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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Report: Air Quality Results from my 4000 km Road Trip – I was surprised by the PM2.5 concentrations

In August 2021 (summer in Northern Hemisphere), I travelled from Spain to Greece in order to visit my parents as I hadn’t see them for a long time due to the pandemic. I visited 10 countries and I evaluated the air quality with a portable air quality monitor (Atmotube PRO) but as well as the behavior of the people in these countries as they tend to have different customs when it comes to cooking or transporting around the cities.

This evaluation is very narrow because of the fact that I didn’t stay longer than a day or two in each city so take it with a pinch of salt. Also, the climatological conditions were entangled to the summer month of August and high temperatures were expected in the Mediterranean coastline. Wildfires are more likely to occur during the dry month of August and indeed I witnessed a few in the Balkans.

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What to do when a wildfire is headed your way?

Wildfires: some say that we have to learn to live with them, some say that we need to stay indoors and close doors, windows, and ventilation systems until the plumes of smoke settle down, but in reality, we have to do something else, I will elaborate on that in a flaming hot minute!

Wildfires are very dangerous and destructive for many reasons. When I read on the news that a new fire started even in the most remote location in the world, I take a deep breath because it can happen to anyone and everywhere. It has happened to my parents’ house, and a vast feeling of impotency takes your whole body. In most cases, we worry about the destructiveness, but it is more than that.

Wildfires can occur naturally but unfortunately in most cases, they are byproducts of unconscious anthropogenic behaviour because we leave trash everywhere. Glass bottles that work as magnifying glass under the hot summer sunlight, cigarette buds, fireworks, BBQs are some of the common reasons wildfires start.

Not many people know this but wildfires create new wildfires through pyrocumulus clouds which basically are the cloud plumes that are electrically charged, as a result, lightning bolts come out of the pyrocumulus clouds which light new fires a few kilometers away. Firefighters have a hard time controlling multiple fronts and those kinds of fronts are unpredictably created.

Source: latimes.com
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