11 Air Quality Myths Debunked

Air Quality Myths

Is your air conditioner making your air quality better or worse?

In today’s blog, you’ll find out that and so much more.

In recent years, the impact of wildfires has provoked an ongoing conversation about air quality, its health impacts and what we can do as citizens to improve air quality and mitigate risks. Even so, there are still lots of air quality myths out there.

Now, here is a list of the 11 most common indoor and outdoor air quality myths.

#1 - The air quality of natural areas consistently exceeds that of cities.

If you live in a city, you’re more likely to believe the air there is more polluted than in natural areas outside the city. In fact, this is one of the most common air quality myths.

A study published in 2018 found that the air pollution in the 33 biggest US national parks was only slightly better than the air in cities. The study also found ozone levels in many of these parks were close to or exceeded that in cities.

But why is that?

One of the main reasons air pollution can be just as bad in national parks as in cities is that pollution drifts out from cities into rural and natural areas.

This air pollution often gets trapped within mountain ranges, preventing the air from cleaning out as quickly as it can in cities. Additionally, the increase in forest fires has significantly impacted air quality in many parks.

#2 - Air pollution is present only if you can see it.

During wildfire season, many people can visually see the impact of smoke on the air quality; however, this isn’t always the case. The human eye cannot see several biological and gaseous air pollutants. And so even if you can’t see those air pollutants, they can still harm the respiratory system and trigger allergy symptoms.

#3 - The air quality is always better indoors.

To many people, especially those living in populated cities, indoor air quality seems better than outside air. But in many cases–the opposite is true. This makes sense when you consider the concentration of pollutants in enclosed spaces and when there is a lower air exchange rate.

#4 - Seasonal allergens only exist outside.

Seasonal allergies are generally a result of pollen. And yes, it’s easy to assume pollen is only present outdoors. However, pollen can travel inside through many means, such as an open window or on your clothes. Once inside, the pollen then has no means of escape. In fact, one study found pollen levels to be 2-5x worse inside.

Other common allergens are found inside most homes that aren’t related to seasonal allergies, such as dust mites, mould and pet dander. According to this study, 90 percent of homes have three or more detectable allergens.

#5 - Indoor air quality has no health implications.

The truth is poor indoor air quality can contribute to many different health problems. Asthma and allergies are just a few symptoms, along with the following:

  • Headaches
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea
  • Itchy eyes
  • Congestion
  • Fatigue

#6 - Indoor air quality is better in new buildings.

It’s easy to assume that a new building would have better air quality than older buildings. Sadly, that’s not the case.

New building designs generally result in more airtight buildings than in the past, which impedes air flow and creates air quality problems. Additionally, many materials used in a new building impact air quality, such as paint fumes and formaldehyde used to treat wood.

#7 - There is little you can do individually about air pollution.

After reading some of these myths about air pollution, you may feel that nowhere is safe and there is nothing you can do to improve air quality problems, but that isn’t true.

In your home, you can reduce airborne chemicals by being thoughtful about the products you use, considering appropriate ventilation, controlling humidity to prevent mold, and cleaning regularly.

In your community, you can make simple changes that reduce emissions and improve air quality, such as alternative means of travel other than driving. Additionally, you can invest in air quality monitoring technology, so you’re more informed about what’s going on around you.

#8 - Using a humidifier is always good.

Humidifiers are often used in dry winter months to ease problems caused by dry air. However, they aren’t universally good. High humidity can cause mold, fungi, bacteria and other microbes to thrive.

Typically, low humidity levels result from air leaking outside, so addressing the cause of the leakage can prevent the loss of humidity without any increased risk. If you use a humidifier, ensure it is cleaned regularly and monitor humidity levels so they don’t get too high.

#9 - Air conditioners provide air ventilation.

While it may feel like your air conditioner also provides fresh air–it probably isn’t. Most air conditioners are closed systems, which means they’re recirculating the air inside your home without improving it (other than cooling it down) or bringing in fresh air from the outside.

#10 - Air pollution in China always exceeds North America

You’ve likely heard that China suffers from poor air quality, but does that mean cities in North America are always better? No.

During the summer of 2018, the smoke from wildfires caused air pollution to worsen in China. In Seattle, in particular, air quality during this time was reported as 5 times worse than in Beijing.

Leading up to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, officials were concerned about air quality and made changes to improve air quality. One of the significant long-term changes they made was tripling the number of federal monitoring stations from 661 to 1,800.

Read more fun facts about air quality.

#11 - It’s impossible to monitor indoor air quality easily.

When it comes to air quality, you want a monitor you can trust–but commercial ones are often out of the budget. Our air quality monitors are easy to install and ensure you stay up to date with the air quality so that you can avoid high concentrations of air pollutants.

On top of all that, they are also highly accurate and evaluated by the Air Quality Sensor Performance Evaluation Center (AQ-SPEC) to meet FEM/FRM standards.

We hope by debunking these air quality myths, we’ve inspired you to take a closer look at the air quality in your area and take steps to improve it. Whether that means using public transportation, carpooling, or investing in an air quality monitor.

Worried About Your Air Quality?

Monitor the Particulate Matter levels around the world with our free, real-time PurpleAir Map or join PurpleAir’s mission to make air quality data accessible to everyone by investing in an air quality monitor for your home.

Together, we can be informed and make changes in our daily habits and the community to improve air quality.