In the modern era, we have come a long way with our research on mental health. We have learned more about how not only can our life experiences impact our mental health, but also our genetics. Most recently, researchers are looking into another potential cause: pollution and air quality. Let’s reflect on how air quality affects mental health, as well as what to do about it.
How Air Quality Affects Mental Health
To explain it as simply as possible, a particular form of pollution called PM2.5 is what researchers are focusing on. The name comes from it being a type of Particulate Matter (PM) that has inhalable particles that are 2.5 micrometers in diameter.
Since the particulates are so small, they may enter the bloodstream and cause an inflammatory response that then impacts our mental health. There are various studies out there that center around pollution and mental health, including one that connects ADHD to pollution.
Exposure to Air Pollution
Outdoor air pollution is a common issue in the United States, with more than 1 in 3 Americans living in a place with unhealthy levels of air pollution. With that being said, outdoor air pollution is mostly out of our control. Cars, factories, and agricultural sectors are the most common causes of pollution, and they are a massive part of our country.
We know it’s unrealistic to try to avoid going outdoors if you live in an area with poor air quality, so here are some ways you can protect yourself when outdoors:
- Check the air quality forecast for your area everyday. There are various ways you can do this; the weather app on your phone, local weather reports on the news, and on airnow.gov.
- Avoid exercising outdoors on days where there is poor air quality. Even on better air quality days, you should avoid busy areas like highways.
- Do not burn your garbage. It releases toxic chemicals in the air, plus it’s illegal.
- Try not to burn wood, leaves, or brush. In some areas, it is legal to burn this but it also can release chemicals as well as soot into the air.
- Make conserving energy at home a habit for yourself. Not only will you save money on bills, but also can do your part with combating gas emissions.
- Implement electric-powered lawn care equipment into your lawn care routine.
A Note On Dealing With Wildfires
Earlier in June 2023, many states in the eastern United States dealt with dangerous air quality after devastating Canadian wildfires. While the western part of the country has grown familiar with unhealthy air levels due to wildfires, this was a time where many citizens in the northeastern U.S. were dealing with the air quality.
The advice for dealing with wildfire smoke is similar to the previously mentioned advice on avoiding poor air quality, with the addition of wearing N95 respirator masks. It’s important to remember even if you are wearing the masks, it’s still important to limit your time outdoors.
Although we can try our best to make small changes in our lives to reduce environmental impact on outdoor air, the best way to protect yourself is to control your indoor air quality.
Tips On Improving Indoor Air Quality
The first step to ensuring you have good indoor air quality is testing your home’s air quality. When you have your home tested by an HVAC expert, they can give you recommendations on how to handle your results. And if you choose to get your air tested by us, you have no obligation to go forward with our recommendations.
Once you know where your home stands with its indoor air quality, then you can go from there. Just a few ways you can improve your home’s air quality includes:
- Regularly changing the air filters on any air conditioners, heaters, humidifiers, and purifiers.
- Upgrading your air filter system if you have noticed your air quality isn’t improving with your current one.
- Having a no-smoking policy in your home.
- Avoid paint and cleaning products that are high in VOCs.
- Ventilate your kitchen after cleaning or cooking.
Lastly, we have a few other recommendations if you are concerned about poor air quality negatively impacting your health. You can contact local politicians about enacting environmental policy changes, as well as contacting the local schools and asking them to reduce children’s exposure to the emissions from the school bus.
If you are inspired by this article and looking into adding a filtration system to your home, we’d love to help you. Reach out to us today!