- London pollution: is it safe to exercise outside?
- Causes of Poor Air Quality and How to Combat Them
- How is Air Quality Measured
- Worst Areas for Air Pollution in the U.S
- How To Avoid Health Problems in Poor Air Quality
- Oransi Can Make Your Home a Clean Air Haven
- How can we protect ourselves from pollution when exercising outside?
- Avoid city centres and busy areas
- Avoid exercising during rush hour
- Sign up to Air Text
- Should cyclists be wearing pollution masks?
- London mayor issues pollution warnings at bus stops and tube stations
- Why exercising outside may be bad for you
- Never exercise at rush hour: six ways to avoid air pollution
- Avoid polluted streets
- Use apps
- Avoid rush hour exercise
- Leave your mask at home
- Eat a healthy diet
- Cover your baby’s pram or pushchair
London pollution: is it safe to exercise outside?
Bad news for London's outdoor runners and fitness fanatics. Mayor Sadiq Khan has issued a warning against “physical exertion” because of the “shameful state” of toxic air in the capital.
Khan tweeted yesterday that everyone – even “the physically fit” – may need to reduce the amount of exercise they do outside because London is currently on a “very high” pollution alert under his new air quality warning system. This is the first time this alert, the highest and most serious, has been issued.
Khan urged car, van and lorry users to “avoid idling” and turn their engines off if stationary for more than a minute to cut pollution. He said his proposals to improve air quality are “the boldest of any city in the world”.
The Mayor's plans include introducing the world's first Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in 2020 (or 2019, if this earlier date is confirmed), in which “only the newest, cleanest diesel vehicles will be allowed to drive”.
The shameful state of London’s toxic air today has triggered a ‘very high’ air pollution alert under my new air quality warning system. pic..com/cjHmNaAsnB
— Mayor of London (@MayorofLondon) January 23, 2017
This is the highest level air quality alert. Everyone, from the most vulnerable to the physically fit, may need to reduce physical exertion.
— Mayor of London (@MayorofLondon) January 23, 2017
Use public transport if you’re able to. It will help us cut emissions and pollution.
— Mayor of London (@MayorofLondon) January 23, 2017
An age limit on London taxis has also been implemented, which has removed 6,000 of the oldest and most polluting vehicles from the roads, and there has been an investment into reducing pollution from buses. Khan has previously said that “tackling London’s filthy air” is one of his main priorities as mayor, but any progress will be gradual.
6 ways to stay safe in the capital's 'black alert' toxic smog
So, if you're an outdoor runner or regularly walk long distances around the capital – especially if you experience symptoms such as a cough or sore throat – it might be worth considering working out indoors or using public transport to get around for the time being.
High and very high levels of pollution can cause asthma sufferers to need their inhaler more and can increase the risk of respiratory diseases, including asthma and lung cancer.
However, it won't be possible for everyone to modify their routine and many people training for the London Marathon are understandably frustrated by the warning, with some suggesting the Mayor should go further to cut pollution.
Er. Got a marathon to train for. Why can't we take the Paris approach to reduce pollution and ban half of all cars? (Or just all cars?) https://t.co/csRjYFh4hX
— Alexis Fuller (@lexfuller) January 23, 2017
Khan's warning against exercising outdoors comes just weeks after a south London street breached its 2017 air pollution limit in just five days.
Brixton Road in Lambeth exceeded the World Health Organisation's pollution guidelines 19 times by 9pm on Thursday 5th January, according to monitoring from the London Air Project at King's College.
London pollution levels sent soaring by wood fires during cold snap
There is, however, one minor plus side to the current scary level of pollution in the capital, albeit bittersweet. Londoners have reported seeing exceedingly pretty pink-red sunsets which, according to science, are caused by sunlight interacting with molecules in the air, primarily nitrogen and oxygen.
Today's sunset courtesy of fog and pollution #London #westhampstead pic..com/EJBZw6aHn5
— Mauro Murgia (@Mauro_Murgia) January 23, 2017
At least London's latest air pollution episode is giving office workers a nice sunset@CleanAirLondon @LondonAir pic..com/B14PWo8CVU
— Jonathan Leake (@Jonathan__Leake) January 18, 2017
Nevertheless, as aesthetically pleasing as our polluted sky may be, we'd prefer air that doesn't damage our health or prevent us from living our normal lives.
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Causes of Poor Air Quality and How to Combat Them
Outdoor air pollution is largely seen as a relatively new problem. Most of us assume air pollution started with the industrial revolution in the late 1800’s and peaked with gas-burning vehicles. However, concern over air quality has been around for ages.
In the 13th century, King Edward I of England took measures to stop people from burning sea coal, which produced a heavy smoke that combined with London’s famous fog, creating a thick haze over the surrounding area. In 1952 there was a serious air pollution event in London that created so much unhealthy air that tens of thousands of people died in a couple weeks.
This was chronicled well the Netflix series The Crown. We sell our American made air purifiers in China and from first-hand experience the health effects from coal-fired power plants, vehicle emissions and wood-burning stoves there are producing a host of health issues.
Air pollution may not be a new concern, but modern technology and new information have allowed us to understand the issue better and make smart, intentional decisions to reduce pollutants and limit harmful exposure. Air pollution can affect anyone in any area, but people in certain regions and cities are more at-risk than others.
If you want to protect yourself, you need to understand what air pollution is, how it’s measured, and what you can do to avoid it. Air quality is a concern in nearly every region of the country and every corner of the globe, and polluted air can be a significant problem no matter where you live.
There are many health issues that can come with poor air quality, ranging from minor irritations to an increased chance of death. On the surface of our bodies, poor air quality and pollutants can lead to irritated eyes and skin. Eventually, pollutants can work their way into the body, first causing inflammation and irritation to areas such as the lungs and airways.
This is particularly severe in people who suffer from asthma, as the airways can become restricted and the victim can have significant breathing problems, to a point when it becomes life-threatening. Over the years, exposure to poor air quality will bring reduced lung function and breathing problems, even in those who would otherwise be healthy.
(For example, people who do not have asthma or allergy concerns.)
According to the American Lung Association, there is “overwhelming evidence” that air pollution leads to increased rates of lung cancer. Particle pollution, as they call it, also leads to heart disease, COPD, asthma attacks, and can interfere with the growth and function of lungs, especially in small children.
It seems obvious that air pollution and poor air quality would affect the lungs, but did you know if can affect the heart as well? The American Heart Association says that in most cases, heart issues will strike those who are either elderly or already dealing with heart conditions, such as atherosclerosis or heart valve issues. In many cases, pollutants can cause plaque buildups to rupture, which can trigger a heart attack. In addition, poor air quality increases the risk of stroke.
The connection between air pollution and heart disease may, in fact, be more significant than lung disease. A comprehensive review of research, which was gathered by Korean scientists, found numerous studies linking air pollution and cardiovascular disease.
One study even found that air pollution doubled the risk of obesity and high blood pressure in older people. Another found that with air pollution, deaths from cardiovascular (heart) disease increased at a faster rate than deaths from respiratory (lung) issues.
They concluded that “air pollution concentrations have a marked and close association with adverse health effect, such as heart disease, stroke, blood pressure, and cardiovascular diseases”. They also noted that air pollution appears to have stronger effects on the elderly, children, and people with pre-existing conditions. So where is all this air pollution coming from? When we hear the words “air pollution,” most of us picture crowded, smoggy highways full of smoke-ejecting vehicles. Or we imagine large industrial stacks spewing toxic fumes into the air. While these are certainly two major factors, there are other sources of air pollution that you should be aware of as well.
The Environmental Protection Agency separates the most common air pollutions into six categories:
- Ozone: This is probably the type of pollutant that most people associate with smoggy cities. Bad ozone comes from industrial facilities and motor vehicles, but can also be emitted by chemicals, electric utilities, and gasoline vapors.
- Particulate Matter: When solid particles and liquid droplets mix in the air, it creates a pollution called particle matter or particle pollution, often abbreviated as “PM.” Dust, dirt, soot, and smoke combine with water in the air through a complex reaction, creating both visible and invisible air pollution.
- Nitrogen Dioxide: Formed when fossil fuels are burned at high temperatures, nitrogen dioxide is a gaseous air pollutant that contributes to both particle pollution and ozone. This can form indoors as well from burning wood and natural gas.
- Carbon Monoxide: This is another form of gas that is produced when fuels are burned. CO is odorless and colorless, making it particularly dangerous. It reduces the blood’s ability to carry oxygen and can cause many symptoms, including headaches, weakness, confusion, and dizziness.
- Sulfur Dioxide: Many of our fuels, including coal, oil, and diesel, contain sulfur. When burned, they release sulfur-dioxide, which can cause wheezing, respiratory issues, rapid breathing, and can even trigger asthma attacks. If you live near a coal plant or shipping port, you may be exposed to higher amounts of this air pollutant.
- Lead: Lead is a heavy metal, so you probably don’t think of it in the atmosphere, but the EPA monitors lead air pollution. Lead, which is toxic, can be released into the air through metal and ore processing, as well as aircraft that still use leaded fuels.
The American Lung Association also discussed other toxic air pollutants that can harm people’s heath. The group says that there are nearly 200 other toxins that can cause respiratory, heart, or general health concerns. Besides causing health issues, many of these gases such as carbon dioxide are related to greenhouse gas emissions.
How is Air Quality Measured
The EPA has established a system or monitoring air quality that they call the AQI, or Air Quality Index. Every day, at over a thousand stations across the country (and the world, for that matter), monitoring systems measure the air for specific pollutants.
Using highly-sensitive equipment, monitoring stations provide data on the air we breathe every day.
The AQI takes into account five major sources of pollution (ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide) and creates a numbered system ranging from zero to 500.
- 0 to 50: Good
- 51 to 100: Moderate
- 101 to 150: Unhealthy for sensitive groups
- 151 to 200: Unhealthy
- 201 to 300: Very Unhealthy
- 301 to 500: Hazardous
Worst Areas for Air Pollution in the U.S
The AQI can vary from day to day and even change by the hour. However, there are some areas that are more ly to experience sustained or frequent poor air quality. There are a few measurements you can look at, but the most reliable probably comes from the American Lung Association, which releases a “State of the Air” report every year.
According to their 2016 numbers, the town of Bakersfield, CA, which sits about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles, is the top city for year-round particle air pollution.
It’s believed that Bakersfield has such massive air pollution because of the agricultural industry, which creates air pollution, and the surrounding mountains, which hold the smog a bowl holds water.
California cities, including Los Angeles, San Jose, and Modesto, take up all the top seven spots for the most polluted areas for year-round particle pollution. For ozone pollution, Los Angeles is #1, followed by Bakersfield. In this case, California hold six of the top seven spots, with Phoenix holding the #5 spot.
How To Avoid Health Problems in Poor Air Quality
Whether you live in a highly-polluted city or an area with fresh, clean air, you need to be aware of ways to protect yourself and your family from air pollution. Through knowledge, smart decisions, and appropriate actions, you can maintain the long-term health of both yourself and your family.The first step is knowledge.
Check for daily forecasts on the quality of air and understand how clean or polluted the air will be on any given day. The American Lung Association offers a “State of the Air” app, which delivers information about the air in your area right to your phone or computer.
This app, which is available through Google Play and iTunes, can help you stay informed no matter where you live or travel.
If the air is particularly bad, try keeping outdoor activities to a minimum or exercise in areas where air pollution is minimal. (Take a look at AQI numbers for nearby areas and you may be surprised by the differences of just a few dozen miles.) Air pollution can be significantly harmful on children, so if the air is bad, limit the amount of time a child can spend outdoors. No matter what the local AQI, it’s best to avoid exercising in areas with high amounts of vehicle traffic, such as sidewalks next to crowded roadways. Even when the air forecast is good, traffic can create concentrations of airborne toxins. If you live and work in an area with high amounts of air pollution on a regular basis, consider keeping a handkerchief that you can use to cover your mouth and nose. This will help filter harmful gases and particles and keep them from entering your body. It’s also believed that you can make changes to your diet to increase your body’s ability to fight toxins. Antioxidant-rich foods, especially fruits and vegetables, have the ability to protect your body from damage caused by “free radicals,” which are created by air pollution. A diet rich in healthy veggies and fruits can’t keep toxins your body, but it can make your body better equipped to handle the contaminants.
Remember that indoor air pollution is an issue as well. While you may not be able to directly change the quality of the air outside, you can control, by a significant level, the quality of the air inside.
Don’t smoke inside and avoid second-hand smoke. Keep chemical-filled candles and air fresheners to a minimum, and change the filters in your air conditioning system on a regular basis.
With these three steps alone, you will significantly improve your indoor air quality.
If you are traveling see our guide on air purifiers for hotels. Here you will learn practical steps to breathe clean, fresh air in your hotel room.
You should also consider using air purifiers in your home. Oransi air filters can eliminate indoor pollution, helping to make your home a clean haven from outdoor air pollution.
While none of these measures will guarantee that outdoor air pollution won’t affect you or a loved one, if you use them together you will ly feel better and have healthier bodies, hearts, and lungs for many years!
Oransi Can Make Your Home a Clean Air Haven
You can have excellent air filters and purifiers for your family. Browse our large selection of products and you’ll find everything you need for indoor air purification. Want to learn more about cleaning your air? We recently wrote this guide on how to choose an air purifier.
How can we protect ourselves from pollution when exercising outside?
There’s no denying we have an air pollution crisis on our hands.
London hit its annual pollution limit in just one month at the start of 2018, and you only have to walk down a traffic-clogged street to realise we have a problem.
According to a 2016 report by the Royal College of Physicians, around 40,000 deaths annually can be attributed to poor air quality. That’s 40,000 preventable deaths.
Plus, health problems associated with air pollution cost the NHS a staggering £20billion every single year. £20billion could be better spent on other things – better mental health services, for a start.
The problem with exercising outside is that you inhale more deeply, taking in more pollutants.
In fact, back in January 2017, London Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted about the ‘shameful state of London’s toxic air’ triggering a very high air pollution alert, which resulted in him advising everyone – even the physically fit – to ‘reduce physical exertion’ outside.
However, many of us exercise our way to work instead of jumping on public transport (it kills two birds with one stone and saves you money), plus some of us just don’t want to work out indoors – so is there anything we can do to protect ourselves?
Avoid city centres and busy areas
Studies on environmental pollution have shown that tall buildings literally trap pollution by retaining heat and blocking the cooling winds that usually clear airborne pollutants.
This isn’t helped when the heavy traffic associated with more built-up areas adds to pollution levels, which then stick around.
An obvious way to decrease exposure to pollution is to find quieter, greener routes. It took some trial and error but I managed to include two parks in my cycle/run commute.
I could definitely avoid getting stuck behind buses and HGVs down busy Baker Street if I found an even longer way round, but this would involve leaving earlier – something I’m not very good at in the morning.
Last year, a study found that when older people took a walk in busy, polluted areas of London, the negative impact of pollution outweighed the health benefits of exercise, however, researchers found that when volunteers took a stroll in less polluted areas parks, there was still a positive impact on heart and lungs.
So, if you’ve got the time, your lungs are probably worth going the longer, quieter route.
Avoid exercising during rush hour
It goes without saying that pollution levels are higher during rush hour when more vehicles are on the road, so if you can exercise outside of these times, do.
Of course, this is no use to cycle commuters and those who run to work, who probably need to do so during peak pollution time.
However, the good news (for cyclists and runners, at least) is that a study last year found that pollution inside cars during rush hour was actually twice as bad as pollution outside on the roadside.
So, you’ll reap the benefits of cardiovascular exercise as well as less pollution.
Sign up to Air Text
Air Text sends you free air quality text updates.
Now, I’d rather not know as I’m going to cycle to work regardless, but if you want to know what you’re dealing with, you can sign up to Air Text here.
Should cyclists be wearing pollution masks?
You may or may not have noticed some cyclists whizzing around the roads looking a little Darth Vader, kitted out in an air pollution mask.
Do they actually work?
Pollution is made up of particulate matter of varying sizes, measured in microns. Our nasal hair does a good job of catching some particulates, but it’s the smaller ones (less than 2.5 microns in diameter) that pose the biggest risk.
Professor Stephen Holgate, special adviser on air quality at the Royal College of Physicians, previously told Metro.co.uk: ‘Masks can be helpful if they have fully functioning filters which effectively trap small particles.
‘The more expensive masks on the market do have effective sub-micron filters. However, a snug fit on the face is critical for them to work.’
Unfortunately, even the best pollution masks on the market won’t catch the smaller, more harmful particulates
Another issue with masks is that many users find them irritating, with one cyclist I spoke to describing hers as ‘uncomfortable, sweaty and ineffective’.
However, those with pre-existing lung conditions may reap the benefits.
‘I use one and find it really good – but it took about a year to stop finding it horrible,’ says Chris, a keen cyclist.
‘If I don’t use it I get asthma and sore lungs for days. I wouldn’t commute much without it.’
Obviously, the solution to protecting our health shouldn’t be to avoid exercising outside – living in a city shouldn’t mean a death sentence – it should be for our government to take air pollution seriously and tackle it head on.
Last October, the T-Charge was introduced in London, charging drivers of diesel and petrol vehicles registered before 2006 an extra £10 on top of the £11.50 congestion zone charge.
This will be replaced by the Ultra Low Emission Zone on 8 April, 2019, where vehicles will have to meet tighter emission regulations, or pay a daily charge (on top of the congestion charge) to travel within that zone, which covers central London, and will be in operation 24/7, seven days a week.
The are will be expanded on 21 October, 2021.
Black diesel cabs are one of the biggest polluters in London, idling their engines and cruising around looking for fares, and according to TFL, are responsible for 16% of the nitric oxide and 26% of particulate matter road transport emissions in central London.
Last year, Sadiq Khan and TFL launched a £42million fund to incentivise drivers of the oldest, most polluting cabs to retire them and switch to a more environmentally friendly vehicle.
From the start of this year, first-time taxi licenses were no longer granted to diesel vehicles, and stricter regulations were put in place, meaning vehicles had to be zero emission capable (ZEC), which means having CO2 emissions of no more than 50g/km and a minimum 30 mile zero emission range.
It’s hoped that this move could reduce harmful emissions by 45% in central London by 2020.
But sadly, by then, for thousands of people the damage will already have been done.
MORE: Stella McCartney claims to have opened a shop with 'the cleanest air in London'
MORE: How to cycle to work without dying in the process
MORE: How to get back into running after injury
London mayor issues pollution warnings at bus stops and tube stations
Air quality alerts have been issued at bus stops, tube stations and roadsides across London because of high pollution levels, said a spokeswoman for the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.
The alerts will notify Londoners on Thursday evening during their commute home from work.
People in London who suffer from lung or heart problems have been warned to avoid strenuous exercise. The risks from heightened levels of air pollution enveloping the city have been exacerbated by settled and cold conditions, which have prevented pollutants from being dispersed.
Individuals at risk have been warned to particularly avoid outdoor exercise, while those with asthma may need to use their inhaler more often, according to the London Air Quality Network, based at King’s College University.
Anyone from the wider population who experiences sore eyes, a cough or sore throat should also consider reducing their physical activity, particularly outdoors, the pollution monitoring service said.
Air pollution campaigners called on the government and city authorities to restrict traffic during smog episodes.
“When pollution episodes are high, the mayor should introduce emergency traffic restrictions to bring pollution levels down quickly,” said a spokeswoman for Friends of the Earth.
“The solutions proposed for dealing with the latest smog have things backwards: the first step should be restricting traffic not people.
“It’s outrageous that those with vulnerable lungs, including children and the elderly, are told to stay at home when the air is bad. Everyone should be able to go about their business, without being afraid of the air they breathe.”
According to the London Air Quality Network, winter smogs are formed when pollutants from traffic and industry are trapped at ground level because of a temperature inversion.
The pollution is a mix of ultra-fine particulates of unburned carbon, known as PM2.5s, and the toxic gas nitrogen dioxide (NO2) which is largely created by diesel cars, lorries and buses.
Thursday’s pollution episode took place on the same day as Nice, the government’s independent health advisers, proposed that councils in England should be given powers to set up clean-air zones. This would allow them to restrict certain vehicles entering some areas.
About 9,500 people die early each year in London due to long-term exposure to air pollution, more than twice as many as previously thought, according to new research. Air pollution is now Britain’s most lethal environmental risk, killing about 40,000 people prematurely each year.
Air pollution monitors showed high or very high pollution along all major London roads, with extremely high pollution recorded in the city centre. On Thursday, a Defra pollution monitor on Marylebone Road also registered very high levels.
Khan made tackling London’s air pollution a priority issue in his election campaign. This summer he announced his intention to issue alerts for high pollution. However, there have been no incidents of particularly high pollution until now.
Khan said: “Londoners need to know when the city is suffering from high pollution levels so they can take any necessary appropriate measures to protect themselves from poor air quality. This is particularly crucial for Londoners who are vulnerable, such as asthma sufferers.”
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Why exercising outside may be bad for you
Published: 01:05 BST, 19 November 2019 | Updated: 09:16 BST, 19 November 2019
Jogging across your neighbourhood, cycling to work, a vigorous walk around the block — these are the preferred modes of exercise for millions. But would we be better off working out indoors instead?
That was the suggestion made by a recent study from South Korea. It looked at the effects of particulate matter (PM), a major pollutant made up of different-sized particles produced by sources such as diesel vehicles and wood-burning stoves.
When scientists exposed human hair follicle cells to particulate matter in a lab, they found it reduced levels of proteins responsible for hair growth.
A recent study from South Korea suggests we may be better working out indoors (file image of runners)
Presenting their findings at the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology Congress in Madrid, the researchers suggested limiting time spent exercising on busy streets might be one way to reduce hair loss.
Yet studies have also found poor air quality may be associated with far more serious health concerns.
'It's linked with increases in asthma, chronic bronchitis, chronic heart disease, strokes and dementia,' says Professor Ian Colbeck, a pollution expert from the University of Essex.
Pollution also increases the risk of lung cancer and can stunt the development of children's lungs, adds Harriet Edwards, senior policy manager for air quality at the British Lung Foundation.
It is linked with up to 36,000 deaths a year in the UK, according to 2018 research from King's College London.
Exercise can offset some of the harmful effects of pollution, by reducing the inflammation it causes and boosting the immune system, says Dr Audrey de Nazelle, a lecturer in air pollution management at Imperial College London.
But, when you exercise, your breathing rate increases, meaning you take in more polluted air deeper into the lungs.
You might also breathe in more through your mouth, not your nose — which otherwise helps to filter out pollutants with larger particles — and so may take in higher levels than usual.
Pollution also increases the risk of lung cancer and can stunt the development of children's lungs, adds Harriet Edwards, senior policy manager for air quality at the British Lung Foundation (file image)
So would we be better off taking to a static bike in the living room, or the treadmill in the gym? For people with a lung condition, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the answer, when pollution levels rise, is yes.
'Breathing in dirty air can cause symptoms such as irritated airways, feeling breath and coughing,' says Harriet Edwards. 'And in the worst-case scenario, someone with a lung condition could suffer an exacerbation of symptoms that results in hospital treatment.
'They should monitor pollution alerts and, if levels start to rise, follow advice to reduce or avoid strenuous exercise outdoors, if told to do so by their doctor.'
The same goes for people with heart conditions.
The British Heart Foundation recommends those with conditions such as angina and heart failure 'reduce' their exercise outside (but remain active inside) — and not just when pollution levels are high (often given in weather forecasts and checkable on websites such as uk-air.defra.gov.uk), but when they are 'moderate', too.
All of us should limit time exercising outside when pollution levels peak, says Professor Colbeck. 'Levels of pollution soar during rush hour, so, if you avoid exercising then, your overall exposure will be considerably lower,' he says.
'If you exercise at rush hour along a busy road, then consider exercising indoors instead. This is especially true for children, the elderly and those with a heart or respiratory condition.'
Face masks make little difference because the majority don't capture the tiny PM 2.5 pollution particles — the smallest particulates that can lodge deep in the lungs. 'Masks can also make breathing harder, especially if you have a lung condition,' adds Harriet Edwards.
Taking a different route can make a difference. 'Numerous studies have shown that pollution levels on quieter streets can be up to 60 per cent lower than on main roads,' says Professor Colbeck.
However, multiple studies show that, for most people, the benefits of exercising outside in a city outweigh the risks.
'For healthy people, levels of PM 2.5, even in London, are low enough that running and cycling outside are beneficial,' says Professor Colbeck.
'In a typical UK city, physical exercise is beneficial for up to seven hours a day for cycling, or 16 hours' walking, compared with the amount of pollution you'd get in that time — the pluses outweigh the negatives.'
'London and other cities regularly exceed EU directives on safe levels of pollution, but exercising offsets pollution's negative effects,' he adds.
But spare a thought for the residents of Delhi, where the PM 2.5 level is 153 micrograms (mcg) per cubic metre (the City of London has an annual mean of 16 mcg per cubic metre). A study in 2016 found outdoor cycling in Delhi became a health risk after just 45 minutes.
What to do in an emergency at Christmas time. This week: Falling off a chair or ladder
Tumbling from a chair or missing your step on a ladder while putting up Christmas lights is a common way to sprain, strain or even break a bone. A third of all festive injuries involve falls, according to 2015 data.
Emma Hammett, founder of first aid training provider First Aid For Life, says: 'Unless the limb is at an odd angle, there is a change of colour, or the bone is sticking out [all of which indicate a break], you could treat it at home.'
Wrap a bag of frozen peas in a towel and put this on the area, elevate the limb and rest for 24 hours. Take paracetamol if needed.
Over-65s with suspected fractures must visit A&E, as their bones are highly vascular and can bleed internally.
Never exercise at rush hour: six ways to avoid air pollution
Last month, air pollution was named as the biggest risk to public health in Europe. It is responsible for the early deaths of an estimated 400,000 Europeans each year, 40,000 of whom are in the UK.
Moreover, the UK, among other countries, regularly breaches EU pollution limits – which are lower than the World Health Organization standards.
London reached its legal limit for 2018 in just one month, and a report by the WHO in May found 30 British towns and cities, including Manchester, Swansea, Leicester and York, that exceeded WHO limits.
Air pollution has been linked not only to lung disease, but cardiovascular disease, stroke and dementia. Besides that, it has been linked to lower cognitive function, and a rise in mental illness and asthma in children.
While it is already known that air pollution can increase the risk of premature birth, it was recently reported that scientists have discovered particles of pollution in mothers’ placentas, and that the pollution may have reached foetuses.
And, last month, a study found that children in the UK were absorbing a disproportionate amount of toxic black carbon particles from diesel engines on the way to and from school, and even in classrooms and playgrounds.
The main solution, of course, is to drastically reduce pollution, but in the meantime, what can we do to protect ourselves?
Avoid polluted streets
“If you have a choice, you can reduce your exposure by using quieter streets,” says Audrey de Nazelle, lecturer in air pollution management at Imperial College’s Centre for Environmental Policy. One study last year by King’s College London showed that taking a side street could reduce average exposure to air pollution by 53%, and in some cases up to 60%.
“You get an exponential reduction,” says Prashant Kumar, director of the Global Centre for Clean Air Research at the University of Surrey. Within the first few metres of the roadside, “the concentrations are really high and then they dilute quite quickly. Within 50 or 100 metres, depending on the pollutant types, they reduce to at least half of their concentrations.”
Streets with tall buildings on each side, known as urban canyons, can be more polluted, as pollutants become trapped.
Don’t assume that trees automatically signify a cleaner space: tall trees, with their canopies close together, can also decrease the dispersal of pollution, especially if they are in the vicinity of tall buildings.
What planners should be doing instead, says Kumar, is planting lower level hedges, which act as a barrier between the polluting road and pedestrians.
Air pollution apps, says Stephen Holgate, a professor of immunopharmacology at the University of Southampton and an air pollution expert, are “quite good and they’re improving.
There are apps where a city or town has a real-time update of what the air pollution is, so you can make choices about where to avoid … they’re really helpful.” London Air was developed by King’s College London and shows levels of pollution at sites across the city.
Holgate also points to the growing market in personal sensors, which – when paired with a phone – can monitor levels of pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter.
However, scientists, and bodies such as the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the US Environmental Protection Agency, have warned they are still in their infancy and their measurements may not be reliable.
Avoid rush hour exercise
In the UK, even with our sometimes illegally high air pollution, the benefits of exercise seem to outweigh the risks of pollution exposure, says De Nazelle. “Theoretically, it makes sense that physical activity would protect you from the harms of air pollution,” she says.
“There are many benefits to exercise, but one is reducing inflammation and one of the major mechanisms of air pollution on health is to increase inflammation in the body. By doing physical activity, you’re combating the negative effects of air pollution.
It’s hard to prove at this point but there is some indication that that’s the case.”
As for days when pollution is high, De Nazelle says: “It’s hard to say if it really makes sense to go running along high traffic roads, we don’t really know. If you’re very young or very old, or you have a heart or respiratory condition then you are probably better off not being physically active outdoors on days of high-level air pollution.”
Is there a best time of day to exercise? “Avoid rush hour, basically,” says De Nazelle. “And right before the rush hour is probably better than right afterwards.” Early in the morning may be better, says Kumar.
During the morning rush hour, he found that levels of PM2.5 – particulate matter of 2.5 microns or less, which can penetrate the lungs and enter the bloodstream – were higher than in the afternoon rush hour.
Leave your mask at home
“The majority of masks leak, they get clogged up and they don’t really work,” says Holgate. In order to be effective, they would have to be very tight-fitting and would be “so uncomfortable to wear that most people wouldn’t be able to tolerate them”.
A study by researchers from Edinburgh’s Institute of Occupational Medicine and others, which looked at nine masks available to consumers in Beijing, where air pollution is high, found that average leakage was between 3% and 68% in sedentary tasks and 7% to 66% during activity.
Eat a healthy diet
There is growing evidence that what we eat may mitigate the harmful effects of air pollution.
A study, presented this year by researchers at New York University’s School of Medicine, examined data from more than 500,000 people, looking at their adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet and their estimated long-term exposure to air pollution.
The results suggested that, when taking into account exposure to pollution, those who most closely followed the diet were less ly to suffer cardiovascular disease, and deaths from all causes were lower.
“These pollutants increase oxidation in the body and if you have antioxidants – things vitamin C, and the other vitamins found in fruit and vegetables – on board they can help neutralise it,” says Holgate. “The problem is a lot of people in this country [don’t get enough] in their diet and often it’s the people who live in the poorest places as well and get the most exposure, so there is an interaction there.”
Cover your baby’s pram or pushchair
A study published this year showed babies and young children could be exposed to 60% more air pollution than adults.
One of the problems, says Kumar, whose department carried out the study, was that the height of children – whether walking or in a pushchair or pram – was below one metre and therefore nearest the exhaust pipes of vehicles.
“In this first metre above the ground, you get the highest concentration of the fumes,” he says. “The concentration usually decreases as you go up.” And, he adds, a child’s immune system is not developed and they are not as well protected as adults.
The researchers are currently running experiments on whether different types of pram or pushchair are better (forward-facing or backward-facing, for instance), but in the meantime, Kumar advises staying away from busy roads where possible and using a cover, which will reduce some but not all pollution, particularly at hotspots such as traffic lights, bus stops and junctions. A plastic raincover will do, although he points out it won’t be snug (so pollution will leak in) and it could be uncomfortable for the child in hot weather. Products such as a baby pillow that filters the air around a child’s breathing area are about to come on to the market. “The permanent solution,” says Kumar, “is to tackle the source – the vehicles.”
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