Air Pollution Impact and 10 Ways to Protect Yourself

With statistics on chronic respiratory diseases growing exponentially, people get concerned most about how to not become a part of it and protect against pollution on a daily basis. In this article, we’re going to break down ten ways to mitigate the risk

The main causes of atmospheric air pollution are:

  • generation of electricity

  • industrial processing

  • mining activities

  • agriculture

  • incorrect waste management

  • various transportation. 

As the global population grows and the world around us is becoming more polluted, engines continue to emit exhaust gas into the atmosphere. It appears that over 50% of the world’s inhabitants have no access to eco-friendly technology at all. Pollution levels in the air we breathe are becoming hazardous day after day. 90% of people around the globe breathe polluted air these days, leading to seven million deaths annually.

What are the Air Quality Criteria?

Many consider the concentration of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide the top indicator of urban air quality with automobiles being the main source. It happens to be a common misconception. In addition to carbon dioxide, the main air pollutants are carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons and other chemical compounds.

Besides, there is an air quality index that is defined by many national governments in their own way, and in many countries carbon monoxide is not included in its calculation at all (for example, in the UK, European Union and Hong Kong). This does not mean that CO and CO2 do not bother European citizens, but it is attributed to an additional parameter.

Probably, you would never have thought that the most dangerous urban air pollutants are not poisonous gases, but solid particles of various sizes, suspended in the air atmosphere. They never actually settle on the ground’s surface and harm more people than any other atmosphere polluting component.

Air pollution is one of the major health risks that connects to the atmosphere. According to the World Health Organization statistics, over 90% of people on Earth live in areas where pollution levels are far higher than the norm.

Airborne particulate is an important indicator that gets the World Health Organization’s attention and focus at all times. 

There are two main categories of particles: less than 10 microns - PM10, and less than 2.5 microns - PM2.5. Solid particles are a complex and varied composition of a mixture of various substances, which, due to their lightness, are constantly in suspension.

This dust consists of soot, particles of asphalt and car tires, solid particles of salts, heavy metal compounds. Let's pay attention to the presence of soot in the list. It’s impact on the body is harsh and unpredictable, because coal perfectly absorbs various harmful substances, therefore, getting into the body, it brings everything it managed to absorb with it.

Particles tinier than ten microns settle in human lungs, while particles up to 2.5 microns follow directly into the blood, penetrating soft tissue with ease. The global medical community believes volatile particles to be an aggressive carcinogen that also causes numerous diseases of heart and lungs.

In 2019, the countries that met the World Health Organization standards were: Canada, USA, Scandinavian countries, Australia and New Zealand. Russia, Switzerland and Great Britain got close to those indicators.

The countries with the most polluted air cited as “Unhealthy pollution level" are India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Mongolia. It is interesting that not only less economically developed countries, but also rather developed ones, Kuwait and Bahrain, were at the top of the ranking list.

The most polluted European countries marked as "Unhealthy for sensitive population groups" were Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia. The level of "Moderate air pollution" is found almost everywhere in Europe. 

Factors of Indoor and Outdoor Air Pollution 

A growing number of diseases in women, children and the elderly is prompted by environmental contamination. Let’s look at various factors that impact the air condition.

  1. Traffic Exhaust gas that fills in urban air and produces thick smog layers over cities.

  2. Weather and Pollen in the air, depending on the season.

  3. Industrial hazardous volatile substances. Industrial pollutants are products of technological processes or heating emitted into the atmosphere. The combustion of coal, the production of cement and the smelting of led generate a total dust emission of 170 million tonnes per year.

  4. Construction processes involving hazardous gas releases fr om glue, etc.

  5. Furniture, plastic objects that emit gaseous harmful substances. They can also enter various chemical reactions.

  6. Radioactive contaminants.

  7. Artificial sources of pollution including mechanical contaminants - various fractions of solid particles like cement and ash particles. 

  8. Cooking smells usually spread around the house if not processed properly.

  9. Smoke in the area, forest and accidental fires produce huge clouds of smoke that can linger. This includes everything related to burning fuel in homes and recycling household waste.  

Indoor air quality is usually the worst. Stuffiness, dryness everywhere. If the heating is on, frequent ventilation is close to impossible, because you may freeze. Especially true when there are small children at home. Wh ere is balance, is it at all possible?

CO2 content

We mentioned carbon dioxide a little earlier in this article, about its standards and control. It is important to note that adequate ventilation is required to keep CO2 levels low. But then another problem arises right away: humidity issues. 

Dry indoor air is very bad for anyone. People get dry mouths and noses, static electricity appears. Wooden furniture in the house dries up and deteriorates. At low temperatures, the air is able to retain very little moisture. And the lower the temperature, the worse.

Let’s look at the ways you can limit indoor bad air quality exposure.

  • Use a valid air purifier. Let’s look at the breakdown of filters by type: Coarse mechanical filter that captures large particles; coal absorption filter that captures odors and toxins; electrostatic filter that is ionizing air and drawing volatile particulate in; HEPA filter for capturing even the tiniest of particles, including allergens); photocatalytic  filter that uses ultraviolet light to destroy toxins and particles, it is designed to disinfect the air, as well as oxidize harmful compounds to carbon dioxide and water.

  • Avoid putting volatile toxic substances into your own household air yourself: aerosol sprays, using fire indoors, natural gas leaks, perfume, glue evaporations, poor home cleaning (dustiness). Making sure you avoid spreading all of those in your own home will help you keep their air clean to breathe.

  • Ventilate well. The simplest solution to this problem is to always keep the window open, but for me, like in many other city houses, this is not comfortable because of the street noise, and it can be very cold when the window is open. The second option for solving the problem of fresh air is supply ventilation, which lets air in from the street.

  • Sort through your household cleaning detergents. Many of them will contain chlorine and other harmful substances that, in fact, end up in your air after you’ve cleansed your flooring. Breathing them in on a regular basis may substantially impact your respiratory system and cause allergies. 

  • Monitor air quality. We’ve already mentioned various ways to watch what you breathe. The more allergy-prone your family members are or the older they get, the closer attention must be paid. The device detects the level of humidity, air temperature, carbon dioxide level, the amount of dust and volatile organic compounds, and informs the owner if something is wrong. 

What Can Be Done?

One third of the world's population suffers from allergic diseases. Currently, there is an upward trend in allergies. As a result, there is a decrease in the quality of life of patients, work capacity, creative and social activity, an increase in medical costs for treatment and rehabilitation. Today, a special role in the formation and prevalence of allergic diseases is assigned to the influence of environmental factors, especially the emergence of new allergens,microecology violation (violation of the intestinal flora, dysbiosis of the skin and mucous membranes, etc.).

An extensive study of the atmosphere condition in homes around highways showed that carbon monoxide concentration drops by 50% as you climb from the first to the tenth floor, and even more if you live higher than that. So one way around CO2 and CO is obvious.

It can be noted that relatively coarse dust particles are very well retained by mechanical obstacles. It's a good idea to separate the residential buildings from the road with dense thickets of deciduous trees, which, like a filter, will trap dust. PM10 sized particles settle well on trees. However, when we talk about practically weightless PM2.5 particles, there is no protection from them - they easily rise to great heights (the settling rate of these particles in still air is 0.2 mm / sec) and no mechanical obstacles will hold them back.

Other Solutions to the Air Pollution Problem

  1. Stop relying on the government: watch the air you breathe on your own. There is a basic principle in engineering - you can control and influence only what you can measure. Therefore, the first thing to do is to get/install your own air quality monitoring device at home and / or in the office. These are commonly referred to as air quality monitors. If the outside air is very polluted, the monitor will advise you not to open windows, not to walk or play sports outside, and when the atmosphere outside the window clears up, it will notify you.

  2. Make regular checks of air quality index: globally or locally. Planning the safest times to get out and about for outdoor errands has got much easier thanks to the real-time air quality index online resources. This will allow you to mitigate your respiratory issues in the long run.

  3. Change filters regularly. Whether it is your home air purifier or your personal protective smart electrical mask. Changing used filters in your car is also as important. Outdoor pollution is as relatable as indoor, since all the traffic gas can quickly enter an enclosed vehicle space and move into your lungs/bloodstream.

  4. Shift your commute routes and workout session locations in strict accordance with air condition in the area. Do not hesitate to skip a meeting downtown or transfer it online if data dictates it.

  5. Stop ignoring face masks. Still thinking that your personal protection mask is a useless bit of crap? Stop right now! Since an actual working electrical mask can save your days in the long run. Equipped with sterilization cloth, medical grade non-woven fabric, activated carbon and most importantly, a. HEPA grade filter, a mask like this provides you with multi-layer air filtration to keep the harmful airborne particulate and harmful gaseous substances out of your lungs and body. 

Preventing the spread of respiratory viruses can be a task to handle. But if you approach it with professionalism, thoughtfulness and patience, you’ll be surprised to find that if sealed tightly around your or your elderly parent face, a smart electrical purifier mask or a reusable face mask can save you countless hours of sick leaves, hundreds of dollars in medical payments and most importantly - your and your family health. 

To conclude

Polluted air as a public health hazard should not be ignored. Human life expectancy from air pollution is known to be higher than from other risk factors: smoking, infectious diseases, etc

United Nations experts noted that air pollution is the cause of respiratory, infectious and heart diseases, stroke, lung cancer and complications associated with pregnancy. Children who breathe dirty air are increasingly experiencing asthma, chronic pulmonary failure, growth retardation, diabetes, childhood obesity and mental retardation.

To prevent contaminated air from entering the respiratory system, personal protective equipment (mask) must separate the nose and mouth from the surrounding contaminated atmosphere, and provide a person with clean or purified air suitable for breathing.

We can go on blaming whoever for the air quality in urban areas, but at the end of the day it all boils to what each of us does to protect themselves and their families.

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