…And now breast cancer?

There has been an intense debate over the possible link between breast cancer and air pollution. FIGO- the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics highlighted the discovery of a link between air pollution and breast cancer following an article published in the Breast Cancer Journal on the results of research conducted by the University of Florida. This was reported by mainstream media as an alarming call to women living in areas with high air pollution.

Do not panic!

But there is no need to panic, it’s very important to be cautious with scientific results. In fact, many organizations like Cancer Research-UK, BreastCancer and others jumped to clarify that finding a link does not mean that air pollution causes breast cancer. Two things can be highly correlated without implying causation.

We know and we’ve talked about how pervasive air pollution is in our bodies, affecting our lungs, circulation, diabetes, skin and many more. The link between air pollution and lung cancer is very well researched, many research teams have worked on this subject for decades and have found how it happens and why. All the other links of air pollution to diseases are still in the very beginning of compiling research results and while it is one thing to link air pollution with skin problems, it is another step entirely to link it with a life-threatening disease like breast cancer.

Be cautious and understand the risks

We should not panic, but we should know the extent of current research on this matter. The latest research was conducted by the University of Florida, US, and looked at the link between breast density and air pollution. They found that women living in areas with high pollution had denser breast tissue. Women with dense breast tissue are up to six times more likely to develop some form of breast cancer.

In 2010, another study by the Research Institute of the MUHC, McGill University and Université de Montreal also showed a link. This study mapped air pollution against breast cancer patients and found that women living near areas with higher levels of pollution were twice as likely to develop breast cancer than the rest. However, Dr Goldberg, a researcher at The RI MUHC said:

“For example, we don’t know how much the women in the study were exposed to pollution while at home or at work, because that would depend on their daily patterns of activity, how much time they spend outdoors and so on”

In the case of this study, what is interesting is that the motivation to study the link between air pollution and breast cancer was to try to understand why cancer rates were going up in general / in these particular high pollution areas. The results showed that it could be air pollution but it may well be some other factor that the study could not control. In fact, the researchers called for more research on this subject and more research on the biological explanation behind this possible link.

Before more scientific evidence is gathered, we should make it a habit to know the quality of the air we breathe and take actions to improve the quality of the air we are exposed to, both indoors and outdoors!

Key steps to ensure office safety

Be air safe in your business

Around the world the pandemic has taken many forms. Some are working from home while others have to work in their offices. Although offices may have less people to ensure social distancing, managers and office space administrators should still take crucial steps to protect their staff. The past months of increased information about how COVID-19 spreads silently, has opened our eyes about the relevance of clean air and social practices in protecting us.

Although, outdoors is the ideal place to gather for safety purposes, offices, and shops can also minimize risk and have employees back in business with their safety as their first priority.

The following steps require to re-think the office with airflow safety in mind.  We need to re-think the way we use office space and even office supplies. Understanding that clean air and clean surfaces are the ultimate goal to staff safety. A new type of health and safety plan is required focusing on: 1) infrastructure maintenance, 2) re-thinking the way we use the space, and 3) ensuring all staff members are involved in the process and understand the need for a change in the way we work and the way we safely socialize.

Start by analyzing the infrastructure and how your devices can ensure the air in the premises is safe. The Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system needs to have the appropriate filters and they should be maintained regularly. Preferably HEPA filters should be used. If possible, outdoor air circulation should be increased; and airflow supply should be re-examined. Similarly, exhaust fans in restrooms are to be checked for performance and encourage their use at all times. This should be coupled with enhancing cleaning and disinfection at all times. Have a close look at the quality of the indoor air, it will make a difference.

Then move to conduct a hazard assessment with the COVID-19 thinking cap. Identifying areas where COVID 19 transmission could happen and how to change them. For example, the meeting rooms, cafeteria, break rooms, waiting areas and many more. This will result in necessary modifications of workstation distancing, or the use of shields to physically separate employees in all areas.  And, wherever physical barriers are not possible, visual cues on the floor can help employees distance themselves. Even shifts staggering will be crucial. Also, re-think best options for high-touch communal items such as coffee pot, microwave etc.

Last but not least, develop a communication plan to adequately convey health safety messages and changes in space usage to employees. Set a protocol for employees to know when to stay home, how to work from home when they have symptoms, or when a family member has symptoms. And if possible, provide that flexibility to work from home. Use signage to remind people of key actions to reduce transmission.

Keep in mind, indoor air quality is key to employees’ health and safety!

Trying to sleep but you cannot?

Sleep is not the first thought we have when thinking about the effects of air pollution.

A study conducted by Dr. Martha E. Billings, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Washington was presented in May at the American Thoracic Society International Conference. The study shows that air pollution affects sleep quality.

“Prior studies have shown that air pollution impacts heart health and affects breathing and lung function, but less is known about whether air pollution affects sleep,” said lead author Martha E. Billings “We thought an effect was likely given that air pollution causes upper airway irritation, swelling and congestion, and may also affect the central nervous system and brain areas that control breathing patterns and sleep.”

The study conducted showed that both PM2.5 and nitrogen dioxide are linked with poor sleep quality. The higher PM2.5 concentration leads to 50% odds of having poor sleep. Similarly, high levels of nitrogen dioxide increased by 60% the chances of experiencing poor sleep. 

Exactly why, is yet to be studied, but air pollution irritates nose, sinuses and back of throat which affects breathing and ultimately may have an impact on sleep quality. Also, air pollutants can enter the blood and can potentially have an effect on the brain and its breathing regulation capacities, therefore disrupting sleep.

“These new findings indicate the possibility that commonly experienced levels of air pollution not only affect heart and lung disease, but also sleep quality. Improving air quality may be one way to enhance sleep health and perhaps reduce health disparities,” Dr. Billings said

Sleep problems are common everywhere and on the increase. The use of multiple aids to sleep is increasing. This study shows how important it is to look at our environment, know the quality of our indoor and outdoor air and take measures to improve it. Improving air quality in our indoor space may go a long way in helping us having better sleep quality!

Monitor air quality!

Sources:
Neuroscience News
AMERICAN THORACIC SOCIETY – Air Pollution May Disrupt Sleep
Newsweek – Trouble Sleeping? Air Pollution May Be to Blame, Study Says
The Guardian – Air pollution linked to poor sleep, study finds

Crazy for a cruise holiday? Let’s talk air quality

A cruise is one of the most sought-after holiday destinations. The Caribbean, Mediterranean, Alaska, northern Europe and some areas in Asia have the largest array of Cruises with lavish restaurants and what seems like a relaxing holiday in the middle of nature but with all the conveniences of a touristy city on board. Worldwide a total of 24.2 million passengers enjoy cruises every year.

Unfortunately for cruise holiday goers, reports conducted by journalists in France and in the UK have shown that fine particulate matter (known as PM2.5 and PM 10) is particularly high on these cruise destinations.

Cruise ships are important sources of air pollution impacting the routes they cover and the cities in which they dock. One cruise ship emits the same amount of carbon dioxide as one million cars per day. We might think that this is only the trail left by the cruise, but in fact it affects also the people on the cruise. Journalists measured the air quality on the main deck and found that the concentration of fine particles was twice as high as the concentration in London’s Picadilly Circus and similar to the measurements in New Delhi, all coming from the same ship’s funnels.

Why?

Cruises use residual fuel of very low quality, it’s the fuel left after the refined fuel for cars has been extracted.  But it’s cheap and maritime global regulation is limited and difficult to enforce. Nonetheless, the International Maritime Organization has fixed  the 1st January 2020 as the date for all passenger ships to use fuel with maximum 0.5% lead content, it is now 3 times that level at 1.5%.

All cruise goers and communities living in the ports where these cruise ships dock have the right to know what they breathe. More regulation is essential, but constant monitoring on-board and off-board is essential to reassure users and communities of the air quality they are exposed to.

Meo’s air quality monitor- measures PM2.5 and PM10.

Let’s measure and take control of the air we breathe!

Sources:
Independent – Air quality on cruise ship deck ‘worse than world’s most polluted cities’, investigation finds
LaProvence – Le souffle pollué des géants des mers en Méditerranée

Checking air quality where it really matters!

We, at meo, are constantly checking air quality in different places. This article will take us to Hong-Kong, Hollywood road the heart of the bustling city, end of November 2017.

We installed one of our  units in Guardian Fitness, a private fitness club, in October 2017. Data were particularly interesting on Wednesday 22nd November 2017, a polluted day, with outdoor PM2.5 at ‘Unhealthy for sensitive groups’ level. Guardian Fitness could be seen as one of the “Safe Heaven” offered to Hong-Kongers, with both PM2.5 and VOC kept in the “Green” zone.

PM2.5 refers to the small particles that we inhale when we breathe. They are tiny enough to go through your lungs, and enter your bloodstream triggering health reactions.

VOC refers to the gases exhaled by new furniture, new carpets, new mats, new paints … each time there is renovation ongoing, or when standard cleaning products are used, as they contain a lot of unhealthy chemicals.

http://guardianfitness.hk/

Now, you know that you have 2 good reasons to join the lessons at Guardian Fitness:
Fitness and clean air!