Air pollution: Should you be concerned?
Air pollution is a topic being discussed almost daily in the news, and is included in many health and environment forums. Pollution affects business operations in many ways, from changes to traffic, vehicle design requirements, bans on burning, and even shutting some manufacturing plants at times.
Does air pollution actually affect our health enough to warrant these actions? Several myths need to be dispelled!
Myth – Only a few cities like New Delhi and Beijing are polluted.
Fact - Whether you are in Manila, Sao Paolo, London or in a remote area, air pollution can affect your health. About 92% of the world’s population lives in places where the World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guidelines levels are not met.
Myth – There is no air pollution indoors.
Fact - Indoor air can also be polluted. Smoke from open fires and traditional stoves which are used for cooking and heating homes can cause heavy concentrations of toxic pollutants. In fact, according to the WHO, indoor air pollution is estimated to kill 4.3 million people every year.
Myth – Why worry? Air pollution causes only minor health problems.
Fact – In healthy people, air pollution can cause minor symptoms like wheezing, coughing, and irritation of eyes and nose. People with underlying health issues, such as heart problems and respiratory diseases, can suffer aggravation of their illnesses. Prolonged exposure, especially at high levels, can lead to serious conditions including stroke and lung cancer.
Myth - The level of Particulate matter (PM) in air pollution is the only reading to worry about.
Fact – Although health effects caused by particulate matter are most significant, there are many other potentially hazardous components of air pollution such as ozone, and gaseous pollutants including nitrogen and sulphur dioxides. Gaseous pollutants can cause symptoms within a few minutes of exposure.
Myth – Exposure to air pollution is inevitable; nothing can really be done
Fact – Minimising exposure is important. Know your risks. Monitor air quality in your area. During periods of high pollution, stay indoors, reduce physical activity and consider using a mask if stepping outdoors. For areas that are regularly subject to high levels of air pollution, consider technology which can improve indoor air quality, such as air filters.
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For more information on air pollution, measuring and monitoring in various countries, health effects and preventive measures while travelling, log in to International SOS’s dedicated Air Pollution Website.