Air Quality

Learn All About:


In the simplest terms, air quality refers to the state of the air that we breathe. Good air quality means clean, unpolluted air that is essential to all life forms on earth. Poor air quality means unclean, polluted air that result from a number of natural and man-made sources.

  • Ambient Air Quality– the quality of outdoor air, typically measured away from direct sources of air pollutants near ground level.
  • Indoor Air Quality– air quality within enclosed spaces (inside homes, schools, workplaces - underground or high-rise). Indoor air pollution can be caused by outdoor pollutants that seep indoors as well as indoor sources like mold, tobacco smoke, household products, chemicals emitted by foam, fabrics and furnishings, etc.

Why is Air Quality Important?

Air is essential to all life forms. Good quality air however is essential to living a healthy life. The average person inhales some 14,000 liters of air every day1. Imagine inhaling 14,000 liters of polluted air every single day. Air pollutants when present in high enough concentrations can potentially endanger human health. Polluted air also causes damage to the environment. It doesn’t matter if everyone reacts differently to polluted air, the fact is that everyone DOES have a reaction, and it can never be good. It is especially bad for children and the elderly, and even worse for those who already have heart problems or lung disease like asthma2.

Important Facts & Statistics

  • We spend about 90% of our time indoor3.
  • Indoor air can be from 2–100 times more polluted than the worst outside air. The EPA has actually ranked indoor air pollution as among the top 5 environmental health hazards3.
  • In 2012, ambient air pollution caused an estimated 3.7 million premature deaths worldwide, with 88% of these deaths in low-to-middle income countries mostly in the Western Pacific and South East Asia4.
  • According to the WHO, 80% of premature deaths related to ambient air pollution were due to stroke and ischemic heart disease, 14% to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 6 % due to lungcancer4.
  • Indoor air pollution from domestic activities like cooking with wood or charcoal and heating homes with coal and biomass fuels is a serious health risk for over 3 billion people. Over 4 million of them die prematurely from illnesses that can be traced back to this kind of household air pollution5.
  • Over 50 % of premature deaths from pneumonia among children below 5 years of age are caused by particulate matter inhaled from household air pollution5.
  • According to the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), most air fresheners contain noxious chemicals like phthalates. Phthalates interfere with hormone function in children and babies, hamper reproductive development and provoke respiratory ailments like asthma. Air fresheners also release terpenes that interact with ozone to form compounds like acetone and formaldehyde enough to cause airflow limitation and respiratory sensitivity6.
  • The United States Clean Air Act contains guidelines for the monitoring of 6 major air pollutants in the U.S.: ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, lead, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter7.
  • Of all the major air pollutants in the United States, lead air pollution has had a 91% in national average from 2000 – 2015 according to the Air Quality Trends
  • Asbestos lung cancer is connected to an estimated 4% of all U.S. deaths due to lung cancer. It is the most diagnosed asbestos-related cancer in the United State
  • Mesothelioma is the 2nd most diagnosed asbestos-related cancer in the United States, responsible for an estimated 3000 cases annually.

Air Quality & Related Health Concerns

The figure below is a quick, visual reference of the kinds of health concerns people tend to suffer from as a result of poor air quality. More about these health concerns will be discussed in the subsequent sections.


 Source: Why Good Air Quality is Important / European Environment Agency 2013. Legend:BaP=benzo(a)pyrene,NO2=nitrogen dioxide, O3=ozone, PM= articulate matter, SO2=sulphur dioxide.

Common Air Contaminants

Asbestos in Air

  •  What is Asbestos

Asbestos is actually a group of 6 naturally occurring fibrous materials (crocidolite, chrysotile, amosite and the fibrous forms of anthophyllite, actinolite and tremolite). All forms of asbestos can cause cancer. These fibers are odorless and tasteless. They are widely used because they are heat and fire resistance and are also resistant to chemical and biological degradation. Applications include friction products, building materials and heat resistant fabrics. The EPA has now banned all new uses of asbestos in the U.S. It is banned in 50 countries and restricted in most others7.

Asbestos is non-soluble in water nor does it evaporate in air. However, the weathering of natural deposits and the wearing-down of manufactured asbestos products enable pieces of fiber to enter the air and remain suspended there for a long time. When people breathe-in these asbestos fibers in the air, they get trapped in the lungs and build up there over time.

  • Sources of Asbestos Exposure

Harmful exposure to asbestos typically happens in occupational settings:

  • Construction work is one setting where workers get exposed because many common building materials contain asbestos. When these products are cut, drilled, sanded or otherwise disturbed, microscopic pieces of fiber end up in the air8. 
  • Working in or close to an asbestos mine, factory or improperly-covered dumpsite can expose people to higher levels of asbestos fiber7.
  • Indoors, exposure to asbestos comes from floor tiles/ceiling tiles, insulation, etc. that contain said fibers especially if they are worn-out. Fiber concentrations in homes, schools and other buildings can be from 30 to 6,000 fibers/m3. The people inside these building who work directly on these materials get exposed to much higher levels of fiber in the air if they work with no protection7.
  • HVAC systems and duct work can contain asbestos. There is what is called mill-board material that surrounds the heating banks and will deteriorate over time, releasing asbestos fibers into the air stream, exposing the people inside the building.
  • Automechanics who work on clutch repairs, vehicle brakes and heat seals get exposed to asbestos when working on these parts that are disintegrating already. It doesn’t help if the repair shop has poor indoor air quality maintenance.

        Asbestos Health Effects:



What is it




Asbestosis is a chronic (long-term) lung disease that results to pulmonary fibrosis (scar-tissue in the lungs). The fibrosis reduces the lungs’ elasticity, making it more difficult to breathe.

  • Shortness of breath/difficulty breathing
  • “Crackling” sound called rales as heard thru a stethoscope
  • Bluish skin coloration
  • Chest pains
  • Clubbed fingers
  • Cough
  • Reduced lung function
  • The effects of asbestos cannot be reversed.
  • Treatment is mostly geared towards slowing its progress and relieving symptoms.
  • Care includes routine X-rays, lung-function tests and therapy to help make breathing easier, supplemental oxygen
  • Surgery for lung transplant candidates


Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer of the membrane lining of the lungs and abdomen. It is the most serious asbestos-related disease9.

Pleural mesothelioma:10

  • Chest pain under rib cage
  • Shortness of breath
  • Painful coughing
  • Unusual lumps under the skin of the chest
  • Unexplained weight loss

Peritoneal mesothelioma:

  • Abdominal pain & swelling
  • Lumps in the abdomen
  • Unexplained weight loss


For most people Mesothelioma is often diagnosed in an advanced stage, when it cannot be removed by surgery anymore.  Treatment is usually limited to controlling its progress to make the patient more comfortable. Other options that may be considered are:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Clinical Trials11

Lung cancer

Asbestos lung cancer is a rare type of lung cancer and is caused by asbestos fibers getting lodged in lung tissue12.

  • Worsening couch or persistent cough that won’t go away
  • Constant chest pain
  • Coughing-up blood
  • Trouble breathing
  • Frequent lung infections
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Surgeries for lung cancer seek to remove a portion of the affected lung or a lobe or the whole lung.
  • Chemotherapy is another treatment and may use some of the same drugs used for mesothelioma with varying doses.
  • Radiation therapy
  • Photodynamic therapy

COPD(chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

COPD is a lung disease more popularly referred to as emphysema or chronic bronchitis. COPD may develop as a complication of asbestosis or mesothelioma.

COPD is a progressive disease and its symptoms get worse over time:13

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing during physical activity
  • Frequent colds or flu
  • Lower muscle endurance
  • Swelling ankles, feet or legs (edema)
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Very productive cough
  • Weight loss
  • Wheezing

As there is no known cure for COPD yet, all available treatments only aim to slow down lung damage and improve quality of life13:


  • Medications (bronchodilators via inhalers, steroids to reduce inflammation, antibiotics to fight infections, flu and pneumonia vaccines.
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Surgery
  • Avoiding cold or smoke-polluted air


  • How to Prevent Exposure to Asbestos

The key to avoiding exposure to asbestos is being aware of the locations that this mineral is likely to be found. Find out what materials around your home are likely to contain asbestos. Find out if there are asbestos mines, processing plants and/or dump sites close to your community or place of work. Having the right information can help us make well-informed decisions on how to go about protecting ourselves and our family from hazardous exposure to asbestos.

  • Asbestos in your home

Asbestos-containing materials in a home need not be a source of concern unless they become damaged. Asbestos fibers are only released into the air if materials containing them are so old or damaged that they are deteriorating to such a state as to become powdery. Even then, there are safety precautions that can be taken such that exposure is avoided or minimized. If you are not sure about the presence of asbestos, tests are available to confirm your suspicions. 

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission identifies areas in your home that are possible sources of asbestos exposure. The figures below provide easy visual reference:


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  • Asbestos at work

Occupational exposure to asbestos has been identified by the WHO as the cause of 50% of all occupational cancers. Despite being identified as highly toxic, the U.S. has banned only ALL NEW uses of asbestos, so all the asbestos that have been previously used (quite heavily) in the past are still out there. At the workplace, workers come in contact with higher concentrations of the hazardous fibers for longer periods than the rest of us.

How to Protect Yourself:

    • Test for asbestos in the area before commencing work. Send samples to the lab and wait for results first.
    • Wear protective clothing and equipment like disposable overalls and covering for your boots, respirator, etc. Dispose of your contaminated clothing properly afterwards.
    • Seal-off the area from the rest of the building to keep asbestos fibers from getting out.
    • Keep the area moist to keep asbestos fibers from floating around.
    • Use specialized vacuum cleaners to clean the area instead of using sweepers.
    • Dispose all asbestos-contaminated garbage properly.
  • Inspection/Testing

Considering how widely and how extensively asbestos was used since first becoming popular in the early 1800s, and considering that it wasn’t until the mid-1960s when the first documented case of mesothelioma was linked to exposure, we can appreciate that in the intervening 200 years this mineral has become deeply embedded in many aspects of our lives. We will find asbestos in floor tiles, ceiling tiles, roofing tiles, clutches, brake pads, gaskets, hood liners, valves, cement, fabrics, fireman suits, blankets, construction materials, plastics, vinyl products, cigarette filters and many, many more.

This is the reason why the first few critical steps towards preventing exposure is knowing where to look, knowing not to disturb or agitate materials that we suspect to contain this mineral and knowing how to properly test for asbestos, both in our home and at work. These asbestos test kits come with complete instructions and materials for sample collection.

Sample procedure for collecting suspected asbestos-containing material:

Reminder: Use face mask or other proper respiratory protection. When applicable, a plastic drop cloth should also be used. 

  • Use the enclosed plastic gloves to protect skin from direct contact with sample.
  • Use a spray bottle with soap and water solution (one teaspoon of soap per quart of water) to thoroughly wet the sample location. Ideally, the sample location should be kept wet/damp throughout the collection procedure to prevent the fibers from getting airborne.
  • Use a sharp razor knife, chisel or other appropriate tools to secure a sample of the entire matrix (Example: pipe insulation and mastic on seams, vinyl flooring and mastic)
  • Place the sample in one of the enclosed sample bags. Seal tightly.
  • Accomplish the information form completely.
  • Place the sample bags in the pre-paid postage envelope and mail immediately.

Mold in Air

  • What is Mold

Mold is a common fungus that thrives in moist, warm conditions. It is composed of multi-cellular thread-like filaments (hyphae). In comparison, if a fungus adopts a single-cell growth pattern, it is called a yeast. The mold itself isn’t mobile, but its hyphae grow very long, enabling the mold to spread to neighboring organisms.

Outdoors, molds break down dead organic matter like dead trees and fallen leaves and are actually helping the natural environment14. Indoors however, any mold growth is undesirable. Molds multiply by means of spores floating in the air. If they float indoors and get lucky enough to land on a wet spot, they will grow and thrive. All types of mold need moisture to grow, so the only sure way to avoid them growing indoors is to make sure all surfaces are kept dry.

  • Sources of Mold Exposure15

Exposure to molds comes from 2 main sources, inhaling indoor air and eating moldy food.

    • Air–Indoor air is a primary source of exposure to molds. If the indoor environment supports mold growth, mold will very likely thrive. Mold spores will then be circulating freely to be inhaled by the occupants of said indoor space.
    • Food – We all have, at one time or another, had a few occasions when we find some cottony, fuzzy grey or white or green or sometimes black growth on a tub of milk or a piece of cheese or bread inside our refrigerator. If we happened upon these foods when the mold hasn’t yet grown and spread enough to be blatantly staring us in the face, then we may have ended up eating them. If our taste buds didn’t scream bloody murder, well then that’s how we get exposed to molds thru food. Yummm!

        Mold Health Effects:



What is it



Mold allergy

Allergic reactions to mold are some of the most common health effects and risks from exposure to mold.

  • Asthma attack
  • Chest tightness
  • Coughing
  • Dyspnea (laboredbreathing)
  • Epistaxis (nosebleed)
  • Headache
  • Itchy/red/watery eyes
  • Nasal and sinus congestion
  • Rash
  • Runny nose
  • Skin irritation
  • Sore throat
  • Upper respiratory tract infections
  • wheezing
  • The best treatment is avoidance of triggers, but molds are everywhere and cannot be avoided completely.
  • Antihistamines
  • Nasal corticosteroids
  • Oral/Spray decongestants
  • Montelukast
  • Immunotherapy
  • Nasal lavage

Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis/Pulmonary Fibrosis


HP examples include16:


  • Bagassosis  (exposure to moldy sugar cane)
  • Farmer's Lung Disease (exposure to mold spores in hay)
  • Mushroom Workers' Disease (exposure to moldy compost)
  • Sauna Takers' Disease (exposure to mold growing inside wet containers)

HP is an inflammation of the very small airways in the lungs caused by the body’s own immune reaction to inhaled air-borne particles. (mold, fungi, bacteria or even inorganic matter)

  • Body aches, malaise
  • Chills
  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath


The most important treatment for HP is avoidance of repeated exposure, but treatments vary according to actual symptoms and which type of HP it is.


Common treatments include:


  • Corticosteroid therapy
  • Bronchodilators
  • Antihistamines



  • How to prevent exposure to mold

Molds are naturally occurring organisms and as such are everywhere. The only truly effective way to avoid exposure is to keep indoor spaces dry.  Below are some tips to reduce mold exposure:

  • Avoid carpets especially in dark spaces with no natural ventilation.
  • Check for water regularly and repair damage pipes immediately.
  • Clean AC units regularly.
  • Clean bathroom tiles and grout frequently with bleach solution and wipe dry.
  • Clean refrigerator drip pans frequently.
  • Get rid of fallen leaves around the house.
  • Hang damp clothing outdoors, not inside the house.
  • Have clothes dryer vents facing outdoors.
  • Install exhaust fans in bathrooms to blow air outdoors.
  • Keep humidity below 50%.
  • Minimize indoor plants.
  • Minimize use or avoid using mist vaporizers.
  • Use mold-inhibiting paints in damp areas (bathrooms, service areas).
  • Inspection and Testing

Regularly checking around the house goes a long way towards spotting potential problem areas where mold can grow. If any particular spot is highly suspect but is not yet showing any visible mold growth, there are mold testing kits at-home that can confirm this. For areas where mold is visibly present, obviously no tests need to be done. However, to confirm if clean-up was successful, testing for molds and allergens can be done afterwards. If all surface mold tests indicate your home mold-free and you want to check your home’s overall indoor air quality, there are air quality home test kits that will test for mold, bacteria, NO2, CO, COand formaldehyde.

Typical procedure for at-home mold testing:

Sample collection and test activation:

  • Identify the area or surface to be tested.
  • Collect samples from visibly discolored, stained or visibly soiled areas.
  • Pull-out the test swab from the protective tube.
  • Pull the protective tube away from the base of the device. Do not touch the swab tip with your hands and do not let it touch any other except the test surface.
  • Wipe the swab over a 2x2 inch square area
  • After collection, put the swab back inside the protective tube and put it back together.
  • Snap the blue plastic stem back and forth until plastic stem breaks.
  • Squeeze the bulb to release the liquid reagents.  
  • Shake the device about 5 seconds to soak the swab completely in the reagent liquid. 

Reading the results:

  • The reagent liquid will turn green instantly. This is normal.
  • If there is sufficient mold or allergens in the sample, the reagent liquid will turn to gray or purple within a few minutes. This indicates a positive test for the presence for mold or allergens.
  • If no mold or allergen are present, the reagent will remain green or any shade of green after 10 minutes
  • All samples will eventually turn purple beyond 10 minutes. This is only due to the chemical nature of the device, so do not attempt to read the results at this time. It will be invalid.
  • Dispose of the entire test properly.

Radon in Air

What is Radon?

Radon is a radioactive gas that has been found to cause cancer. It has no smell, no taste and is colorless or invisible to the eye. Radon is the second only to cigarette smoking as the leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S.

  • Source of Radon Exposure

    • Outdoors

Radon gas is released through the normal decaying process of radium, thorium and uranium in rocks and soil and seeps up through the ground to be diffused into the air. In some areas, the local geology allows radon to dissolve into ground water, and when that water is used, the gas escapes into the air. All these make radon present in air nearly everywhere, and everyone breathes it in every day, albeit at really low levels.

    • Indoors

In enclosed spaces without proper and adequate ventilation, radon levels can accumulate such that the risk of lung cancer increases significantly. This is especially true for underground mines and caves17. Radon collects indoors by entering homes and buildings in a variety of ways:

  • Through cracks in floors, walls or foundations
  • Gaps in suspended floors
  • Through construction joints
  • Gaps around service pipes
  • Released from building materials
  • Released from water taken inside from wells that contain radon

If a house is built on soil that is rich in thorium, radium or uranium, radon levels these can be higher especially if it is well insulated. The highest levels will typically be the basement and the lower floors because of their proximity to the ground.

  • Health Concerns, Symptoms and Treatment

    • Lung cancer - Among non-smokers, radon is the number one cause of lung cancer as per EPA. It is responsible for an estimated 21,000 lung cancer deaths annually18. Lung cancer or the chance of developing it is the only known health effect of radon.

As radon decays, it produces “radon progeny” or radon decay products. The gas itself and its progeny can be inhaled into the lungs where they will breakdown further, emitting alpha particles. These alpha particles release energy in small bursts. These small bursts are absorbed by lung tissue, resulting to cell damage or death. Damaged lung cells can potentially result to cancer when they reproduce.


Photo Source:

The risk of developing lung cancer from radon depends upon the length of exposure and the concentration of radon in the air. This risk is higher for smokers.

Symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain or tightness in the chest
  • A new or worsening cough
  • Hoarseness
  • Trouble Swallowing

Treatment for lung cancer :

Any plan of treatment takes into consideration the following factors:

  • The type of lung cancer
  • Location of the cancer within the lung
  • The patient’s general health
  • At which stage the cancer has progressed
  • Results of scans and blood tests

Surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are typically used to treat lung cancer, either each one by itself or in combination with the others. Patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer may opt for biological therapy.

  • How to Prevent Exposure to Radon

Radon is ever present in the air and cannot be totally avoided but there are some protective measures that can be taken to prevent or minimize unnecessary exposure within our homes and building19:

    • Improve overall ventilation around the house
    • Increase under-floor vents
    • Install a radon sump system under a solid floor or in the basement
    • Seal floors and walls
  • Inspection & Testing

The only way to know for sure if one’s home has elevated levels of radon is to test for radon in the air.20 The soil composition under the house affects these levels, and how the gases get inside depend upon the house’s construction and the materials used to build it. Radon levels are also affected by certain short-term and long-term weather conditions like rain, snow, etc. To address these differences, there are short-term radon home test kits  and long term radon home test kits. These tests are budget-friendly and easy to use. Typical Testing Procedure for Radon:

  • Close all windows 12 hours prior to the start of the test and do not turn on fans and vents for the duration of the test.
  • Remove the caps from the 2 detectors supplied in the kit. Place them 6 inches apart on a flat surface elevated 2-3 feet off the ground and 2-3 feet from any outside wall.
  • Leave the detectors uncapped for 96 hours (4 days) without disturbing them.
  • After the entire 96 hours have elapsed, cap the 2 detectors and record the exact testing date and time on the Pro-Lab Radon Data Card. Complete all information asked for.
  • There is a pre-paid postage envelope included in the kit. It should contain the following before promptly mailing to the lab.
    • 2 Radon gas detectors
    • Radon data card
    • Payment (check/money order/credit card voucher)
    • Results available within 1 week.

Criteria Air Pollutants  - The NAAQS (National Ambient Air Quality Standards) cover 6 common air pollutants, as set by the EPA under mandate from The Clean Air Act. They are officially called “criteria pollutantsand are found all over the U.S. They are:



What is it

Related Health Issues & Symptoms

How to prevent exposure

Carbon Monoxide(CO)

CO is a deadly colorless, odorless gas found in fumes produced by burning fuel in automobiles, fireplaces, stoves, grills, small engines, gas ranges, lanterns or furnaces. People and animals can die from CO poisoning by breathing it in enclosed spaces.


CO poisoning -     flu-like symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • upset stomach
  • vomiting
  • chest pain
  • confusion


  • Install a CO detector in your home
  • Regularly maintain any gas, oil, or coal burning appliances.
  • Do not use portable flameless chemical heaters indoors.
  • Have your gas refrigerator regularly serviced.
  • Have all gas appliances properly vented.
  • Have chimney cleaned regularly.
  • Do not burn charcoal indoors.
  • Do not use a gas camping stove indoors.
  • Never use a generator indoors.


Ground-level Ozone

Ground level ozone is created by chemical reactions between volatile organic compounds (VOC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the presence of sunlight. Examples are emissions from electric utilities, gasoline vapors, industrial facilities, motor vehicle exhaust and chemical solvents.

Breathing ozone can trigger health problems:

  • chest pain
  • coughing
  • throat irritation
  • airway inflammation
  • reduced lung function
  • lung tissue damage
  • bronchitis
  • emphysema
  • asthma
  • Use carpooling
  • Walk instead of ride when applicable
  • Avoid idling vehicle needlessly and excessively.
  • Refuel vehicle during cooler hours to avoid more evaporation into the air.
  • Conserve electricity
  • Set A/C no lower than 78°.



Lead is a naturally occurring heavy metal in the earth’s crust – the air, the water, the soil and in our homes. Exposure to lead in air comes from the human use of fossil fuels like past use of leaded gasoline, past use of lead-based paint, ceramics, solders, batteries, pipes, plumbing materials, gasoline, ammunition, and cosmetics.


Acute lead poisoning symptoms:

  • Abdominal pains
  • Coma
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle pains
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Seizures

Chronic Lead Poisoning symptoms :

  • Anemia
  • Behavioral problems
  • Fertility issues
  • Heart rate variability
  • Impaired growth
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Irritability
  • Lack of energy
  • Learning disabilities
  • Loss of appetite
  • Poor coordination
  • Shortened attention span

Take precautions when engaging in the ff. DIY activities and hobbies as they involve lead-containing materials that can produce dangerous levels of lead fumes and dust.

  • car engine maintenance
  • burning, heating, flame cutting, grinding or sanding, melting, lead-containing products.
  • house renovations
  • making lead sinkers
  • panel beating or other body work on cars and boats
  • sanding old paint
  • spray painting cars and boats


Nitrogen Oxides

Nitrogen oxides are gases that are made up of nitrogen and oxygen.


Nitric Oxide=NO; sharp, sweet smell, colorless to brown at room temperature


Nitrogen dioxide=NO2;

strong, harsh odor,

colorless to brown liquid at room temperature but

becomes a reddish-brown gas at temperatures above 70°F


Nitrous oxide=N2O - it is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.


These gases are released into the air from vehicle exhaust or the burning of oil, coal, diesel fuel, and natural gas (from electric power plants). They are also released during welding, engraving, electroplating and dynamite blasting. They are also produced by cigarette smoking.

Exposure to high levels of NO and NO2 can cause death or the ff. symptoms:

  • bluing of skin and lips 
  • collapse
  • difficult breathing
  • dizziness
  • fluid build-up in the lungs
  • headache, fatigue
  • Oxygen deprivation
  • rapid burning and swelling of tissues in the throat and upper respiratory tract
  • throat spasms


  • Avoid burning wood or using a kerosene heater or gas stove
  • Avoid smoking cigarettes or breathing second-hand cigarette smoke.
  • Take safety precautions on-the-job if working in a manufacturing plant for nitric acid, welded metals or explosives (TNT and dynamite)

Particulate Matter

PM is the sum of all particles (both solid and liquid) that is suspended in air. This includes organic and inorganic particles, like pollen, dust, smoke, soot, and liquid droplets.

  • Lung irritation that leads to increased lung tissue permeability.
  • Aggravates chronic lung diseases hastening the loss of airway function.
  • Inflammation of lung tissue which releases chemicals affecting the heart.
  • Causes blood clots leading to heart attacks.
  • Increased susceptibility to bacterial and viral and pathogens.
  • Reduce traveling during rush hour
  • Stay away from smoking vehicle while on the road
  • Use the air recirculation setting of your car A/C in heavy traffic.
  • Air out your vehicle periodically to release accumulated CO2.
  • Avoid idling of vehicle
  • Do not smoke inside vehicle especially with the windows closed
  • At home, use exhaust fans that vent outdoors when cooking.
  • Do not use wood stove inside the house.
  • Limit use of candles and incense without adequate ventilation.
  • Avoid using air fresheners and aerosol sprays.
  • Keep house free from dust

Sulfur Oxides

SOx are compounds made of oxygen molecules and sulfur. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is the predominant form found in the lower atmosphere. It is a colorless gas that can be detected by taste and smell.


These gases are produced by roasting metal sulfide ores or burning fuels containing sulfur. Natural sources like volcanoes account for 35-65% of all SO2emissions. Thermal power plants, industrial boilers and nonferrous metal smelters are the other major sources of emissions.

Exposure to sulfur oxides result to:

  • Reduced lung function
  • Increased episodes of respiratory symptoms and diseases
  • Irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat
  • Premature death

Children, the elderly, and those suffering from respiratory ailments are at higher risk.

If you live within close proximity to active volcanoes or other sources of sulfur oxides, protecting oneself from exposure involves a few simple steps:

  • Visit the Current Conditions Website to find out about current SO2 conditions.
  • Avoid strenuous activities as they make you breathe in more heavily
  • Limit time outdoors.


Inspection and Testing

It is quite alarming to realize how truly hazardous the air around us can be, but it is equally calming to know that we also have the means to mitigate the effects of air pollution to our health and the environment in general. We have the tools at our disposal; we only have to learn how to use them. We begin by testing the quality of air in and around our homes.

We can avail ourselves of Indoor Air Quality Home Tests that can be readily ordered online. These kits are easy to use and offer value for money considering the alternative -  that of not knowing what kind of air our children are breathing-in at our own home, where they should be most protected.

Sample Carbon Monoxide Test Procedure:

  • Remove tan sensor button from foil pack and snap firmly into the hole on the front of the plastic badge.
  • Indicate the start date on the lower right corner of the plastic badge.
  • Mount plastic badge on any hard surface in the area to be tested (remove adhesive coating at the back)

Reading Results:

Within 15 minutes the sensor button will turn grey to black if carbon monoxide is detected. Even with a slight darkening of the sensor button, it is already an indication of dangerous levels of CO.


  • Expose the sensor to fresh air and it will revert back to its original color, ready to be reused.
  • Replace sensor button every 3 months
  • Slightly faster reaction time when damp
  • Slightly slower reaction time when dry 


  • Halogens, nitrous gases and ammoniac will damage the sensor button.
  • Keep away from solvents, cleaners and other contaminants.
  • Keep sensor button away from direct sunlight.
  • Shelf life of unopened sensor button is 3 years.

This is by no means a comprehensive account of every critical issue that needs to be addressed in connection to Air Quality. Many of the pollutants found in air can also be found in water, or in soil, and will be discussed in detail in the subsequent sections.























For Further Reading: