Why Is the Air Quality in Portland So Bad?

Portland Traffic

It’s no secret that the air quality in Portland isn’t the best. And, as a homeowner in Portland, you’ve probably experienced the area’s poor air quality for yourself (especially since pollutants can be 2-5 times higher indoors than out). You might wonder why the air quality in Portland is so bad.

Four significant causes drive poor indoor air quality in Portland:

  1. Everyday activities
  2. Wildfires
  3. Dust storms
  4. Car emissions

Read on to learn more about the factors that create pollutants in Portland and how to improve your home’s indoor air quality.

Want to skip over the reasons why and go straight to improving your Portland home’s air quality? Contact Four Seasons Heating & Air Conditioning to learn more about our air purifier installations and air filter installations!

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Cause #1: Everyday activities

Oregon has some pollutants more unique to the Pacific Northwest, like wildfires and dust storms. But, the state’s leading source of air pollution is because of everyday activities.

In fact, everyday activities cause 90% of the air pollution in Oregon, like:

  • Using toxic household products
  • Charbroiling burgers with lighter fluid
  • Driving (which we’ll go into more later)
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Painting
  • Using wood-burning stoves

These types of activities can cause serious health effects that affect the lungs and heart. How? Through the emission of particle pollution.

Particle pollution (also called particulate matter) is a mixture of solid and liquid droplets in the air. Everyday activities cause particle pollution everywhere. So, why is it so bad in Portland?

According to the EPA, particle pollution is the highest in major cities, especially near busy roads, with smoke in the air or when the weather is calm. Sound like Portland?

Cause #2: Wildfires

Oregon Wildfire

Due to Oregon's dry forests, high winds and temperatures, and low humidity, it's naturally prone to wildfires during the spring and summer months. Lightning, changing temperatures, and outdoor burning all contribute to wildfires in the state.

Because wildfires are so common, Portland implements temporary burn bans (e.g., no fire pits) when weather conditions are especially conducive for wildfires.

Thanks to the smoke they produce, wildfires drive up tiny particle pollution levels in the air. These particles can penetrate your lungs and bloodstream, causing wheezing and other health conditions. Not to mention, smoke particles can settle in your home, leaving a lasting odor and decreasing your air quality.

Cause #3: Dust storms

Dust storms are also common in Oregon, particularly during the spring and summer months. Whether it’s due to agricultural or construction work, you’ve likely encountered a dust storm at one point or another in Portland.

During a dust storm, high winds pick up and move around particles, increasing the pollution levels in the air. More pollution can lead to dust and soil staying suspended in the air and your home for days.

Cause #4: Car emissions

Sure, driving is a type of everyday activity. But because cars and trucks are the number one source of air pollution in Oregon, it gets its own mention.

Greenhouse gas emissions, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides increase as more people drive larger, less fuel-efficient cars and trucks. These types of emissions increase Portland’s particulate matter concentrations.

The high levels of car emissions are one reason for Portland’s mandatory vehicle inspection program.

How to combat poor air quality

Now that you’re familiar with some reasons for Portland’s poor air quality, it’s time to go over ways to improve the air quality in your home:

  • HEPA air filters: You can remove at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and other particles that are 0.3 microns with a high efficiency particulate air filter. For reference, a strand of human hair can be 20-70 microns thick. Due to their excellent filtration abilities, HEPA air filters are the best type of purifier for dealing with wildfire smoke.
  • UV air purifiers: UV air purifiers use UV-C light to kill pollutants like mold and bacteria. But, this system can’t remove particles from your air, which is why homeowners tend to get UV air purifiers and HEPA filters.
  • Activated carbon filters: This type of filter absorbs and removes gaseous odors (e.g., wildfire smoke odors) that are between 0.5-50 microns. Like UV air purifiers, people frequently use activated carbon filters in conjunction with HEPA air filters.
  • UV/Catalyst Ionizing Hybrid purifiers: This type of purifier works to remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and reduce your exposure to bacteria, viruses, and mold.

In addition to installing systems to purify your air, be sure you’re also changing out your air filter every 1-3 months to improve your home’s air quality.

Count on Four Seasons Heating & Air Conditioning to improve your home’s air quality

Want to improve the air quality in your Portland home? From air purifier installations to air filter installations, Four Seasons Heating & Air Conditioning has the knowledge and experience to improve your indoor air quality. You can count on our NATE-certified technicians to help you choose the products that best fit your needs.

And here’s the part that’ll make your wallet happy: We beat our competitors’ prices—without sacrificing quality.

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