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Why Fresh Air Isn't Always Better

  • Air Quality Facts
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When indoor air quality is poor, it can exacerbate the symptoms of asthma or lead to itchy eyes and sore throats. One of the most common ways to deal with polluted indoor air is to improve air circulation by simply opening the windows. While this can cycle new air into the home, which is helpful when indoor air quality is especially poor, the quality of the air outside may not be much better.

Air Pollution is a Real Problem 
The World Health Organization classifies air pollution as a major environmental risk. In places where air pollution is worst, there are higher levels of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory illness. Air pollution is tied to nearly 4 million deaths worldwide each year, mostly in poorer countries, such as those in the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia. Even in places where pollution isn't as bad, it may contribute to health conditions such as asthma.

Air pollution may also increase the incidence of health problems such as dry eyes, nausea, headaches, congestion and fatigue, according to the American Lung Association. The organization reported that billions of dollars are spent on health care and lost to reduced productivity resulting from air pollution each year in the U.S. Ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and foreign particles are the main sources of air pollution. They often result from burning fuel to power cars, homes and factories. The ALA suggested reducing energy use to cut back on the amount of pollutants released into the air. While that's a good strategy for the long term, it can't reduce the irritants that are already present.

Keeping Contaminants Out 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommended paying attention to the level of pollutants and pollen in the air, which is often included in weather reports. On days when pollution is particularly high, the organization said that it may be best to limit time outdoors and keep windows closed to keep pollutants out. However, harmful particles can't be kept out completely, and many are created within the home.

Using an air purifier, such as the Holmes® True HEPA Allergen Remover, can help reduce the amount of airborne contaminants that circulate inside. Carbon and HEPA filters can catch most of the common particles that affect indoor air quality, such as dander, smoke, mold, pollen and dust. HEPA filters in particular may remove particles that others can't, which are more than 100 times smaller than the width of a human hair.