Feng shui means literally ‘wind-water’
Feng shui translates as ‘wind-water’. Not ‘wind and water’ as some feng shui authors and consultants incorrectly translate which changes the original intention behind this concept. It’s two words, not three. Feng shui sign or image is composed of two elements of wind and water, representing the spectrum of life, from matter to spirit. “All that is solid melts into air,” said Marx, echoing feng shui wisdom. Air and water are the most basic and ubiquitous elements that are essential for life.
Feng = wind or air
Wind or air is the most important element for life. Without air, we can only live for a short while. Oriental people knew how air pollution will affect people in the future. For example, in London, 26 people die every day from air pollution-related conditions. In cities, short of using electric cars, there is little one can do to improve air quality. But you can improve the quality of air in your home. Most people don’t realise that according to research the indoor air can be generally between two and five times more polluted than the air outside.
95% of global population breathe unsafe air
What makes indoor air toxic?
• Smoking and burning solid are two major sources of indoor air pollution. In some rare conditions, insulation that contains asbestos can be inhaled as it decays. Other common contributors to poor indoor air quality are:
• Furniture (toxic adhesives)
• Flooring and carpeting
• Cleaning products (laundry detergents)
• Air fresheners
• Hobby products
• Beauty and personal care products
• Gas appliances
• Moisture, mold, dust mites
• Outdoor pollution sources, such as smog, radon and pesticides
• Central HVAC systems
• Animal allergens
How air pollution affect our health?
Indoor air pollution can trigger respiratory problems in children and adults. Air pollution kills about 50 000 people in the UK every year (about 10 000 in London alone – so about 26 people every day in London). The British government has been in breach of its legal obligation to deal with it for years now! Air pollution is the number one public health emergency now. And your home can be polluting you. You have some choice in your home. For example, most modern paints have volatile compounds that are given off as the paint dries which in the short term can give you headaches and in the long term can be carcinogenic. Choose low odour paints which are now readily available.
“Indoor pollution is a very serious problem and health threat, not just in China but worldwide,” says Sieren Ernst, founder of environmental consultancy Ethics & Environment. “Most people spend 90% of their time indoors, and the exposures that we are getting from that time remain largely unexamined.”
Scientists agree that reducing outdoor air pollution would save more lives than curing breast and lung cancer combined. The WHO estimates that 571, 000 breast cancer and 1.69million lung cancer patients died in 2015. There is an overwhelming evidence and well-known fact that PM2.5 particle air pollution is a major global killer and that microscopic particles inhaled increase the risk of asthma, dementia, heart disease, lunch cancer, stroke and premature birth (read below about air pollution particles found in the womb).
Air pollution “causes a huge reduction in intelligence”
Researchers found that air pollution can make people less intelligent, resulting in the equivalent of a year of education. “The effect is worse for the elderly, especially those over 64, and for men and for those with low education.” says the researcher professor Xi Chen from Yale Schoool of Public Health in the US. The WHO suggests that air pollution is responsible for seven million early deaths a year and in the UK alone, 40, 000 people die each year (in London 10, 000 people). The study has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and was based on data from China but it suggests that the claim is relevant worldwide since 95% of global population breathe unsafe air.
Air pollution can reach the baby in the womb
Scientists find toxic soot particles inside the placenta after being breathed in by pregnant women. Air pollution has been linked to a lower birth weight and higher infant mortality. Soot particles have been discovered in the placenta in a recent study led by a team from the Queen Mary University of London, which was presented to the European Respiratory Society International Congress in Paris. This raises the possibility that the poisonous particles could reach the foetus. Dr Lisa Miyashita, a post-doctoral researcher, said: “We’ve known for a while that air pollution affects foetal development and can continue to affect babies after birth and throughout their lives. We were interested to see if these effects could be due to pollution particles moving from the mother’s lungs to the placenta. Until now, there has been very little evidence that inhaled particles get into the blood from the lung.” Another researcher Dr Norrice Liu said: “Our results provide the first evidence that inhaled pollution particles can move from the lungs into the circulation and then to the placenta.”
Air pollution and heart problems
Dr Nay Aung, a cardiologist at the Queen Mary University of London states that air pollution is a well-known risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Research shows that particle matter pollution is among the top five factors for increased risk fo death (heart attack and stroke are the major causes of death). Even a short exposure to air pollutants at similar levels found on roads leads to increased stress on the heart causing the reduction of the blood supply and increased risk of clots and plaque formation as well as the inflammatory stress response in the body which can trigger all kinds of harmful biological effects.
Air pollution and dementia
A study at King’s College London shows that air pollution could be responsible for 60 000 cases of dementia in the UK and the number of people with dementia in the UK is predicted to reach 1 million by 2025. Living in polluted areas increases the risk dementia by up to 40%. The other risk factors for developing dementia are smoking, obesity and lack of exercise. One in 14 cases of the disease could be caused by air pollution, the study says Professor Kelly, of King’s College London and a government adviser on air pollution. He also said: ‘This is a very serious problem. The more we look at all the chronic diseases in society, the more air pollution crops up as a recurring factor.” Science shows that the microscopic particles in air pollution enter the bloodstream, travel into the brain and cause inflammation – which is believed to trigger dementia.
How is most susceptible to severe health problems from air pollution?
- Individuals with heart disease, coronary artery disease or congestive heart failure
- Individuals with lung diseases such as asthma, emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Pregnant women (read above about the dangers of air pollution to babies)
- Outdoor workers
- Older adults and the elderly
- Children under age 14
- Athletes who exercise vigorously outdoors
What can you do at home to minimise pollution?
• If you live on a busy road plant some hedges (Portuguese laurel and privet) which will dilute pollution
• Get air cleansing plants (NASA research suggests red-edged dracaena, spider plants and peace lilies as three most effective – read more about air cleansing plants)
• Don’t use fireplaces (studies suggest that up to a third of fine particle matter in London is form woodburning stoves)
• Check the boiler (faulty gas appliances are the major source of carbon monoxide poisoning – which kills about 50 people a year in Great Britain)
• Stop using detergents which are chemical-laden
• Stop using candles, spray, etc which usually give off pollutants
Living within 100 metres of a park as a child slashes the risk of asthma as an adult by up to 71%
If you lived within 100 metres of ‘green space’ or a park between your birth and when you reach 18 years – good news. Scientists at Haukeland University Hospital, Norway have shown that green spaces can offset the damaging effects of air pollution, especially asthma which affects around one in 12 adults in the UK and one in 13 in the US.
Hotel Cardis in China charges for clear air
It is well-known fact that China is struggling with the problem of heavily polluted air. No one is surprised by passers-by who wear filter masks, as well as the Cardis Hotel in Shanghai, which offers its visitors a rather unusual service, consisting in breathing extremely clean air. Hotel Cardis has double air filtering system, and each room has its own pollution sensor. It can, therefore, be assumed that nowadays, breathing with clean air is a real luxury for which you need to pay extra. Such a reality exists at least in cities like Shanghai, Beijing or Delhi. In 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) prepared a report that informs that every year about 7 million people die prematurely due to diseases resulting from air pollution, such as lung cancer and heart attack. As you can see there are many businesses willing to cash on this statistics. Clean air is already gaining the title of “bio” and “eco” food, several times more expensive than standard products on shelves. So far, a hotel from China is just an example, but in some time it may be the norm for the majority of the urbanised world.
In London: CityTree, Airlabs bus stop and pigeon patrol
CityTree a 4m high vertical garden in Piccadilly Circus inhales pollution and exhales fresh air – doing, its creator Green City Solutions claims, the work of 275 trees in 1% of the space. Powered by solar panels, the “living wall”. which is made of moss cultures – also collects rainwater and redistributes it using an inbuilt irrigation system. Last year Piccadilly-based start-up Airlabs transformed three London bus stops into clean air zones, with units filtering out up to 97% of nitrogen dioxide from the air for commuters. The technology was independently tested by King’s College London at its air quality monitoring location on Marylebone Road, one of the most polluted roads in London. In 2016 marketing agency DigitasLBI launched a squadron of pigeons wearing air quality sensors to fly around London, mapping the pollution that was affecting the capital. These racing pigeons, now sadly retired, could fly at 60·80 mpb, which resulted in comprehensive mapping. See the data at pigeonairpatro.com
How can you improve the air quality in your home or workplace?
The first step is obvious: reduce the air pollutants (see above) which includes candles or incense. Make sure that you have proper venting around combustible appliances and that the vents go directly outside as well as in your bathroom (you absorb more chlorine from showering than from drinking water because of water droplets).
Key additions and health measures are:
1) Open windows regularly
2) Have many air cleansing plants
3) Invest in air filters
4) Get negative ions ionisers
5) Wear a face mask when cycling or walking in polluted areas
6) Eat oxygen reach foods such as quinoa
7) Learn how to breathe coherently
8) Visit seasides regularly
Read about the water element = shui