7 Myths About Air Pollution

Air pollution kills thousands of people every day. But due to pollution being a “silent” killer, most do not grasp how much pollution affects our health. In this article, we’ll debunk seven air pollution myths.

Myth #1: Breathing polluted air makes you immune to it

This is a common misconception regarding air pollution. Many believe breathing polluted air will make them immune to it. Just like smoking cigarettes does not protect you from lung cancer, and drinking arsenic does not protect you from poisoning, inhaling polluted air weakens your respiratory organs. 

Myth #1: Breathing polluted air makes you immune to it

PM2.5 particles are one of the more dangerous pollutants due to their ability to enter deep into the lungs and bloodstream. They also cause respiratory illness.

Myth #2: Only visible air pollution is real

You can tell if the food is spoiled by the presence of mold on it, or if the water is contaminated if it has a foul odor or by its appearance. But, does this also apply to air pollution? Certainly not!

Myth #2: Only visible air pollution is real

Yes, if the air looks smoggy air pollution is likely quite serious. But even seemingly clear skies can contain dangerous levels of air pollution.

Myth #3: Indoor air is safer than outdoors

This is one of the most widely held misconceptions about air pollution. Unfortunately, indoor air can often be even worse than outdoors.

According to The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report, the concentration of airborne chemicals can be higher in an enclosed space, and the air indoors can be up to 5 times more polluted than that outside.

Myth #3: Indoor air is safer than outdoors

Myth #4: Air pollution is lowest in the morning

When asked which is the best time to exercise or go for a walk, the first thing that comes to mind is early morning, isn’t it? We believe that morning is the best time for physical activity because the air is least polluted at that time. But data suggests something else.  

Smart Air analyzed data from the US Embassy for Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, and Hyderabad, and found out that the pollution levels in most of these cities were actually highest in the morning and lowest during afternoon rush hour. 

Myth #4: Air pollution is lowest in the morning

Myth #5: Rain improves air quality

There is a common perception that rain will clear smoke and reduce air pollution. But data shows that rain has a relatively small impact on reducing air pollutants (0-30%). Even the heaviest rains reduced small pollutants by just 8.7%. For light to medium rain, the effect on PM 2.5 was close to zero.

Myth #5: Rain improves air quality

In fact, the wind is a much stronger force in reducing air pollution. An analysis of 6 years of pollution and weather data in Beijing found that fine particulate pollution (PM2.5) correlated strongly with the wind (r = -.37) but not with rain (r = -.04). 

Myth #6: Planting trees help reduce air pollution

Can trees reduce air pollution? They probably help a little bit, but trees aren’t made to remove particles from the air. If they do, it’s most likely because their roots absorb air and water. Some particles may be filtered out while they are sucking in, but it is unlikely to be significant. And research shows plants do little to reduce air pollution indoors as well.

Myth #6: Planting trees help reduce air pollution

Furthermore, research by the USDA Forest Service shows that most particles that are intercepted are retained on the plant surface.

Myth #7: Air pollution affects our lungs the most

One of the most commonly tracked pollutants is very small, fine particles called PM2.5. These small pollutants are under 2.5 micrograms in width and are considered to be one of the more dangerous pollutants due to their ability to enter deep into the lungs and bloodstream.

Myth #7: Air pollution affects our lungs the most

When the World Health Organization tallied up the millions of air pollution deaths per year, they found that lung cancer only accounted for 14%. Other lung problems like bronchitis were another 14%. So, what’s the other 72%—the large majority of air pollution deaths? Heart attacks and strokes. Air pollution enters our bloodstream and heart and causes havoc on the cardiovascular system.

Air pollution kills

There is no life without air, and we consume approximately 3000 gallons of it every day. Hence, we must remain aware of common misconceptions about one of the most essential components of our survival. This article is a small effort by Smart Air to keep air breathers away from air pollution myths.

Smart Air is a social enterprise tasked with helping more people breathe clean air with: 1) Free education and workshops 2) Effective-affordable air purifiers.

Smart Air CEO Paddy in the clean air lab.
Smart Air’s researcher Paddy in the clean air lab

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Smart Air is a social enterprise that creates simple, no-nonsense air purifiers and provides free education to protect people’s health from the effects of air pollution. We are proud to be the only certified B-Corp dedicated to fighting air pollution.