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On air quality, the virus and whether to invest in a purifier

For all of us stuck inside, it’s a issue. Not only is being in close quarters for too long with people you’d prefer to get away from once in a while a bit difficult, there is the issue of air quality.

Couple things to keep in mind. Pollution kills about 30,000 people a year- preventable early deaths, not just folks who were already in trouble. It’s been an increasing issue. Many don’t even realize how bad it was until so many stayed inside. The other day, NPR reported that a photographer in Nairobi was mocked for a photograph of the usually invisible (due to terrible pollution) and majestic Mt Kenya. It’s there, folks. I’ve climbed it. Without pollution, boy is it gorgeous. To wit:

From Nairobi, A Rare, Clear Glimpse Of Mount Kenya Drives Disbelief On Social Media
The picture is stunning. It shows One Africa Place, a bullet-shaped glass high-rise in Nairobi, framed by the jagged…

Nairobi is hardly alone. Estimates say that by the middle of this century most of the world’s population will live in cities like Nairobi, which are choked with traffic. Addis Abbaba, where I was last November, is no different. I couldn’t open my windows for the smell, and kept a bandana over my face until my driver got us out into the countryside. In places like Hanoi and Saigon, getting away from the eye-stinging pollution took at least two hours.

I’ve been to 45 countries. It’s gotten to the point where I stay in the destination city only long enough to sleep off the jet lag and get the hell out of Dodge. It’s not just that I’m a farm girl. It’s that I can’t breathe the air. It does indeed kill.

Not long ago a report came out that pollution has been shown to have a direct causal relationship to Type 2 Diabetes:

Effect of environmental air pollution on type 2 diabetes mellitus.
OBJECTIVE: Air pollution is a novel risk factor for insulin resistance and occurrence of type 2 diabetes mellitus…
A Frightening New Reason to Worry About Air Pollution
The study authors controlled for things like obesity and BMI, so it wasn't the case that heavier people simply lived in…

This is what we deal with outside. As a Westerner I probably don’t need to tell you what rampant forest fires do to air quality. It’s awful, not only for the firefighters in the midst of it but for all who had to tolerate the air that made being outdoors impossible. Indoors, too.

Increased outdoor temperatures and heat waves are expected to lead to increased wildfires. Data suggest a large…

Long before the current conditions I already knew that moving further West was going to mean I’d have to invest in an air purifier. I began to research them last summer. My best buddy, a first responder wildlife fireman, has damaged lungs from decades of this work.

Back then, Boise was my prime landing spot. Not any more, but at the time I was hell-bent for Idaho. That area has terrible fires, more every year just like we do here in Colorado. Living in the West when those massive black clouds waft in from California or Montana, or from our own state, we can watch our skyline disappear just like it does in LA or Nairobi. Bad idea to exercise in that.

Certain cities like Denver, LA and Boise are subject to inversions, which can increase smog and pollution near the ground.

Then, this. Given what I’d already been watching, as someone who lives in a fire-affected area, and after reading the studies about how air pollution is linked to diabetes, and how diabetes and respiratory issues are co-morbidity factors:

Harvard Study: In Places With Dirty Air, COVID-19 Patients at Greater Risk of Death
Coronavirus sufferers in places with dirtier air are far more likely to die than those in areas with cleaner air…

None of this should be a surprise to anyone. We have set ourselves up for this disaster in every single way imaginable.

None of it surprises the scientists, not really, but what do they know? The earth, after all, is flat.

Of course it is. Just like gargling bleach or drinking methanol cures Covid. Sure it does.

Of course, if you smoke, or someone in the house does, and if anyone in the house has asthma, or any other respiratory distress, you can see how all these factors end up a Perfect Storm.

The science on this different conditions has been pretty clear for a long time but nobody’s been either watching the farm nor watching how connected they are. Now that Covid is here, the interconnectedness of so many of these seem -ingly disparate pieces is desperately obvious.

I am NOT a doctor, I am just a journalist. But I’m also an athlete. One reason I was planning to leave Denver this spring was in fact the falling air quality. It’s damned dangerous, and the Administration doesn’t give a flying shit about your lungs or mine. Our right to clean air gets in the way of corporate profits. But that’s another issue, for better writers than I am. This is about controlling our environments as best we can.

The research that I’ve been doing led to me bring home an air purifier for the largest room in my house where I spend most of my time. I may get a second, as my house is pretty wide open.

This is one of the guides I used along with Consumer Reports:

Buying an air purifier? Here's what you need to know
(Image credit: Honeywell) Stuck at home during the coronavirus crisis? An air purifier might help keep your home's…

So yes. Along with establishing routines, exercise habits, basic sanitation, social distancing, and all the rest, I am purifying my air. I’m very fortunate to have the option. If you can check your air quality, and I strongly suggest that you do as best you can, please do. Because your indoor air quality might well have a significant impact on your health, and in fact on your recovery, should you get ill.

However, not all air purifiers are equal, and they cost money to operate. As well, there are significant considerations for their use, depending on whether your house is brand new, what kinds of materials were used, if you are in a radon gas area and other issues. Those drive what kind of purifier and most importantly the kind of filter(s) you may need. This article parces out some important considerations before you or I believe that all we have to do is buy one and plug it in. As with all things, it depends. As with all things, do your research:

What You Need to Know Before Buying an Air Purifier
The promise of an air purifier is an enticing one: An appliance designed to cleanse the air in your home, getting rid…

Again. I am no doctor. I am an interested, highly-motivated consumer.

However, the information that I have posted above shows me that there are some pretty clear patterns and indications that speak to air quality. I can only speak for my own choices. I don’t wish to be sucking down bad air when I kick box. Our world air quality has vastly improved the short run, but it won’t stay that way. I plan to continue to protect the air that I can indeed control to the extent that I can, and can afford.

Still, that isn’t all.

While the Good Housekeeping article just above argues to ventilate, as in open your windows, that depends. What’s outside can be far worse. There was thi story that came in on NPR from New Delhi where the reporter was hiding in the smallest room of the house, the one farthest from the windows, with the least amount of ventilation, to hide from the outside air:

As Delhi Chokes On Smog, India's Health Minister Advises: Eat More Carrots
Last week, just after the celebration of the Hindu festival Diwali, India's capital city was enveloped in a thick…

Opening the windows in some places could damn near kill you off. That story preceded our current Conditions, but I seriously doubt that the city will stay in lockdown. Progress, after all. Profits, above all.

Know your area. Know the tradeoffs. Know your health issues and vulnerabilities. Please do the research as it applies to your body, your area, the air quality of your community and inside your home. Know the limitations and costs of each machine if you choose to invest. And please, as with all things, the air purifier isn’t going to fix anything if you aren’t taking care of your body in the first place, with thoughtful movement and a decent diet. It might help. Given our Conditions, I like the odds that better quality air for ourselves, our loved ones might be a good idea.

Oh-and yeah, eating carrots is fine. But they won’t save your lungs or cure your diabetes. Good for the eyes, good fiber. Beyond that, they fill out a salad, but don’t do much for air quality.

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