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How to Protect Yourself from Air Pollution

air pollution in ChinaDespite the promise of electric vehicles and clean energy – pollution is still on the rise. The World Health Organization states that over 90% of our population live in areas where air quality does not meet established standards for cleanliness and they predict that number to continue increasing over the next decade.

Not only is pollution bad for the environment, but it’s also slowly killing us in more direct ways. Poor air quality is not just an issue for asthmatics and people with respiratory problems . Recent Studies have shown a significant link between air pollution and brain defects and it is widely regarded as a common contributor to many other health defects including cancer.

While air pollution is widespread and hard to contain, there are ways to protect yourself and your family from the dangers associated with it. Let’s look at a few practical options that will go some way towards protecting you from these invasive toxins.

Diet

Diet can have a surprising impact on the way the body handles the introduction of toxins through the lungs when we breathe polluted air. Foods that contain high levels of vitamins C and E have been shown to boost the immune system, providing antioxidants that can neutralize some pollutants. Foods such as olive oil, avocado, broccoli and tomatoes can protect against respiratory illness, and promote excretion of harmful toxins. Try to incorporate a few of these foods into your regular diet and you can at least improve how your body deals with the toxins you breathe in.

Clean Indoor Air

In most cases, the cleanest air around you will be indoors, but due to a lack of circulation and ventilation, studies show that the opposite can be true too. Sometimes indoor air is worse than the polluted air outside.  One way to combat this issue is through the use of an indoor air purifier to ensure that the air inside of your home or office is as clean as possible. Ensure that the air purifier you purchase includes a genuine hepa filter – as it’s the only type that can filter out 99% of the minuscule particles found in polluted air. Changing the filters regularly on these devices will ensure that they continue to filter and clean the air entering your indoor spaces.

Wear a Mask

If you live in an area with poor air quality, it may be worthwhile to wear a face mask when you are outdoors. You could think of a mask as a miniature version of an air purifier that you might have in your house. While this can be cumbersome and inconvenient, you may experience health benefits from the reduction in exposure to breathing polluted air. The level of protection received from a mask depends on the quality and fit of the mask itself; a bandana or a cheap surgical mask do not provide significant protection from pollutants, while a more serious mask, such as an N95, can provide adequate filtering for air pollutants when it is properly fitted.

Planning trips outside

Planning your schedule, or at least your most physically taxing activities based on air quality, can offer some protection from the time periods that have the worst pollution. Plan your time for exercising or outdoor activities during cooler parts of the day, and consider exercising indoors when air quality is poor. If you walk or bike regularly, try to avoid doing this along busy roads as the carbon monoxide from vehicle exhaust is highly concentrated in areas with heavy traffic.  If you do have to engage in physical activity outdoors during periods of poor air quality, try to limit the time spent outside and spend as much time indoors with the windows closed. Weather plays a role in levels of air pollution, so consider looking at the weather forecast in addition to projected air quality levels when planning outdoor activities.

Check Air Quality Ratings

Air quality is monitored continuously throughout the country, and regularly checking these ratings can help you to be more informed on both the current air quality of your area, and what seasonal trends look like. The Air Quality Index maintains current air quality and forecasts, and AirNow provides further information on air pollution trends. Monitoring levels of air quality in your area can not only provide valuable information to use in planning your activities, but it can also lead to better awareness and reduced personal contribution to local air pollution.

Reduce your own contribution to pollution

Reducing your contribution to pollution can be done in many ways, large and small. Not everyone can give up their car, install solar panels, or become an activist, but small everyday changes can add up to make a big difference. Over time these changes can help to protect you and your family in meaningful ways.

Using less energy in your home might seem hard, but this can be as easy as turning off lights when you walk out of a room and unplugging your toaster when you’re not using it.

Walking, biking, or using public transportation can in some cases be convenient ways to reduce your energy use. Not everyone has these options, but even going grocery shopping on the way home from work instead of making a separate trip can make a difference, and promote an awareness of environmental impact. Lowering water temperature and thermostat settings can also be ways to reduce energy consumption in the home without much difficulty.

 

Conclusion

It’s a sad fact that the majority of people in the world live in areas with poor air quality. Thankfully there are multiple ways to make small adjustments in your everyday life that can go some way to both protect you from the air pollution around us and also help reduce localized air pollution. Even if these small changes seem insignificant,  it’s still a step in the right direction. If enough of us were to make these small changes, it can add up to make a big difference.

Clay Miller
the authorClay Miller
I am the creator/writer of Ways2GoGreen.com and Ways2GoGreenBlog.com. I'm an advocate for oceans, beaches, state parks. I enjoy all things outdoors (e.g. running, golf, gardening, hiking, etc.) I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky (Go Wildcats!!). I'm also a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Kentucky.

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