As societies become more health-conscious, people are now becoming more concerned with air pollution. The proliferation of facemasks and air purifiers in the market is a testament to the growing concern over the worsening air pollution in many major cities worldwide. Demand for clean air is growing, and people are noticing. In fact, some con artists are now trying to take advantage of this by selling products that claim to protect people from pollution.
Many of these products are ineffective or even dangerous. This only worsens the widespread misinformation on air pollution, hampering efforts to keep our atmosphere from deteriorating further. Hence, this article debunks various myths about air pollution so that people may know and do more to protect themselves and the environment.
Indoor Air Is Cleaner Than Outside Air?
Probably the most pervasive misconception about air pollution is that indoor air pollution is always less than air pollution outdoors. This idea seems correct at first glance; the air is indeed clearer indoors, and most of the sources of pollution that we recognize, such as vehicle emissions and road dust, come from outside the home. However, there are more insidious pollutant sources indoors, and most homes use equipment that can emit harmful particles or toxic gases.
For example, stoves and fireplaces can emit smoke when operated incorrectly or if they aren’t regularly cleaned and maintained. If you use them in rooms with poor ventilation, they can release carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas that can quickly cause death.
Paints and varnishes can release volatile organic compounds that are toxic and carcinogenic. Radon, a radioactive gas, can accumulate in basements and other poorly-ventilated rooms that are close to the ground. Faulty equipment can also cause gas leaks, which are health and fire hazards.
Clear Air Is Clean?
Clean air should be clear and colorless, without any signs of haziness. However, the converse isn’t necessarily true. Many pollutants are invisible to the human eye and cannot be detected by other human senses. Some dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide and radon can only be detected by special equipment, but just because they are invisible doesn’t mean that they aren’t destroying your body.
Even if the air looks clean, there may still be suspended solid particles that can cause harm. These particles are microscopic and are easily carried by the tiniest air currents. Such particulates cannot be seen nor felt, but inhaling these particles can damage your respiratory system over time. The smallest particles can even be absorbed by your bloodstream, increasing your risk for cardiovascular diseases.
Masks Can Protect You From Pollution
A common trend in some heavily polluted cities is to use masks whenever going outdoors. However, not all masks are created equally. Some use cloth masks, which are as good as a handkerchief when it comes to filtering the air you breathe.
Masks can be designed from different materials, and both the type of material and the method of construction can influence how the masks function. Some masks can only handle solid particulates, while others are only effective against airborne droplets.
In addition, some pollutants are notoriously hard to remove. For example, some particles are so small that they can pass unhindered through most fibers. Activated carbon and other filters cannot readily absorb some gases. Removing these pollutants will require special equipment, not just masks. Although masks can definitely help, they might not be enough to reduce pollutant concentrations to safe levels.
To wrap up, these three myths are some of the most prevalent misconceptions about air pollution. If you are in doubt about pollution, do some research. Use your critical thinking skills to protect yourself from misinformation and to know what to do when air pollution strikes.