The Real Impact Of Air Pollution On Your Lungs
By now you’ve probably heard all about air pollution, and how bad it is for us and for the environment. There have been a lot of studies into the amount of air pollution we’re producing, where the most concentrated areas are, and what we could do to avoid it. But today we wanted to take this serious issue back to a more personal level. Instead of looking at the big picture, we’re taking a look at how the pollutants you breathe in when you’re in urban areas can affect your health – and more specifically, your lungs.
Air Pollution In The UK
Air pollution is definitely not a new issue – but it is an important one. It’s a major health concern that affects 9 out of 10 people living in urban areas across the globe – and has become the 9th biggest risk factor for many lung and heart conditions.
Broadly speaking, there are two common types of air pollutants that can affect lung health:
Ground-level ozone smog: or just ‘smog’. This is formed through a chemical reaction between VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) and NOx (Nitrogen Oxides) when they are exposed to sunlight. VOCs are organic compounds that easily become vapors or gasses, like engine exhausts, while NOx gasses are produced from the reaction of Nitrogen and Oxygen during combustion – which happens most commonly in cars, vans, and other vehicles. While the upper-level ozone is natural and protective, ground-level ozone is a manmade pollutant, and tend to get worse in hot, sunny weather, and in the evenings.
Fine particular matter: or soot. These are tiny particles or droplets in the air that are invisible to the naked eye. They’re usually a by-product of a combustion reaction, like a vehicle engine, power plant emissions, or wood smoke. At high levels, soot can even reduce visibility.
Air pollution affects all of us to one degree or another, but it can be more serious depending on where you live. In the UK, the worst areas for air pollution are London, Slough, Chatham, and Luton. In 2018, Luton was found to have the highest concentration of nitrogen oxide gasses (otherwise known as exhaust fumes) relative to its size, traffic, and population, while London sits at the top of the charts for absolutely every level of pollution there is. So if you’re walking or cycling in London a lot, then you need to understand what
How Air Pollution Impacts You
You might not think air pollution is a big issue for you, especially if you don’t live in one of those cities we mentioned above. But air pollution affects absolutely everyone. Even in less polluted areas, breathing in air pollutants can irritate your airways, cause shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, asthma episodes, and chest pain. So even if you’ve never smoked a cigarette in your life, you might end up sounding like you smoke 5 packs a day. And that’s just in the short term, even if you’re otherwise perfectly healthy. In the long term, there are some much more serious concerns.
Can Air Pollution Cause Lung Conditions?
Air pollution isn’t just a problem for people who already have some form of lung damage or breathing problem. Over time, exposure to air pollution at high enough levels can actually cause new lug conditions to develop in otherwise healthy people. Research done by the British Lung Foundation suggests that long-term exposure to outdoor air pollution can contribute to lung cancer, asthma, and even COPD. And if children are exposed for a long period of time, it can significantly affect how their lungs develop – so much so that children who grow up in highly polluted areas are much more likely to develop asthma. This can (and does) occur in perfectly healthy people, but air pollution is even more dangerous for:
- Babies and children, who breathe faster than adults
- The elderly, who may have higher reparatory rates
- People who work or spend a lot of time outdoors
- People with existing heart or lung disease
How Do I Protect Myself?
So the question now is, how do I protect myself from all of this harmful air pollution? Simple – you wear a mask. Simply wearing a mask when you are out in a polluted area for a long time, or when you will be breathing heavily (like running or cycling) can protect you from breathing in a lot of these harmful pollutants, and improve your lung health. But sadly. Not just any mask will do. Each type of mask available to buy is assigned a protection factor, and this tells you what percentage of a pollutant the mask doesn’t remove. For example, N95 respirators have a protection factor of 5, so they can filter out all by 5% of pollution particles in the air – an ideal rating to protect your lungs in one of those heavily polluted areas.
At Totobobo we understand how important it is to find the best protection without needing a big heavy respirator on your face, which is why we designed the Totobobo mask. Our anti-pollution masks are light, comfortable, and transparent, while still providing N95 class performance and protection (which you can read more about here). It’s also impregnated with anti-viral properties and can be washed, dried, and reused safely. It’s also one of the few masks out there that can be adjusted for fit, thanks to our ReShape and Trim technology, so you can be sure of a secure seal and a good, comfortable fit. You can even download a ‘dummy mask’ to test the fit and how you would need to trim before you start, so you know you’ll get the best protection.
If you would like to find out more about the mask or try one for yourself, just get in touch with our team today.