Since the 1970s, the United States has put forth efforts and investments to improve air quality. As these efforts continue, a fundamental question remains: Do improvements in air quality result in measurable human health improvements? (The New England Journal of Medicine).
The answer: Yes!
One of the most harmful exhaust pollutants is particulate matter, or tiny airborne particles. The particle size is directly linked to its potential for causing health problems.
Small particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter pose the greatest problems because they can get deep into your lungs, and some may even get into your bloodstream (United States Environmental Protection Agency).
PM2.5, the fine particulate matter our drone sensor will measure, falls into this category. PM2.5 refers to all particles under 2.5 micrometers in diameter (0.00025 mm).
HealthLink British Columbia contains medically-approved information on more than 5,000 health topics, including particulate matter’s impact on our bodies. The thought of tiny particles lodging deep into the lungs and causing major health problems is frightening, but there are ways you can reduce the amount of particulate matter produced by smoke and vehicle emissions. Here are five things to keep in mind:
- Stop smoking.
In 2014, a research paper was published on Tobacco Control, an international journal covering the nature and consequences of tobacco use worldwide. Many non-smokers living with a smoker inhale a similar mass of PM2.5 as a non-smoker living in a heavily polluted city such as Beijing.
2. Mulch garden waste instead of burning it.
According to Recycle Spot, a site developed by the MARC Solid Waste Management District (MARC SWMD) and the Mid-America Regional Council, food and yard waste account for about 30% of a household’s waste stream. When these materials end up in the trash (landfill), valuable space is used and air pollution is created.
3. Limit the use of fireplaces and wood stoves.
The EPA’s plan to incorporate cleaner wood burning technology into wood stoves sold in the US was detailed by the Chimney Sweep Company, a full-service Hearth Product sales and service business. Wood stoves must comply with current emissions standards. As the old-technology wood stoves are replaced with new-technology models, air quality is automatically improved.
4. Take action to reduce wildfires.
The components of wood and cigarette smoke are similar, and many are carcinogenic. The Environment and Human Health, Inc. (EHHI) strives to protect the population’s health from environmental ills. The site details the health effects of wood smoke, which contains fine particulate matter that can scar the lungs.
5. Reduce diesel emissions by replacing older engines with newer and cleaner ones.
In an online journal found on HealthyAir, a British site that supports action on air pollution, the Black Carbon Campaign raises awareness for the need to reduce black carbon emissions. A significant proportion of particulate matter is made up of black carbon which, in addition to its health impact, also affects our climate. In the most polluted locations, diesel vehicles are usually the main source of particulate pollution.
By Taylor Kahny