31 May 2017

IS IT TIME TO START WEARING POLLUTION MASKS IN LONDON & PARIS?

air pollution, greenpeace, clean air, clean air act, city of london, Paris, vox mask, pollution mask, world health organisation, green living, client earth, teresa may, premature death
A few months ago, while up visiting my family in London, I saw an advertisement on the tube that caught my attention. It was a picture of a father and his child, a child who was around the same age as my three-year-old nephew who at that time was sat beside me, mimicking the announcers voice as she informed the passengers of the upcoming stop.

The ad said something to the effect that if you live near a busy road in London, exposure to air pollution can be equivalent to smoking 15 – 30 cigarettes daily, depending on the heat of the day and which road it is. It indicated, that research on the effects of exposure for children has shown a reduction in lung growth to those exposed, and for both adults and children, long-term health issues, as well as premature death.

The cause of the air pollution is nitrogen dioxide produced from diesel engines, and as it turns out, London has the highest recorded level of nitrogen dioxide of any capital city in Europe. In fact, the level of nitrogen dioxide from diesel traffic exceeds the legal limit set by the World Health Organization of 40µg/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre of air). Yet because the harm is invisible, there’s very little public pressure to kill the culprit, despite 9,400 deaths in London alone caused by the polluted air. 

Worldwide, according to the Guardianoutdoor air pollution kills 3.3 million people, more than HIV, malaria and influenza combined. In France, fine-particle air pollution has caused approximately 48,000 premature deaths a year.

LIVING HERE
When I first moved back to Paris from Texas, we lived in an apartment on the 9th floor, not far from the Périphérique highway which rings around Paris. We had two terraces, one on each end of our house, and we left the doors open daily letting the air circulate throughout. I noticed almost immediately that each morning when I woke it was hard to swallow, my throat was dry and sore, my eyes were dry and itchy, and I sneezed a whole lot more than I ever had before.  

I ignored it for months and only noticed it reduce when we moved to a new neighbourhood which happens to be surrounded by one of the lushest and greenest parks Paris has to offer, one which sequesters the majority of the city's carbon.

After seeing the Greenpeace ad, I was inspired to finally take action and contacted my friend Mirela who writes the Green Lifestyle blog, Urban Meisters to ask her opinions. I had seen a few articles she’d written on air pollution, one about an app, called PLUME AIR REPORT (read her article HERE), which indicates the level of air pollution in your city each day. The other, about a brand called VOG MASK (read her article HERE) which makes ‘fashionable’ pollution masks. I downloaded the app and wrote VOG MASK asking if I could test out their product, and upon its arrival, started using the PLUME AIR REPORT every morning, and carrying the VOG MASK around in my bag for prolonged bike rides and outdoor runs on days the PLUME AIR REPORT indicated the air was unsafe.

Unsurprisingly, the painful throat situation went away.


WHAT IS AIR POLLUTION

Air pollutants are substances in the air which can have negative effects on human and ecosystem health. They are made up of solid particles, liquid droplets, or gasses and divided up into two types. Primary pollutants are produced from carbon monoxide gas from motor vehicle exhaust, or sulfur dioxide released from factories, while secondary pollutants are a result of primary pollutants reacting and interacting in the air.  The size of the particles produced is directly linked to their potential for causing health problems. Small particles being the worst as they bypass the body's natural defences and can enter your lungs and bloodstreams. 


HOW DOES IT AFFECT YOUR HEALTH

Children and babies are the most affected due to relatively higher breathing and metabolic rates, as well as developing lung and immune system. For everyone, air pollution increases the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic/acute respiratory diseases, and premature death.air pollution, greenpeace, clean air, clean air act, city of london, Paris, vox mask, pollution mask, world health organisation, green living, client earth, teresa may, premature death

SOLUTIONS
Put simply, for most cities, the reduction of motor vehicles, specifically the ones running on deisel is key. In Paris, all public transport is free when the smog kicks off and the Velib' bicycles and Autolib' electric cars are also made free to help deter people from driving. They also alternate the days you're allowed to drive, depending on whether your number plate is odd or even. Which has, in turn, helped to reduce the cars on the road and thus overall pollution. But they still have a long way to go.

While many Governments may sight the health of their economy as reasons for not pushing pollution policy forward, the fact is that the cost to them is enormous: 

4 WAYS TO PROTECT YOURSELF 

1. KNOW YOUR AIR 
Download the PLUME AIR REPORT and keep track of the level of pollution each day as well as recommended activities for yourself, and if you have them, your children, so you can avoid exposure.

 

2. GEAR UP
According to Dr Gary Fuller, a mask will help protect you so long as it has a sub-micron filter as without it will struggle to filter out small particles. And it needs to fit snug. The VOG MASK (pictured) has a N99 filter, active carbon and an exhale valve, which is fine for minor exercise and biking. If you are biking, or running outdoors daily, and heavily; however, you would want something like the RESPRO CITY MASK, TOTOBOBO MASK or the BIOLOGIC POLLUTION MASK.

 

3. PRESSURE POLICY
GREENPEACE is currently campaigning for better air quality in London, you can sign the petition HERE to pressure Teresa May into cutting diesel pollution. You can also write a letter to your local MP, to find out who that is and how to contact them, click HERE. You can follow the same process in any other country. 

4. DONATE
GREENPEACE and CLIENT EARTH are both fighting the good fight to not only protect the public, but influence policy. GREENPEACE takes on the public relations side of things, informing the public, myself included, of the risks and helping to fund research while partnering with the Guardian in exposes. They operate around the world, both informing and protecting the public of and for climate change issues. CLIENT EARTH has literally taken the UK government to High Court, who found the lack of action on the UK governments part to be unlawful. The UK government was then ordered by the High Court to release their plans to tackle this public health issue, and in May (2017, this month) released a completely incoherent and incomplete plan, which will neither lower the PCM to the limits decreed by the World Health Organization (not only in London but across the UK), nor taken responsibility for the state of this public health emergency. CLIENT EARTH operates in various countries, including France and The United Kingdom.

By supporting these two organizations, you are in fact supporting yourself, your health, and the future of our children.air pollution, greenpeace, clean air, clean air act, city of london, Paris, vox mask, pollution mask, world health organisation, green living, client earth, teresa may, premature death
PHOTOS: Shane Woodward 

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