A Breath Of Fresh… Death

Fine and ultrafine particles – Nothing can actually protect you from the invisible danger that kills millions every year. To say it with Ron Weasley: Can we panic now?

A 2014 study published last year has shown for the first time ever that 3.15 million people die prematurely every year of deadly lung diseases, strokes and heart attacks caused by outdoor air pollution. If indoor air pollution is taken into account, we’re facing 3.54 millions more deaths. 

Toxic-Wasteland-Series-Air-Pollution-StudyWhile the main culprits vary depending on the region, it all boils down to:
– argiculture (main air pollution source in Eastern USA, Europe, Russia, and East Asia),
– power generation and traffic (main air pollution source in the USA),
– residential energy use (main air pollution source in China and India).

The study further states that the regions with the most premature deaths caused by air pollution are China, India, Middle East and Southeastern Asia.

Model projections based on a business-as-usual emission scenario indicate that the contribution of outdoor air pollution to premature mortality could double by 2050.”

Source (now sadly offline!): Jos Lelieveld (Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Atmospheric Chemistry Department, 55128 Mainz, Germany) et al., Nature, doi: 10.1038/nature15371 http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v525/n7569/full/nature15371.html

New, May 2016 study on increasing risk cancer of various organs: Cancer Mortality Risks from Long-term Exposure to Ambient Fine Particle
Link love: Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Atmospheric Chemistry Dpt.

Tips For Reducing
Air Pollution Exposure

I must admit I’m not easily shocked by news like that anymore, but they leave me wondering – how can an individual like you, like me possibly do anything to reduce our exposure to air pollution? Apart from talking about it, apart from activism or from demanding better regulations, fast, from our politicians?

While you and I surely won’t turn the tables with the following tips, there ideas are quite effective for reducing your exposure to fine dust pollution…
…in the city: drive around less, avoid outdoor activities (jogging, cycling) and don’t open windows on days when the limit values are exceeded,
…at home: don’t use wood heaters, don’t burn leaves, reduce electric power consumption,
…in the office: don’t sit next to a laser printer,
…on New Year’s:
say no to fireworks,
…anywhere: quit smoking. 👿

And how does one know about air pollution levels on a given day?

In Germany, you check out the website of our own Umweltbundesamt, and similarly in Austria and Switzerland.
Friends of mine over in the UK pointed out the UK-AIR resource. I’m not sure about the USA, but it seems that AirNow is offering air quality information and forecasts. If you know of more – and reliable sources for more countries, please let us all hear them in the comments.

How is the air quality in your city or region?
And what do you do to get better air quality?


Geeking out about all things truly green, healthy and ethical over at BEAUTYCALYPSE.com (Avatar illustration by A. Goncharenko)

12 Responses

  1. I don’t check pollution levels daily because what can I do apart from get on with my day. London is appalling – turns out thousands of death per year linked to air pollution levels. Gas mask are probably not that far away…..

  2. It’s insane how quickly the air has become polluted. Here it used to be relatively okay, but now it’s a disaster. I pretty much follow the same tips as you, I also try to cover my mouth and nose with my scarf if the pollution levels are high but I still have to head out. I wouldn’t mind wearing a mask, like the Japanese or Chinese people do, but I know I’d have to brace myself for the weird looks from passerbys 😉 The app I use is called “Plume”, you pick your city and it tells you immediately if the air pollution level is low, moderate, or high. ps. we’re now WordPress neighbours, I’ve joined the dark side ;D Xx

  3. You know, the worst of the story I personally experienced is that you usually do not expect that the pollution is that high. Recently I noticed that one of the worst placed in Berlin is a street near the Tempelhofer Feld that is not super in the middle of the city, a wide area… However the pollution stays there somehow even when it is quite cold.

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