Twelve things that can protect you from polluted urban air

January 27, 2015 - 06:05

Ten times as many people die of urban air pollution as in traffic accidents in Norway. Here are some effective tips for protecting yourself from bad city air.

Children breathe at a faster rate than adults and are closer to the ground where the air is more polluted. Air pollution can even have an impact on the child in the womb. (Photo: Ole Andreas Grøntvedt / NRK)

1. Check air pollution warnings

Watch out if streets are dry or there is little wind. Wet roads bind suspended dust to the asphalt and the wind spreads it. 

2. Avoid rush-hour traffic

If you are in a risk group with cardiovascular or pulmonary disorders you should stay indoors on days with high air pollution levels.

3. Breathe through your nose

Your nose acts as a filter for the largest particles.

4. Live healthily

Maintain a healthy diet and get regular exercise. Sound health can protect you against the harmful effects of urban air.

5. Don’t exercise or jog along major roads

Researcher Nuria Castell from Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU) measures suspended dust levels from a window facing the busy Oslo street Kirkeveien. (Photo: Ole Andreas Grøntvedt / NRK)

You breathe a lot more than normally when training. Opt for parks or streets with less traffic.

6. Move

Don’t live on a major arterial with lots of traffic. Over time, air pollution is harmful no matter what the level. To minimize the risk of disease the idea is to get as little as possible in the course of a lifetime.

7. Don’t open windows facing the traffic

Don’t air your home by opening windows which face a busy street. If these are the only windows you have, air out the flat when traffic is lowest.

8. Keep children off main arterials

Ensure that children play on back streets rather than busy ones. They are more quickly harmed by air pollution than adults. They breathe faster and are closer to the ground where pollution levels are higher. Pregnant women in particular should avoid polluted streets and areas. A foetus can also be harmed by air pollution.

9. Travel fast

The longer you are in traffic the more you are exposed to a health hazard. You breathe pretty much the same air whether you are in a car, a bus or riding a bike. But drive cars as little as possible. Even though you are protecting your own health, you are contributing to the misfortune of others if you drive a diesel engine vehicle. New petrol engine cars stir up even more suspended dust than diesel cars. Bicycles, EVs and newly charged plug-in hybrids hardly pollute at all. Do not use studded tires. 

Turn this on if you wish keep the polluted air out. (Photo: Ståle Tonning / NRK)

10. Avoid traffic jams

Your intake of polluted air is greater if you are stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic than if you cruise by in the lane for buses, taxis and EVs. The car’s interior air filter only gives a limited degree of protection and needs regular maintenance.

11. Recycle the air

Make sure your car’s AC system is set for recycling before you get into a traffic jam or drive into a tunnel.

12. Make detours

Bicycle or drive on alternative routes to avoid the most polluted parts of town.

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Read this article in Norwegian at NRK

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Translated by
Glenn Ostling