The air we breathe is becoming increasingly polluted, according to the World Health Organization.
Air pollution causes around seven million deaths a year worldwide, according to the WHO, and the effect is worse in children.
Every day, 93% of children under the age of 15 breathe in polluted air in the world, according to the WHO's "Air Pollution and Child Health" report last year.
Toxic particles in the air can not only cause diseases such as asthma, but also affect lung capacity and cognitive development of children.
- How does your body affect air pollution?
- These are the top 10 health challenges this year
The WHO estimates that in 2016 alone about 600,000 children died from acute respiratory tract infections due to polluted air.
And in adults, one third of deaths from strokes, lung cancer, and heart disease are due to air pollution, according to the WHO.
Despite the enormous challenge, several experts agree that simple and effective actions can be taken to reduce your exposure to airborne pollutants.
On the occasion of this World Health Day of 7 April and in response to the interest of our readers on this subject, we will tell you some of them on BBC World.
Avoid the streets with more traffic and the "urban canyons"
A 2017 study by King & # 39; s College, one of the faculties of the University of London, found that to follow a parallel street, instead of the main street with more traffic, reduces pollution exposure by an average of 53% and in some cases up to 60%.
At a distance of 50 to 100 meters, depending on the type of pollutant, the concentration of toxic particles drops to at least half.
It also tries to avoid the so-called "urban canyons", the streets with tall buildings on both sides.
"We recommend avoiding streets with tall buildings because they stop pollution"Pippa Powell, director of the European Lung Foundation, told BBC News, European Lung Foundation.
- Interactive card: how many cigarettes a day do you let the air in your city smoke?
Be careful with time of more traffic
"If you can't avoid the streets with more traffic, try to adjust what time you walk as much as possible," Powell said.
In general Pollution levels are lower before the peak time even hours after her.
Cars that are stuck in traffic with the engines running make the peak hours particularly harmful to health.
"We generally advise you to leave your house early," Powell said, although he clarified that the recommendation may vary depending on the city, so you should always check the reports in your own area.
Protect the children!
Babies and younger children can be exposed 60% more polluters than adults, according to a study published last year by the Global Center for Clean Air Studies (Global Center for Clean Air Research) from the University of Surrey, in England.
being closer to the ground because of its height, the children are closer to the exhaust pipes.
According to the study, the height at which children breathe in prams is between 0.55 meters and 0.85 meters.
Pollution levels are higher in the first meter of the ground, so the impact of toxic metal particles that can affect the development of children is greater.
"This first meter above ground is where the highest concentration of exhaust gases is located," Prashant Kumar, one of the authors of the study, told BBC News.
"Considering how vulnerable children are because their tissues, immune systems, and brain development are at an early stage of development, it is extremely worrying that they are exposed to these dangerous levels of infection," he added.
The authors of the study recommend avoiding busy streets and use the covers in the baby carriages to reduce exposure to polluted air.
If you have children in school, ask your children's school to reduce exposure to school bus emissions, the American Lung Association recommends. American Lung Association.
The same association suggests that schools should never allow buses to be immobile when the engine is running near the school, he adds.
- "99% of the children breathe in toxic air": this is how you live in the most polluted capital of the world
Older adults also need to be extra careful
"As we age, the ability of the human body to compensate for the effects of environmental hazards is reduced," says airnow.gov of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States.
Air pollution worsens heart disease and stroke, lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and diabetes.
The above advice is especially important in the case of older adults.
Check advertisements every day
Get used to checking daily reports on pollution in your city. The levels can vary greatly from day to day.
"Being aware of the pollution percentages in your area is especially important for the most vulnerable people who suffer from asthma or COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)", Powell recommended.
- What is COPD, the silent lung disease that kills 3 million people a year and has no cure
If you have access to apps that measure the levels and worst points of contamination in real time, get used to using them.
There are also personal sensors that you can use with your phone, which monitor the levels of contaminating particles and nitrogen dioxide.
However, the US Environmental Protection Agency has warned that this technology is in the initial phase and that the measurements you make with these sensors may not be correct.
Plan where and when you train
Avoid outdoor activities during peak hours and when the degree of pollution is high. And if you use your bike, avoid the streets with more traffic.
When the infection is high, the Lung Association of the United States recommends that do not run or walk outside but in a gym or a mall.
Also limit the time your children spend outdoors.
Accelerated breathing during exercise means that more contaminating particles reach the lungs.
Do not allow anyone in your house to smoke
It is a recommendation included in the 10 most important tips to protect yourself against the American Lung Association infection.
"If you smoke, or if you live with someone who smokes and is a passive smoker, this is a greater concern than the pollution outside," Pippa Powell commented.
"Stopping smoking is the priority, especially if you have children."
Watch your diet
Contaminating particles can rob your body of antioxidants.
Powell notes that the European Lung Association makes no recommendations about dieting because there are no conclusive studies yet.
Among the existing works, a British investigation of 2018 (T Whyand et al) found evidence that carotenoids, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin C, among other things, can protect against certain damage.
Another 2009 survey of minors in Mexico, led by Isabelle Romieu (National Institute of Public Health) and colleagues, noted:
"Our results suggest that the consumption of fruits and vegetables and compliance with a Mediterranean diet has a beneficial effect on the inflammatory response and lung function of children with asthma in Mexico City."
Are the masks useful?
"We do not make recommendations about masks because there are no conclusive studies," Powell said.
"The World Health Organization has assessed various types of masks well and will soon publish their results."
A study by the Institute of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in Edinburgh, Scotland, assessed nine types of masks worn by residents of Beijing.
One of the biggest problems is that, to be effective, the masks must be extremely well adapted to the face, something that usually does not happen.
The researchers discovered that the "leak", that is, the entrance of contaminated air into the mask, varied between 7% and 66% during periods of activity and between 3% and 68% during sedentary tasks.
Support the rules in your city
As individuals, there is much we can do to improve our exposure to pollutants, Powell concluded.
In addition to following the advice to avoid polluted streets, "if you walk, use your bicycle or an electric car instead of a conventional car, you contribute to improving the air quality in your city".
"It is also important that people support initiatives in their cities that, for example, determine which license plates can enter the city center on certain days."
"It can be frustrating for drivers, but we must understand that thanks to these measures we will all have better lung health."
(*) This article was published in response tol interest shown by our readers when we asked them what the most urgent challenge was in terms of health.
- These are the top 10 health challenges this year … And you, what do you want to know?
You can get more information at the following sites:
Now you can receive notifications from BBC World. Download the new version of our app and activate it so as not to miss our best content.
- Do you already know our YouTube channel? Subscribe!