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Air pollution: Understand the impact on health and what you can do now

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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.

What is it?

Air pollution is made up of tiny invisible particles. It 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. 

What next?

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.

How you can help

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).

  •  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 .
  •  Reduce your use of anything containing synthetic fragrances. These include toiletries and laundry products. They not only affect those who are chemically sensitive but also add to the contamination in the air.

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Organic and natural these toiletries are the new way forward. From head to toe you can be pampering yourself. Whether its with our A’kin fragrance free body wash. PH balanced and soap free – ideal to gently cleanse chemically sensitive skin. Enriched with comforting natural ingredients – free from sulfates and parabens. Keep your body moisturised with Balmonds skin salvation for the extra dry parts of your skin.

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  •   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.
  •  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.
  •   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. Shop our bedding range.
  •   Open the windows and let some fresh air in each day. This also helps reduce the humidity from breathing, showering and cooking. 
  • 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.

Air Purifiers are what you need

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. Or general pollution from the outdoors. 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.

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.

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. 

Products we have that can help you

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. 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.

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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