Breathing Pollution

If you live in or have visited an urbanised city in most parts of the world you would know that our cities are extremely polluted. Wikipedia ranks the most polluted cities and not surprisingly, most of the cities in the top twenty list are from India. Even small cities like Sangli and Silchar show up on this list which clearly means India has a lot of work to be done. What matters in the polluted air are the suspended particulate matter or SPM. These include fine dust, coarse dust, thoracic and respirable particles, soot etc. If you live close to sources of chemical pollution, it can also include chemicals. Large particles are filtered by your nose but fine particles can easily enter your bronchi and lungs.

The choice of where you live is governed by many factors, many of which are not in your control. So if you have to walk, run or generally undertake any physical activity, is there any correct way to do so? Researchers have recently found that not only the quality of air that you breathe but also the amount of air that your breathe can matter. The quantity of air you breathe apparently affects the quantity of SPM’s that you breathe in. The researchers showed that cycling at 12 t0 20 Kms per hour or walking at 2 to 6 kms per hour is optimum. At speeds higher than this, the amount of SPM’s that you inhale increase significantly.

A few years ago, I would fall sick simply by standing on the road for a few minutes. Friends would laugh at me for being so sensitive. As I worked on my health, one of the surprising benefits I found was my ability to deal with pollution. I now run on the roads on most of the cities I visit including cities like Mumbai and Kolkata and of course the most polluted city – Delhi. Your best bet is perhaps to heed the advice of the researchers but also to generally work on making yourself more healthy.