Cars vs People in the USA – Air Quality

Last week was CleanAirDay. I love days like this when a collective effort is made to raise awareness of such an important problem in modern society. Most importantly the new generation of citizens is taught about the importance of excellent air quality and the dangers of air pollution.

For the past few weeks, I have been living in the US near Boston and I am still trying to wrap my head around those super monstrous vehicles people use to commute from one place to another and how towns are designed to force people to drive everywhere.

I am the only person that walks to work or to the grocery store. Literally, I don’t see other people walking here. It’s tremendous!

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Review: AIRINUM URABN AIR MASK 2.0

Last year, I reviewed the AIRINUM Lite Air Mask and I was really pleased with the comfortability and efficiency during my daily commutes. The same company has developed a higher-end model called URABN AIR MASK 2.0. In my opinion, this mask has been given much more attention to the details. From the packaging to the mask itself.

The AIRINUM URABN AIR MASK 2.0 offers great protection from particulate matter. I have been wearing the Onyx Black for four weeks already.

Filtration

It employs the same technology as the Lite Air Mask with a multi-layer filter which is tested at the Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE) with results showing 98% filtering efficiency against particles down to 0.3μm in size. The size of the filter is bigger though. You will find the full lab results here. The five-layer filter can last up to a month of usage, but as always keep it away from very humid environments and procure to disinfect the inner filter layer with sprayed alcohol to prevent bacteria growth. The mask is washable and treated with Polygiene®.

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3+1 Habits for Healthy Lungs

Our lungs are the first main organs to interact with the breathing air but remember almost all our organs will eventually receive something from the air we inhaled — ideally Oxygen. OK, let’s take a step back to remind ourselves of the composition of the air in our atmosphere. The composition of the atmospheric air is 78% Nitrogen, 21% Oxygen, 0.9% Argon, 0.04% Carbon Dioxide, and other trace gases and aerosols that in most cases are the pollutants that will deplete our health. You see, our modern lifestyle and the constant burning of fossil fuels (of any form including wood burning) has changed the balance and composition of the air in neighborhoods and cities. As a result, we end up with abnormal concentrations of pollutants like particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, etc in the breathing air.

From an evolutionary perspective, our bodies are not designed to deal with the fine particles or the notorious toxic gases that are released into the atmosphere from our wrong investment in fossil fuels. With the exception of our gastrointestinal system which can discard unnecessary solids or liquid, our lungs cannot get rid of the air pollutants so they stuck and accumulate inside us. Some may be filtered by the liver.

Our noses or even our upper respiratory tracks can trap some coarse particulate matter, but there isn’t any mechanism to trap fine-PM or nanoparticles or gases, as a result, they end up reaching our lungs and the alveolar sacs where the exchange between oxygen and carbon dioxide occurs. The pollutants can pass that barrier or even they are stuck there resulting in inflammation responses and trust me we don’t want inflammation anywhere. I don’t want to dive too deep regarding what’s going on inside us when air pollution reaches our organs because it gets ugly.

What can we do to keep our lungs and the rest of our organs healthy and happy?

Avoid Ambient Air Pollution & Fix Your Indoor Air Quality

The first and obvious thing to do is to avoid air pollution. Some apps can help you find the best route in case you commute. However, sometimes it is hard to bypass polluted and busy roads. For this reason, we need to prevent pollution from being released into the atmosphere in the first place. How? By educating the rest. I know it is a hard task but it doesn’t have to be a chore. Just convince one close person and teach him or her how to do the same with another person close to them. If we have learned something from COVID-19 is how fast something can spread.

Indoor air quality is something we have to pay closer attention to. Sometimes we dismiss the fact that we spend a lot of time indoors and outdoor pollution slips inside or we create indoor air pollution. We had better demand better indoor quality in our workplaces as we spend a lot of time there too. Quantify the pollution with an indoor air quality monitor as it is the easiest way to take control of your air. Remember, no one is looking after your indoor air quality, except you!

Work Out

I love exercising, well no! Hear me out, I love the feeling of achievement each time I complete a physical workout because I know it benefits me on so many levels, including my lungs.

Full disclosure, I only exercise and recommend it to people when air quality is excellent and this is a condition that I have to follow 100% because when we exercise the demand for air increases, and our respiratory rates jump from about 15 times a minute to about 50 times a minute.

When we exercise we increase the capacity of air our lungs can hold and we increase the blood flow to our lungs, allowing the lungs to deliver more oxygen into the blood. Exercise reduces our blood pressure and improves our overall cardiac function so that our heart can pump more blood with each heartbeat. That means that our heart beats less time per minute, as a result, we extend its life span.

Don’t run next to busy streets! Indoors, make sure the air quality is excellent too.

Eat Healthy Food & Drink Healthy Beverages

We are what we eat, drink and breathe, so invest in healthy and vibrant food like seasonal fruit and veggies. Meat is also important but during a whole week dedicate one or two days to meatless meals. There are plenty of delicious, inexpensive, and climate-friendly recipes. I could recommend some so feel free to ask me. I don’t believe in strict diets but in well-balanced diets.

Unfortunately, the food and beverage industry is adding sugar and salt to make food and drinks more interesting for many decades, as a result, we are unable to distinguish the real flavor of a meal. My approach is to search for the taste of the plain food or drink. I can taste water, can you? Drink a cup of organic coffee or tea without sugar and try to find the notes of the different elements.

Our lungs need food and drinks rich in nutrients and antioxidants like vitamins, minerals, healthy fat, fiber, protein, and complex carbohydrates. These nutrients will reverse some of the damages and inflammation air pollution will cause to our lungs during our walk in the city center where traffic is awful. Did you know that the lungs are responsible for the transpiration of the “burned” calories out of our bodies in the form of carbon dioxide?

Meditate

Meditate once a day if you can, but don’t burn stuff! I have seen people burning incense or dry plants (sage) when they meditate in their effort to create a pleasant indoor environment but these practices release a lot of particulate matter and VOCs which end up inside them.

Meditation and some breathing techniques are designed to strengthen the lungs and the muscles around them. People who suffer from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other lung diseases may benefit from practicing them, according to some scientific studies but make sure to ask your doctor.

Breathe Helmet – Angel Investor

Introduction

I have teamed up with a great product designer Nathan Hassanali in our effort to offer clean air to the commuters that need to move around the cities where combustion engine vehicles are unfortunately still a priority over sustainable alternative methods.

The Problem – Air Pollution

One of the biggest challenges of the 21st century will be to mitigate the negative effects of transport – greenhouse gases, air pollution, and noise – while ensuring positive aspects of mobility. Meanwhile what can dwellers do to protect themselves from the toxic air that is present in the streets all around the world?

Although air pollution has decreased over the last two decades, it is still a major problem in many areas. ‘EURO standards’ for vehicles have not succeeded in reducing Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) emissions and “defected” vehicles (aka Dieslegate) still circulate without meeting the levels set out in the legislation. Recently, the World Health Organization updated the Air Quality Guidelines (2021 AQGs) which sets the bar for human health high because according to new methods for evidence synthesis and guideline development they found proof of health effects occurring at lower levels than previously understood.

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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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Review: CO2BUDDY by Analox

Carbon dioxide (CO2) monitor sales have skyrocketed during the pandemic because they are good indicators of the indoor conditions in public places like schools, offices, restaurants, etc. The CO2BUDDY can be used in all these cases. However, it can cover even more scenarios as it functions as a tool for professionals that work in places where the conditions are extreme, for example, in dry ice shipping & logistics and COVID-19 vaccine distribution channels.

Dry ice is a solid form of CO2. As it warms, it goes through a process called sublimation, meaning it goes directly from a solid to a gas, bypassing the liquid state. As a result, huge concentrations of CO2 are released into the atmosphere and the environment. These concentrations can reach critical levels for the health of the employees.

I want my review to be as accurate as possible and despite the fact that I don’t work in harsh environments, I know people that they do, so I asked them to wear the CO2BUDDY during their workdays and share their experience with me. They were more than happy to help and they also took some photos. Before reading their experience let’s learn some technical details about the monitor.

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Review: KAMU Spirometer (Asthma)

I have been talking about air quality monitors and air purifiers in this blog for a long time. They help us see the air we breathe and mitigate pollution. However, is there a way to measure the impact of pollution on our lungs?

Well yes, thanks to technological advances and spirometry, which measures lung function, doctors can use these data in assessing breathing patterns that identify conditions such as asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis, and COPD.

In this review, I am going to present to you the KAMU Spiro. It is a handheld bluetooth device that helps us test our lung function at home with a hospital-grade mobile spirometer.

With a single test, we can get FEV1, FEV1/FEV6, FVC, and PEF values. The spirometry results are saved in KAMU Spiro’s memory until we upload them to our KAMU Asthma app, where we can view them at any time.

What is FEV1, FEV1/FEV6, FVC, and PEF?

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Things no one talks about: Flatulence and Indoor Air Quality

Have you ever wondered if the gases we produce as humans are toxic to those who live with us?

It is a taboo but I think we all have thought about it at one moment in our lives. Scientifically known as flatus but commonly known as a fart, many of us even use funny expressions to cope with this uncomfortable situation they create like Acid-rain maker, After the thunder comes the rain, Baking brownies, Death Breath, Fire a stink torpedo, pass the gas, etc…

Let’s take a step back and analyze the chemical composition of a flatus. More than 99% of the volume of flatus is composed of non-smelly gases. These include oxygen (O2), nitrogen (N), carbon dioxide (CO2) hydrogen (H) and methane (CH4), keep in mind, methane is a colorless, odorless gas and nitrogen is not produced in the gut, but it is a component of environmental air. The remaining trace (<1% volume) compounds give flatus its smell which comes from a combination of volatile sulfur compounds. Hydrogen sulfide (H₂S), methyl mercaptan (CH4S), dimethyl sulfide (C2H6S), dimethyl disulfide (C2H6S2), and dimethyl trisulfide (C2H6S3).Read More »

Fitness Air Quality Monitor, is that possible?

Over the years, I have spoken with many companies in the field of air quality and once in a while, companies will tell me that they want athletes to purchase their devices in order to improve performance. I am always skeptical about this because I haven’t seen any integration of fitness data with the AQ monitors so far that could give some possible adverts or ways for the athlete to improve their performance. You don’t expect people to make assumptions you have to give them results and guide them in the right direction.

During covid-19 lockdown, I worked out at home and as I have access to a lot of data (fitness and air quality) I decided to make some experiments and see how my body reacts to poor indoor air quality and good indoor air quality and if the whole hypothesis works.

Smartwatches are very common these day and all of them feature a heart rate monitor and many more sensors. Recently, Apple and Fitbit released pulse oximeter sensors in their latest wearables. These new sensors in the smartwatches could unlock many more potentials and provide us with data that could save lives.

Let’s continue with the argument of what current AQMs could do if they combine fitness data. First of all, there is a possible problem. In case the monitor is stationary then it won’t be able to tell if the user was near the device or not during the workout session but this could be addressed as most times fitness data come along with GPS coordinates. By allowing the device to access the location data only when the user is in the same location as the AQM (home, gym, etc.) we solve the issue. Another possible solution is if the monitor comes with a Bluetooth/Ultra Wideband chip then it can easily sense the presence of the athlete/individual.Read More »

When is the best time to Exercise Outdoors in Athens, Greece?

Well, in winter and early spring never, period! If you are thinking of running or even walking in the center of Athens in Aristotelous street and around then prepare yourself to breathe a lot of pollution.

There is an official air quality station there and I pulled all available data for local statistical analysis from the European server (GR0003A). Unfortunately, 2019 nor 2020 measurements are available to the public yet, maybe in a decade, they will share the data for the Greeks to read. (Τι κάνεις έλληνα και δεν παραπονιέσαι για τον αέρα που αναπνέεις;).

Air Quality Station on top of the building Aristotelous street, Athens
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