatest contributors. Fossil fuels burnt in factories, incinerators, engines and power plants emit tiny particles of soil, dust, smoke and chemicals that we inhale. They then enter our bloodstream and lungs causing bronchitis, asthma attacks, and even death. Smog reduces vision in some cities by up to 70 percent, and can cause eye, throat and lung irritation.

Indoor Air Pollution

According to the EPA, the average indoor environment (read: home) is “2 to 5 times more toxic” than the air outdoors ( Pollutants are emitted from a host of common household items: gas stoves, furnaces, candles, room fresheners, carpets, molds, and tobacco smoke—to name a few. Many of these pollutants are major carcinogens; in fact, “80% of all cancers are attributed to environmental rather than genetic factors” (

Indoor air pollution can be reduced by using natural cleaning products, changing air filters regularly, and keeping HVAC ducts clean. But ultimately, the best way to fill your home with healthy air is to keep your windows open and run fans to circulate the air.

Vehicle Emissions

Residents of Ontario, Canada participated in a study in 2017 that found higher risks of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, to those living 300 meters from a busy road. In 2002, a study (updated in 2016) done by the California EPA on children riding diesel school buses reported that unhealthy air from breathing the exhaust over a period of 13 years could increase cancer risk by 4 percent and risk of asthma-related hospitalization by 1 percent.

Greenhouse Gases

Another EPA study in 2014 found that 81 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in the country came from carbon dioxide, and 11 percent from methane gas. Hydrofluorocarbons are another form of greenhouse gas used in making refrigerators and air conditioners. A seven-year-old girl, Sophia Baechler, died from carbon monoxide poisoning while boating with her family in 2015. A new law, called Sophia’s Law, passed just recently honoring her by requiring the use of carbon monoxide detectors on boats.

It’s becoming more important than ever to monitor for air pollution in our environment. In addition to being aware of pollutants in our skies, we must arm ourselves against pollutants in our homes. Knowing the importance of carbon monoxide detection and warnings can help you create a haven of good air inside your home.