How does air pollution affect us?

A new study from China has shown a clear link between low levels of happiness among city dwellers and levels of toxic air pollution. Scientists compared data on people’s moods obtained from social networks with the level of air pollution in their places of residence. To measure happiness in 144 Chinese cities, they used an algorithm to analyze the mood of 210 million tweets from the popular microblogging site Sina Weibo.

“Social media shows people’s happiness levels in real time,” said Professor Shiki Zheng, an MIT scientist who led the research.

Scientists have found that spikes in pollution coincide with a deterioration in people’s moods. And this is especially evident in the case of women and people with higher incomes. People are more affected on weekends, holidays and days of extreme weather. The results of this study, published in the journal Nature Human Behavior, shocked the public.

Professor Andrea Mechelli, head of the Urban Mind project at King’s College London, said in an interview that this is a valuable addition to the growing body of data on air pollution and mental health.

Of course, air pollution is primarily dangerous to human health. This study only proves that the air affects us even when we do not notice it.

What can you do now?

You will be surprised how valuable your actions can be in the fight against air pollution.

1. Change transport. Transport is one of the main sources of air pollution. If possible, give other people a lift on the way to work. Use the maximum vehicle load. Change from your personal car to public transport or a bicycle. Walk where possible. If you do use a car, keep it in good condition. This will reduce fuel consumption.

2. Cook by yourself. The packaging of goods and their delivery is also a cause of air pollution. Sometimes, instead of ordering pizza delivery, cook it yourself.

3. Order in the online store only what you are going to buy. Thousands of flights with the delivery of things that in the end were not bought and sent back also pollute the air. As well as their repackaging. Just imagine how many boats, ships, planes and trucks were used to deliver a T-shirt that you did not like when you tried it on.

4. Use reusable packaging. Instead of a bag, choose fabric bags and pouches. They will last longer, and therefore save energy spent on production and transportation.

5. Think about trash. By separating waste and sending it for recycling, less waste ends up in landfills. This means that less garbage will decompose and release landfill gas.

6. Save electricity and water. Power plants and boilers pollute the air at your request. Turn off the lights when leaving the room. Turn off the water faucet when brushing your teeth.

7. Love plants. Trees and plants give off oxygen. This is the easiest and most important thing you can do. Plant trees. Get indoor plants.

Even if you only do one item on this list, you are already helping the planet and yourself.

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