What Causes Unhealthy Air Quality

When you breathe fresh air, life takes on a whole new meaning. We often take the gift of fresh air for granted. Please take a minute the next time there’s a breeze to appreciate its divine because there’s nothing like a breath of fresh air.

The air – we all know we can’t live without it, but do we understand what is air made of? Although there is no visible fragrance or color in pure air, it is a combination of gases that makes up the Earth’s atmosphere. Air consists of 78% Nitrogen, 21% oxygen, variable amounts of water vapor, 0.9% of argon, 0.04% of carbon dioxide, and trace gasses. All of the various components significantly influence the air quality or how healthy it is for us.    

Let’s focus on what causes unhealthy air quality. We’ll look into outdoor and indoor air quality, as the factors in these two environments may vary.

Sources of Outdoor Air Pollution

With a few exceptions, people are the primary source of outdoor air pollution. We have to learn more about our impact on our air quality and do less harm collectively. We have to understand better what causes unhealthy air quality so we can do something about it. Sources of outdoor air pollution are the following:

Electric Utilities 

Although electricity is a clean and safe kind of energy when consumed, its generation and distribution have an environmental impact. Electric utilities that burn coal, natural gas, oil, or biomass emit emissions harmful to the lungs.


Cars, trucks, and equipment used to transport people, products, and fuel can pollute the air and endanger human health. This pollution includes ozone, particulate matter, and other smog-forming pollutants. Nearly half of the US population (roughly 150 million people) live in places where federal air quality requirements are insufficient. Walk every chance you have, or use a bicycle to be more environmentally friendly.

Sources From Home

Emissions from heating, cooling, and powering our houses, especially in our communities, may all be harmful to our health.

Industrial Manufacturing Processes 

Industrial pollution is one of the most common air pollutants across the planet. Industrial operations are a significant cause of pollution in the air, water, and land, resulting in sickness and death worldwide. Enterprises’ heating, cooling, powering, and industrial operations produce harmful pollutants.

Natural Disasters and Emergencies

Wildfires, flooding, storms, and other natural disasters pollute the air, putting those with lung illnesses at risk. 

  • Where there is dry, hot weather, wildfires are a constant worry. Smoke from these fires may travel hundreds of miles. 
  • Hurricanes and flooding are a hazard to your family and home. Safeguard your family from air pollutants and other health dangers that might arise during cleaning up, especially if someone in your family has lung illness.

Climate Change 

Climate change can influence local air quality. Climate change results in the warming of the atmosphere. As a result, there is a potential to raise ground-level ozone in many areas, posing a problem for future ozone standards compliance. Climate change is a severe threat to everyone’s health, with severe implications for lung health. Climate change influences air quality, and air quality impacts climate change. 


Commonly known as smog, ozone is one of the minor well-controlled pollutants in the United States at the moment. It’s also one of the most dangerous—and it’s completely undetectable. Tropospheric ozone, known as ground-level ozone, is produced by chemical interactions between nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic molecules (VOC). When pollutants from automobiles, power stations, industrial boilers, refineries, chemical production, and other sources react chemically in the presence of sunshine, this occurs. Ozone levels are likely to reach toxic levels on hot, bright days. However, they can still reach dangerous levels throughout the winter. Ozone may be carried over great distances by the wind; therefore, high ozone levels can be found even in rural locations. 

Particulate Matter in the Air 

Often known as particle pollution, particulate matter is a phrase used to describe a combination of solid particles and liquid droplets forming in the air. Dust, grime, filth, and smoke are examples of big particles that you can see with the naked eye. Others are so minuscule that only an electron microscope can detect them. Most particles form by complicated chemical processes involving sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, produced by power plants, industry, and cars. They are so tiny they can be ingested and cause significant health issues.

Gasses Cause Unhealthy Air Quality

Nitrogen Dioxide 

Nitrogen dioxide emits in the air when fossil fuels burn. It’s one of the most common air pollutants, with national air quality guidelines working to control its levels in the open air. When fossil fuels (wood or natural gas) burn indoors, Nitrogen dioxide can develop. Power stations, heavy construction equipment, and other moveable engines are the greatest producers of emissions, followed by cars, trucks, and buses. You are more likely to inhale a lot of nitrogen dioxide living near a highway.

Sulfur Dioxide 

This gas emits in the air when burning sulfur-containing fuels such as coal, oil, or diesel. Living near a power plant or a port contributes to breathing air with more sulfur dioxide.

Carbon Monoxide

Another gas produced by the combustion of fuels is carbon monoxide. The incomplete burning of carbon-containing fuels, including gasoline, natural gas, oil, coal, and wood, produces carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and deadly atmospheric pollutant. It’s a poisonous gas. High amounts occur around highways.

Toxic Pollutants in the Air

Toxic air pollutants lead to cancer, congenital disabilities, and other major health problems. They can be gases such as hydrogen chloride, benzene or toluene, dioxin, compounds such as asbestos, and elements like cadmium, mercury, and chromium. Nearly 200 additional pollutants in the air have been identified as harmful by the US Environmental Protection Agency. 

Carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide are gasses that can be lethal if not dealt with immediately. In case you experience symptoms of poisoning: 

  • Exit the house.
  • 91-1-1 is the number to dial.
  • Wait for a firefighter’s permission to return inside.
  • Do not use your fuel-burning appliances until they have been inspected by a professional.

What Are the Causes of Unhealthy Indoor Air Quality?

The environment, weather, and human activities impact both indoor and outdoor air quality. Did you know that we spend most of our time indoors during our lifetime? Unhealthy air quality in your home might endanger your family’s health, so it’s critical to keep pollution-causing items as far as possible.  

Some factors in your home can be polluting, including: 

  • Inadequate ventilation
  • Dampness
  • Chemicals found in cleaning products and paints

Many other elements also influence indoor air quality: 

  • The air exchange rate
  • External climate
  • Weather conditions
  • Occupant behavior

We know that the concept of air pollution in our homes sounds frightening, and believe me, it is. We only address it when it becomes an issue in our house, so we better know before it becomes a problem.

Let’s look at the main factors that influence indoor air quality and how they affect your health:

  1. Mold and allergens such as pollen, animal dander, and dust mites are found in practically every house and have a direct impact on air quality. These pollutants may cause respiratory problems, allergy flare-ups, and sleep disturbances. 
  2. Particulates such as dust, soot, and smoke are tracked into your home by pets or through poor sealing and filtering. These airborne particulates are classified as a group one carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer
  3. While humidity is something you might only think about in the summer months, it’s a year-round issue. If you don’t control the humidity in your home when winter rolls in, you risk chapped and cracked skin, draining sinuses, risk of sinus infection, and trouble sleeping.
  4. VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are compounds included in many of the items we use to construct and maintain our houses. They can cause headaches, nausea, and respiratory problems in the air.

What Can I Do to Improve the Air Quality in My Home?

Now that you know how much time we spend indoors and how many factors influence our air quality, you must be wondering what you can do to have fresh, clean, and germ-free air in your home. Here are some methods to enhance your home’s air quality:

  1. Make sure your home is adequately ventilated. This is one of the simplest and most affordable ways to enhance your indoor air quality. Open your windows and let the breeze in. Don’t let the same air circulate your home for days or even hours. Ventilate as often as possible to reduce odors from pets, cigarette smoke, and other everyday household activities. You can try using a product like Germ Guardian 3-in-1 Cleaning System. Check our review for more details. 
  2. To minimize humidity accumulation, keep your home tightly sealed. Use weather-stripping around windows and doorframes to reduce drafts and use caulking to cover gaps and other areas where damp air enters.
  3. It’s always good to put a humidifier in your HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system.
  4. You should clean out your HVAC vents regularly throughout the year. Twice a year as the seasons change is the minimum. At the very least, twice every year, as the seasons change.
  5. Clean your house regularly. One of the best methods for maintaining good air quality is to keep your home clean and free of dust and debris. 

What Are the Health Consequences of Polluted Air?

We know that the burden of illness caused by air pollution is comparable to other significant global health concerns, such as a poor diet and cigarette smoking.

Air pollution is a health risk in all countries, but it’s more dangerous in low- and middle-income countries. Air pollution levels are rising due to large-scale urbanization and economic growth that consists mainly of fossil fuel combustion. The United Nations Environment Programme assists nations in their efforts to reduce pollution.

When we breathe, air pollution enters our lungs and can enter our bloodstream, endangering our health, our heart, and lungs in particular. People with heart issues, such as coronary artery disease or a history of heart attacks or strokes, are especially vulnerable. Additionally, many respiratory problems such as asthma, emphysema, or bronchitis can be caused or worsened by air pollution. 


Many factors cause unhealthy air quality. We can influence some of them as individuals. Still, we need to work collectively to reduce air pollution for the most part.

What keeps our air healthy – you’ve guessed it, plants! Every tree, grass, and forest constantly works to maintain thriving air quality on our planet. Plants need carbon dioxide, which humans and other creatures exhale as a waste product. In contrast, people and other living creatures require oxygen, which plants produce via photosynthesis. As a result, the more plants, the cleaner the air we breathe.

The more time you spend near sources of pollution, the greater your health risk. To keep safe, be conscious of the environment and make sure you have healthy air quality near you.