4 Measures to Protect Your Lungs from Air Pollution

air pollution

Air pollution is a human generated epidemic which has continuously taken its toll on planet Earth since past entire millennium and the era of Industrial Age has accelerated its growth multifold. According to global air pollution database of WHO, more than 80% of people living in urban areas are exposed to air quality levels that exceed the WHO limits.

What is AQI? Why and how should I know my city’s AQI? Government agencies use a number known as Air Quality Index (AQI) to communicate to the public how polluted the air quality is. If you are unaware of AQI of your region, then you may visit waqi.info or aqicn.org to get real time update. AQI above 150 is unhealthy and AQI above 300 is hazardous for general public. You have to be updated not only of overall AQI but also of AQI of each pollutant (PM2.5, CO, etc.). Such knowledge is required for selecting right course of preventive measures for yourself.

Let us consider Delhi which is one of the most polluted city in the world with a localized AQI of 999 (as on 8th November 2017). Breathing Delhi air for a day is equivalent to smoking 50 cigarettes. Due to this, the life expectancy of people living in Delhi NCR region has dropped by 6.4 years. According to WHO, more than 6500000 deaths each year are associated with air pollution worldwide. This article elaborates the finest known measures which can be implemented to protect yourself from adverse effects of air pollution. However, measures for reducing AQI value are beyond the scope of this article.

What type of gas mask should I use?

Air purifying respirators may be uncommon in many polluted cities due to lack of awareness among common people. Use of a proper P100 tight fitting half face-piece air purifying respirator having a proper exhalation valve is highly recommended. Such respirator filters at least 99.97% of airborne particles, microorganisms & oil based particulates. If your budget is limited, then it is advised to use a P95 mask. And remember that if you are using any N series mask then it will not prevent you from oil based particulates.

If concentrations of toxic gases such as NO2, CO, O3, SO2, etc. are very high in your locality then your respirator must be equipped with multi-gas cartridges. You should discard your respirator at least once a month and should avoid the use of reusable respirator since it will require changing its filters from time to time which is a specialized task. Moreover, respirators must meet OSHA & NIOSH standards and buyer is expected to read further guidelines provided by the manufacturer for proper storage and usage of respirator.

Is it healthy to remain indoor?

The potential risk of health problems increases with combination of outdoor exercise and air pollution. If you believe that the level of air pollution is least during morning hours then most probably you may be wrong as it depends on lots of factors such as climate, weather, humidity, wind, geography, etc. Do a little research to find out at what time your city indicates least pollution level when considering the entire day. And try to plan your essential outdoor activities during those hours.

Do not allow children, senior citizens and patients to go outside as they have weak immune systems. Avoid the areas having very high intensity of air pollutants such as proximity of roads, industries, etc. Wear full sleeve clothes and properly cover your body since air pollutants may cause infections by coming in contact with your skin.

How to prevent from household pollution?

Do not rely on polluting sources for cooking, heating and lighting purposes inside your home. Use a proper respirator during cleaning tasks, construction works, pesticide spray, etc. Limit the use of artificial fragrances and room fresheners. Hygiene and cleanliness of home helps in prevention from harmful microorganisms & coarse particles. Maintain required humidity levels by using air conditioners or dehumidifiers as proper ventilation is required for circulation of fresh outdoor air inside your home.

If outside air is polluted due to high AQI then often keep windows & doors shut and use an air purifier with a high value of Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR). Thoroughly read the user manual and specifications of air purifier appliance before purchasing it. If your budget is limited, then you can keep indoor plants such as snake plants, aloe vera, etc.

What should I consume?

The polluted air that we inhale introduces ozone, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, diesel exhaust particles, etc. into our lungs. The protective antioxidants present in the lining of our lungs fight it out till they are outnumbered, thereafter the pollutants start attacking the immune and body cells causing inflammation.

So increase your intake of antioxidants, i.e., Vitamin C (Amla, Guava, Lemon, etc.), Vitamin E (Sunflower, Almond, Rice bran oil, etc.), Beta Carotene (Spinach, Carrots, Radish leaves, etc.), Omega 3 fats (Nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, etc.) and Ayurvedic solutions (Turmeric with Ghee, Turmeric with Jaggery, etc.). Drink lots of water to flush off air pollutants that enter through your mouth and nose.

Environmental pollution is an incurable disease which can only be prevented. So it is better to kill the air pollution before it kills you. No matter how hard you try to protect yourself from existing air pollutants, stopping pollution is always the best solution.
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