(read to the end to get the executive summary)
Is the air you breathe making you sick?
That’s the question that’s been on my mind more and more as of late. Why? Because I’m in a place that reportedly was measured to be the most polluted in the world last week:
Chiang Mai, Thailand
You may not be in a place that burns its crops every year which causes an overall haze of smoke in the air. However, you may want to know if the air you breathe is likely to cause you health problems.
Read on to find out what I mean, my adventures in air quality, as well as what you can do to make sure you’re breathing clean air…
You see it: The smog hanging over the city.
You smell it: The exhaust from the car ahead of you.
You know that the air you see and smell is going into your body. You’re breathing it in through your lungs.
You may feel things like: headache and nausea.
In extreme cases you can experience: confusion, fainting, vomiting, brain damage, seizures and coma.
And it seems there’s not much you can do to avoid it. It’s not like you can just stop breathing to make the problem go away!
Thankfully there are things you can do – and these are things you’ll soon learn as I share my personal journey and discovery about air quality and ways to ensure I’m breathing clean air…
Air Pollution is the Problem
Obviously the problem is with all the pollution in the air you breathe. When you breathe in polluted air, it can inflame your lungs and airways and block oxygen from getting in your body.
And, as you are well aware, oxygen is quite necessary for your survival… without enough oxygen you simply cannot live.
When this starts to happen, we call it “acute respiratory syndrome” and “respiratory failure“. Not good!
Source of Your Pollution
Where does your polluted air come from?
In my case here in Chiang Mai, Thailand, we know that crops are being burned during the months of March and April.
Burning crops emits traces of carbon dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, sulphur dioxide and particulates into the air we breathe.
If you live in a city, you’ll get similar pollutants in the air from cars burning gas as well as the dust in the air.
Unfortunately, we can’t just politely ask the farmers to stop burning their crops and expect them to comply. After all, this is their livelihood.
Similarly, we can’t just ask people to stop driving and expect them to comply either. (Although to me it’s a bit of a mystery as to our modern-day incessant need to drive everywhere all the time.)
Clean Air is Good for You
When you breathe clean air, you don’t just avoid all the problems mentioned above that make you sick.
When you breathe clean air, you are getting much needed oxygen in your body and blood. This gives you energy and makes you feel good.
Thinking about Solutions
What’s the solution?
Do you close all the doors and windows and stay inside?
Do you get an air purifier? Do you wear a mask?
My Air Pollution Solution in Chiang Mai, Thailand
When I moved to Chiang Mai in January, I had already talked to people and I knew that I was going to have to deal with the smoke and air pollution.
Get Out of Town!
For a lot of people the solution is quite simple: Leave and go somewhere that’s not polluted. For me, this wasn’t really a good option because I am taking Thai language classes at the university.
Thankfully, I was able to escape when the air quality took a turn for the worse – for just 3 days – to Phuket where the air was much clearer (but still not even near as clean as you saw above in Breckenridge!).
Get an Air Purifier and a Mask
I asked a fellow biohacking friend and he told me to get the Xiaomi air purifier and an N95 mask (meaning it filters out 95% of particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers).
I got the mask; but I was a little late when I started shopping for air purifiers. Plus they were pricey.
DIY Air Purifier
I started doing some research and discovered I could build my own DIY filter by simply attaching (with duct tape) a HEPA filter to the front of a box fan.
So I bought a box fan at Home Pro. But unfortunately they were out of filters…so I searched and searched and finally found an air filter that looked good on AliExpress. The timing was good because it arrived just as the air quality was at its worst.
Test Your Air Quality!
One question I had when setting up this DIY air purifier was:
How do I know if it’s “working”?
How bad is the air quality?
To answer these questions, one of the best things I did was purchase an air quality monitor. Now I can test the air anywhere and everywhere I go.
I saw the air PM2.5 air measure in my room go from nearly 100 (which might be considered “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups”) down below 30 (which might be considered “Good”).
You may NOT be safe Indoors!
What’s really interesting is the readings I’ve seen at various places around town. So far the best quality I’ve seen is in my apartment with my DIY air purifier running. In the car it’s good – at about 50 PM2.5.
I went to a health store called Sunturi Keto where I bought some health food. To my surprise, the air quality in the shop was very bad – over 200 PM2.5!
Rather than stay in my apartment like a hermit, I want to go different places – like coffee shops – to work. And I want to go to a place with clean air.
My assumption was that the Maya Shopping Mall would be a good place to go – particularly at Camp, the 24-hour coffee shop on the top floor catering to people working and studying.
I was wrong! The air quality inside was at about 150 PM2.5 while the outdoor reading was about 175 PM2.5. Not much difference!
The best place I found is where I’m sitting and typing this article now: inside the Starbucks in Maya where I see 50 PM2.5.
So… All of this is to let you know that the best way to really know if the air is “good” wherever you go – is to test it for yourself! And don’t assume that, just because you’re inside, you are “safe”!
How can you make sure you’re breathing clean air?
1_ Check online. A good place to start is to check if the air you breathe is dirty and the easiest way to do that is at the IQAir website, and with the AirVisual app.
2_ You can get an air quality monitor like this Chinese one from Lazada. Or find one on your favorite shopping website (like Amazon).
3_ Get an air purifier – especially in your bedroom to make sure the air you breathe at night is clean. You can also build your own with a HEPA filer and box fan, like you read above.
4_ Get an air mask and use it wherever the air is dirty – including indoors! You want to get something that’s rated at least class 5 or N95.
5_ Make sure you have a good filter in your car too. If you haven’t changed it in a while, maybe it’s time!
Pollution / Breathe Clean Executive Summary
Click here to get an executive summary of how to Breathe CLEAN thru Fire and Smoke Season.
What about you?
How’s your air quality?
And what are you doing to make it better?
Leave a comment below and let me know.