Busier lifestyles and prolonged periods of time in the public sphere, make us more susceptible to potential illnesses from places we least expect it.
Can we protect ourselves from everyday germs and pollutants?
For years, Chinese residents have been wearing face masks to avoid inhalation of germs and toxic pollutants in the air. The current pollution crisis has led to face mask stock outs and propelled one Chinese man, Li Guixin, to sue the Chinese government for not protecting the people of China from the smog.
China is not the only country to resort to such measures. The Mexican Government made the use of face masks mandatory for bus and taxi drivers during the height of the influenza epidemic in 2009 and recommended face masks be worn by passengers on public transport (NCBI).
Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Wearing face masks in public may seems extreme but according to an article on BMC Infectious Diseases website, a person is six times more likely to be exposed to a virus while using public transport. Wearing a medical face mask may decrease the chances of contracting airborne infections.
In Japan, wearing face masks is part of a wider culture of risk and is a widespread and normalised practice. It is understood that 72% of face masks manufactured in Japan were used at home. According to an article by Adam Burgess, wearing face masks has always been a ritual in Japan that dates back to before the nineteen hundreds. Mask wearing was officially recommended during the SARS pandemic in 2003 and in 2006 during the Avian Flu epidemic. Since then, wearing face masks in public has become a social norm to the extent that those who do not wear them, draw attention.
It is impossible to avoid inhaling pollutants and germs but you can take measures to reduce your exposure. Face masks offer protection from inhaling particles which damage your health by getting into your lungs. They should be used in conjunction with other measures which reduce exposure to germs and pollutants.
Ensuring that your air conditioning filter is changed regularly will increase its efficiency and dramatically reduce the percentage of pollutants that enter your home or business.
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