Air Pollution and Our Health – What Can We Do?
I have been breathing polluted air and reading about air pollution all my life. And of course old news is no news at all. This post is not so much about the facts of air pollution or its causes but about what we can do about it.
Setting the scene – I want you to imagine being in London in the 1950s. The smogs that cloaked the city were so thick that we could not see more than a few inches ahead of us at a time.
We don’t have that level of pollution now. Looking at a Los Angeles skyline – it looks and feels bad but is not killing the huge numbers on a daily basis that the 1950s smogs did.
Or are they?
The smogs of the last century were from dirty coal and worked directly to irritate and inflame the lungs. It was particularly bad for babies and the elderly and anyone else with compromised lung function.
Nowadays the fuel that pollutes our cities and our lungs and sinuses is different. Added to that we have a whole slew of chemical pollutants that are new and found in the air and in our food.
New chemicals should in a logical world be tested and certified for safety before general release into the environment.
Equally obvious is that we live in a world dominated by commercial interest and not by logic or health concerns – or even due process.
Given then that we have many novel chemical agents designed to protect us against fire, to chemically clean our floors, help gasoline burn better and a thousand other “good causes” and that we are breathing all this – what can we do?
We cannot control the pollution that is dumped in the air – our air- daily apart of course by political activism and by all means do what you can on that front.
But we can control whether we smoke or spend time with someone who does and we can control the food we choose to eat and what we drink.
And, to some extent we can control the pollution that we breathe too. So let’s look at these one by one.
Smoking was recommended in the 1930s by Doctors for, “Health Reasons”! This is a wonderful example of why we should never take heed of advice from Doctors or governments.
Of course what breathing the smoke from burning leaves or fuel really does is to fill our bloodstream with inflammatory free radical which are volatile molecules that damage every tissue they come in contact with.
It is not just the lungs that suffer but arteries and organs all round the body – such as the stomach and the brain.
How to give up smoking? First pay attention to the diet and improve that then cut the number of cigarettes and start using nicotine patches. Keep improving the diet and with the help of a professional health care expert and smoking can be left behind.
In the meantime 1 gram a day vitamin C can help the body deal with the effects and damage made by the smoke.
Some food of course is smoked! I have always found that amusing – as if smoking is not bad enough already we have to choose to eat food that is smoked already!
Food that is burnt, overcooked in any way whether by being roasted too long or cooked at a temperature that is too high will have similar effects to breathing smoke – a wave of inflammatory chemicals will flood the bloodstream and damage all they come into contact with.
I am not recommending that we stop eating cooked food but that we stop eating overcooked food!
Avoiding any food that contributes to inflammation is a major step forward for our health. This means that our diet needs to be “anti-inflammatory”.
In research terms the phrase “plant based diet” keeps cropping up; this is the diet that all the major research projects over the last 50 years have shown to be the best for our health and the simplest description of what a healthy diet is.
Bluntly – all meat, fish and eggs contribute to inflammation in the body and some would add dairy products to the list too.
A plant based diet then is a healthy and wholefood version of a vegan diet and is promoted by experts such as Drs John McDougall, Colin Campbell and Caldwell Esselstyn.
If you follow a diet as clean as this you will notice a gentle detox going on right through your body and several health complaints you have had for years will just melt away.
But even reducing the consumption of meat will yield benefits; it is not all or nothing!
Our Home Environment
Many of us who endure long commutes would love to spend more time at home but there are pollution problems not just on the way to and from work but in the home as well.
The air in our homes starts being as mucky and polluted as the air outside and then we add a slew of our own pollution to the air and that makes it the unhealthiest place to be!
But we have choice over which products we buy. We probably did not realise that all the chemical sprays and cleaners we buy for cleaning the kitchen and the bathroom will contribute to the formation of a chemical smog throughout our home that we are breathing night and day.
Now we know we can throw them out. Most personal products have dubious chemicals in them – unless you have shopped very carefully and consciously to avoid them.
Well our household cleaning still has to be so whet do we use? As odd as it sounds a combination of Baking soda and white vinegar can clean almost any surface in the home without leaving any nasty traces of volatile and damaging chemicals behind too.
Healthy alternatives are available but a slight caution don’t think that all the products you see in “Health” or “Wholefood” type of stores will automatically be safe!
Experience of label reading and speaking to manufacturers informs me otherwise. There’s no substitute for being a savvy shopper.
The Air in our Homes
Once you have done a clean sweep of your cupboards and thrown out all you can you may want to go further – and get an air filter.
A high quality air filter does not have to cost a lot – although of course the very best will cost more. But lots of vacuum cleaners and even some cars have HEPA filters which will substantially cut down the particles and even viruses circulating in the air we breathe at home.
Please feel free to ask questions and share your experience below – and share this post on social media too! Thanks
Photo Credit LA at dawn