Air pollution is a source of toxic exposure that can cause ill health. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently reported 1 in 4 deaths are related to living and working in a toxic environment. In fact, it is now considered a greater threat than communicable diseases and is a major contributor to lung and respiratory infections, heart disease and cancer. Water pollution was found to be a significant contributor to diarrhoeal diseases and infant mortality. In 2012 deaths by stroke and heart disease were at the top for environmentally related deaths.
The Global Post reported that a number of cities around the world are tackling the environmental pollution problems head on. The areas are investing heavily in slum improvement, waste recycling, public transport and pedestrian walkways to encourage more walking and cycling.
American researchers warn that exposure to air pollution, even for one or two months, may be enough to increase the risk of diabetes. This is an even greater threat for the obese. Not only air pollution but noise pollution is also a threat. Loud noises, including roadways and airports, are independently associated with heart risks, specifically subclinical atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries.
A German study revealed that air pollution increased thoracic aortic calcification (TAC) to estimate heart risks by 20% and noise pollution by about 8%. If you already have an existing heart condition, air pollution is an even greater significant consideration. Exhaust fumes from traffic may trigger a heart attack—up to 6 hours after exposure. Yikes! That should certainly wake us up.
Both air and noise pollution are believed to increase your cardiovascular disease risk by causing an imbalance in your autonomic nervous system (ANS). Pigeons carrying small backpacks equipped with air quality measuring devices have been trained to fly “at strategic heights” over London during rush hour traffic and readings sent out over Twitter.
Shouldn’t we all strive to protect ourselves and our family against this threat? Some precautions to limit pollution is to limit your outdoor exercise during peak commuting hours, avoid running or riding your bike along major highways and use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter on your furnace and air conditioner at home.
A 2000 study shocked the population by revealing that 586 chemicals were identified, including the pesticides diazinon, chlorpyrifos and DDT in 52 homes near the Arizona-Mexico border. Phthalates were also found in very high levels and 120 more chemicals that were unidentifiable. Some pollutants found were molds, bioaerosols, combustion by products, tobacco smoke, formaldehyde, arsenic, volatile organic compounds, phthalates, pesticides, asbestos, heavy metals and radon. Let’s open those windows for 5 to 10 minutes each day on opposite sides of the house to create cross ventilation along with that high quality air purifier. Vacuum regularly with a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner. Houseplants, believe it or not, improve the air indoors. Remove shoes when entering the house and forbid or discourage the use of tobacco. Do not store paints, adhesives, solvents and harsh chemicals in your house or attached garage. Keep proper drainage around your house and keep foundation properly sealed.
Taking these reasonable and easy suggestions should help to insure that we protect ourselves and our families in limiting the pollution risks we must face every single day. Pollution is blamed for 1 in 4 deaths in some way. Even if you live in a smaller community some type of pollution is still out there and it’s definitely smart to follow some safety guidelines. Have a safe and “pollution-free” day!
–Dr Fredda Branyon