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Outdoor Air Quality

Particles that are 10 micrometers (µm) in diameter or smaller pose the greatest problems. These smaller particles generally pass through the nose and throat and enter the lungs. Once inhaled, these particles can affect the lungs and heart and cause serious health effects. Larger particles (> 10 µm) are generally of less concern because they usually do not enter the lungs, although they can still irritate the eyes, nose, and throat.

Particles of concern can be grouped into two main categories:

Coarse particles (also known as PM10-2.5): particles with diameters generally larger than 2.5 µm and smaller than, or equal to, 10 µm in diameter.

Fine particles (also known as PM2.5): particles generally 2.5 µm in diameter or smaller. This group of particles also encompasses ultrafine and nanoparticles which are generally classified as having diameters less than 0.1 µm. 

‘VOC’ stands for volatile organic compounds. “Organic” means it has at least one carbon atom. “Volatile” means it is a gas under normal atmospheric conditions, so it has low boiling point and a high vapor pressure. That means these chemicals evaporate easily and often react with other substances in the air – they are volatile. Examples of VOCs include benzene, formaldehyde, and toluene.

VOCs can come from natural sources (such as flowers) or from man-made sources (such as paint and glues). Smells are also often VOCs that our noses register. If you have ever opened a dry erase marker and smelled that chemical smell, you have smelled a VOC!

Long-term exposure to polluted air can have permanent health effects such as accelerated aging of the lungs; loss of lung capacity and decreased lung function; the development of diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and possibly cancer.

The latest research on the health effects of air pollution have discovered a surprising finding: low levels of air pollution are actually more harmful than higher levels. This data has potentially important implications for people living in relatively “clean” cities like New York and London.

Indoor Air Quality

According to the National Safety Council, people, on average, spend about 90 percent of their time indoors. Of that 90 percent, 65 is spent at home, and to make matters worse, those who are most susceptible to indoor air pollution are the ones who are home the most: children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with chronic illnesses. Children breathe in 50 percent more air per pound of bodyweight than adults do. EPA studies have found that pollutant levels inside can be two to five times higher than outdoors. After some activities, indoor air pollution levels can be 100 times higher than outdoors.

It is difficult to determine which pollutant or pollutants are the sources of a person’s ill health, or even if indoor air pollution is the problem. Many indoor air pollutants cannot be detected by our senses (e.g., smell) and the symptoms they produce can be vague and sometimes similar, making it hard to attribute them to a specific cause. Some symptoms may not show up until years later, making it even harder to discover the cause. Common symptoms of exposure to indoor air pollutants include headaches, tiredness, dizziness, nausea, an itchy nose, and a scratchy throat. More serious effects are asthma and other breathing disorders and cancer.

There are three different types of indoor air pollutants. Particulates: dust, pollen, dust mites, animal dander, carpet fibers, and lint. Micro-organisms: mold, influenza, fungi, viruses, bacteria, and germs. Toxins (gasses):  benzene chemical vapors, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, paint, pesticides, carpet fumes, pet odors, ozone, cleaning vapors, and smoke.



The Plain English Guide to the Clean Air Act

By the US EPA

The Plain English Guide to the Clean Air Act provides a brief introduction to the 1990 Clean Air Act. The 1990 Clean Air Act is the most recent version of a law first passed in 1970 to clean up air pollution. This summary covers some of the important provisions of the 1990 Clean Air Act and may help you understand what is in the law and how it may affect you.

See the Air: Proof That Air Pollution Kills

By Sotirios Papathanasiou

Since my first book “See The Air – The Essential Guide for Optimal Air Quality in Your Life” was published back in 2017 many have read it, and many have followed my example and tried to write and describe the problem too. There is some interest in the field, and I want to contribute even more by gathering all the available information regarding air pollution and its impact on health in this book. My intention here is clear, I want to shock people and authorities and make it clear that there is proof. Air pollution kills millions of people every year and there is no excuse not to listen to brilliant scientists and the noble work they have done.

Air Quality & Outdoor Activity Guidance for Schools

This guidance can help protect the health of all children, including teenagers, who are more sensitive than adults to air pollution.

Air Quality Guide for Particulate Matter

Harmful particle pollution is one of our nation’s most common air pollutants. Use this chart to help reduce your exposure and protect your health.

Wildfire Action Plan in California

This brochure provides comprehensive information on how to improve your home’s resistance to wildfires and prepare your family to be ready to leave early in a safe manner.

Environmental Wellness Checklist

Checklist for improving air quality indoors without spending money.

Air Quality Index Basics

The U.S. AQI is EPA’s index for reporting air quality.

Air Quality Guide for Ozone

Ground-level ozone is one of our nation’s most common air pollutants. Use this chart to help reduce your exposure and protect your health.

Air Quality Guide for Nitrogen Dioxide

This guide provides you with information about ways to protect your health when nitrogen dioxide levels reach the unhealthy range, and ways you can help reduce nitrogen dioxide air pollution.



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