Nothing New in Being Green!Â
Despite the fact that many of us will view environmental concerns and the advent of the ‘green’ revolution as being a 20th century phenomenon, issues of air quality and its effects on public health were being voiced as long ago as 350 years. In 1662, John Evelyn published his landmark essay, ‘Fumifugium; or the Inconvenience of the Aer and Smoak of London Dissipated’. His work is thought to be one of the first published pieces concerning the deplorable standards of the air quality in the Capital and the consequences on the health of the population.
As recently as 1952, it took the deaths of over 4,000 people in a few days to stir the government into action and address the ongoing problem of smog in many of the UK’s industrial cities, leading to the implementation of the Clean Air Act in 1956 which demanded the monitoring of sulphur dioxide and smoke in the atmosphere.
Currently we are required to comply with the European Air Quality Directive 2008/50/EC (phew!) which demands that levels of a wide range of gasses and elements are monitored including: carbon monoxide, ozone, sulphur dioxide, lead, nitrogen oxide and ‘fine particulate matter’ PM10 and PM 2.5. So much for that walk in the park for a bit of fresh air!
Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid!
Scary fact number 1:Â
You may be thinking that as we have these EU Air Directives in place that the UK is fully compliant and there is no danger to our health. Think again! A report compiled in June 2012, by Senior Consultant of the AEA, Paul Wilkie, in the wake of the upcoming Olympics, disclosed that London had exceeded its permitted annual days of exceedance of PM10 and that the average NO2 nitrogen oxide levels were above the permitted directive levels across the UK as a whole. Unless levels could be significantly reduced before the end of the year, the UK government will be facing a large fine from our EU brethren. Like we can afford that!
Scary fact number 2:Â
There are, in fact, no defined safe levels of PM10 and recent reports have indicated that higher levels have a ‘direct increased health risk’. Ironically, the most hazardous particulates in the long-term are the PM2.5 as they are smaller and will spread further into the lungs having the potential for more widespread damage.
Scary fact number 3:Â
Each person on the planet will need to breathe in 37 pounds of fresh air daily. That is the equivalent volume of an Olympic sized swimming pool!
Scary fact number 4:Â
A report issued by the EEA (European Environment Agency) and published in the Guardian newspaper on 24th September 2012, has found that air pollution is reducing the life expectancy of the European population by an average of 8 months. This rises to as much as 2 years in the worst affected areas of industrialised Eastern Europe. The main health hazards are through cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Scary fact number 5:Â
Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the EEA has stated that 21% of urban populations are exposed to higher than recommended levels of particulate concentrations. Up to 30% of city dwellers are living with the daily hazards caused by fine particulates (PM2.5) which can produce more health issues as they are small enough to pass from the lungs into the bloodstream further compromising the entire system.
Scary fact number 6:Â
Think it may be safer to just stay indoors? Wrong! EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) statistics show that the air quality of the average home can be 2.5 times more potentially damaging than being outdoors.
Scary fact number 7:Â
Don’t think you can escape by staying in bed with the duvet over your head either! House dust mites release biological allergens into the air which can trigger respiratory ailments and may lead to asthma. Remember to clean and vacuum regularly and launder your bedding at a minimum of 130 degrees to ensure that you have killed all the bacterial material.
Scary fact number 8:Â
Just before you put this article to bed and rush off to do something less depressing like cleaning the bathroom, hang on a minute and read on. Never combine acid based cleaners like vinegar or ammonia with chlorine based products. (Check the labels on the bottles!) Even wiping a surface with one after the other can produce lethal chlorine gas, a technique which has, apparently, not escaped the more enterprising terrorists who have been using household products to produce this deadly element for a number of years.
Scary fact number 9:Â
When you are cooking the spag bol for tonight’s meal just remember to ensure you have the stove hob well ventilated. All cookers (particularly gas) will produce a build up of nitrogen oxide which can be hazardous if not ventilated adequately. Even the steam escaping from the saucepans will produce moisture which can lead to an accumulation of bacteria. Still hungry..?
Scary fact number 10:Â
If, by this time, you are lying on the floor in utter desperation at what is out there waiting to get you, get up, quickly! The American Lung Association has recommended that carpets should not be used in the home as the ‘off gas’, formaldehyde, is widely used during the manufacturing process and may trigger allergic reactions, cause lung damage, and irritate the throat and nasal passages.
[box type=”note”]Apologies if this has left you a little anxious and perplexed. Just remember the words of that oft used slogan, ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ and take a deep breath. Or maybe not![/box]