Monday, January 28, 2008

'Round the World Air Pollution

It is not unusual to be walking down the streets of Mexico City and see people wearing paper masks, covering their mouths and noses (like surgical masks). The first time I saw someone here wearing one I thought maybe they had a severe case of asthma or something. Soon I learned that it is not only people with serious respiratory problems who wear these, but people who are being cautious and want to prevent health problems like bronchitis or sinus infections. One day as I was jogging in our neighborhood park, I even saw a fellow jogger wearing one. I think it's sad that a person trying to exercise and keep healthy could develop worse health problems because of regular outdoor jogging. In fact, a New York Times News Service article said that, "an athlete working out at a moderate pace for 30 minutes in poor air is subject to the same exposure as a sedentary person breathing that air for eight hours," according to Randy Wilber, the lead exercise physiologist for the U.S. Olypmic Committee.

I've lived in the megalopolis for a year and eight months now so the particulate matter has become just part of daily life--Jeremy's childhood asthma returned, and I may have some form of sinusitis (boo!) But all of this poor air quality stuff and its effects have resurfaced for me lately since I've been reading a lot about the upcoming Beijing Olympics. Beijing's air quality is very poor as well, so athletes from around the world are freaking out. According to the article, U.S. athletes will most likely wear some special masks when they arrive to the other megolopolis. These masks filter 85 to 100 percent of pollutants, the article said.

Paper masks filter about 25 to 45 percent of main pollutants, according to Wilber. Hmm...maybe I should start wearing a mask.

1 comment:

Joy said...

From what I've heard from my friends who live in China, and seen in photos, the air in Beijing seems much worse than the D.F. -- at least here the sky is blue (above the horizon).

One thing that drives me nuts about the D.F. is how all the park workers constantly sweep up every fallen leaf, exposing all the dirt, which flies into the air at the slightest breeze. If they could let the leaves cover it (or attempt to grow some grass), it would reduce dust.

Dust can carry the bacteria/viruses that the mask-wearers are trying to avoid. You can even get gastroenteritis from it! Esp if the park where the dust comes from is frequently used by pets, etc.