How do we reduce our exposure to air pollution when living in one of the most polluted cities in Europe:London?
Do you know that millions of people in the UK are inhaling air that is dangerous to breathe according to the World Health Organisation (WHO)? . Unfortunately, London, the city were I live, is one of the most polluted cities in Europe. Air pollution has been linked to lung and heart conditions, diabetes and even breast cancer. Those nasty substances in the air we breathe, harm human health. Not surprisingly, majority of the pollution in London is caused by cars, buses and lorries-mainly diesel vehicles that meet emissions limits in lab tests but emit way more on the road. I’ve done some research and have learned that the main problem we have is with nitrogen dioxide (NO2). The NO2 is a pollutant that inflames the lungs and increases the risk of respiratory diseases (asthma, lung cancer).
I used to think that because I live in Hampstead and I’m so close to the heath, I was breathing good air. Not so. Early this year, air pollution levels in London were just as bad as those in Beijing. It has come to light that in London, the legal pollution limits are regularly exceeded. We are all basically inhaling air considered too dangerous to breathe.This is a real and serious threat to human health and taking action on air quality should be a priority. There are about 20.000 people dying from NO2 pollution every year.
So what can we do to live as healthy as possible in London and what can we do to reduce our exposure to air pollution?
- CHECK AIR POLLUTION LEVELS DAILY AND AVOID CENTRAL LONDON
The first step in reducing your exposure to air pollution is to be aware of peaks in pollution, you can do this via monitoring websites or mobile phone apps. On high pollution days, adults and children with respiratory problems such as asthma, should avoid exercise outdoors. As mentioned, air pollution largely comes from road traffic, so avoid busy roads, especially if the street is surrounded by high buildings and there is hardly any wind. For those of you who drive, it is recommended to keep the windows closed and recycle the air in the car (British Lung Foundation)
- EAT FRESH AND SEASONAL
The fruit and veg diet may sound cliche but it really helps to make us feel and look better. Not only that, diet is believed to help protect against pollution. Eating more antioxidants, and we gets loads from fresh fruit and vegetables, will help our bodies cope better with the oxidative effects of ozone and other ambient pollutants.
- LESS INDOOR POLLUTION
The air quality in your home sometimes has no correlation to what is going outside. Many factors can affect the quality of indoor air, from cooking to burning incense. Also be sure to throw away main dust collectors, such as cushions that are quiet old or heavily upholstered furniture.
- BUY A GOOD WATER FILTER
Water in London is too harsh to drink from the tap unless it has a filter. Buying bottled water is not really a solution as the plastic will most likely end as waste in the sea. The most cost effective, harmless and good for your health as well as the environment option is to buy a water filter. How about the best water filter currently in the market? That’s ZeroWater. I can’t drink tap water. It gives me an awful tingly feeling in the throat hence I always end up buying water. I tested this filter and what I got out of my tap water once it went through the ZeroWater filter was the same as the purified bottled water I buy daily. This filter did erase the impurities that a previous filter I had, left behind. This is why ZeroWater claims that their water has zero dissolved solids. It comes with a water meter that measures total dissolved solids. Worth every penny and it has already saved me the money I used to spend buying bottled water.
- EXERCISE AT OFF PEAK HOURS
In order not to inhale polluted air deep into your lungs, experts suggest that the best time to exercise is in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the most pollutant-heavy times of the day.
- WALK OR TAKE PUBLIC TRANSPORT
Drivers of the most polluting vehicles must from now on pay a daily charge of up to £21.50 to drive into central London and we must all do our bit to help improve the air we breathe so please walk, run, or make use of the public transport but avoid taking your car for unnecessary trips when there are faster and cheaper alternatives available.
- ESCAPE LONDON WHEN YOU CAN
To a place that is calm and has good air, better quality water and where you will forget about life in London for the duration of your stay.Your lungs and overall health will be thankful. Ideally a place where we can pile on the vitamin D, since the sun doesn’t visit us that much in this city. One in four deaths among children aged under five are now due to environmental hazards such as air pollution and contaminated water. This made me take the decision to leave London soon after my baby was born. We spend all my maternity leave in a place where she could breath fresh uncontaminated air so her little lungs didn’t have to work too hard.
- STAY AWAY FROM ALCOHOL & TOBACCO
We already have the air contaminating our bodies, we don’t need to damage our bodies more by smoking and drinking alcohol. Okay for the occasional glass of wine or cocktail but going out to get drunk is just not only irresponsible but extremely bad for your health. Also late nights and early mornings are a thing of the past. Be healthy, do exercise, have a schedule and drink water. Cheaper and so healthy, your body will thank you in the long term.
Policy makers must do their bit to improve the city’s air but so must we, the citizens that breath that same air.