With Every Breath: The Five Most Dangerous Air Contaminants

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The Effects of Poor Air Quality

Poor air quality can have many detrimental effects on individuals’ respiratory system, causing serious health risks for countless numbers of people worldwide. Air pollution, including the kind that you cannot see or smell, can be inhaled at any point in time. Below is a description of the most common types of five air pollutants can be found in dangerously high levels in developed nations especially, like the United States. Although these pollutants are usually found outdoors, it is easy for them to be brought into your home. For better air quality in your home, many families turn to home air purifiers to better their home environment.


1. Benzene

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), benzene in used in “motor fuels, solvents, detergents, pesticides, and other substances.” Therefore, at gas stations o by inhaling second-hand smoke for example, individuals are exposed to the contaminant in small amounts. Benzene is carcinogenic, specially causing leukemia, in persons who are exposed to it in large amounts.


2. Diesel

Diesel is often encountered, and in urban areas its presence is more prominent. The NRDC states that diesel exhaust contains more than 40 toxic air contaminants which are associated with asthma, cancer, and premature deaths. Many Americans for example live and wok near areas where there is a high volume of diesel exhaust, such as a bus terminals, construction sites, and busy roads and highways.


3. Formaldehyde

This cancer-inducing chemical is used for a variety of reasons, including the “manufacturing of insulation, pesticides, and disinfectants” according to the NRDC. Asthma, lung cancer, and leukemia are associated with an exposure to high amounts of formaldehyde. Diesel emissions are associated with the high percentage (42%) of the formaldehyde emissions from industrial and construction worksites.


4. Ground-Level Ozone

Ground level ozone is one of the most common air pollutants inhaled. Although ozone in the stratosphere is important because it serve as an important barrier between individuals and harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun, ozone on the ground-level is harmful. According to the NRDC, “nitrogen oxides and other pollutants emitted by cars, trucks, buses, coal-fired power plants and other fossil-fuel burners react with sunlight to form the principal ingredient in smog.” China, in particular, suffers greatly from smog to the point where citizens who work in major cities, such as Beijing, often wear masks when walking the streets. Furthermore, during the Olympics there, many of the athletes were concerned about the well-known poor air quality problems there and were afraid about their ability to compete and perform well.


5. Particulate Matter

Particulate matter are microscopic bits that individuals inhale. This matter is also known as soot – “fine particles can become embedded in your lungs and impair their function,” according to the NRDC. The organization also estimates that this matter causes nearly 64,000 premature deaths. Most of this matter comes from burning fossil fuels and wood.


Improving Air Quality

Poor air quality is highly prominent in the United States, as well as other developed countries, and air pollution is usually the result of industrialization and mass amounts of transportation. However, governments and environmental agencies such as the United States Environment Protection Agency (EPA) conduct research, partake in awareness initiatives, and lobby for better air conditions.


Individuals can participate in helping to reduce the amount of air contaminants by taking public transportation, investing in hybrid cars for personal use, and writing to local legislatures to create more of an awareness of poor air quality in local areas.


Oransi is a US based company providing air purifiers for home and commercial use. The company’s main goal is to create better indoor air quality for people suffering with asthma or allergies. With the use of a HEPA air purifier in your home, you can improve the air quality immensely.

Sarah Pinkerton

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