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Dirty Air Now Linked to Higher COVID-19 Mortality Rate

Air pollution Toronto highway

This week, scientific researchers and public health officials released confirmed findings about the link between air pollution and coronavirus fatalities.

Researchers analyzed more than 3,000 counties in the United States. Their data showed a clear connection between what they are calling “dirty air” and more severe or fatal cases of COVID-19.

If this sounds scary, it’s because it is.

What makes it scarier is that some areas right here in Ontario, including Hamilton, Sarnia and St. Catharines, have known air quality issues due to local industry, including petrochemical plants.

In the case of the new study, of most concern is a group of toxins called PM2.5. In this post, find out how to protect yourself against PM2.5 exposure both indoors and outdoors.

What Does PM2.5 Mean?

In the research study mentioned above, officials use the term “PM2.5” to describe a group of dangerous – and dangerously tiny – micro-particle toxins. The name refers to their size of 2.5 microns or less. 

But how tiny is 2.5 microns? To help you visualize it, think of a single hair on your head.

As we explained in this blog post, one strand of human hair is roughly 70 microns in width. The largest particulates in the PM2.5 category measure about 30 percent of that size.

So these are very, very small airborne particles that can easily find their way inside your respiratory passages and down into your lungs, causing chronic irritation and, eventually, long-term damage.

Steps to Stay Safe After PM2.5 Exposure

As you can now see, understanding the impact of exposure to PM2.5 toxins can be especially vital during the unusually dangerous situation we are all facing right now with COVID-19.

Many of us here in Ontario may unwittingly be in a higher-risk category than we have realized up until now for this very reason. This is true not just for the elderly, pregnant moms-to-be or people with existing health issues, but for us all.

With our local petrochemical and manufacturing industry pumping out particulates into our outside air, it is more important than ever before to take the following proactive steps to keep our indoor air supply clean and breathable.

1. Stop smoking, vaping and burning wood indoors, ASAP

Smoking or vaping indoors releases even more tiny particulates into your inside air. If you can’t avoid breathing these in while outdoors, at least you want to give your lungs a rest while you remain inside.

The same holds true with burning wood indoors in your fireplace or cook stove.

2. Apply sealant and weatherstripping to your home

Sealing up air leaks in your home and adding weatherstripping is a fairly simple weekend project, especially while you are stuck at home anyway.

The impact to your family’s health will more than make your sweat equity worth it. The particulates present in our outdoor air will no longer be able to find their way indoors and into your lungs.

As a side perk, weatherstripping and sealing can lower your HVAC energy bill by up to 20 percent.

3. Install an ultraviolet air purifier in your home

Ultraviolet light from the sun is still the best and most powerful purifying agent on the planet. But to neutralize the threat of COVID-19, you need UV band C, which is usually blocked from reaching the earth’s surface by the atmospheric ozone layer.

UV air purifiers deliver a synthetic band of UV-C that purifies your indoor air before it enters your air ducts.

While ultraviolet light is not as effective with particulates, it is ideal for addressing liquid or gaseous airborne particles – just the kind of particles that COVID-19 uses to transmit itself.

If your home does not use ductwork, you can opt for a portable ductless UV air purifier.

4. Install a HEPA filtration system

For tiny solid particles like PM2.5 toxins, what you need is a HEPA filtration system. These systems have been used since World War II to protect scientists from incredibly small radioactive particles and other tiny solid toxins.

Today, HEPA filters are used in hospitals and laboratories around the world. The N-95 mask uses a type of filter that is similar (although slightly less effective) than the HEPA filter.

HEPA filters will trap micro-particles before they enter your home’s air ducts for distribution.

If your home does not have ductwork, you can use a portable ductless HEPA filtration system.

Stay Safe With Healthy Habits

There isn’t a lot we can do right now about any past exposure we might have had to outdoor airborne toxins.

But there is still a lot we can do right now to boost our immune system function so it can effectively fight back against COVID-19.

Here are our current favorite immune-boosting tips you can add to your daily routine right away:

  • Remember to wash your hands!

  • Add more citrus to your diet to get extra vitamin C, or take more of the supplement.

  • Drink lots of plain water or lemon water to flush toxins out of your body.

  • Eat a healthy diet of fresh, whole foods.

  • Limit caffeine, alcohol and refined sugar.

  • Do everything you can to get at least eight hours of high-quality sleep a night.

  • Keep your stress lower by limiting your consumption of scary coronavirus news.

  • Take social support using your phone and online tools to stay connected.

  • Be kind to yourself – you are under a lot of stress!

By taking good care of yourself, you take care of all of us, too.

Get in Touch

During the stay-at-home order here in Ontario, our staff is also working remotely. But we are still here to serve your indoor air quality needs.

Contact us online or give us a call at 905-549-2470.

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