If you live in a large city with traffic and cars, you're likely exposed to air pollution on a daily basis. That can have detrimental effects on your health, especially your lungs, and the surgical masks you often see in smoggy cities actually don't do a ton to protect you. Here's what to do instead.
Image from worak.
The best ways to protect yourself from air pollution in a city are all variations on simply avoiding it, especially on days it is bad (which tend to happen as the weather warms up). If you can't tackle this whole list, try to do as many as you can to give your lungs a break.
- Avoid walking or cycling on busy streets. Try taking routes that have less traffic and cars. This can be tough (it is for me, I live and work in downtown San Francisco), but if you can cut through a park or take a little side street, try to.
- Stay back from the edge of the footpath. Especially in cities with wide footpaths, put as much distance as you can between yourself and the curb so you're not walking right next to exhaust from cars.
- Use air conditioning on hot days instead of opening windows. Warm weather can make it tempting to open up your windows and let in a breeze, but that also lets in smoggy air. On especially hot days, use AC to keep cool instead. If AC isn't an option for you, get an air filter.
- Limit your exposure during exercise. Opt to work out at an indoor gym with AC rather than outside to cut down on your exposure to air pollution. If a gym isn't an option for you, find outdoor workout areas that are away from congested parts of the city (like large parks or green open spaces).
If you still want to wear a mask to filter out the pollutants and gases that irritate your lungs and that can affect your long term health, The Naked Scientists recommends you get a mask that forms a seal around your nose and mouth and is certified to filter out gases.