10 Ways to Beat Air Pollution
Air pollution is one of the world’s biggest killers, responsible for 6.4 million deaths per year. It disproportionately affects children, the elderly, people who are already ill, and those living in low-income neighborhoods. Exposure to polluted air can lead to difficulties breathing, flare-ups of allergies, and asthma in the short term. And long-term exposure puts you at increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Scary stuff, I know.
What to Be Conscious of Outside
There are a variety of pollutants that can be found outside, but one of the most important to consider is ozone (O3). We’ve all heard of the ozone layer, which exists in the upper atmosphere and is very helpful in shielding us from certain space rays. But when found down here, ozone is not so nice - actually it’s quite harmful to our lungs. Ozone is created right in your neighborhood when sunlight triggers a chemical reaction with certain airborne pollutants (think cars or factories). So basically pollutants are helping to create more pollutants… great.
Another threat to our breathing health is airborne particulates, the fine and coarse particles that are released when fuel is burned. These particles can come from obvious sources like cars and power plants, but they can also come from other sources like wildfires! These very small particles are invisible to the naked eye and are inhaled into the lungs where they can then cross into the bloodstream. Once in there, the particles can travel throughout the body and induce inflammation.
Paying Attention from the Inside Out
Most people think of air pollution as something that occurs outside, but the truth is that it can also occur indoors as well. Homes, offices, and schools are all subject to this sneaky health hazard. Indoor pollution can come from gas stoves and appliances, mold and dust mites, pet dander, tobacco smoke, and even furniture and cleaning supplies. All of these things could be contributing to allergies and lung conditions without you even knowing.
10 Ways to Protect Yourself from Pollution
Yes, air pollution is terrible, and it doesn’t seem to be going away. But that doesn’t mean you should lie down on the sidewalk and wait for the smog to take you! It’s important to learn how you can best protect yourself so you can get on with your life. Here are some top tips:
- Limit exercising and walking on busy streets during rush hour and near hot spots of traffic, such as cars stopped at traffic lights. The further you are from the source, the less pollution you are exposed to. If you can, take your next jog among nature, not cars.
- Since ozone is created by sunlight, the risk of serious effects is greatest in the afternoon hours. If you are planning some outdoor exercise, it is better to do so in the morning or evening when ozone levels are lower.
- Limit burning fires to get rid of waste, as the smoke that results can damage our health. In many places, trash and crop burning is fully illegal, if you need another incentive. A s’more every now and then probably won’t kill you though.
- Some people may benefit from the use of properly fitted masks rated as "N95" or "P100" that filter pollutants as they breathe. This is especially prevalent if you live in or travel to highly populated cities with particularly bad air quality.
- While driving, use the air recirculate mode, keep your windows closed on busy highways, and try to take the road less traveled.
- Staying aware of the air quality and pollutants in your area can literally mean the difference between a healthy or harmful breathing environment. Thankfully, there are over 1,000 air quality monitors across the country, and the Environmental Protection Agency uses them to produce the Air Quality Index (AQI). If you would like to view the monitor, it can be found here. www.airnow.gov. There’s also an app!
- Switch to electric or hand-powered lawn equipment. Gas-powered engines like those on lawnmowers and leaf or snow blowers often lack pollution control devices. An hour running a lawn mower can produce nearly the same amount of pollution as a 100-mile car trip! Use hand-powered or electric lawn care equipment instead.
- Bring some life into your home with plants! Leaves can hold small particles on their surfaces--like dust, ash, pollen, and smoke—and absorb gaseous air pollution including CO2. Plants also release oxygen into the atmosphere and help cool our homes.
- Monitor your home for radon and carbon monoxide as they are extremely dangerous when inhaled. They are colorless, odorless gases that can seep into your house from the soil or vehicles. Buy a detector to ensure you are not exposed.
- Pick up an air purifier. High quality HEPA purifiers filter particles as small as 0.3 microns, effectively removing dust, bacteria, mold, and other pollutants from the air in your home.
If you’re interested in learning more about air pollution, visit the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/air-pollution/index.cfm) and sign up for our mailing list below to learn about how we’re combating breathing health issues with our soon to launch products!