When you’re hunting for the right home, there are many things that you need to consider. You might be focused on the obvious attractants for a good neighborhood like landscaped yards, quiet streets, and good schools.
Unfortunately, one of the things that many people fail to consider is how healthy a neighborhood might be. Many popular real-estate websites now feature scores for walkability, and proximity to health and fitness activities or sports fields. One thing they may not be covering though, is how safe the air is for you to breathe. Access to a highway may seem like a good selling point, but if it’s too close, it can create or exacerbate health problems.
Here are a few ways that you can check the levels of pollution near a potential home before you move in.
If you are planning to buy a house in a completely new city, it is worth checking how breathable the air in this city is. There are numerous lists of the the US cities with the cleanest and most polluted air. If the overall air quality is terrible, perhaps it’s best that you don’t move house at all.
Find out what businesses in the area might be polluters, and what irritants they may be emitting. Thanks to environmental tools such as CEC’s Taking Stock Online, you can check the names and locations of facilities and factories that reported releases of harmful pollutants. With it, you can find out what substances might be in the air near your potential home site and decide to avoid the place if those substances might have negative consequences for you and your health.
An interesting alternative is the State of the Air initiative which can generate a report card showing you both the number of high ozone days and the level of particle pollution in your area. This is an especially useful option if you or any of your family members suffer from such diseases as asthma, which can be further exacerbated by the air quality.
There’s an app out there for everything now, including air quality monitoring. There are collaborative efforts underway like hackAIR where individuals can upload current information about air quality to a publicly available network. There are also more individualized applications like AIrCasting that allow you to buy a sensor that will check the air quality around you on demand, then display the information to your smartphone. You can take it with you whenever you visit a potential homesite and see what invisible problems might await.
Another great way to get information about the air quality in a specific area is to start following an Air Quality Index Map. There are dozens of different sites, from news and weather channels, to academic institutions, and even governments that provide real-time updated information about current pollution levels around the globe. These maps are dependent upon uploaded data from weather monitoring stations, so they are only as good as the monitoring in any particular area. Rural neighborhoods may not have any information available, but if you’re house-hunting in an urban area, or even the suburbs, you should be able to get a current reading at almost any time.
One of the best ways to find out about air quality is to check with the people who live and work there. Call a local asthma and allergy specialist to find out what types of problems they deal with, and if they feel that they are busier than normal. If they see a lot of patients with breathing problems that don’t seem to have allergies to natural triggers like pollen, then there may very well be problems in the area with pollutants.
Just because the sky is blue and the air seems clean doesn’t necessarily mean that it is. It’s important to research air quality before you move into a new neighborhood, especially if you have known respiratory problems or small children.