For people in most parts of the world, air pollution is just a tolerable circumstance that does not cause immediate harm. But the reality check is that, air pollution is as dangerous as any other disease. The horror stories about China’s pervasive air pollution which costs the life of more than one million people every year are shocking and show no signs of improvement. Recently, Delhi had witnessed thick smog which enveloped the atmosphere just before Diwali. The effect of Delhi’s air pollution at that time was as severe as the effect of a person smoking 25 cigarettes per day. Moreover, Kolkata and Chennai were recorded with highest Particulate Matter levels last week which were termed as ‘unhealthy to breathe for the sensitive group’.
Considering the rapid urbanization, the question of how worse air pollution could get in near future is out of imagination and the only practical solution we can possibly implement right now is taking a personal commitment of playing our part in reducing air pollution and limiting the risk and the damage caused by it to our health.
The impact of air pollution on health
The Four key pollutants that can cause health risks if it exceeds the limits set by the WHO are particulate matter (PM), ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide.
Nitrogen di oxide has a negative effect on lung function, especially in children with asthma. It is caused by the burning of fuels and heat. Sulphur dioxide is a colourless gas released when sulphur-containing fossil fuels are burned to produce heat and power. It causes High levels cause eye irritation, breathing difficulties and respiratory related problems.
Particulate matter, in particular, affects more people than any other pollutant. It is a mix of solid and liquid particles suspended in the air and the smaller the particle is, the worse it is. The most health-damaging particles are those with a diameter of 10 microns or less, (PM10), which can penetrate and lodge deep inside the lungs. Chronic exposure to particles contributes to the risk of developing cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as of lung cancer,” says the WHO.
However, recently there has been an increase in the concentration of PM 2.5 (Particulate matter less than 2.5 micron in size). These PM levels are particularly dangerous as it is so tiny that it could directly enter the lungs or blood stream by mere breathing.
As of the Words Heath Organisation’s extensive studies, here are a list of the best and worst nations for air pollution around the world in 2017. All units displayed in this table represent levels of PM2.5.
The major sources of PM are
Self- prevention tips to limit the damage
1. Wear a mask
Post Delhi air pollution, government and businesses jumped into action by implementing effective measures to help limit the damage caused by air pollution. One such initiative taken by businesses is the launch of different variants of air pollution masks starting from a simple paper mask to advanced one that filters out the polluted air and supply clean air. N95 mask particularly is the most commonly used masks which are said capable of controlling pollution levels from mild to aforementioned extremes.
If you want to find out which mask suits best for you, Check out this well researched article from Gadgets 360 which gives you the entire details of different masks, comparison, price and reviews.
2. Invest in Air purifiers if you have allergies
Indoor air is twice as dirty as the outdoor air, so it’s quite necessary that you invest in an air purifier especially when you have allergies. While it’s quite evident that air purifiers needs high operating and maintenance cost, it’s worth the cost as it filters out the allergens and pollutants present in the air quite effectively. Study reveals that homes that use air purifiers have witnessed lesser symptoms of respiratory problems than those who don’t. If you still consider it a costly solution, you can consider using air purifying plants instead which is explained in detail in the next section.
Image source: The Indian Express
3. Air filtering plants- your air care buddy
Given that people spend more than 90 percent of their time indoors, air quality matters . Furnishings, upholstery, synthetic building materials, and cleaning products in homes and offices can emit a variety of toxic compounds, like formaldehyde. Indoor air pollution can also be caused by pollen, bacteria, and molds, as outdoor air contaminants like car exhaust finds its way into buildings. The good news is there is a solution to beat the inside pollution and it comes from the natural world. Plants absorb some of the particulates from the air at the same time that they take in carbon dioxide, which is then processed into oxygen through photosynthesis. But that’s not al, microorganisms associated with the plants are present in the potting soil which are also responsible for much of the cleaning effect.
Check out this article for different plants and it’s effect on pollutants inside home.
4. Antioxidant rich food can help
Before drawing parallels between food and air pollution, it’s required to understand how air pollution cause our health to deteriorate. When you breathe in polluted air, particulate matter and other pollutants penetrate and inflame the linings of your bronchial tubes and lungs. This leads to respiratory illnesses such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, heart disease, lung cancer, asthma, wheezing, coughing and difficulty in breathing. Antioxidant food which is rich in vitamin C, and E can help to clean your system, particularly your airways. Foods like olive oil, broccoli, avocado, tomatoes makes our body immune towards the harmful toxins and neutralizes them.
This well researched blog on best foods which safeguards against pollution could be your go-to guide for easy future reference.
Your action plan
Environmental groups and Government are playing their part in helping to reduce air pollution within the safe limit. It’s important that you take the moral responsibility to support them in this initiative. Simple habits like choosing public transport over own transport, using eco friendly products, reducing energy use or avoiding smoking could make a huge difference in the scenario of air pollution.
Be a part of the solution and not the pollution.