Over time, we humans have created a thin layer of death around the globe, around us, from which we cannot escape. We named it air pollution!
Both industries and individuals have been contributing tons of pollutants since the age of ancient Romans that keep the atmosphere contaminated to date and days to come. A recent survey states, about 9 million deaths occur due to air pollution, and that is a combined total of malaria, AIDS, and tuberculosis.
Governments across continents are doing their best to prevent further escalations in the atmosphere. But it may take years to reduce air pollution. That’s why, every individual must take the necessary steps to protect themselves from polluted air.
Here, we will discuss air pollution and how it impacts health. Also, we will discuss some DIY to optimize air quality in-home, work, and car.
Let us crack it from the basic.
Air pollution can be defined as simple as the adulteration of air. Any agents, biological, physical, or chemical, that spoil air quality can be termed as air pollutants.
Air Quality Index (AQI) is a warning system to calculate the level of air pollution. AQI is a scale that ranges from 0 to 500, in which “0” denotes air as pure while “500” is in grave danger. AQI measures the major pollutants in the air such as particle matter, smog, Sulphur dioxide, Carbon monoxide, and Nitrogen dioxide.
Out of all PM 2.5 is the most dreaded pollutant in most countries including India. The current PM 2.5 concentration in India already exceeded 5 times the threshold suggested by WHO, 25 µg/m³ (microgram per cubic meter of air). Such an amount is obviously unhealthy.
PM (Particulate Matter) is a complex mix of tiny particles. They are about 1000 times smaller than a grain of sand and their sizes are measured in micrometer (µm). The particulate matter is made up of gas, acid droplets, resuspended dust, pollen, acid droplets, and much more.
Among different sizes of particulate matters PM 2.5 are finest particles smaller than red blood cells. They are microscopic, they can’t be seen with naked eyes. They are partly liquid and lightweight like aerosol. They evade the guarding mechanisms of the body such as nose hair and mucus to defuse in lungs. It cause hazards like corrosion to alveoli of lungs, enter the blood streams and build toxins all over the body gradually.
Pro tip: Know the air pollution in your present location using mobile app
Android: IQAir Air Visual
Any liquid or solid that boils at room temperature and become gas can be termed volatile in nature. Chemicals such as toluene, benzene, xylene, methyl chloride, methanol, and aldehydes are the commonly found Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that emit volatile gases. VOCs can be found in lot of things such as paints, wood preservatives, repellents, floor disinfectants, hobby supplies, perfumes, cosmetics, sprays and much more. Comparatively, the presence of VOCs indoors is 10 times much higher than that of outdoors.
Well, it is pretty hard to break the shell, but our indoor air quality is much worse than the outdoors. A survey conducted by an Environmental Protection Agency found that air pollution is about 2 to 5 times higher indoors than outdoors. The air indoors is stagnant, and there is no exchange of fresh air happening which results in increasing the concentration of pollutants. In addition, the temperature indoors is lower than outside so moisture accumulates rapidly, which leads to fungi and bacterial growth.
Pro tip: You can buy an air quality monitor to monitor the indoor air quality. However, it is much better to buy an Indoor Air Purifier that comes with IAQ monitoring features.
Some of the common pollutants indoor are
Here are the few instances,
Air knows no boundaries nor the pollutants in it. Various pollutants in the air can cause countless adverse impacts on one’s respiratory system, cardiovascular system, nervous system, and skin. More than adults, air pollution induces more health complications in children.
There is a good amount of scientific researches to certify long-term exposure to polluted air causes respiratory diseases like asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), reduced lung function, pulmonary cancer, and pneumonia.
Long-term exposure to polluted air can cause myocardial infarction, ischaemic heart disease, stroke, thrombosis, arrhythmias, and hypertension. Pollutants carried into your blood vessels act similar to Low-Density Lipid cholesterol, the so-called bad cholesterol, that stick to the blood vessel walls and block the blood flow over time.
Like any other organ in a body, the brain is not immune to environmental pollution. A growing number of researches claim air pollution cause brain inflammation and impairs performance. Also, scientists observed amyloid particles related to Alzheimer’s disease in people exposed to air pollution for a long time.
Your skin is just another option for pollution to sweep into your body, technically the percutaneous absorption. As skin comes in contact with the atmosphere, pollutants take two shortest routes to permit into it, through the hair follicles and sweat ducts. And it is easy to guess what comes next. The common skin issues caused by air pollution are acne, psoriasis, skin barrier dysfunction, skin cancer, and atopic dermatitis.
Children are more vulnerable to pollution because they breathe rapidly and are close to the ground where most pollutants settle. Studies found that air pollution impairs brain and motor development, and lung function by disrupting their complex developmental progress. Moreover, long-term exposure to air pollution induces chronic diseases, dry cough, wheezing, cystic fibrosis, and childhood cancer.
Despite the regulations on emissions, the planet is still far away from curbing air pollutants to ground zero. It may sound self-centered, but the best thing to do to prevent exposure to pollutants is to bring in some smart changes in our life.
There are tons of pollutants in the air, but only a few science-backed ways to optimize air quality. It is quite complicated to optimize air pollution outside where combined efforts of everyone on the planet is mandatory but for the indoors, it is easy.
Here are your simple strategies, to optimize air quality based on impact level and cost.
Modern disinfectants are effective and give lovely fragrances, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t causing any bad to health. Researches conducted on floor cleaners and disinfectants claim disinfectants that include Hydrogen Peroxide, Perchloroethylene, Triclosan, Ammonium hydroxide, and 2-Butoxyethanol come with volatile characteristics to impair the indoor air quality.
Alternatives ideas: There are safe floor cleaners that contain Ethanol and Isopropyl alcohol which won't cause health issues. But it is much better to go with white vinegar mixed with warm water.
Damp indoors often turn people use an air freshener. Though it sounds good, air fresheners come with chemicals and organic compounds that detour IAQ by adding pollutants. Air fresheners often carry VOCs that emit volatile gases, which induce nausea and headache along with eye, throat, and nose irritation.
Alternatives for air fresheners: Eliminating the source of dampness and bad smell is the best practice to keep your indoors safe and smell natural.
How to do it?
Set up an air conditioner and exhaust fans or run dehumidifiers
Perfumes and cosmetics are used since the Indus valley civilization. But today’s culture has stumbled upon a major change in ingredients. Ancients processed locally sourced flowers to produce perfumes. Due to the large consumption capabilities, the modern-day perfume industries choose to go with chemicals including VOCs such as Ketones, Formaldehyde, and Phthalates.
Chemical based perfumes and cosmetics causes
With enough moisture and dampness inside your house promote moulds along with other microbes. They can be found everywhere. With the right condition, they thrive and affect humans and pets deliberately. Moulds are the prominent contributors to poor indoor air quality and induce allergies, rashes, hey fever, breathing troubles, and even put off your good night's sleep.
It is necessary to eliminate excess moisture in a room, which is the prominent source of bacterial and mould growth. An electric air purifier or a dehumidifier would be the best option in this case.
Improper ventilation in a house leads to staled air which influences the growth of indoor airborne pollutants. It is better to go with electric air purifiers in this case. Air purifiers can refresh the air in an enclosed environment. A typical air purifier works by absorbing polluted air and filtering it to release pure air. Along with air purifiers, kitchen exhausts can be more helpful to remove harmful smoke produced during cooking.
Modern indoor air purifiers equipped with HEPA (High-efficient Particulate Absorbing) filter technology are capable of absorbing 99% of Particulate Matter, VOCs, dust and other pollutants to improve indoor air quality.
Scientific studies conducted on potted plants and indoor air quality claims potted plant induces significant reduction in VOCs and particulate matter concentration. However, the efficiency of potted plants improving IAQ depends on the number of plants and type of plant species.
Plants such as Aloe Vera, Snake Plant, Lucky Bamboo, Dracaena Reflexa, and Areca Palm are commonly used in urban and metropolitans of India. Though potted plants are not efficient as air purifiers, they can still be used, alongside.
PM 2.5 masks have become the new trend since the outbreak of COVID-19. Unlike typical cloth masks, Pm 2.5 is made up of five layers that include thin foam or cotton with a vent system. Also, these masks come with a compartment to insert activated charcoal that works well against pollutants and pathogens. These masks protect you from chemical droplets in the air, smog, dust, and emission from automobile exhaust. PM 2.5 mask is one of your best allies while venturing outside.
Cars are burning fossil fuels and make a considerable contribution to pollution. However, the pollution inside a car often goes unaddressed. The interior of a car is comprised of various materials ranging from synthetic fabrics to kilos of adhesives. Most of them can emit VOCs in the right condition to degrade the air quality inside the vehicle.
People choose air fresheners to remove the unpleasant odor inside a car, but air fresheners tend to add more VOCs.
Solution: Air Purifiers can be your best choice inside your car. Benefits of using an air purifier in a car are
Smog is generally known as the evil twin of ozone because it is a mix of intensified smoke, fog, and other atmospheric pollutants. Smog irritates the respiratory systems, irritates throat, cause coughing, and uncomfortable heaviness in the chest. Also, long-term exposure to smog damages the linings of the lungs. Along with new health issues smog can elevate existing respiratory conditions like asthma and wheezing.
Make your mind to do your morning routines indoors on a smoggy day
Using PM 2.5 masks while venturing into smog
Not to lie, most of us love the smell of petrol and petroleum products because of Benzene that gives out the nostalgic odor. Petroleum products emit volatile gases that can damage the respiratory pathway and beyond. Long-term exposure to gasoline and its emission can cause lung deterioration.
Use PM 2.5 masks to reduce inhalation of VOCs while in fuel stations.
Avoid smelling VOCs voluntarily.
It is hard to smell, or see the pollutants in your indoors but they are there for sure. All around the globe, air pollution is killing millions. The level of air pollution is far worse in developing countries like India where over 1,20,000 people died of air pollution (that include indoor air pollution) in 2020 alone. Every one thinks of their home as safe heaven but is it really safe to dwell in is the concerning question. More than a choice it is necessary to take steps, like wearing masks while venturing outdoors, and optimising the indoor air quality, to keep ourselves safe and healthy.