Give a Wide Berth to These Four Enemies of Air Quality
Your lungs are an entryway to your body, a site where you literally take in your environment. Millions of tiny air sacs in your lungs have walls only one cell thick. The oxygen necessary to life diffuses into your blood across this cell layer, and carbon dioxide, a waste product of metabolism, diffuses out to be eliminated from your body. This exquisite design is fundamental to life, and blocking it for only a few minutes will result in death.
Modern indoor and outdoor air pollutants are intruders hijacking this process, leading to premature death, disability, and damage that crosses generations. Microscopic pollutant particles and gases can cross the one cell layer of your air exchange sacs and enter your blood, from there carried throughout your body to cause widespread damage.
Other particles remain lodged deep in your lungs, provoking serious respiratory inflammation and harming your ability to get the oxygen needed for survival. Your lungs are structured to function in clean air, so don't have mechanisms to filter out all these harmful bits of pollution.
You can, to a meaningful extent, control the amount of health-destroying pollutants that assault your lungs. But first you have to know what they are. Here are four of the most dangerous causes of air pollution.
ONE. Fragrance. You might have thought of scented personal care and cleaning products as fun. You might have held the bottle to your nose for a big whiff, or sprinkled on perfume, or set "air freshener" loose in your house.
The Environmental Working Group's comprehensive report Not So Sexy: The Health Risks of Secret Chemicals in Fragrance will set you on a safer path. By law, the ingredients in "fragrance" do not have to be listed on the label, to protect the manufacturer's proprietary blend of any number 3,100 chemical ingredients.
Many of the chemicals used in artificial scents are associated with hormone disruption and allergic reactions. There is no scientific knowledge of the effects of most of these chemicals on human health, wildlife, or the planet's ecosystems. No one knows the impact of a mixture of the risky substances, since they interact in your body and the larger environment. Manufacturers don't even have to test for safety.
How can you protect yourself and the planet?