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Living or working in the UK’s most polluted cities and towns increases the risk of an early death by the equivalent of smoking three cigarettes a week, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has warned today.

The BHF has called for air pollution to be declared “a public health emergency” following the starling results of a research project funded by the charity. The study in question found that breathing in the particulate matter found in polluted air is a serious risk factor for diseases effecting the circulatory system.

Around 11,000 coronary heart disease and stroke deaths each year in the UK are caused by particulate matter air pollution. It can also worsen existing health problems such as respiratory illnesses, but in truth it effects every part of our body.

It’s the PM2.5 – the smallest of the particulate matter found in vehicle emissions – that are of most concern, as these cannot be filtered out of the air we breathe by our nostrils or the tube going down into the lungs.

The BHF analysis shows that the Chelsea, Newham, Westminster, Kensington and Islington areas of London are worst hit by air pollution – the equivalent to smoking more than 150 cigarettes a year on average. Those in Waltham Forest, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Barking and Dagenham, Lambeth and Southwark in London are also badly affected, as are people in Slough, Dartford, Gravesham, Thurrock, Portsmouth, Medway and Luton,

The results of studies such as these have led to an increase in demands that the next government should urgently introduce the much tougher World Health Organisation (WHO) air pollution limits in place of EU limits. the current EU limits – which the UK comfortably meets – for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) are 25 micrograms per metre cubed as an annual average. The WHO limits are much tougher – at 10 micrograms per metre cubed as an annual average. The potential health benefits of lowering these levels would allow everyone to live healthier lives for longer.

it’s not all doom and gloom – we’ve recently written about how dietary components can help play a role in combatting the effects of air pollution, which you can read about here. Altruvita’s medical and nutritionist team has also developed Air Pollution Formula, the very first food supplement of its kind and designed to provide natural support in a polluted world.

There are many ways you can try to limit your exposure to both indoor and outdoor air pollution, and to help you out we’ve gathered them together in our insightful Air Pollution Survival Guide. Download your FREE copy here.

With studies on the impact of air pollution on our health being released on a weekly basis now, it’s no wonder we’re all starting to pay attention. It’s especially emotive when children and babies are at risk too. The latest research shows that children living next to a main road will not have developed lungs which are needed to protect against respiratory infections, and they also have a 10% higher risk of lung cancer in later life. This is along with increased risk of asthma and COPD. Whilst some are considering an escape to the country, and away from main roads, for others it’s impractical to move their home, work or school. 

We’ve known for quite some time that diets high in particular compounds, and supplements, have shown promise in terms of benefit against air pollution. In an attempt to avoid selection of anti-pollution superfoods, here’s some tips to what an anti-pollution super diet could look like:

  • Firstly, don’t starve your body, it needs continuous protection against pollutants. One study has suggested that there may be increased susceptibility to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) when someone is in a fasting state. NO2 is produced by motor vehicles, biomass burning, airports and industry.
  • Children living in the city should eat a diet high in antioxidants. A study of children looked at total antioxidant intake and asthma rates, and there appeared to be a link between higher antioxidant intake (total antioxidant capacity) and diminished sensitivity to inhaled allergens. Children should be encouraged to eat their 5 a day, and even such things as turmeric which contains curcuminoid antioxidants.  Potatoes are an important source of the antioxidant vitamin C.
  • Protect your skin with vitamin C and E. Exposure to ground level ozone (O3) results in dose-dependent depletion of antioxidants vitamin C and E in the skin. (O3) generation is a major component of smog and is formed as a result of a photochemical reaction between O2 and pollutants such as hydrocarbons and nitrous oxides, which is facilitated by sunlight. Foods such as oranges, strawberries and lemons are high in vitamin C, and almonds and avocados are good sources of vitamin E.
  • Keep your vitamin D levels topped up, especially in asthmatics. Although most of your vitamin D comes from sunlight, supplementation is often required because of reduced sunlight. The sun’s UVB rays struggle to get through air pollution smog and have been shown to affect blood levels of vitamin D. Low vitamin D levels are linked to allergic asthma exacerbation. A vitamin Dcontaining supplement and consuming foods such as oily fish may help.
  • Ensure vitamin C and E levels are kept topped up in asthma and COPD. A London-based study looked at whether individual blood antioxidant concentrations (vitamins A, C and E) could modify the response to particulate matter with respect to hospital admissions for COPD or asthma. Two hundred and thirty four admissions were recorded and the level of PM10 (larger particles) was noted 14 days before and after each event. Combined admission rates were related to a 10 μg/m increase in PM10. Serum vitamin C modified the effect of PM10 on asthma/COPD exacerbations. A similar (although weaker) influence was observed for low levels of vitamin E in the blood. Citrus fruits provide lots of vitamin C, whereas almonds and avocados are rich in vitamin E.
  • Vitamin C and E supplements may help asthma patients exposed to high ozone levels. Antioxidant supplementation with vitamin C and E above the minimum dietary requirement led to reduced nasal inflammation and partially restored antioxidant levels in asthmatic patients exposed to high levels of O3. Vitamin E-containing antioxidants also reduced O3-induced bronchoconstriction in subjects with asthma in 2 other studies. High levels of vitamins C and E were provided as supplements and it is not known if diet would have the same effect.
  • Vitamin E supplements may help in people exposed to O3 without asthma. Two trials reported that vitamin E-containing antioxidants reduce O3-induced bronchoconstriction in subjects without asthma, suggesting potential protective effects of vitamin E against the detrimental effects of O3. High levels of vitamin E were provided as supplements and it is not known if diet would have the same effect.
  • Eat turmeric if you live in a city or you are around smoke. In a Singapore population of 2478 people, where air pollution and smoking rates are high, researchers found that people taking dietary curcumin through eating turmeric in curry, had better pulmonary function. The average adjusted forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) associated with curry intake was 9.2% higher among current smokers, 10.3% higher among past smokers, and 1.5% higher among non-smokers. Turmeric and oil can also be used to marinade meat and fish and in dhal, rice and Moroccan dishes.
  • Fish derived omega 3 oils could protect the heart and blood vessels. Omega 3 oils are known for their effects in alleviating inflammation in the body and there are recent studies which use omega-3 oils to combat the effects of air pollutants. In an animal study researchers demonstrated that omega-3 oils prevented and improve inflammation caused by fine particulate matter. A human study in China found that a dose of 2.5g/day fish derived omega 3 oils led to protection of the cardiovascular system from the tiny particulates in air (PM 2.5). These studies used supplements as it is impractical to try to consume high doses of the oil through eating oily fish.
  • The Mediterranean diet may help if smoke is an issue. A diet high in oily fish, olive oil, fresh fruit, veg and salads does offer some protection against the effects of tobacco smoke in smokers and passive smokers.

No particular dietary intervention has been tested in a high pollution environment yet and you’ll see that most research suggests that supplements are required to get enough of a particular compound.

We’ve developed Air Pollution Formula, the very first supplement of its kind, to offer natural support in a polluted world. Take a closer look at the ingredients chosen for our unique Air Pollution Formula here.

A study just published today the 22th August, tells a tale of how our health is being affected by pollution, in particular particulates.

Teams from across the globe recorded their daily data on mortality (number of deaths) and their air pollution levels. Teams were located in 652 cities in 24 countries or regions.

Although there are dangers known for outdoor air pollutants; sulphur dioxide, ozone and nitrogen dioxide etc, this study was just looking at very small particles. They evaluated the associations of inhalable particulate matter (PM) with a diameter of 10 μm or less (PM10) and fine PM with a diameter of 2.5 μm or less (PM2.5) with daily all-cause, cardiovascular, and respiratory mortality. In other words, they measured the particles in the air on every day and recorded number of deaths on that day.

They found that increases short-term exposure to PM10 and PM2.5 led to small but significant increases in all causes of deaths, and cardiovascular eg heart attack, and respiratory mortality eg asthma attack.

These are just 2 types of pollutants, adding in data from all pollutants lead to further deaths.

It’s a stark reminder that pollution levels need to fall to improve global health.

Liu C, et al. Ambient Particulate Air Pollution and Daily Mortality in 652 Cities. N Engl J Med. 2019 Aug 22;381(8):705-715. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1817364.

Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash

From our hand soap to our surface spray, our body wash to our perfume, air fresheners and candles, household cleaners and laundry liquid; scents are all around us. This may not make any sense according to gathering research.

Contrary to popular belief, most exposure to hazardous pollutants that affect health and well-being occurs indoors. A primary source of these indoor pollutants and exposures are dyes, smoke, sealants, fire retardants and now fragrances.  Common fragranced consumer products include air fresheners, cleaning products, washing powder/liquid, and deodorants/body sprays and perfumes.

Do you feel unwell when you’ve been indoors for a few days or do you have symptoms that you think must be related to food sensitivities?

Exposure to fragranced products have been associated with a range of adverse human health effects, including migraine headaches, contact dermatitis, asthma attacks, respiratory difficulties, and mucosal symptoms In two previous surveys, it was found that 17.5% and 20.5% of the general US population (between 2002–3 and 2005–6 respectively) reported breathing difficulties, headaches, or other health problems when exposed to air fresheners and deodorizers.

Fragranced consumer products emit dozens of different volatile compounds, including terpenes (e.g., limonene, alpha-pinene, and beta-pinene) that are primary pollutants, and that react with ozone in our households to generate secondary pollutants such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. Even some so-called ‘green’, ‘atural’ and ‘organic’ fragranced products emit hazardous pollutants, similar to regular fragranced products because it may only include 1 ingredient of better quality. Little information exists, however, on potentially hazardous compounds emitted from fragranced products, in part because products are not required to disclose all ingredients. Thus, knowledge of potential exposures and effects is essential to effective risk reduction.

Imagine this common scenario; you recently buy an expensive candle ‘made with the finest natural ingredients’. You open it and on the back it says ‘extremely hazardous to aquatic life’ and ‘may trigger allergic reactions’. Made in China. It doesn’t state what the wax is, so it’s probably the cheapest material- paraffin. So apart from being useful for lighting the room, the company stated it’s selling something really toxic at the same time as stating it has ‘finest natural ingredients’. 

Not so relaxing to breath that scented candle any more…

There are now calls for fragrance free zones as well as smoke-free zones being initiated in the US and Australia. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Indoor Environmental Quality Policy (CDC, 2009) states that “Scented or fragranced products are prohibited at all times in all interior space owned, rented, or leased by CDC.” 

For health professionals and patients, when faced with health problems such as headaches, respiratory difficulties, mucosal symptoms, rashes, asthma, and others, consider the possibility that fragranced products could be a contributor. Many people who believe that food may be making them ill may be surprised that even their favourite perfume may be the culprit.

Most fragrances cause indoor air pollution.

Look out for vitamins, oils and botanicals that have been used in air pollution studies, within our products.

Photo by Marina De Salis on Unsplash

Air pollution is on the rise. When indoor and outdoor air pollution are combined, WHO estimates that in 2012, some 14% of deaths were due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or acute lower respiratory infections, and 14% of deaths were due to lung cancer.

Emissions from vehicles are a major contributor to air pollution. They release nitrogen dioxides and fine particles, leading to local pollution especially in urban areas. The most damaging type of outdoor air pollution is fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometres in diameter (PM2.5 ).
Other sources contributing to PM2.5 concentrations can come from afar however, as there have been many occasions where ‘Saharan dust’ has triggered respiratory problems in the UK population, but the dust has been found to contain these fine particulates and ammonium nitrate from Europe.

Air pollution reduces overall life expectancy in healthy individuals, but in combination with other existing health conditions can also cause early death.

A study from 2017 looked at the role of woodland, grassland, moorland and crops in removing a suite of air pollutants which are known to have substantial impacts on human health. The study looked at levels of PM2.5, nitrogen dioxide, ground level ozone, and sulphur dioxide in these areas. 

The study showed that plants are great at removing pollutants right across the UK and this overall reduction in the levels of pollutants leads to a substantial health benefit.

Several groups got together and estimated the health benefits of removing each pollutant and calculated the economic value. The main health impacts originate from respiratory and cardiovascular health effects, and deaths. The benefits are greater in urban areas because that is where most people live.

Plants remove air pollution by providing a large surface area for particulate matter to settle on, and by active uptake of gases into the leaves or chemical reactions with the leaf surface. Collectively these processes are called ‘dry deposition’. The amount of pollution a plant can remove depends partly on its leaf area and size, but also varies greatly depending on the weather, the time of year (for deciduous species which drop their leaves in winter), and on the other pollutants present in the atmosphere.

The health benefits calculated were substantial, with estimated avoided health costs of one billion pounds in 2015, the majority of this is from removal of PM2.5. The study also estimated 5,800 fewer respiratory hospital admissions, 1,300 fewer cardiovascular hospital admissions, 27,000 less life years that were lost, and 1,900 fewer premature deaths.

So it looks like if we are filling our garden or hedges with plants, we want those with big surfaces that don’t drop leaves Autumn-Winter.

Meanwhile, indoor air pollution is also a constant problem and a threat to health. So looking further into the idea of how houseplants can fend off the potentially harmful effects of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a main category of air pollutants, a team of researchers have made some new discoveries. They found that certain plants are better at removing specific compounds from the air – this is especially meaningful for indoor air, as studies have shown that interior air can have three to five times more pollutants than outside (apart from in high traffic areas).

VOCs include things like acetone, benzene, formaldehyde and tolulene – they are emitted as gases and can cause short- and long-term health effects. People with asthma and COPD are especially sensitive. They are invisible to the eye and come from common things many of us have around the house, things as innocent-seeming as candles, furniture, copiers and printers, cleaning chemicals.

Since the NASA research in the 1980s, a number of studies have looked into how plants improve air quality, but most of the research has looked at the removal of single VOCs by individual plants from the air; but one groups wanted to compare the efficiency of simultaneous removal of several VOCs by a number plants. The team used a sealed chamber in which they monitored the VOC concentrations over several hours with and without a different type of plant. For each plant they measured the VOCs the plants took up, how quickly they removed these VOCs from the air, and how much of the VOCs were removed altogether. They gathered five plants (spider plant, dracaena, Caribbean tree cactus, bromeliad and jade plants) and gave them 8 VOCs.

They found that all of the plants were good at removing acetone, but the dracaena plant took up the most, around 94 percent of the chemical. The bromeliad plant was great at removing six of the eight VOCs, taking up more than 80 percent of each over a 12-hour sampling period. Likewise, the jade plant was very good for toluene.

Particular botanicals and nutrients from food have been tested in combatting all sorts of nasty bits floating around in our air, so take a look at our products!

Photo by Thomas Somme on Unsplash

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