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Metals in air are mostly attached to particles either in elemental or in compound form. Some metals can persist in air as a vapour, especially mercury. Coal smoke has a varied profile of metal emissions and domestic coal emits metals in quantities potentially harmful to human health.
Those of concern are: lead, arsenic, chromium and mercury but there are others which are poisonous and domestic smoke exposure combined with that from other sources may mean an exceedance of safe limits for many.
How can I protect my health?
Exposure to some level of traffic pollution is unavoidable in most urban and rural areas. Nevertheless, there are some steps you can take to reduce exposure to air pollution and minimise the risk for health effects:
Check the daily air quality forecasts for your city or town and use this information to plan your activities: when pollution levels are high, avoid energetic outdoor activities or do them in the morning or late in the evening. Avoid exposure, especially in the afternoon, when ozone levels tend to peak.
Avoid walking along busy streets with lots of traffic fumes. Avoid exercising near areas where traffic is heavy, especially during rush hour.
Remain indoors and close external doors and windows on smoggy days.
If you live near a busy road, close windows and doors during peak traffic hours.
Try to find a house and workplace not too close to a busy road or highway.
If necessary, you can use an effective breathing mask outside, for example when bicycling.
For people with respiratory disease it is important to:
Regularly follow your prescribed treatment.
Carry with you your rescue medication.
Talk with the health care professional who treats you about actions to take during peak air pollution, if necessary.
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