Have you noticed the number of people in the street wearing face masks? One of the reasons given for wearing masks is because of “air pollution”. Other reasons given include influenza epidemics, so you may see many patients in the hospital corridors wearing a mask.
Just how great is the air pollution problem? Researchers are now saying that polluted air causes 5.5 million deaths in the world each year. Most of the deaths are occurring in the rapidly developing industrial cities of China and India. However, Thailand also has air pollution problems, an annual occurrence in Chiang Mai burning off rubbish and currently encountered in Bangkok, and to a lesser extent, now in Pattaya.
Did you know that as a cause of death, air pollution ranks up there with smoking? The Center for Disease Control (CDC) claims that cigarette smoking accounts for more deaths each year than deaths from murder, car accidents, alcohol or drug use, suicides, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Their figures are 6 million smoking deaths per annum. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) they estimate 5 million people die each year from tobacco-related illness.
So what can you do to make sure you are not counted in the CDC or WHO statistics? Smoking deaths are easy to reduce – just stop smoking. Now I know (from personal experience 40 years ago) that giving up cigarettes isn’t easy, but it is the best thing you can do for your overall health.
Air pollution is another ballgame all together. You can go and camp outside coal fired electricity power stations if you wish, but that really isn’t going to do much.
The answer is in personal protection. In other words, a disposable face mask. These masks prevent large droplets of body fluids that may contain viruses from escaping via the nose and mouth (coughing and sneezing). Unfortunately, these masks don’t prevent the inhalation of small, airborne contaminants.
There are masks which do work, called N95 respirators which will trap very small particles even including viruses and TB. The name N95 comes from the fact that they can filter out 95 percent of airborne particles.
So next flu epidemic or air pollution, get an N95, and avoid being a statistic.