Special Summertime Air Quality Issues

July 23, 2012

The beautiful summer weather can be harmful to your health due to the amount of pollution in the air you are breathing.  Both indoors and outdoors, ozone, mold, and moisture are more of an issue in the summer than they are during cooler months.  Sunny days, warm temperatures, and light winds don't allow pollutants to be cleared from outside air. 

Instead, they promote the formation of ozone, the number one air pollutant in the United States.  Ozone is the combination of volatile organic compounds and nitrous oxides, generally produced in factories, power plants, and vehicle emissions. And when ozone is in higher concentrations outside, it's bound to make its way into your home.

Ozone is dangerous due to how it affects the lungs. It causes inflammation and degradation in deep lung tissue and airways, making it difficult to breathe. On days when ozone is high, even healthy individuals with no breathing problems can find it difficult to breathe. Ozone is especially dangerous to people who spend a great amount of time working outside, children, pregnant women, the elderly, and anyone with existing breathing problems such as emphysema or asthma.

The best way to reduce or eliminate ozone from your indoor air is to keep windows and doors shut during high ozone days, and open them during windy days to bring clean air indoors. Good ventilation is the easiest way to improve indoor air quality but you may also want to use air cleaners and UV lamps, especially if anyone in your home has allergies, asthma, or emphysema.  If you use an air cleaner, ensure it produces minimal ozone. Some brands produce dangerous amounts of ozone while claiming to clean the air.

Outdoor humidity and summer storms can carry damp air indoors.  Any damp air can bring on asthma symptoms and encourages dust mite, mold, and mildew growth. Leaks in the roof, foundation, or crawlspace need to be fixed as quickly as possible to prevent moisture from sneaking inside. Weatherizing your home against air leakage is a good idea as well, both to prevent unwanted moisture from coming in and to keep utility bills low.

Keeping indoor air humidity in the desirable range of 30-50 percent is as easy as running your air conditioner regularly. In addition, you can invest in a good-quality dehumidifier. Make sure to clean air conditioners and dehumidifiers regularly to prevent mildew growth. Consistent use of bathroom and kitchen fans is another good precaution.

In summer, polluted air outside can cause indoor air quality to decline as well.  Your best precautions include running your air conditioner regularly to keep humidity at a good level and closing windows so that ozone doesn't pollute your indoor air.

Sources: http://www.lung.org

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Last Updated: June 06, 2024