After the clean food and the clean water, there are two more things we need to take into account. The clean air and bad habits. When we talk about the quality of the air, there is nothing much that we can do except move to another place. If you live in cities with air pollution like Beijing, then that is probably a good idea.
Air pollution exposure that we know of for the last 30 years of research is connected with respiratory conditions (including asthma and changes in lung function), adverse pregnancy outcomes (such as preterm birth), cardiovascular diseases, adverse effects on children’s brain development, increasing overall inflammation in the body and cancer risk and even death. Sometimes the linking air pollution with health problems is visible, as in the Bhopal Disaster. In one more notable incident in 1952, in London, polluted air killed around 4000 people. Because of the burning of the coal in homes for heating and coal-fired power plants air had become so polluted that it literary suffocated people. It was known as the Great Smog.
In the US living in polluted cities was associated with a 16% increase in total mortality rate, 27% with cardiovascular, and 28% cancer death rate compared to the non-air polluted cities. It worsens asthma and enhances the risk of developing it in the first place, it overburdens and can trigger liver diseases, increases the risk of diabetes, and like any other pollution causes chronic inflammation with damage to DNA and shortens life.
There is no public safety policy to air pollution except banning lead in gasoline and forcing heavy industry and other heavy air pollutants out of populated areas as much as it can be done. Campaigns to go walking and go with the bicycle to work might be romantic, but there are not practical. Some research that was done on air toxicity estimated that even 10 to 20 percent of overall cancer could be caused by air pollution. However, with air pollution, the effects take a long time to surface, and the direct link is hard to prove. World Health Organization in 2013 finally concluded that outdoor air pollution is a proven carcinogen to humans. If you live in places where air pollution is high it might be a good idea to limit the time of your jogging and exercise outside, stay as far as you can from heavily trafficked roads, and limit the time that children spend outside. If the air quality is terrible, stay inside with windows closed. Indoor air pollution can be reduced if a building is well-ventilated and cleaned regularly to prevent the buildup of agents like dust and mold. It is a good idea to have high-quality vacuum cleaners and to clean dust and mold regularly.
On top of that if you live in a highly polluted area having an air purifier in the room is also a good idea with a lot of indoor plants. Plants clean air, making them part of what NASA calls nature’s life support system. NASA does a lot of this kind of research for purposes of closed indoor colonies on places like Mars. It has been confirmed that adding potted plants to a room reduces the number of air particulates. Plants absorb air, or in other words plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, but at the same time, they filter the air and absorb some of the particulates. Also, microorganisms that are present in the potting soil are also accountable for much of the air cleaning effect. Some plants, in particular, are very good at removing pollutants. A superstar of filtering formaldehyde, for example, is bamboo palm.
They are able to grow as much as 12 feet high, making them exciting (and pet-friendly) indoor additions. Because they can be so big is one of the reasons they are able to filter so much of the air. Air purifiers also remove almost everything from the air like pollen, air-born viruses, dust, odors from cooking and pets, cigarette smoke, and so on.
Home perfuming aerosols are toxic also. Plug-in air fresheners produce significant levels of formaldehyde. Burning incense can create inflammation in our lungs because we will breathe in some of the smoke and that smoke will have tiny chemical particles that are toxic and will become trapped in our lungs causing inflammation. The researchers had, for instance, found that some regular chemicals like sandalwood, agarwood are more toxic than tobacco smoke. In 2013, a study with 2,000 pregnant women, the International Journal of Public Health reported that air fresheners increase the rate of lung infections in babies dramatically. A 2007 study also found that using air fresheners as little as once a week can raise the risk of asthma in adults.
There are more than 100 unknown synthetic chemicals in these fragrances. Glade, for example, keeps the list of chemicals as a closely-guarded secret. They do release a master list of nearly 1,500 chemicals that they use in all of their fragranced products because they are required by law, but they do not tell you which chemicals are in which products. When you are breathing in these particles, it is the same as injecting them into the vein. There is no difference if the chemical is going to go into the bloodstream through the lungs or through the needle in the vein. Most of these secret chemicals are not scientifically researched, but some of them are like for example volatile organic compounds (VOC) and naphthalene. In studies done on them, both substances caused tissue damage and cancer in the lungs of rats and mice in laboratory studies. Most of the scented candles are made with paraffin and contain VOC. The oil by-product releases ultra-small particles that will contain toxins like benzene, acetone, and toluene. These toxins are carcinogens and are usually seen in diesel emissions. In the study done in the UK that was done on more than 14,000 pregnant women, aerosol sprays were associated with depression in the mothers, headaches, and diarrhea, and ear infections in their babies. Air pollution is silent but as much toxic input as anything else in this toxic world. World Health Organization (WHO), does report on air pollution and mortality. In their estimates, air pollution is one of the world’s leading killers. Around three million people in the world die each year due to air pollution. In India alone, around half a million people die each year due to air pollution while in the United States, around 41,000 people are estimated to die early because of air pollution. The problem with air pollution is that it is a silent killer. It kills quietly and relentlessly, and the cause is hard to pinpoint. However, air pollution resulting in death is only a minor part of the overall problem that air pollution is causing. Deaths are not the only consequence. There are breathing problems, asthma, and bronchitis. Workers who are constantly exposed to dust particles are known to die from silicosis. Silicosis gives years of misery before death.
Passages selected from a book: “Go Vegan? Review of Science: Part 1” [Milos Pokimica]
- Health Effects of Air Pollution: A Historical Review and Present Status doi: 10.1265/jjh.72.159
- The Use of Household Cleaning Products During Pregnancy and Lower Respiratory Tract Infections and Wheezing During Early Life doi: 10.1007/s00038-012-0417-2
- Common Household Chemicals and the Allergy Risks in Pre-School Age Children doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0013423
- Fragranced consumer products and undisclosed ingredients doi:10.1016/j.eiar.2008.05.002
- VOC Breath Biomarkers in Lung Cancer doi: 10.1016/j.cca.2016.05.013
- Headache and pregnancy: a systematic review doi: 10.1186/s10194-017-0816-0
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