As an individual there’s a little you can do about the overall level of outdoor air pollution but there’s plenty you can do to reduce your exposure to it, without simply staying indoors.
Traffic pollution varies considerably during busy periods and between congested roads and quieter routes. Whether driving, cycling or walking, finding alternative routes with less traffic can have a big effect and it’s often worth making a slightly longer journey to avoid the worst of it.
Smaller children suffer the most from traffic exhausts as pollution is often concentrated about a metre off the ground – exactly at the level they’re taking in air. And immature lungs are especially susceptible to the long-term damage from particulates. However, there’s no benefit from making shorter journeys in the car unless you take steps to protect you and your family (see our MobileAir Product). Pollution inside your car will usually be much worse.
We spend an average of an hour a day in our cars. With air pollution inside vehicles commonly several times higher than outside, we can absorb 20 – 25% of our total pollution exposure whilst driving.
No one can say with certainty how much UK air pollution reduces our life expectancy – latest research suggests we each lose 1 1/2 years in the UK, but estimates range from several months to as much as ten years. We do know that cutting the levels of pollution we're exposed to will improve our quality of life and reduce the time we’re sick.
Other sources of outdoor air pollution and irritants such as pollen and ozone, are almost impossible to dodge outdoors. Sufferers can try to time journeys at times of lower pollution but face masks, more common in Asian cities, are largely ineffective and not particularly accepted here.
Whilst it can be difficult to protect yourself from outdoor air pollution when you're outside, a little thought can significantly lower the risks.
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