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Air Quality When Traveling

Posted on June 19, 2014
by Wendy Stackhouse

london eye from st james

My family just returned from a trip to the UK and while I was gone, I saw quite a few people in London wearing face masks–I assume they were for the poor London air quality–and spent many hours on international airliners. Now I wonder if there was anything I should have done to protect myself and my kids from airborne pollutants or pathogens. Let’s find out! News reports about a smog crisis in London were everywhere this spring. “London pollution as bad as Beijing!” headlines screamed. Yes, London did have high levels of air pollution this spring and they are doing things to prevent it happening again, but it is not the everyday situation. Pollution levels on a particularly awful air quality day were compared to a particularly good air quality day in Beijing, alarming many unnecessarily. I think we were okay without masks–and the weather was incredible! What about those long airplane rides? There is a new film being released about Aerotoxic Syndrome, which reports “Dr. Susan Michaelis’s PhD research completed in 2010 found high rates of neurological, respiratory diseases and cancers amongst aircrew having been exposed to the contaminated air environment.” Hmmm. Most of what we are reading applies to the constant exposure that flight attendants and pilots would have, not passengers. Actually, airplanes have HEPA filters cleaning the air so although it feels different–very dry–it’s okay for a typical person. Of course we have all heard stories about people getting sick after airplane flights, but that is due more to close quarters with sick or incubating fellow passengers and lack of hand washing than air quality. Not much we can do about who we sit next to, but more handwashing is always in order. I haven’t come down with anything so far and we all had a wonderful time in the UK, great weather and clear skies. Hope you are having a lovely summer so far, as well!

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