How to Protect Yourself from Air Pollution

The World Health Organization has named air pollution as the world’s largest environmental health risk.[1] The first step in reducing its effects on your body is to educate yourself about the risks of air pollution in your area. Then, you can change your activities to reduce the effect of pollution on your body. Once you have made these adjustments, you can start changing your diet to ensure your body repairs itself and prevents free-radical damage from air pollution.

[Edit]Steps

[Edit]Taking Proper Precautions

  1. Read the daily forecast to see what air pollution forecasts look like. Check online to see what the air quality levels are, which indicate if air pollution is good or bad. Depending on the result, you can plan your schedule ahead of time by spending more time indoors.[2] Note that air quality is measured by Air Quality Index (AQI), which tells you how many polluted air particles there are in the air around you.[3]
    Protect Yourself from Air Pollution Step 1 Version 3.jpg
    • For reference, 0 to 50 AQI is considered good quality, while 51 to 150 means that people with breathing problems, like asthma, may have a tougher time. Any air with an AQI over 151 is unhealthy and shouldn’t be breathed in, if possible.
    • You can check your area’s air quality here: https://www.airnow.gov.
  2. Close your doors and windows when the AQI is over 151. Check around your home and make sure your home is sealed off. Turn on fans or use an air conditioner to stay cool instead of breathing in fresh air.[4]
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    • Try to get in the habit of checking your air quality levels before opening any doors or windows.
  3. Recirculate the air in your car while you drive. Look on your control panel for the recirculate button, which prevents outside air from cycling through your vehicle. Use this button on days where the air quality is bad, or if you’re stuck behind a vehicle with bad emissions.[5]
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    • Double-check your car’s user manual if you aren’t sure where to find the recirculation button.
  4. Wear a mask that filters out most bad air particles. Shop online for masks with an N95 or FFP3 rating, which will protect you from breathing in polluted air. Put on 1 of these masks if you’re traveling in a busy area with bad air quality, or if your hometown has worse air quality than normal.[6]
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    • You need to wear special masks to really reap the benefits. Regular face masks won’t block out as much polluted air.
  5. Take a shower after spending a lot of time outside. Remove your dirty clothes after you’ve spent some time outside, then pop into the shower to clean off any particulates that might be stuck to your skin. Once you’re clean, change into a fresh set of clothes. Try to get in the habit of showering whenever you spend a lot of time in low quality air, especially if you’re traveling.[7]
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    • If you don’t want to take a shower, at least wash your face after coming inside.[8]
  6. Travel to work a bit earlier so you aren’t exposed to as much exhaust. Set your alarm 30-60 minutes earlier so you can hit the road before rush hour. This is a good option if you work near a city, or if you live in an area with consistently high AQI.[9]
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    • Your adjusted routine will depend on the length of your commute overall.
  7. Switch to a healthy diet so you aren’t as vulnerable. Add lots of fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet, along with whole grains and lean meats. Keep yourself healthy so you won’t be as likely to be negatively affected by air pollution. Talk to your doctor if you’re worried that you may be at a higher risk of developing a disease due to air pollution.[10]
    Protect Yourself from Air Pollution Step 7 Version 3.jpg
    • People who are at-risk for heart disease may be more vulnerable to the negative effects of air pollution.

[Edit]Making Household Adjustments

  1. Replace your air conditioner filters regularly so your air stays clean and fresh. Check your filters on a monthly or bi-monthly basis to see if they need to be cleaned or replaced. Note that your filter may be in your basement, ceiling, or furnace, depending on what kind of air conditioner that you have. If your home is dusty or you have a lot of pets around, you may need to replace or clean your filters more frequently.[11]
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    • When your air conditioner is dusty, it won’t work as well.
  2. Clean off any mold and mildew in your home. Look around damp areas of your home, like the bathroom or kitchen, for mold. Stir a spoonful of cleaning detergent into a bucket of warm water and scrub away any visible mildew or mold.[12] Always wear rubber gloves and a respirator when cleaning mold so you don’t breathe it in by accident.[13]
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    • If you’re working with harsher chemicals, use gloves made with nitrile, polyurethane, or PVC instead.
    • If you think your air conditioning system is filled with mold, contact a professional to clean it out.[14]
  3. Open your windows when air quality is good. Check your area’s AQI to see if the air around your home is clean or dirty. If the air outside is clean, go through your home and open up several windows so you have fresh air flowing in.[15]
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    • Letting clean air into your home is a great way to boost the air quality overall.
  4. Place an air purifier in your home. Shop online or in a home improvement store for an air purifier that meets the needs of your home. These are especially useful if you live in a busy area with consistently high air pollution, like a city.[16]
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    • Air purifiers are plug-in devices that help filter pollen and other bad particles out of the air.
  5. Vacuum your home weekly to prevent the spread of pollutants. Get in the habit of vacuuming on a regular basis, especially in the rooms and areas where you spend a lot of time. Set a time once a week to vacuum your home so dust and dirt doesn’t build up over time.[17]
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  6. Opt for electric lawn equipment instead of gas-powered items. Look at your lawnmower and consider if it’s time for an upgrade. Visit your local hardware or home improvement store to find electric lawnmowers. You may want to switch to a handheld appliance if your lawn isn’t very demanding or difficult to take care of.[18]
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    • Gas-powered lawnmowers pollute the air, which is especially bad if you’re mowing the lawn yourself.

[Edit]Getting Exercise Safely

  1. Exercise indoors if the air in your area has bad air quality. Look at the local AQI report and see if it’s safe to exercise inside, or if you’d be better off working out indoors. Protect yourself from bad air quality by basing yourself in a place with no fresh air, like an air-conditioned living room or gym.[19]
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    • Look for local gym memberships in your area! These can help you limit your exposure to polluted air.
  2. Workout in outdoor places without a lot of commercial traffic. Search your local area for backroads and other less-traveled streets. Go for a bike ride or jog on a street without as many cars passing by, so you aren’t as likely to breathe in polluted air.[20]
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    • If you’re an avid biker or runner, try redirecting your route through local neighborhoods. These will be less polluted than a highway or other busy road.
  3. Opt for a less intense form of exercise. Settle for a power walk, slow bike ride, or other form of exercise that doesn’t get your blood pumping to the max during your outdoor exercise. You may also want to break your exercise into smaller chunks so you aren’t breathing in as much polluted air at one time.[21]
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    • For instance, you can go for a 20-minute power walk outside and then exercise for 10 minutes indoors.
    • If your workout is less intense, you won’t be as out of breath or breathing as much polluted air.

[Edit]Tips

  • Petition your local schools to ban school bus idling.[22]
  • Keep your inhaler with you constantly if you have one.[23]
  • Join public campaigns to prevent air pollution.[24]
  • Only visit stores and restaurants that are listed as tobacco-free.[25]
  • Shut off your lights and appliances when you’re not using them. Get in the habit of switching off the lights and unplugging your appliances whenever you aren’t using them. Keep in mind that electricity contributes to air pollution—by lowering your electricity usage, you’re actually lowering the amount of air pollution.[26]

[Edit]Warnings

  • Refrain from burning any trash and firewood, as this can contribute to air pollution.[27]

[Edit]References

  1. https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/ten-threats-to-global-health-in-2019
  2. https://www.lung.org/clean-air/outdoors/10-tips-to-protect-yourself
  3. https://www.airnow.gov/aqi/aqi-basics/
  4. http://www.un.org.cn/uploads/20180326/a2d98aec01253e1817bbfff581697afc.pdf
  5. https://scopeblog.stanford.edu/2020/02/07/poor-air-quality-affects-everybody-how-to-protect-yourself-and-clean-the-air/
  6. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/21/travel/air-pollution-face-masks-aqi.html
  7. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/21/travel/air-pollution-face-masks-aqi.html
  8. http://www.un.org.cn/uploads/20180326/a2d98aec01253e1817bbfff581697afc.pdf
  9. https://www.blf.org.uk/support-for-you/air-pollution/tips
  10. https://www.consumerreports.org/health-wellness/avoid-the-negative-health-effects-of-air-pollution/
  11. https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/maintaining-your-air-conditioner
  12. https://www.epa.gov/mold/mold-cleanup-your-home
  13. https://www.epa.gov/mold/brief-guide-mold-moisture-and-your-home#tab-4
  14. https://www.epa.gov/mold/mold-cleanup-your-home
  15. https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/improving-indoor-air-quality
  16. https://www.consumerreports.org/health-wellness/avoid-the-negative-health-effects-of-air-pollution/
  17. http://www.un.org.cn/uploads/20180326/a2d98aec01253e1817bbfff581697afc.pdf
  18. https://www.lung.org/clean-air/outdoors/10-tips-to-protect-yourself
  19. https://www.nrdc.org/stories/how-protect-yourself-outdoor-air-pollutants
  20. https://www.blf.org.uk/support-for-you/air-pollution/tips
  21. https://www.cdc.gov/air/infographics/protect-yourself-from-air-pollution-during-physical-activity.htm
  22. https://www.lung.org/clean-air/outdoors/10-tips-to-protect-yourself
  23. https://www.cdc.gov/air/infographics/protect-yourself-from-air-pollution-during-physical-activity.htm
  24. https://www.lung.org/policy-advocacy/healthy-air-campaign
  25. https://www.lung.org/clean-air/outdoors/10-tips-to-protect-yourself
  26. https://www.epa.gov/p2/pollution-prevention-tips-energy-efficiency
  27. https://www.lung.org/clean-air/outdoors/10-tips-to-protect-yourself
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