Air Quality

The consequences of poor air quality on health are well known to most New Jersey residents. However, we often don’t think about the overlapping effect that this can have on our daily lives and overall experience in this state. Between 2010 and 2015 there were over 10,000 asthma related hospitalizations in NJ each year, with many more likely going unreported. These are not just hospital visits; they are absent days from school for thousands of children, and missed days of work for their parents, or for adults who have asthma themselves. With almost one in ten (9%) adults and children in New Jersey suffering from asthma, we all know at least someone who has dealt with these factors at one point or another.

With asthma costing the nation over $50 Billion a year and an immeasurable amount of time, we in New Jersey have a responsibility to combat this for both the wellbeing of our country, and for those living with us in this great state. Solving issues of air quality helps to keep our neighbors and ourselves out of the hospital, and allows us to lead more productive and fulfilling lives.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)
Indoor Air Quality covers the state of the air in nearly any interior such as homes, schools, offices, and other buildings. Many factors should be considered when discussing or thinking about indoor air quality. Below are some examples of factors that often go unconsidered:

  • The average American will spend around 90% of their time indoors. Unfortunately, many types of pollutants can be found in concentrations up to five times higher inside then those of the same pollutant found outside.
  • The elderly and young children are at higher risk for cardiovascular complications due to spending more time indoors than the rest of the population.
  • A rise in synthetic home and personal care products along with new energy-saving designs in construction have caused air circulation and quality to drop in many areas and properties.
Source: Environmental Protection Agency  


Common Sources of Indoor Pollutants:

Tobacco
Tobacco remains as one of the most detrimental factors to indoor air quality, with one in six adults in New Jersey regularly smoking cigarettes. It accounts for more deaths than AIDS, alcohol, drug abuse, car crashes, murders, suicides, and fires combined. Also, it is still regarded as the number one cause of preventable deaths in the United States and is often the most detrimental factor against air quality for smokers.

Mold
Within the home mold can be one of the largest contributing factors to both getting asthma and in triggering an attack. Mold by itself should always be regarded as a health risk to everyone living inside of a home, and this risk must be taken with much more significance when an individual or group with asthma is being considered. Below are some tips offered by MedlinePlus, an online information service produced by the United States National Library of Medicine.
Source: USNLM-MedlinePlus

General home maintenance:

  • Central heating and air-conditioning systems can help control mold
  • Change furnace and air conditioner filters often
  • Use high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to best remove mold from the air

In the bathroom:

  • Use an exhaust fan when you shower or take baths
  • Use a squeegee to wipe water off shower and tub walls after you bathe
  • DO NOT leave damp clothes or towels in a basket or hamper
  • Clean or replace shower curtains when you see mold on them

In the basement:

  • Check your basement for moisture and mold
  • Use a dehumidifier to keep the air drier. Keeping indoor moisture levels (humidity) at less than 30% to 50% will keep mold spores down
  • Empty dehumidifiers daily and clean them often with a vinegar solution

In the rest of the home:

  • Fix leaky faucets and pipes
  • Keep all sinks and tubs dry and clean
  • Empty and wash the refrigerator tray that collects water from the freezer defroster often
  • Frequently clean any surfaces where mold grows in your house
  • DO NOT use vaporizers for an extended time to manage symptoms during asthma attacks
  • Other pollutants from natural sources include radon, mildew, fungi, viruses, dust, mites
  • Pollutants created through combustion include, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides, respirable suspended particulates
  • Pollutants from man-made sources include asbestos, volatile organic chemicals present in household products, formaldehyde, and lead

Outdoor Air Quality
Outdoor climate and weather conditions combined with occupant behavior can also affect indoor air quality. Weather conditions influence whether building occupants keep windows open or closed and whether they operate air conditioners, humidifiers, or heaters, all of which can affect indoor air quality. Certain climatic conditions can increase the potential for indoor moisture and mold growth if not controlled by adequate ventilation or air conditioning.”
Source: Environmental Protection Agency 

Common Sources of Outdoor Contaminants

  • Construction
  • Conditions of buildings outside of the property – “Ninety New Jersey facilities, in 19 of the state’s 21 counties, still use highly hazardous chemicals that could pose a catastrophic risk to millions of New Jersey residents in the case of an accident or attack.” 
  • Weather/Natural Disasters

**See air quality tracking tool for NJ

Asthma
Asthma has long been a problem in American society, with the average case costing Americans thousands a year. It is a chronic disease that affects your lungs. This respiratory condition marked by spasms in the bronchi of the lungs, causing difficulty in breathing. It usually results from an allergic reaction or other forms of hypersensitivity to certain triggers in one’s environment. Unfortunately, Asthma is an issue which has only increased in prevalence during the past two decades and as of 2010, children have become the most impacted of all. Many factors can exacerbate the situation, and often these factors can be found in the home of those effected. New Jersey Department of Health has created Asthma profiles by county, to view them and more information about this chronic disease, click here.

Facts about Asthma:

  • Anyone can develop asthma; however, children, Black, Hispanic, and urban residents are most likely to be affected
  • In New Jersey, over 600,000 adults (9.0%) and 167,000 children (8.7%) are estimated to have asthma
  • According to the American Lung Association’s 2016 State of the Air report, the New York-Newark metropolitan area remained among the 25 worst areas in the nation in ozone pollution and short-term measurements of fine particle pollution
  • The five most polluting power plants in New Jersey represent 65% of our power plant emissions, but only 35% of the energy generated
  • More than half (53%) of people with asthma had an asthma attack in 2008. More children (57%) than adults (51%) had an attack. 185 children and 3,262 adults died from asthma in 2007.
  • Women were more likely than men and boys more likely than girls to have asthma.
  • In 2010, 3 out of 5 children who have asthma had one or more asthma attacks in the 
  • previous 12 months.

Sources:
Moms Clean Air Force
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology 
Environmental Protection Agency