Fall Leaf Burning…Hazardous to Your Health & Leads to Air Pollution

burning leaves - air pollution

Photo courtesy of TheGazette.com

When asked your favorite season of the year, many people choose fall.  Milder weather means more time spent outdoors enjoying nature. Apples, pumpkins and other harvest decorations come out of storage and the holiday season kicks off.  One of the tell tale signs that fall has arrived is the smell of burning leaves. You know the drill.  That time of year when the seasons change and your grass is suddenly completely covered in fallen, dead leaves.  Many of us remedy this issue by spending the day or days ranking leaves into piles meant for burning.  Although this may be an annual tradition for many of us, it may not be the best idea.

Aside from the fact that burning leaves is against the law in many places due to safety concerns, did you know that it can also be hazardous to our health?

The smoke produced from burning leaves contains high concentrations of microscopic particles and dust. Once inhaled, these particulates can embed deep within lung tissue.  According to The Breath Campaign, breathing these particulates can lead to respiratory infection, reduce the volume of air inhaled and impair the lungs’ ability to use that air. Particulate matter can also trigger asthma attacks in some people. Various toxic gases and chemicals, called hydrocarbons, are produced by the burning leaves. These can cause eye, nose, throat and lung irritation.

In addition to health concerns, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), multiple leaf and yard waste fires burning at the same time in a particular geographic region can cause air pollution similar to that from factories and motor vehicles.

There are other ways to deal with your yard full of dead leaves which are safer, more environmentally friendly and without health risks.

  • Mulching: use your lawn mower to chop the leaves and allow them to return nutrients to the grass and soil
  • Composting: add your yard waste, including grass, leaves and branches to a compost pile
  • Pick up service: some communities will collect yard waste on certain days or you may drop off your waste at a local landscape disposal site
dont burn leaves

Image Credit: Mt. Lebenon, PA Official website

Let this be the season that you break your traditional leaf burning routine and instead use one of the above referenced alternatives.  Better enjoy your time outside while breathing fresher air this fall!

Harmful Effects of Air Pollution – How Does Your Air-fare?

 air pollution - worst cities - solutions

Breathing clean air is no longer a guarantee in the United States.  Many of our most populated metropolitan areas, as well as some surprisingly less populated regions are considered to have unhealthy levels of ozone and particle pollution. According to the American Lung Association, 131.8 million people live in an area that gets an “F” rating on air quality.  Major health risks such as asthma, heart attack, lung cancer, overall cardiovascular health, low birth weight, infant mortality and even premature death have all been linked to breathing polluted air.

There are a variety of factors that contribute to air pollution. Combustion engine vehicles such as cars, trucks, buses and jet airplanes produce toxic exhaust which creates smog and holes in the ozone layer. Factories, power plants, office buildings and personal residences also contribute to smog by burning fossil fuels such as oil and coal.  Other contributing factors can include pesticides, insecticides, herbicides and dust from fertilizers.

So, how does your air fare?

Top 5 U.S. Cities* – Highest Levels of Air Pollution:

  1. Bakersfield, CA
  2. Hanford-Corcoran, CA
  3. Los Angeles, CA
  4. Visalia-Porterville, CA
  5. Fresno-Madera, CA

Cities in the Midwest such as Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Louisville round out the top 10, so you can see that air pollution reaches from coast to coast in the United States.

Top 5 U.S. Cities* – Cleanest Air:

  1. Cheyenne, WY
  2. Santa Fe, NM
  3. Bismarck, ND
  4. Great Falls, MT
  5. Honolulu, HI

If you are not lucky enough to live in a region with the cleanest air quality, there are steps you can take to improve your own personal space.

  • Walk or bike when possible. If not, use public transportation or car pool.
  • Choose fuel efficient, low-polluting vehicles
  • Consider replacing old wood burning stoves with new energy saving EPA certified models. Buy Energy Star (environmentally friendly) products for lighting and appliances.
  • Invest in a quality furnace filter, to capture debris, dust, and more from your air and make sure to change your home’s air filters on a regular basis as recommended by the manufacturer.

 

To fill all of your air filtration needs, please visit http://www.filtersfast.com/

 * The American Lung Association State of the Air 2012 report

Dangerous Air Quality: Air Pollution Health Effects

air-pullution

Poor air quality is a concern. Did you know that, on average, we breathe in 3,000 gallons of air each day? Throughout the day, you are breathing in tiny particles (invisible to the naked eye), without being aware of it. Have you ever stopped to think what these tiny particles are that you’re breathing in? Unfortunately due to negative air pollution health effects, we are confronted with the probability that we are hurting our overall health just by doing a simple (yet vital) task.

Air pollution can damage plants, trees, crops and lakes. It can also damage your body. Below are just some of the effects of air pollution as related to our overall health.

  • Irritation of the throat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Respiratory problems (especially for those with asthma)
  • Burning in the nose and eyes

 

Perhaps most frightening is that we are not just susceptible to the adverse effects of air pollution while we are outside, but also while we are in the comforts of our own homes. In fact, indoor air quality is one of the top five risks to public health according to the EPA. Perhaps even more alarming is that 87% of American homeowners are not aware that the pollution outside may not be as bad as the pollution inside (this according to dosomething.org).

The reasons for this can vary from a lack of filtration to inadequate ventilation. Being a company that specializes on filtration, we naturally tend to focus on this part of the issue. However, this can make a huge difference. While you may not be able to make an immediate impact on air pollution on a national or even global scale (due to various laws, regulations, etc.) you can make an immediate impact on the air quality in your own home. Furnace filters capture debris, dust, and more from your air which improves your overall air quality. Beyond that however, failure to regularly replace furnace filters is generally the number one cause of furnace repairs. In addition, since your motor and furnace fan will have to work harder to push air through a clogged filter, your system consumes more energy to compensate causing you to spend more on your next bill.

You don’t have to deal with poor air quality at home. A furnace filter, and remembering to regularly replace it, can leave you breathing in fresh air.