Nothing can be more disturbing than fine dust. Pushing other weather forecast factors aside, fine dust concentration has risen as a top-ranking criterion. Clear blue skies have become a rare days to cherish and it is easy to find people wearing masks. While fine dust watches have been issued frequently, the government also carried out emergency procedures, such as free public transportation or encouraging the two-shift vehicle system. Needless to say, fine dust is detrimental to our health. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) even listed fine dust as a Group 1 carcinogen. As such, it would not be an exaggeration to say that fine dust is a silent killer.
How Fine Dust Affects Health
Health Effects of Fine Dust
Fine dust refers to particles that are smaller than 10 micrometers, one tenth of our hair’s thickness. While most dust in the air is filtered through nose hair or bronchial tubes, fine dust enters the human body and causes different symptoms depending on the diameter of the particles. The smaller, the deeper it can infiltrate into organ systems and have higher potential toxicity. It gets more serious as fine dust goes down bronchial tubes and deeper into organs.
When exposed to fine dust for a long term, it can greatly weaken the human immune system, leaving our bodies vulnerable to various respiratory problems. With frequent coughing, phlegm develops in your throat, leading to infection in the respiratory track. Also, it dries up mucous membranes, making it easier for bacteria to penetrate into the body. Such process results in respiratory problems such as bronchial and asthmatic diseases. Furthermore, according to the Korean Medical Association, fine dust has been blamed for cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure. Also, one of the body parts in direct contact with fine dust are our eyes. It can cause conjunctivitis, making eyes turn red and itchy.
Those Who Need Extra Care
People who suffer from respiratory diseases, as well as children, the elderly, and pregnant women should take extra care of themselves from fine dust. In the case of children exposed to fine dust, the mortality rate due to respiratory diseases increased significantly. In addition, as they are in growth, the effects on their lung function may carry on even after they become adults. For the elderly, inhaling fine dust greatly decreases lung function, leading to fatal complications. Fine dust poses dangers to pregnant women as well. According to a four-year study on 1,500 pregnant women at Ewha Womans University Hospital, it has been revealed that if the concentration of fine dust raises by 10 ㎍ per unit, the possibility of giving birth to a deformed child is 16% higher.
How to Cope with Fine Dust
Behavioral Guidelines by the Fine Dust Index
The Ministry of Environment released behavioral guidelines according to six stages of fine dust concentration levels.
Slightly Bad (81~120㎍/㎥): Sensitive groups should refrain from long-term outdoor activities
Bad (121~200㎍/㎥): Avoid excessive outdoor activities or prolonged outdoor activities Very Bad (201~300㎍/㎥): Refrain from outdoor activities
Hazardous (301㎍/㎥): Restricted to indoor activities
Useful Tips for Batting against Fine Dust
Wearing the Right Mask
Merely wearing a mask is not enough. Not every mask is effective as small particles can still penetrate through average masks. Therefore, if you are wearing a mask for fine dust protection, you should look out for the “KF” mark. Depending on the level of protection, KF marked masks are assigned by its numbers. The numbers 80 and 94 refer to the mask’s thickness and its filtering efficiency. For example, the KF 80 mask is known to filter more than 80% of the toxic dust. Experts suggest that the KF 80 mask is usually enough. Apart from that, don’t forget to wear the right size and for indoor places like subway stations, it’s better not to take it off.
Use the Right Air Filters
When you enter
Helpful Foods for Fine Dust
Consuming healthy foods helps the body to prevent and to deal with the negative effects of fine dust. First of all, drinking enough water is important to prevent fine dust from entering your body. If dehydrated, the mucous membranes in the respiratory system becomes less effective, consequently allowing dust particles to easily enter your body. Not only that, water also helps release toxic substances through sweat or urine. Likewise, seaweed helps remove toxins and makes the blood to become clean. Tannin, a component found in green tea, strengthens the immune system and is excellent at preventing carcinogen build up in the body. Also foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as mackerel, and vegetables (like parsley, garlic, and broccoli) with abundant amounts of fiber are recommended.
Undoubtedly, the right to breathe clean air is the top priority, a right directly related to our survival. It is a shame that due to the severity of fine dust, Korea is no longer safe from its constant danger. Though it would be the government's duty to contrive and carry out fundamental and long-term countermeasures, who would take care of our health in the short run? It is up to no one than ourselves. After all, it is better to be safe than sorry from fine dust.
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