7 ways to reduce air pollution
7 Ways to Reduce Air Pollution
Step 1: Understand Where Air Pollution Comes From
According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are six major causes of air pollution in the United States. These are ground-level ozone, particulate matter, lead, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide.
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While most people have heard of carbon monoxide, lead and particulate matter, they might be surprised to learn that the primary source of air pollution today is ground-level ozone. Unlike the natural ozone layer that surrounds the earth and helps regulate temperature by shielding it from the sun’s harmful rays, ground-level ozone occurs when nitrogen oxides mix with volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The chemical reaction that follows emits ground-level ozone that can lead to numerous health problems. Upper respiratory ailments such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema are all related to ground-level ozone. So where does this chemical reaction occur? Anywhere you have gasoline vapors, car exhaust fumes, a large storage of chemical agents, and factory or utility plant emissions. Reduce these key elements and you can reduce the amount of ground-level ozone you are exposed to.
Step 2: Reduce Your Use of Automobiles
Automobiles do more than just contribute to ground-level ozone. The making of gasoline requires the burning of coal and oil which causes an increase in sulfur dioxides, another of the six leading causes of air pollution. The EPA says petroleum refineries are key producers of sulfur dioxides and the more time spent behind the wheel of a car means more air pollution for everyone to breathe.
While it may not be possible to completely eliminate your use of automobiles, try consolidating errands and shopping to keep from making multiple trips to the same location. If you live near a commuter railway, make a commitment to take the train at least one day a week to work. Looking for a new set of wheels? Why not buy a hybrid. These great vehicles combine electric and fuel
energy to get better mileage and many produce nearly zero emissions.
Step 3: Plant More Plants
NASA recently discovered that many household plants, like the Gerbera Daisy, Peace Lily and English Ivy are instrumental in removing carbon monoxide from the air. Operating much like the human liver, these common indoor plants actually filter harmful chemicals and dangerous compounds from the air, absorbing the toxins through tiny pores in their leaves and “digesting” the pollution through their stems, roots and out through the soil.
Using these natural air filters in your home or office can greatly reduce the amount of indoor air pollution and help eliminate recurring colds and respiratory problems. According to the NASA study, other helpful varieties for clean air are the bamboo palm, Chinese evergreen and any of the Dracaena trees.
Step 4: Go Solar
Electricity might seem a green way to heat your home, but the VOCs generated by electrical utility plants are among the highest in all forms of manufacturing. Nitrogen oxides are also a byproduct of electrical utilities and as we learned in Step 1, combining the two can lead to deadly increases in ground-level ozone. Utility companies produce more sulfur dioxides than petroleum plants and the amount of other resources necessary to operate the plants make electric utilities a less-than optimum choice when looking to “power” your home.
Today’s solar panels are unique in both design and installation. Whereas previous generation panels were large and unsightly perched above your roof, modern versions are colorful, install directly into the roof tiles and can usually generate enough electricity to power your home, heat your hot water and have enough left over to sell back to the utility company.
Step 5: Get the Lead Out
The dangers of lead-based paint have been known since roughly the 1970s, however, recent environmental issues surrounding imported toys have caused
everyone to rethink the use of lead in common household products. Leaded fuels were phased out after the 1990 Amendment to the federal Clean Air Act, making trash-burning, battery storage, and utility-leaching the major sources of household lead pollution.
Have your gas and electric appliances checked to make sure there are no leaks in the lines or shorts in the wiring. Never burn trash or use your fireplace to get rid of excess garbage. If you have old batteries lying around, call your County Department of Environmental Health and ask where you can legally dispose of them. Most importantly, check the label on painted items such as furniture, decorator items and children’s toys. If you are unsure if the item contains lead-based paint, contact the manufacturer and ask. If they are unable to tell you, return the item for a refund or get rid of it altogether.
Step 6: Never Dust Again
Well, not really. But be careful about the kind of dust you stir up. Much of the thick brown haze you see over large urban areas is a combination of dust from construction sites, smoke from factories and the emissions from cars mixed together. While you might not be able to control the number of cars on the road or the types of factories that operate, you can watch your yard for dry patches and do your part to eliminate dust. This is especially important if you use a lot of chemical fertilizers or other treatments on your patch of ground because those chemicals will mix with others once airborne and could cause even greater health problems.
If you have a large non-landscaped area of your yard, make sure it stays damp and is not allowed to completely dry out, creating dust. If you are not ready to plant, sprinkle the area with water every few days to keep the dust in check. Better yet, cover with plastic sheeting to keep the ground from drying out while generating your own solar watering system at the same time.
Step 7: Get Cozy
Since electrical plants contribute to both carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, the burning of coal and petroleum generates ground-level ozone and sulfur dioxides, and the use of gas-powered heating systems can raise interior carbon monoxide levels to dangerous levels. Instead of turning on the heat, why not put on a sweater? Put another blanket on your bed during colder winter months. Keep cozy sweatshirts and plush chenille throws near the sofa for those evenings in front of the television. Snuggle next to someone to keep warm.
Simple changes can make a huge difference in the amount of air pollution you are exposed to. Start small and build on your successes. Pretty soon, we will all be breathing a sigh of relief.