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Communities and Sustainability

Air Quality Diagram

Air Quality Diagram

Air Quality Subattributes

Indoor Air Quality

Outdoor Air Quality

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Why do we care about the quality of air?

When one thinks of the environment and sustainability, air quality is naturally considered. The quality of the air affects many parts of the global ecosystem including soil, water, vegetation, wildlife, and human life. In one way or another, all living things share and depend on the air surrounding us. For example:


  • the quality of soil and water is adversely impacted by acidic deposition
  • the strength of vegetation is adversely impacted by many atmospheric pollutants
    • the vigor of wildlife is dependent on the quality and availability of food
  • human health is adversely impacted to a great extent by atmospheric pollutants


The quality of the air has profound impacts on the economy as well. The most obvious of these impacts is related to health problems associated with poor air quality and the corresponding cost of medical care and treatments. This will be more obvious as you look through the individual pages for indoor and outdoor air quality. There you can see the specific health problems associated with each pollutant.


What is sustainable air quality, and how is the sustainability of air quality determined?

It is clear that poor air quality can threaten the health and sustainability of all living things, but exactly what is sustainable air quality and how is it measured? There are a variety of different indicators to be considered. First, to examine the quality of air, one must look at the two essential divisions of air quality: indoor and ambient (outdoor) air quality. Though these are equally important, each is different from the other in terms of which sub-indicators (in this case, which pollutants) are more prevalent, and from what sources these sub-indicators are being emitted (for more detailed descriptions of indoor and outdoor air quality sub-indicators, please refer to links for Indoor Air Quality and Outdoor Air Quality).   Once the sub-indicators have been established, it is necessary to weigh their sustainability. In this case, one looks at each pollutant and determines at what concentration it starts to negatively impact the health of both humans and the community ecosystem at a level that is unacceptable. In other words, the level at which it degrades the quality of life to a point that is noticeable and unacceptable in the long run would be considered unsustainable. A community can only be qualified as having sustainable air quality if all pollutant concentrations are below the levels which have been deemed unhealthy.







Author: Amber Hamm