Air pollution is an ever developing news story that has featured widely in the media recently and covers both outdoor and indoor air quality. However, have you noticed how little is discussed about what you can do on a personal or even familial level to reduce your exposure? The headlines tend to focus on the macro, but while Governments decide on next best steps, learn what action you can take now.
Though there is plenty broadcast about the general causes of outdoor air pollution, there is little discussion about what we can all do to reduce our own exposure particularly indoors.
Air pollution is made up of tiny invisible particles and is one of the biggest causes of premature death in the world, causing over 4 million deaths annually. Air pollution is generally most hazardous in big cities where the levels of pollution can be much higher than the WHO recommended level. This is usually the result of volume of traffic and emissions from diesel vehicles, the burning of waste materials and fossil fuels and from construction work. Air pollution can get trapped by tall buildings particularly on a still day. Wind helps to dissipate it.
Tiny particles, invisible to the naked eye, are breathed in through the lungs. This can affect the respiratory system particularly conditions such as asthma and COPD, but can also be a threat to healthy lungs. Particles can also pass into the bloodstream and affect the cardiovascular system. In addition they have also been found to raise the occurrence of stroke and ischemic heart disease (Maria Neira WHO). The Guardian recently highlighted evidence of air pollution being found in a mother’s placenta, and the link between toxic air, premature birth and low birth rate.
Clearly changes need to be made on a global level, but there are small changes we can all try to make; where possible walk, cycle or take public transportation. Physical exercise is beneficial for health in general, but if you are in a particularly polluted area wear a mask or exercise in a gym. Unfortunately, to date masks have not been adopted widely, however if more people chose to protect their lungs in this way, others would probably follow suit and not feel so conspicuous. Drivers and cyclists in heavy traffic are at particular risk, especially if they drive or cycle regularly.
Conserving energy is also sound advice; reduce the use of electricity by turning off lights and appliances when they are not in use and limiting the time spent in the shower. When out shopping, re-use shopping bags and reduce the amount of packaged food that you buy. If you are lucky enough to live near to a shop where you can fill your own glass containers with dry goods, or a farmers market these are valuable resources.
Our special area of interest is reducing air pollution in the indoor environment, whether at home, at work or at school. We may think that to avoid air pollution we should escape indoors but levels of contaminants in indoor air can also be very high. In order to start to reduce the pollution in your indoor environment you need to know where it is coming from and then what you can do about the pollution you cannot change.
Our special area of interest is indoor air pollution and reducing pollutant levels at home, at school or at work. Pollution can be just as high indoors as outdoors. In order to reduce pollutants in your indoor environment you need to know where it is coming from, what you can do to reduce it and how to deal with the pollution you cannot change.
~ Look for cleaner sources of energy for cooking and heating.
~ Lovely as a wood burner is it does increase air pollution both indoors and in the environment. Particles and gases from wood smoke may be harmful when breathed in. They also contribute to the level of greenhouse gases.
~ Chemical cleaners and laundry products can be a significant source of chemical pollution as can treated carpets and furnishings - all of which combine to create a toxic soup.
~ Reduce your use of anything containing synthetic fragrances. These include toiletries and laundry products, which not only affect those who are chemically sensitive but also add to the contamination in the air.
~ Fumes from Teflon-like non stick cookware can be toxic. PTFE (tetrafluoroeghylene) can kill pet birds and they are not good for us either!
~ Instead of putting your glass jars out for recycling save them and use them instead of "Tupperware" plastic containers. These can be used for dry goods such as nuts and beans, rice, pasta or for left-overs to store in the fridge. We also use glass jars for freezing soups and stews but be sure you leave space at the top for the contents for expansion.
~ Chlorine gas escapes from water (particularly hot water in the shower or bath) and enters the air. Make sure you filter your water as chlorine is very abrasive and attaches to skin, hair and lungs.
~ Self-cleaning ovens are coated with non-stick material. When heated to high temperatures they give off toxic fumes? Instead use a non toxic oven cleaner (and some elbow grease!).
~ To conserve energy, fully load your washing machine or dishwasher before switching them on. Use environmentally friendly and fragrance free detergents that do not off-gas into the environment.
~ Paints and varnishes can contribute to pollutant levels indoors. Use VOC free organic paints and varnishes that won't off gas into the environment.
~ Easy-care treatments give off formaldehyde so choose untreated clothes and bedding whenever you can.
~ Memory foam in mattresses or cushions off- gas into the air and can affect sensitive people. Avoid memory foam when possible and use natural, untreated materials.
~ Open the windows and let some fresh air in each day. This also helps reduce the humidity from breathing, showering and cooking. However, if you live on a busy road this can also help toxins to move in from outside for which you will need an effective air purifier.
Making the changes that you can will help reduce the level of pollutants and improve your air quality. Alongside the changes that you can make it is important to use a good quality and effective air purifier. However careful we are in the products we use there will always be some particles, pollutants and impurities in our homes. An air purifier will either trap these impurities or destroy them, depending upon the technology used. There are also wearable options for when you are out and about (see below).
Particles come from general dust, fragments from materials used in upholstery and in the clothes we wear, smoke particles, pet dander, tiny mould spores and dust mite faeces. Odours, fumes and VOCs come from off gassing of cookers, fabrics, paints, varnishes, MDF cupboards and carpets. Pollutants may also be coming in from outside - from the traffic on a busy road or from the agricultural use of fertilisers, herbicides, insecticides and pesticides. Choosing the right air purifier can help reduce them significantly.
We offer a selection of excellent air purifiers and are always happy to discuss the needs of particular situations. One unit we are particularly impressed with is a small air purifier/air steriliser called the Hextio. It was a finalist in the global competition for clean air technologies - Smogathon 2017.
An air purifier with a HEPA and carbon filter will trap particles like dust, pollen and moulds, and to a certain extent absorb some odours and fumes. The Hextio destroys pollutants that a filter cannot trap by using photo catalytic oxidation and UV light. The Hextio is constantly monitoring the air for germs and VOCs and reacts automatically to pollutants by switching to full fan power until the pollutants have been neutralised. It is one of the few air purifiers that has been proven to neutralise nitrogen dioxide from diesel fumes. It is a surprisingly small unit for something so effective and is suitable for a room up to 20 sq metres. You can wall mount it or place it on a desk or even on the floor. When you switch it to night time mode the blue light turns off and the fan speed is reduced to 10% of its maximum. A recent addition to the Hextio is the new directional hood. This means that you have the option of either general room use or of directing the purified air towards you whether you are sitting at a desk or lying in bed.
Though the Hextio is a great little unit for general pollution, we also offer a selection of other efficient units for the removal of chemicals and fumes. If you are only looking to remove particles, an air purifier with a True HEPA filter does an effective job. If you wish to also remove some odours then a HEPA filter with an activated carbon filter should be adequate.
For reducing exposure to pollutants whilst out and about, shopping, or even at home there are various wearable options. A mask can be useful to have on hand. Our masks come either as disposable or washable. Other options are our very stylish wearable Airvida L1 air purifier, or our Respilon anti-smog scarf. The disposable vapour mask, the washable honeycomb mask or the organic cotton with bamboo carbon mask are the most effective masks for general pollution and fumes. The honeycomb mask is an outer mask, which takes a coconut carbon filter and is our most popular in the range. The Airvida L1 is beautifully designed, fits snugly round the neck and is very popular due to its effectiveness. It is available in black, white or pink.
So, even though we are living in a world that faces a range of challenges as a result of increased pollution, there are many positive steps we can all take to reduce its impact not only on the outdoor environment but on our own indoor environment and our health.
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