Tobacco has a Tremendous Impact on the Environment, Climate and our Health. How can you break free?

As a child of heavily smoking parents, I always hated tobacco. Unfortunately, my parents didn’t have an understanding of the impact tobacco had on their health when I was a child. Secondhand some also had an impact on my health, but can you blame someone that didn’t understand that smoke is smoke. A toxic combination of tiny particles and chemicals that will alter and break your DNA. Also, the mentality in Mediterranean and Balkan countries is still to this day different from the rest of the world. Some people still believe it is an enjoyable habit to smoke while taking a coffee or after a meal.

It took a great effort to teach my parents that smoking is not good for anyone. At the end, they saw plenty of examples among the family members that died due to this harmful habit, and they gave it up.

For most of us that have visited a beach, we have found a tremendous amount of cigarette butts in the sand. A disgusting habit that authorities must penalize because it is not only aesthetically unpleasing but is also harmful to the marine life and the food we end up eating.

Cigarette butts (filters or ends), the part that looks like white “cotton”, are actually made of plastic fibers. When this plastic is tossed into the environment, it leaches toxic chemicals, and it can take up to 10 years to decompose. We talk about roughly 4.5 trillion cigarettes butts each year with only an estimated third of which make it into the bins. The rest end up in the ocean, streets, and out of a window.

CO2 emissions are also beyond our capabilities to conceptualize big numbers. Here is an analogy to help us understand better the numbers. According to WHO, 84 million tonnes of CO2 are released into the atmosphere from tobacco production which is equal to 280,000 rocket launches to outer space.

According to Surgeon General’s Report, in the US alone, 2.5 million non-smokers adults died because they’ve breathed secondhand smoke since 1964. Worldwide, each year 1.2 million non-smokers die because they breathe secondhand smoke and ∼7 million smokers from direct smoke. Many diseases and health problems are linked to smoking and secondhand smoke. The most common are lung, liver, and colorectal cancer, cardiovascular diseases (CVD), and diabetes disease.

In this blog, I talk a lot about particulate matter (PM) with aerodynamic diameter of 2.5 μm or less aka PM2.5, and how dangerous it is to human health. Well, cigarette smoke also contains these fine particles which can reach deep inside your lungs and be transported even to your brain. In a 2018 study, researchers found that there was a massive increase in PM amount by smoking cigarettes in indoor spaces. Reachers measured clean air (1.6 µg/m³) and then they lighted a cigarette where they measured concentrations of 1800 µg/m³ and up to about 3070 µg/m³ depending on the additives and tar amount in the cigarettes.

You will find plenty of suggestions on how to stop that harmful habit in the internet. However, from my parents’ experience and what I see from people around me that have succeeded in breaking the habit of smoking only one thing really works. Owning the decision you have made. Many call it will power, but I call it knowing what you want.

I can give you a million reasons to stop smoking with real scientific data and fancy numbers, but at the end of the day it comes to how much you value yourself and if you want to be healthy or sick.

Op-ed: Wood-Burning Season is ON and the Zombies return!

Although some people claim that the wood-burning season doesn’t exist anymore because people never stop burning stuff (and this is true in some regions), the vast majority of the population can’t wait for cold weather to arrive in order to light the “cozy” wood stoves and unconsciously chock the village with toxic smoke.

Yes, wood-stoves even the ECO friendly or low-emissions or EPA certified or you name it, are huge polluters! They emit lots of particulate matter (commonly known as PM2.5) and a huge array of toxic chemicals that sometimes linger in the air for many days. Air pollution kills 13 people every minute worldwide and scientists at Harvard University found that dwellers who live in polluted areas are 15% more likely to die from COVID-19 than those who do not!

The atmospheric conditions and the geographical location of a village or city work in a complex way sometimes in favor of the dwellers but most of the time against the dwellers. When a city is surrounded by hills and mountains air pollution tends to stay there for a long time, like in Murcia, Spain. In that case, people’s lungs work as purifiers and trap all the pollutants, as a result, we have more hospital admissions and more chances to suffer severe health effects due to the air pollution which is deposed inside our bodies. The cost to maintain public health also increases.

By comparison, wood smoke from stoves and boilers carries the highest concentration across all pollutants. One eco-certified wood stove is rated at 3.1grams/h of particulate matter which is equal to six heavy-duty lorries which are rated at 0.5grams/h of particulate matter each.

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WHO 2021 Air Quality Guidelines – My Take!

On 22nd September 2021, the World Health Organization released the so long-awaited update of the Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs). They are bold and ambitious but will governments adopt them?

Let’s see how the updated AQGs compare to the old ones, which were released in 2005. The classical pollutants (Particulate Matter PM2.5/10, and NO2) have been reduced significantly. They have introduced additional AQG levels, such as for peak season Ozone (O3), 24-hour averaging time for Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), and Carbon Monoxide (CO). On the contrary, they have increased the Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) levels from 20 μg/m3 to 40 μg/m3.

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Nasal hair and Air Pollution: Does nasal hair offer a filtration function?

It is unfortunate true the fact that I have encountered a lot of people who think that nasal hair will stop all air pollutants from being inhaled and reach the lungs, or as we now know, the heart and brain. They feel completely sure that they are safe irrelevant the concentration of the pollution.

people nose

The human nose is an extraordinary human organ that offers us so much, many times we don’t even appreciate its function until we lose it. It can warn us that something isn’t right, for example, food has gone bad, or the presence of toxic gases in a close/open environment but it can also offer us a pleasant sensation when we smell a rose or lavender flowers.

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Episode 9: Q&A

This is the last episode of season 1 where I answer your questions!
  1. Episode 9: Q&A
  2. Episode 8: London, UK – Indoor Air Pollution
  3. Episode 7: Guatemala – Traffic/Stubble Burning/Power Plants
  4. Episode 6: Delhi, India – Traffic/Stubble Burning
  5. Episode 5: Sheffield, UK – Professional Opinion

This is the last episode of season 1 where I answer your questions!

Please share and rate this episode with 5 stars.

Episode 8: London, UK – Indoor Air Pollution

Episode 8: London, UK – Indoor Air Pollution See The Air | Real Life Stories

My guest today is Robert John aka HUMAN SPACEMAN who is a purpose driven entrepreneur, visionary leader and innovator of human health improving solutions for property technology. Many say he was born do to make indoor environment better due to his severe childhood asthma and getting into the air cleaning industry with only 19 years of age. Today, over 20 years later he is the founder of Terraform Global based in London, UKLinkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/robert-john-spaceman/

My guest today is Robert John aka HUMAN SPACEMAN who is a purpose driven entrepreneur, visionary leader and innovator of human health improving solutions for property technology. Many say he was born do to make indoor environment better due to his severe childhood asthma and getting into the air cleaning industry with only 19 years of age. Today, over 20 years later he is the founder of Terraform Global based in London, UK

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/robert-john-spaceman/

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Episode 7: Guatemala – Traffic/Stubble Burning/Power Plants

Episode 7: Guatemala – Traffic/Stubble Burning/Power Plants See The Air | Real Life Stories

My guest today is Christian Saravia who is an Industrial Engineer, Master's Degree in Water Resources Management; Postgraduate in Environmental Management from the University of Dresden Germany; Founder of the scientific project A M B E N T E in Guatemala.This episode is available in English and Spanish.Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christian-saravia-s/Twitter: @Chrisaravia

My guest today is Christian Saravia who is an Industrial Engineer, Master’s Degree in Water Resources Management; Postgraduate in Environmental Management from the University of Dresden Germany; Founder of the scientific project A M B E N T E in Guatemala.

This episode is available in English and Spanish.

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christian-saravia-s/
Twitter: @Chrisaravia

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Air Quality Monitors in transports – Why do we need at least CO2 monitoring?

After the fiasco with the exposure notifications on smartphones which was designed by Apple and Google to facilitate digital contact tracing during the COVID-19 pandemic, we realized that governments weren’t ready to accept the terms of the service for privacy reasons probably and also users weren’t keen on enabling such feature probably for the same reasons.

We have to be able to monitor the situation in indoor environments beyond the location of an individual and we already do that with air quality monitors. Indoor air quality monitors help us see the air we are exposed to and when something isn’t right like high CO2 concentrations, we get notified to act by opening the windows or turning on the ventilation system, or eventually leaving the room if none of the latter are an option.

I propose to bring that kind of awareness to the indoor environments of transports, especially, in long-distance buses, airplanes, and trains as we spend substation time inside these transports and we all share the same air.

Most vehicles allow drivers to choose between outdoor air or recycled air. They never ever mention the benefits of fresh air (but not clean) to the drivers, so in most cases, drivers never change the settings. Have you ever been in a car for a long time, having the recycled air turned on? The drivers always complain about the lack of focus or energy and many passengers fall asleep. In most cases, this is due to the lack of oxygen and the high CO2 concentration which is scientifically proved to affect and decrease cognitive function.

The same thing applies inside an airplane. However, the pilots get the most oxygen from the rest of the occupants in the plane, but still, I am not sure if the bus drivers know about the indoor air quality (IAQ) of their buses and the outdoor air or where is the recycled air switch.

Not only that, we know that CO2 is a great indicator of ventilation rates and consequently indicates the viral load inside a transport. A viral load is a numerical expression of the quantity of virus in a given volume of air. The higher the viral load the most likely is to catch the virus, any virus, or pathogen.

Air quality data like CO2/PM2.5 are not as privacy-sensitive as location information and they can help us in mitigating the spread of diseases and improving our cognitive abilities and health. Clean air means healthy lungs, heart, and brain.

Indoor air quality monitors are relatively inexpensive and CO2 sensors can operate for up to 15 years. They will also reveal the truth about the air we breathe in cities. I know that not many council members want people to know that the air they are exposed to daily is poor and unhealthy but if you are a good politician with real morals and compassion for your fellow dwellers then you want the best for them.

So maybe it is time to start designing indoor air quality monitors for transports. They can work offline or online depending on the transport. Passengers can access the information as their ticket can host a QR code with the link of the specific monitor/transport/route. In the case of an off-line monitor then a display with clear readings will allow passengers and the staff/cabin crew of the transport to adjust the indoor conditions.

Episode 6: Delhi, India – Traffic/Stubble Burning

Episode 6: Delhi, India – Traffic/Stubble Burning See The Air | Real Life Stories

My guest today is Abhiir an active youth environmentalist from India.Abhiir has worked on climate change for over 8 years – particularly on air pollution and waste segregation and has been identified by the BBC as among the foremost international youth environmentalists.Twitter: @abhiirbhallaLinkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/abhiirbhalla/

My guest today is Abhiir an active youth environmentalist from India.

Abhiir has worked on climate change for over 8 years – particularly on air pollution and waste segregation and has been identified by the BBC as among the foremost international youth environmentalists.

Twitter: @abhiirbhalla

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/abhiirbhalla/

Please share and rate this episode with 5 stars.

Episode 5: Sheffield, UK – Professional Opinion

Episode 5: Sheffield, UK – Professional Opinion See The Air | Real Life Stories

In this episode, James Heydon, who lives in Sheffield UK, will share with us his professional thoughts on air pollution.
James is an Assistant Professor in Criminology.
You may think, how can a criminologist shed light on air pollution!
Well, James is currently researching air pollution regulations, and his academic studies in human behavior could help us understand better why most people neglect to think about the air they breathe.

Twitter: @Jwheydon

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