Is air quality killing you softly?
In 2019, London hit its legal air pollution limit for the year on March 18th and this year is set to be a similar story. Also in 2019, the ECJ ruled that France had “systematically and persistently” breached pollution limits since 2010. Both Bulgaria and Poland have been condemned by the ECJ for exceeding pollution limits in recent years and Germany, Hungary, Italy, Romania and the UK are facing legal action for exceeding emission limits on nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter. Air pollution is a serious problem.
We may not associate European cities with the noticeable smog that is reminiscent of Asian cities and this is because that sort of smog is from coal-based pollution from energy production and is far more noticeable because the particles are bigger. Emissions in cities such as London are smaller and often invisible to the naked eye. This pollution particulate matter (specifically NO2 and CO2) often comes from diesel car exhausts and builds up in more congested parts of a city. Nitrogen dioxide particles are measured at 2.5 micrometres which is why they are classified as PM2.5. Particulate matter that is smaller than PM10 is able to travel through the alveoli in your lungs and into the cardiovascular system, this can lead to health complications such as asthma and emphysema. Studies by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) show that PM2.5 can remain in your bloodstream for at least three months, can worsen the build-up of fatty materials inside the arteries that could lead to blood clots and potentially affect the normal functioning of your heart. New regulations being implemented every year by European governments are focused on significantly reducing air pollution and cutting out serious pollution in cities. In the meantime, and before you move to the countryside to live off the land, you can follow our top tips to keep pollution exposure to a minimum whilst living in a city.
Our Top Tips for Avoiding Pollution in the City:
Air pollution is worse along main roads (since most of the cars and lorries are there and hence, the traffic jams). Walking (or cycling) through these areas means you are exposed to an invisible cocktail of smog, toxic gases, NO2 emissions and dangerous PM10 and PM2.5 particles.
Pop onto the parallel side-street to breathe a little easier. And if you can’t avoid those main roads, which side of the road you’re on can make a difference. Walking on the building side of a pavement over the roadside can reduce exposure to harmful gases by up to 30%.
- Can you avoid traveling at times of day when pollution levels would naturally be at their highest? Midday and morning/afternoon rush hour times are the worst times to be out and about.
- School run - stationary, idling cars are BIG pollution offenders. People on the school run are often guilty of leaving their cars on during the pick up/drop off times whilst waiting for their children. If you’re dropping your kids off, consider perhaps taking them by foot or bicycle and if that is completely unfeasible - turn off your engine whilst waiting. If you know you’ll be passing by a school, try to avoid the route to avoid the possible pollution from idling cars.
- Avoid exercising in areas where pollution levels are high. When we imagine a healthy run, the open fields of the countryside and running through fields of wheat comes to mind - however, if you live in a city, this isn’t always possible. Whilst exercise is fundamental to maintaining good health (and helping you fight off the effects of pollution on the body), it makes you breathe deeper and faster, therefore possibly increasing the amount of pollution entering your lungs. When possible, try to exercise away from areas of high traffic, or when traffic and pollution levels will be at their lowest levels (very early mornings and late evenings).
- Breathe easier with CYCL’s Pollution Scarf. We’ve seen a rise in the use of surgical masks in Asia as everyday attire. They are often used as a courtesy when the wearer is sick (or doesn't want to get sick) but are also worn to protect from pollution and airborne allergens (like the Coronavirus outbreak in 2020). Whilst they can often seem slightly reminiscent of a dystopian future, the CYCL Pollution Scarf looks to provide a solution to protection from air pollution that can blend a little more seamlessly into your wardrobe. The circle scarf that fits over your head, has an integrated nanofiber filter that captures 99.9% of all dangerous airborne particles such as smog, nitrogen dioxide, allergens and dander. Once fitted correctly around the face with the adjustable nose strip and elastic closure, it can offer 99.9% protection against PM2.5.
- Plant the seeds of change. Many plants can act as air purifiers - through photosynthesis they remove carbon dioxide from the air and return oxygen. So why not fill your home with some plants? In particular, aloe vera, Mother-in-Law's Tongue (Snake Plant) and spider plants (which have been tried and tested by our resident plant killer, Melanie - who managed to keep all of hers alive for over a year).
- Did you know it’s just as dangerous INSIDE a car? Harmful gases from other exhausts can pass straight through car air filters and fill car cabins. Not that you should really be driving if you can help it - if you must drive a car, make sure you set it to recirculate air when in traffic or tunnels.
- Clean less. Yes, that’s right. Most household cleaning products contain gases that have been linked to health problems from headaches to asthma and cancer. Properly ventilate when cleaning and reduce using extra harmful sprays. You could even opt to choose more eco-friendly cleaners or make your own (water, vinegar and baking soda are the holy grail of natural cleaners).
- If you're in London or the UK check out the London Air app or website run by London Air Quality Network which have pollution monitors across London and collect hourly data. You can also get the air pollution forecast for the UK at https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/ - they often make official announcements of when there are high air pollution levels to avoid.
We hope these tips help, breathe easy CYCLers! You can sign up to our mailing list below and receive blog posts like this as well as exclusive offers on CYCL products straight to your inbox.