How can you protect yourself from bad air quality?

This blog post will discuss “How can you protect yourself from bad air quality?” First, we will discuss the basics of air pollution. Then, we will discuss solutions to living in pollution.

How can you protect yourself from bad air quality?

Air pollution has proved a significant threat to human lives and the environment. Global organizations and political leaders take various measures to reduce air pollution. While we can also do our bit to reduce air pollution, here are the following things which you can do to survive the air pollution:

  • Wear a pollution mask
  • Exercise
  • Good Diet
  • Immunity Booster Drinks
  • Invest in an air purifier
  • Clean your indoors
  • Smart Travel
  • Check the AQI
  • Consult a doctor if needed

What is air pollution?

The introduction of harmful agents into the atmosphere is known as air pollution. The toxic agents are known as pollutants. These pollutants are derived from natural and human activities, and they can be chemical or biological.

Major pollutants present in the air are particulate matter (PM), ground-level ozone (O3), NO2, SO2, and CO. Air also has lead, allergens, bacteria, viruses and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Besides climate change, air pollution has become a significant environmental risk to human health. 

What is Outdoor and Indoor pollution?

Air pollution in the outside environment is called outdoor pollution. The examples of outdoor pollution are as follows:

  • Transportation
  • Combustion of fossil fuel
  •  Cooking activities
  • Energy generation and consumption
  • Agriculture
  •  Improper Solid Waste Management
  • Industries and factories
  • Household pollution
  • Celebrations
  • Construction and demolition

Air pollution created inside any closed structure is called indoor pollution. The examples of indoor pollution are as follows:

  • Household activities 
  • Perfumes and fresheners 
  • Cooking fuel/activities
  • Cigarette 
  • Radon 
  • Poor ventilation 
  • Uncleaned furniture 
  • Pets 
  • Asbestos

 There are two leading causes of air pollution- natural pollution (happened due to natural events like dust storms) and anthropogenic pollution (happened due to human activities like combustion of fossil fuels).

What are the health effects of air pollution?

Environmental studies have proved that PM2.5 and PM10 have caused relevant harm to public health. Both pollutants can deeply penetrate inside your lungs. PM2.5 can enter your bloodstream, which results in various respiratory and cardiovascular ailments. It can also affect other organs. WHO has declared these two pollutants as carcinogenic elements.

The detailed adverse effects on human health are as follows:

  • Respiratory ailments: COPD, asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough, common cold and cough, throat infection, lung cancer, chest congestion, sinus congestion, etc. 
  • Cardiovascular diseases: Heart attack, cardiac arrest, chest pain, heart blockage, stroke, etc. 
  • Mental disorders: Anxiety, insomnia, depression, low productivity, irritation, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, brain stroke, paralysis, etc.

The other effects of air pollution are low sperm counts, low reproductive ability, infertility and congenital infant disabilities.

Solutions to protect yourself from bad air quality

Wear a good quality mask

Wearing a mask protect us from air pollution. Contrary to the belief that you feel suffocated by wearing a mask, a properly fitted mask can filter out bacteria and particulate matter, which can irritate your respiratory system. Medical experts note that an ideal pollution mask should have a carbon filter with an exhaust valve. The quality of the mask should be N95 or above. While buying a pollution mask, you need to make sure that it also has an appropriate seal of the mask with a good protection factor. In addition, the mask should also provide good ventilation.

The best quality mask filters up to 95% of the air pollutants down to 0.3 microns. These masks should follow the internationally recognized standards such as the following:

  • N95 Standard (United States)
  • FFP2 Standard (Europe)
  • KN95 Standard (China)

The masks designed using these standards are tested for 95% efficacy against the following air pollutants:

  • PM10
  • PM2.5
  • Bacteria
  • Viruses of various droplet sizes
  • Pollen
  • Mould Spores
  • Household Dust

However, these pollutants cannot enter the nose if the mask is fitted correctly. Therefore, the mask seal should properly shape your face to avoid the leakage of airborne particles from the mask. In addition, the tight-fitting of a mask is crucial. These types of masks should have adjustable straps to seal your nose and chin airtight.

Below, I am giving you the recommended list of masks.

N95 Standard masks

N95 masks are NIOSH-42CFR84 approved. These masks have three levels of filter capacity such as 95%, 99% and 99.97%. This standard is the USA approved.

N95 Standard MasksWhy do I recommend it?
AccuMed BNX N95 Mask 95% particulate filtration efficiencyFive-layer design filters and have a nose clipBreathable and comfortable
BASE CAMP M Cross Dust Face Mask  99% particulate filtrationSix-layer filtersBreathable and comfortable, nose clipDoesn’t fog the glassesReusable and washable
GVS N31000 99.9% filtration efficiencyComfortableAdjustable nose clip

FFP2 Mask

These are of European standards and is EN 149-2001 approved. These masks have 94% filtration capacity.

FFP2 MaskWhy do I recommend it?
RANTO 50 Pack FFP2 Mask Face Masks 94% particulate filtration efficiencyFour-layer design filters and have a nose clipBreathable and comfortable, good headband designDisposable
Powecom FFP2 Protective Face Masks 94% particulate filtrationFive-layer filtersBreathable and comfortable,DisposableNot suitable for babies or patients having respiration problems

KN95 Standard

These are GB2626-2006 approved masks, and China decides these standards. These have 95% of efficiency.

KN95 MasksWhy do I recommend it?
WWDOLL KN95 Face Mask  95% particulate filtration efficiencyFive-layer design filters and have a nose clipPowerful Protective Barrier3D Mask DesignDisposable
Boncare KN95 Face Mask  94% particulate filtrationFive-layer filters3D Mask DesignDisposablenose clip

Physical Exercise

Fitness experts have stated that regular exercise improves your physical health and helps to keep your mind energized the whole day. In addition, medical studies suggest that it is crucial to take at least thirty minutes of the day to yourself and exercise as it will help your body’s vital organs- heart, brain and lungs. Moreover, it will decrease the risk of lung cancer, stroke and other heart diseases.

Physical exercise can also help increase breathing efficiency, which means it can improve lung functionality. One of the significant factors of exercise is that it makes the muscles work harder. This, in turn, increases the breathing rate and leads to a good supply of oxygen to the muscles. In addition, it improves circulation and leads to the effective removal of carbon dioxide.

Overall, it improves the immunity power of your body and increases the lung capacity to breathe effectively. There are many types of exercises which you can adapt. Exercises such as Yogasanas, swimming, running, skipping, gym workouts or just dancing all the way to make your lungs happy. Some of the medical evidence has also observed that cardiovascular exercises, which make your heart beat faster, can help your lungs work efficiently.

However, if people with medical conditions should seek the help of medical professionals before starting any new workout regime, a more intense workout is probably not advisable for such people. Still, they can regularly exercise in low intensity. You should also not exercise outdoors when the ambient air quality is worst. It would be best if you exercise indoors at such times.

Exercising makes you healthy and increases your immunity power. But this is not the case if you are working out in a polluted region. It is not advisable to work out in high pollution levels. High intensity of exercise will make you feel fatigued. It will also damage your immunity system and causes illness. If your city has hazardous levels of air pollution, you should avoid going out in the early morning or late evening walks. However, if it is inevitable to go out, then wear a proper pollution mask.

Breathing Exercise

Do you know that most people in the world don’t breathe properly? However, correct breathing techniques can keep air pollution at bay illnesses. Pranayama is a form of yoga asana which helps to improve breathing methods and lung functionality.

Some of the pranayama types that help you fight air pollution are Kapalbhati, Anulom Vilom, Chandra Nadi, Surya Nadi and Bhastrika. It is strongly recommended to learn this art of breath from a well-certified yoga trainer. Make sure you use yoga mats while practising any form of yoga.

You can also increase your lung muscles by simply taking a deep breath and holding it for a count of 10. Then, slowly breathe out the air. If you can keep your breath for a longer time, you have good lung health.

Another benefit of breathing exercise is that it can help correct the lungs functionality of people who smoke a lot or have been past chain smokers. It can also help people to heal their lungs from chronic lung diseases.

Moreover, there are many tools available to rectify your breathing ability. One such tool is a spirometer. This device is primarily used after surgery to help the patients recover. However, just like pranayama, as mentioned above, there are other forms of exercises that don’t require any devices. Medical professionals suggest that techniques such as pursed-lip breathing and belly breathing can also help increase the lungs’ capacity. Belly breathing is also known as diaphragmatic breathing.

It is also advisable for a smoker or person having a history of lung damage to consult a doctor to ask whether there is any need for a special programme for support. 

Good Diet

Always go for a well-balanced diet to remain fit and strong. Consistent eating of junk and fast food will increase the risk of obesity and other diseases. In addition, such people are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of air pollution. Instead, add more fresh veggies and fruits to your diet.

Studies also show that you should eat Vitamin-D rich foods to improve your lung health. A recent study suggests that healthy vitamin D levels reduced asthma attacks in the patients. The best sources of vitamin D are usually discovered in animal products, such as follows:

However, vegetarian people; don’t get disheartened. There are vegetarian options that provide vitamin D. These products are wild Mushrooms and cheese such as Fontina, Monterey and Cheddar Cheese. You can also get food products fortified with vitamin D. The fortified products are as follows:

Another great source of vitamin D is sunshine. National Institute of Health (NIH) noted that you should be exposed to sunlight for 5 to 30 minutes twice a week. Therefore, I would recommend you experience sunrise and take all the sunrays during the sunrise to avoid overexposure to the sun rays. Moreover, you can also rely on supplements of vitamin D.

Along with foods with vitamin D, you can also add anti-inflammatory foods as these types of food help cleanse your lungs effectively. Anti-inflammatory foods which I recommend are:

Immunity booster drinks

You can do your immunity booster drinks by using readily available items in your kitchen. Immunity booster drinks help to cleanse your lungs. Some of the DIY immunity booster drinks are as follows:

  • Take a glass of warm white milk. Add half a teaspoon of turmeric powder to it. Also, add two strands of saffron to it. Drink it at night before sleeping. You will get good sleep and be relieved from chest congestion.
  • Boil water by adding half cinnamon stick. Drink the spice-infused water once a day. This would clear up your sinuses.
  • Buy an excellent green tea. First, prepare green tea by following the packet instructions. Then, have it whenever you feel irritation in your throat.
  • Take some crushed 1 or 2 peppercorns, a half-inch of a blade of lemongrass and 1 inch of grated ginger and half a teaspoon of turmeric powder. Add everything in one glass of boiling water and reduce it to half a glass. Drink two tablespoons of this spice-infused warm water every after three hours. Adding honey is optional.
  • You can also drink warm water and add honey if you want. Honey helps to relieve throat irritation.

Air Purifiers to the rescue

When ambient air pollution is at high levels, it becomes difficult to open doors and windows for ventilation. It will eventually make the indoor air stuffy. Thus, it is necessary to purify the indoor air. The installation of air purifiers can achieve this.

If you are using an artificial source of heating and cooling your house, I suggest you use high-quality filters and clean them at least twice a year. You can also replace them as per the machine guidelines. Besides, I would tell you to use air purifiers to maintain healthy air. Air purifiers can quickly reduce the dust pollution present in the house.

The best kind of air purifiers in the market always have HEPA filters as their features. HEPA means High-Efficiency Particulate Air. Excellent quality of HEPA filters can eliminate around 99.97% of airborne particles, and it monitors and decreases the dust in your home. Besides, it would be best to use air purifiers with ionizers on/off capabilities.

Below, I am providing you with the recommended list of air purifiers.

NameWhy I recommend it
Blueair Pro XL Air Purifier●    99.7% of airborne pollutants such as mould, allergens, smoke particles and pollens are captured.
AIRMEGA 400S●    Reduction of 99.97% of particulates of 0.3 microns.●    Also responsible for reducing more than 99% of VOCs, NH3 and CH3CHO.●    Washable and permanent pre-filters are available
Blueair Pure 121●    Includes 3-part filtration system.●     Captures 99% of common airborne PM 2.5 pollutants such as allergens, odours, smoke, mould spores, dust mites and pet dander.●    An activated carbon filter removes common odours caused by smoke, pets, and gases (VOCs) and smoke caused by wildfires.

Keep indoors clean

There’s a simple yet powerful saying- ‘cleanliness starts at home.’ Reducing indoor air pollution, the ones created due to indoor activities, can significantly improve ambient air pollution. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 3.8 million deaths happen due to indoor air pollution.

You can decrease poor air quality by adequately maintaining indoor hygiene. For example, you can frequently clean your cupboards and open decks to avoid an accumulation of dust particles. In addition, I would strongly recommend carpeting a minimum floor area.

You can use safer products such as baking soda instead of harsh chemicals to clean the surfaces. You can prefer choosing more air-friendly products to clean indoors. For example, you can select water-based products or have a low presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). You can also paint your home walls with a brush rather than a sprayer. In addition, you can store solvents in airtight containers so that VOCs don’t escape in the air. For lawn mowing, you can use push or electric lawnmowers.

Home accessories like carpets attract many allergens and pollens. These pollutants get stuck to the rug and degrade indoor air quality. You can vacuum these carpets and furniture such as sofas at least twice a week. Avoid using strong hair sprays. You can additionally use indoor plants to make your indoors more lively and fresh. In this way, you can feel fresh and survive the degrading ambient air quality.

Single-use plastic has been one of the major concerns in the environment. Plastic pollution indirectly contributes to the degradation of air quality. Plastic, when burned, releases various toxic gases such as dioxins into the air. Reuse paper bags which you got while shopping in the past.

It is also necessary to change all the filters in your home and clean them frequently. You can find such vents in bathrooms or air conditioning or heating vents. You need to replace furnace filters after every six months generally.

Travel Smart

You can increase the use of public transport to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion. This will also help you protect yourself from exposure to air pollution compared to cycling or walking. You can also try carpooling or the cab sharing option.

In addition, you can dodge going out shopping by shopping online. There are various shopping portals like Amazon, which can deliver any desired stuff in your footsteps. If you want to go outside for shopping, make sure you list the items you wish to purchase to avoid frequent trips to the shop. Try to squeeze your essential work into one trip, such as grocery shopping. This will help you to achieve minimum exposure to air pollution.

Nowadays, remote working or hybrid work style is becoming very popular, especially post-pandemic. If your job profile and occupation permit, you can opt for remote working as you will save the cost of fuel, and this method will help you manage the pollution. Besides, you can work in your comfort at home.

Check the Air Quality Standards (AQI) before you step out

Checking the Air Quality Standards (AQI) helps people give crucial data about the air conditions in their location or any preferred destination. In addition, it also provides information on the effect of air quality on human health.

Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has determined the air quality index (AQI) to know the air quality you inhale. The table given below will show how the air quality index looks like.

No smoking policy

Smoking cigarettes, hookahs (shisha), electric vape or any other types of cigars are not at all suitable for your health. I strongly recommend of stop smoking indoors and outdoors too. Active and passive smoking directly exposes harmful pollutants to your body.

This causes the risk to your respiration and other organs dependent on it. Besides, cigarette butts can trigger particulate pollution. Moreover, smoke associated with tobacco and other smoking goods produces innumerable cancer-causing substances which are not suitable for human health of all ages- right from womb to older adults. The pollution created from tobacco smoking can congest your lungs. The best way is to stop smoking and avoid going to smoking zones to help clean the lungs.

Spend more time with the nature

Going to nature trails and hiking boosts your mood and helps to get plenty of fresh air. This supply of fresh, clean air helps expand the lungs and help to keep them functioning correctly. Make sure you check the air quality standards before you go out.

Consult the doctor if needed

Suppose you experience any discomfort or symptoms such as difficulty breathing, increased heart rates or burning sensation of eyes, and dizziness and headaches. You should consult the doctor immediately. In that case, they can give you proper medications and suggestions to cope with air pollution.

Other FAQs about Air Quality that you may be interested in.

What AQI should you not go outside?

Can Bad Air Quality Cause Swollen Lymph Nodes?

Can poor air quality cause cold-like symptoms?

Conclusion

This blog post discussed “How can you protect yourself from bad air quality?” First, we discussed the basics of air pollution. Then, we discussed solutions to living in pollution.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): How can you protect yourself from bad air quality?

How does the air get polluted?

Air pollution can occur in multiple ways. Human activities such as the transportation sector, industrial processes, and combustion of fossil fuels generate particulates and other toxic gases such as sulphur and nitrogen oxides. Natural events also create air pollution. Some of the instances are volcanic eruptions and dust storms.

What are the causes of air pollution?

The causes of air pollution are as follows:

  • The burning of fossil fuels
  • Indoor Air pollution
  • Wildfires
  • Decomposition
  • Vehicular pollution
  • Construction and demolition activities

Which produces the most pollution?

The burning of fossil fuels for electricity, heat and transportation is the most produced pollution. These activities are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. GHG emissions from the transportation sector come from cars, trucks, ships, trains and aeroplanes.

Which country is carbon negative?

Bhutan country is the only country in the world to become carbon negative.

Which country has the highest and least emissions?

China has the highest emissions; they are the most significant contributor of CO2 emissions. In contrast, Tuvalu country has the lowest carbon footprint in the world. They continue to be in such a state by avoiding fossil fuels.

Who leads the world in air pollution?

China leads the world in air pollution. The United States and India follow this.

References

Living in high pollution cities. Oransi. Available at: https://oransi.com/blogs/blog/living-in-high-pollution-cities  

Living with air pollution. Stanford Earth. Available at: https://earth.stanford.edu/news/living-air-pollution#gs.jippud  

Tips to survive Delhi’s Air Pollution. Medanta. Available at: https://www.medanta.org/patient-education-blog/tips-to-survive-delhi-air-pollution/  

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