You will have seen the recent coverage and London making headlines for its toxic air and breaching its annual air pollution in just five days. Even more so, it triggered further action by London’s mayor Sadiq Khan to issue their first ever ‘very high’ air pollution alert to the public. It was claimed it exceeded levels in Beijing. It is so severe in fact, air pollution is linked to 40,000 deaths in the UK. 

And everyone, from the most vulnerable to physically fit is affected. To stress its damaging and sometimes irreversible effects is critical and speaking from experience, I went from being hospitalised 11 times over 1.5 years in London to 1 time in Scotland. If you live in a polluted city, of course it is not always possible to relocate or have the opportunity that I had, but there is advice out there that you can follow to minimise the effects. I have no doubt that the Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)and particulate matter largely contributed to my deterioration. It was after the damage had been done, that I had wished I was more educated on the topic or paid more attention. So I think it is very important to spread the word to your loved ones, especially those living in cities. Not to scare them, but to help them become aware and take measures to minimise the damage.

Whilst plenty of activists, green parties and charities are lobbying the politicians and decision makers to implement and commit to ambitious clean air acts, invest in cleaner technology, impose rules on institutions on the public; you may ask ‘what can I do now to prevent or protect myself, family and friends from being affected?’ 

Here is some direct advice taken from the British Lung Foundation website:

“When levels of air pollution are high for short periods, if you or your child has a lung condition:

  • reduce or avoid strenuous, outdoor exercise. The benefits of exercise are great if you have a lung condition, so make sure you exercise indoors in a well-ventilated room or gym instead.
  • stay away from pollution hotspots such as main roads and road junctions
  • try to get to work a little earlier before rush hour has begun and levels of pollution have built up
  • take back streets away from the bulk of vehicle congestion if you cycle, run or walk as part of your commute
  • make sure that, if you use one, you carry your reliever inhaler with you
  • if you have asthma, use your preventer inhaler regularly
  • if in a vehicle, keep the windows closed and recycle air

If you find your condition is getting worse, or if you are getting wheezy or coughing from walking outside, get in touch with your doctor.

Anyone who experiences discomfort such as sore eyes, cough or sore throat should consider reducing their levels of physical exertion outdoors.

There is little evidence to recommend the use of face masks. Wearing one can be uncomfortable and can make breathing more difficult.”

Additionally, you can also join the campaign for cleaner air if you wish to take more of an activist role and help change the minds of senior decision makers to make this a top priority. I certainly am!