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Air pollution kills an estimated 7 million people worldwide every year. WHO data shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants.

The 7 million premature deaths every year, largely as a result of increased mortality from stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory infections (Source: WHO website).

Pollution / protective masks have been fashionable in Asia for a number of years.
For example, in Japan it has become fashionable over time as the result of air pollution, epidemics and pollen allergies.

If you're travelling or generally interested in understanding more about the levels of pollution around the world, go to World's Air Pollution: Real-time Air Quality Index. 



Two of most common forms of airborne allergies include:

1. Pollen

Pollen is a very fine powder produced by trees, flowers, grasses, and weeds to fertilize other plants of the same species. Many people have an adverse immune response when they breathe in pollen. The immune system normally defends the body against harmful invaders — such as viruses and bacteria — to ward off illnesses (Source: www.healthline.com).

Pollen allergens have been tracked thousands of kilometres away from their source. While complete avoidance is impossible, keeping windows shut and wearing sunglasses and masks while outside can help.

In New Zealand, pollen allergies, or hay fever, are at their highest in spring and summer, but can occur at any time of the year when plants are flowering.

2. Dust mites

According to Mark Dixon, Chief Executive of charitable organisation Allergy New Zealand, New Zealand is the 'capital of the world' when it comes to dust mites. The microscopic mites, which eat human skin and other debris, absorb water from the environment. The bed, couch and carpets are ideal breeding grounds (Source: www.stuff.co.nz). 

If you have allergies in your household, choosing hard surfaces such as floorboards or tiles over carpets and leather couches over fabric ones can help. If that's not an option, thorough vacuuming, washing and airing is next best.

Encasing all mattresses, duvets and pillows with anti allergen barriers is also a good idea, as is washing bedding regularly in hot water and drying it on the hottest temperature in the dryer. 

Mite numbers peak in New Zealand in March and April.