Take a Deep Breath
Ever wonder about what the air you breathe? Where I live, on the Big Island of Hawaii, an air pollutant called vog is routinely monitored and precautions are taken by those with breathing problems and asthma. Vog is volcanic ash and SO2 in the air, much like some busy metropolitan with factories smoke stacks sending ash and car exhaust with SO2 emission causing smog. I’ve been thinking more about the quality of the air I breathe after catching the flu which turned into walking pneumonia. I have never had a lung issue and it has been twenty years since the last time I caught some sort of influenza. This year was an exceptional year for the flu and lots were affected by it. All I know is… That feeling of not getting enough air is little scary.
So I started a little researching. How do I know if I live where it is known to have poor air quality? When is it better/worse? Is it affected by weather conditions? Or temperature fluctuations? I have heard many opinions from those living here for many years. Many stated that the vog is always worse in the winter, at night, or when rainy, or when the nights are warmer…usually followed by a statement that this winter seems to be harder than previous ones. And the suggestion that it ‘might be why you got sick'. Not so sure about all that, that is why I set out on this quest.
Air Quality Resources
If you want to learn about the air quality where you live, visit the real time World Air Quality Information web site. In Hawaii they do have one specifically tracking vog in multiple areas. In Volcano National Park and nearby areas they also monitor sulfur in the air. Visit their site for information about quality of air for each of the main islands. Check out this infographic for what specific pollutants can be found in air.
I cannot really answer whether air quality changes with time, season, or the weather without addressing trade winds. Vog travels wherever the wind takes it trade winds seem to travel in a predominate direction in the summer months and little more unpredictable during the winter months. So it all depends on the wind. Where you live or work may be downwind from the source one day and not another. Cities affected by smog are usually low lying and the wind is very welcomed because it can clear the skies.
Indoor Air Quality
I cannot address air quality without mention of indoor air. Did you know the indoor air can be many times more polluted than outdoor air? Enclosing a building air tight actually creates greater pollution by trapping pollutants, those from outside and the ones us humans are making inside. Many buildings have good ventilation in my area but during winter months may heat the fire place, wood stove, space heaters creating ash and gasses inside. Animals create dander type pollution. High humidity makes a breeding ground for mold which releases spores into the air we breathe. In addition, many businesses run conditioning all year long, keeping inside any fumes, gases, mold and dust produced in that business. The indoor quality of air is now a mixture of what is outside and that which is made inside. Government has set standards of what is allowable in the indoor air quality of a workplace. In homes that must be closed up and ventilation to the outside is not desirable, we can clear the air with a multitude of purifiers on the market. Check Jen’s reviews on the several types of air purifiers available as well as the pros and cons of each.
Other measures, (more natural options are just my style) like opening the doors and windows often to allow for air circulation. Dust and vacuum frequently to keep the dust to a minimum. Brush and bathe indoor pets frequently. Insist that all who must…smoke outside. Clean house with baking soda, white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. These have lower VOC’s, no added fragrances, inexpensive and many cases work nicer than some commercial cleaners. Scents for the house should be natural like essential oils and beeswax candles, these do not have chemical or petroleum airborne pollutants that can irritate airways. Adjust cook stove and heater burners so they preform optimally, burning with blue flames and no yellow tip means it is putting off less gas every time you use. Beware of beauty supplies, these are often loaded with toxic chemicals and heavy on the fragrances. Activated charcoal can eliminate musty smells and decrease the mold causing humidity in a small area like closets and trunk of car. Lastly, everyone should have a house plant. Plants are known to take up carbon dioxide and release oxygen but also help in eliminating benzenes and one little plant can clean 100 square feet.
This health tip is shared by Dr. Shauna Lover of Abundant Life Chiropractic LLC
-mobile chiropractor to the Big Island