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Air Quality

Air pollution is a leading environmental health hazard and can happen both outdoors and indoors. Common health problems associated with poor air quality include heart and other cardiovascular diseases and asthma and other respiratory diseases.

Outdoor air quality is commonly affected by gases, such as ground-level ozone and particles. The term often used to describe particles is "particulate matter" and is abbreviated as PM. The diameter of the particle in microns (a micron is a unit of measurement for distance; there are about 25,000 microns in an inch) typically follows to indicate how small the particle is: PM10 means that a particle is ten microns or less in width and PM2.5, (also called "fine particle") means that the particle is two and one half microns or less in width, for example. Particles in the air come from many different sources. Dust, dirt, soot, and smoke are this kind of air pollution. The composition of these particles can vary based on location, season, and whether they are from primary or secondary sources.

Primary sources give off particulate matter directly. For example, forest fires, road dust, electrical power plants, industrial processes, and cars and trucks are primary sources of these particles. Secondary sources give off gases that react with sunlight and water in the air to form particles or droplets. Coal-fired power plants and exhaust from cars and trucks are common secondary sources of those gases or vapors.

Indoor air quality could be affected by similar outdoor air pollutants in addition to the build-up of other chemicals, gases and particulates. These can negatively impact health and safety in the home, work places and other indoor spaces. Common indoor air pollutants include carbon monoxide gas, radon gas, smoke and chemicals such as from tobacco smoking, use of vapor-based items, and fragrances, pesticides, chemical-based household products, and lead dust.

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Content updated: Thu, 4 Jun 2020 16:26:01 MDT