breathing air pollution

How Breathing Better Can Help Avoid Air Pollution

Most people know that outdoor pollution from traffic, factories etc is dangerous to health. It is a particular problem if you have an underlying condition such as asthma or COPD.  But even in the countryside you can experience difficulties such as allergies to crops, trees and grasses, and from chemicals sprayed on them.  And indoors isn’t necessarily safe either – more and more scientific attention is being paid to our homes and offices where pollution can be caused from people smoking or from gas hobs, wood fires, candles, allergens from pets, fibres from interior furnishings, cleaning chemicals to name just a few.

So, wherever we go, we are likely to encounter potential air pollution.  Breathing it in can have real effects on our health, not just on our lungs – long term exposure can also cause heart disease and cancer.  It is estimated up to 36,000 early deaths are linked to air pollution in the UK every year.

It is useful to think about how we can reduce the amount of air pollution we experience.  There are some practical ways of doing this.  Outdoors we can stay away from main roads, choose fewer polluting forms of transport, avoid exercising on hot days and during rush-hours, avoid streets with tall buildings.  At home we can open windows and run a fan when cooking, switch to electric hobs, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter, use air purifiers, wear masks when using strong cleansing agents, only burn candles on special occasions. These are all helpful and can make a real difference.

Another approach is to pay attention to the air we are inhaling by learning to breathe better: specifically, by making sure we are breathing through the nose, not the mouth, as much as possible.

If you breathe through your mouth, you are taking large amounts of air, and the pollution contained within it, directly into your lungs.  But if you breathe through your nose, your nostrils can start filtering out some of this before it gets anywhere near your lungs.

It is estimated that 40% of the population are ‘mouth-breathers’. This dysfunctional method of breathing not only increases the number of pollutants we inhale but can also worsen or trigger several mental and physical challenges. Changing habits of mouth breathing can be a challenge and requires coaching and support. For help with retraining your breathing please contact me.

Quick reminder on how you can reduce the impact of outdoor air pollution on your health:

  1. Avoid busy roads as a pedestrian and cyclist. Take a longer and quieter route if you must.
  2. Walk away from pavements edges on busy roads to avoid pollutants from vehicles – every metre counts. In particular, keep young children and pushchairs away from roadside edges and as they are often closer to the source of the pollution (vehicle exhaust pipes). As many of us have become more familiar with wearing masks consider the continuation for certain journeys.
  3. Stand back a few metres whilst waiting to cross at traffic lights and pedestrian crossings.
  4. If travelling by car and when in conditions of high air pollution (i.e. Traffic queues), ensure you drive with windows closed and activate the button to keep the air on internal circulation.

Further references:

  1. Cutting air pollution outside schools by 20% could improve children’s learning by a month a year – https://inews.co.uk/news/education/air-pollution-schools-children-learning-683391
  2. https://www.cleanairday.org.uk/about-clean-air-day

 

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