What You Can Do About Common Air Quality Hazards

We all know that air is essential to life, but many of us have now learned the important lesson that air quality is fundamental to health, longevity, and quality of life.

A unique scientific field focuses on air quality risks, whether they are present in the atmosphere or interior spaces where we live and work. These scientists combine molecular biology with the latest insights on the microbiome, airborne microorganisms, genomics, bioaerosols and whole-genome sequencing of pathogens to identify hazards and outline solutions.

These scientists have demonstrated that many hazardous particles can linger for protracted periods in the air and become dispersed over a wide area. Examples of these pathogens and toxins include bacteria, viruses, fungi and man-made substances such as asbestos that may cause cancer.

In tracking the origins, paths and destinations of these kinds of particles, aerosol scientists draw upon the knowledge of a variety of disciplines. For example, physics helps explain the trajectories and vectors of airborne particles, allowing scientific observers to gain a comprehensive understanding of the extent and duration of risks.

Hamza Mbareche is a Canadian postdoctoral aerosol science researcher who believes in applying his experience to make an impact in real-world situations, improving lives and reducing health risks for communities across North America. Beyond the theoretical aspect of studying complex air quality issues, he sees a practical need to offer solutions, especially in regard to air quality issues in residential and office environments.

Unhealthy indoor air is usually the result of interior sources, rather than outdoor air seeping into buildings. Furniture can release formaldehyde, and cooking, heating units, plastics, and household products can all produce dangerous organic compounds. Carpets are a source of bacteria and fungi, which can be aerosolized into the air by simple activities like walking. Mold growing on surfaces and within walls can generate airborne fungus particles, and dust is the optimal transmission agent for dust mites.

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Although detecting and measuring these airborne risks involves sensitive instruments, sophisticated computations and new technologies, basic preventative measures also play a central role in addressing and mitigating these issues.

For indoor air, that can mean something as simple as opening windows and using fans. Constant ventilation helps extrude particles from a room, and keeping surfaces dry can prevent the growth of mold. Paying close attention to the household products and interior design items you purchase such as paints, carpet and paneling can reduce the amount of organic compounds that will be generated inside a dwelling.

Poor air quality is linked to millions of deaths and cases of disability around the world. Schools, hospitals, nursing homes, businesses and homes are some of the common areas where vulnerable populations encounter dangerous particles in the air and develop conditions ranging from acute to chronic. The answer is awareness and testing, followed up with early intervention and mitigation strategies using proven, state-of-the-art technologies.