Reduce your emissions!

Urban dwellers breathe in a fug of hundreds of pollutants every day, like ozone, particulates, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. Air pollution in cities arises from multiple industrial, commercial and residential sources; the worst offender (and the one the average person can actually do something about) is the motor vehicle.

Reduce your emissions!
We're all affected by air pollution, and most of us (especially those of us who drive) are also part of the problem. The following measures, mainly aimed at improving our transport habits, may seem petty – but they'd have a major impact on air pollution if multiplied by millions (i.e. if we all took them seriously and put them into practise on a regular basis):

  • Drive less. Whenever you can, combine multiple trips into one, start a carpool, use public transport, walk or ride a bicycle.
  • Don't drive at high speeds like they do in the car ads; keep it smooth and steady. Also, avoid long periods of idling; avoid the rush hour, congested areas and the resultant stop-start crawl-driving.
  • Keep your car engine well maintained, including the air conditioning system, and keep the tires properly inflated.
  • Choose a newer model car with good fuel economy and low emission features. Watch the press for news about alternatively fuelled vehicles, like electric cars.
  • Avoid filling up on smog-heavy days. Refuel after dark and after rush-hour in the warmer months, to help prevent pollutants reacting with sunlight and becoming ground-level ozone. Don't overfill your petrol tank.
  • Postpone gardening chores that use petrol-fuelled equipment (like lawn-mowers) until later in the evening.
  • Think twice about using petrol-fuelled recreational vehicles like outboard motors and off-road SUVs.
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Lower consumption of products, whether fuel, electricity or any other consumerable, reduces air pollution.
  • Keep complaining to the authorities about any air pollution in your area that worries you.

(Olivia Rose-Innes, Health24, updated July 2006)
Post a comment/question to the EnviroHealth Expert

Information sources
Trasande L, Thurston GD. The role of air pollution in asthma and other pediatric morbidities. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2005 Apr;115(4):689-99.

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