Earlier this year a cloud of toxic smog caused a health alert in Britain. The cloud was caused by the smog that is increasingly present over many parts of Britain, combined with air pollution blowing in from the European continent. This lead to reduced visibility and of course, a spate of health concerns, especially respiratory issues such as asthma. Apart from respiratory problems, air pollution also impacts your eyesight. The Word Health Organisation (WHO) calls air pollution “the single largest environmental health risk”. Here’s how to protect your eyes from the harmful effects of air pollution.
Up in the air
Air pollution is the presence of harmful substances such as various poisonous gases, particulate matter and biological material in the air that we breathe. The most common pollutants are nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and suspended particulate matter. While the UK AIR Quality Standards Regulations has set permissible limits for these pollutants, some of them have been exceeding prescribed levels, especially nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter. Long-term exposure to air pollution has contributed to more than 28,000 deaths across the UK in 2010, according to Public Health England (PHE). A 2014 study by WHO measured air quality in nearly 1,600 cities in 91 countries and found that 90% of the people in urban areas breathe in polluted air. 9 English cities and towns were found to have poor air quality, including London, Birmingham, Nottingham and Southampton. Road traffic is the biggest contributor to air pollution levels, followed by domestic and commercial heating systems.
Impact on Eyes
Air pollution can lead to a host of eye problems. Some of these include:
- Dry eye syndrome in which the cornea and conjunctiva (lining inside the eyelids) become inflamed
- Itchy and tired eyes that burn
- Sensitivity to bright light
- Dizziness due to exposure to hydrogen sulphate in the air, which can even lead to blindness in extreme cases
- Depletion of the ozone layer due to CFC or chlorofluorocarbons emitted by air conditioners, refrigerators and aerosol sprays, which allows harmful ultraviolet rays to reach the earth. Prolonged exposure to UV rays can damage the eyes
What you can do
You are exposed to air pollutants every time you step out of your home or office, and it’s virtually impossible to be completely protected. However, here are some steps you can take:
- Avoid going out of your home or office between noon and 4 p.m. Air quality is lowest when the temperature is highest
- Don’t walk or bike along busy streets
- Buy a home air filter that can block out particulate matter
- Wear sunglasses every time you step outside. Make sure your sunglasses have adequate UV protection
Select your sunglasses from the wide range available at Leightons Opticians and Hearing Care. While you’re at the store, get your eyes tested to check whether your prescription has changed, and also get your ocular health assessed. If any eye problems are spotted, our opticians can help you address them. If you need prescription sunglasses, we can fit your chosen frames with lenses that have been made to your individual requirements. Don’t let air pollution take its toll on your eyes; we are here to help you!
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