How to Protect Yourself from Air Pollution

Three Parts:Researching Air Pollution in Your AreaProtecting Yourself From PollutionEating Well to Protect Yourself

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.

Part 1
Researching Air Pollution in Your Area

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    Research your city’s air pollution levels. You can use the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Airnow.gov website or the American Lung Association tools at stateoftheair.org to find how high air pollution levels are in your town. Click on “City Rankings” and “Compare Your Air” tabs at the top of the page.[2]
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    Download the “State of the Air” app onto your smartphone or other device. It will help you check air quality levels on a day-to-day basis.
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    Search for air reports that your city produces if you are part of a large metropolitan area. For example, New York State publishes an Air Quality Index every day as part of the Department of Environmental Conservation website.[3]

Part 2
Protecting Yourself From Pollution

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    Make an effort to stay indoors if your research shows that air pollution is high in your area. Staying outdoors can increase your risk of lung diseases, heart attacks, asthma and other health problems.[4]
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    Install a home air filter that blocks air pollution. Choose a high efficiency model that rates 9 or higher on the MERV scale. Replace the filter every three to six months, depending upon the product’s recommendations.[5]
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    Use the recycled air feature in your car, rather than the vents to cool off in the car. It will introduce fewer particles into your car.
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    Work out in the morning or in the evening. Air pollution is highest in the sun’s rays, so working out in cool weather outdoors or in a gym indoors will help you avoid too much exposure.
    • Fill up your gas tank after dark. The sun’s rays also contribute to increased gasoline emissions during the day.
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    Use bike routes and walking routes that avoid busy streets. The air quality is lower on thoroughfares and highways than it is on quiet residential streets.
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    Avoid smoking or going places where people are smoking or having campfires. Cigarette smoke creates air pollution.
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    Replace wood-burning fireplaces with natural gas versions. The air quality should be higher in your home and you will reduce emissions outdoors.
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    Replace gas-powered machines, like lawn mowers and leaf blowers, with electric or battery-powered versions. They produce fewer gasoline emissions and they will be safer for your lungs.

Part 3
Eating Well to Protect Yourself

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    Change what you eat to help your lungs withstand the effects of air pollutants. Some studies have been conducted that indicate certain vitamin-rich foods can help your body to be more resilient. These changes in diet pose no increased risk for other diseases, and they may protect against cancers.
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    Increase your consumption of foods rich in Vitamin A and beta-carotene. These nutrients assist the formation and maintenance of mucous membranes that line the nasal passages and intestinal tract, making them more resistant to infection. Good sources include margarine, butter, sweet potatoes, carrots and liver.
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    Eat foods rich in Vitamin C. This vitamin helps to form connecting substances and strengthens blood vessels, helping you to heal faster. Good sources include oranges, strawberries, mango, grapefruit, broccoli and papaya.
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    Get plenty of Vitamin E in your diet. This nutrient protects against cell damage, increases the oxygen supply to cells and thus, strengthens the immune system. Try leafy green vegetables, whole grain cereal, egg yolks, butter and vegetable oils.
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    Improve the selenium content of your diet. Selenium protects against free-radical damage to the liver and lungs that can lead to cancer. Eat eggs, onions, garlic, whole grains and fish.[6]

Things You'll Need

  • High-efficiency home air filter
  • Alternate biking/walking routes
  • Recycled air conditioning feature
  • Natural gas fireplace
  • Electric/battery-powered machines
  • Vitamin A-rich foods
  • Beta carotene-rich foods
  • Vitamin C-rich foods
  • Vitamin E-rich foods
  • Selenium-rich foods

Article Info

Categories: Environmental Awareness