From wildfires choking West Coast breezes to the airborne virus particles carrying Covid-19, the air we breathe has never been more central to our attention. It would be nice to think you can hide from all these impurities inside your home but sorry, friends: Airborne particles actually get trapped inside our homes (not to mention potential chemical off-gassing from all those new home upgrades you have been so proud of). We spoke to the experts about a few quick and easy ways to purify the air in your space, from DIY solutions to more extensive (and expensive) home additions you might want to invest in. (Hey, the Los Angeles Times reports that clean air systems are the new real estate status symbol.) Take a deep inhale and read on to find out how you can breathe easier right away.
First off, know the terms: AQI means air quality index, which is a number from zero to 500 that basically tells you how easy the air is to breathe. Under 50 is good and greater than 300 is hazardous for even the healthiest lungs. The number is based on five environmental pollutants as recognized by the Clean Air Act. (So you’re looking at ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide.) You might be thinking, hey I don’t need to worry about that chemical soup—but you especially do because ground-level ozone is a result of emissions from cars and industrial pollutants reacting with sunlight, and particulate matter (PM) includes debris in the air from fires. Think that’s just harmless smoke? Think again—Southern California air quality monitors said that the smoke from this fall's wildfires carried PM2.5 particles. These are smaller than a human hair and can enter the lungs and even the bloodstream. Short term, that can mean eye, nose, throat and lung irritation, coughing, sneezing, runny nose and shortness of breath. Long term? Increased respiratory and cardiovascular hospital admissions, chronic bronchitis and lung and heart disease. And it’s not just the wildfires we need to worry about—PM2.5 particles are also emitted from tobacco smoke, cooking at home and fireplaces.