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Air 101

Updated: Mar 26

The worldwide shortage of face masks and ventilators that resulted from the global coronavirus pandemic reminds us how fundamental air is to our well-being.


What is air?

Air is the invisible, elastic mixture of gases – mostly nitrogen, oxygen, and smaller amounts of other gases that surrounds the earth and forms its atmosphere. Simply put, air is the most important thing on this planet of mortals. Very literally, without air, no living thing can exist.


As vital as it is, we often take air for granted. The World Health Organization reports:

Ambient air pollution accounts for an estimated 4.2 million deaths per year due to stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and chronic respiratory diseases. Around 91% of the world’s population lives in places where air quality levels exceed WHO limits. While ambient air pollution affects developed and developing countries alike, low- and middle-income countries experience the highest burden, with the greatest toll in the WHO Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions.
Air pollution leads to millions of deaths per year

Is air more important than water or food?

Commit to memory the Rule of Threes, an easy-to-remember list of priorities crucial to survival. Humans can survive:

  • 3 minutes without breathable AIR

  • 3 hours without SHELTER (in extreme cold or heat),

  • 3 days without drinkable WATER, and

  • 3 weeks without FOOD.


Important: These time estimates are generous, due to increasing sedentary lifestyle and waning fitness levels – how many today can hold their breath for a minute? Try responsibly.

Knowing the average human body’s limitations is half the survival and preparedness battle. Leverage the Rule of Threes as a foundation to being prepared.


How to ensure clean air during emergencies?

To ensure the quality of the air you and your family are breathing, consider stocking the following items in preparation for emergencies and disasters:


Respirator masks. If there is a shortage in your community or not near your home when

emergencies hit, here are a few alternatives:

  • Makeshift masks - sew clean fabric to form a mask, wash often

  • Handkerchief or towel - make it moist for extreme and short-term use

  • Bandana or Scarf

  • T-shirt - wrapped around your head


Face shield or eye protection. Covering your nose and mouth isn’t enough. Many airborne viruses and impurities can also enter through your eyes.

  • Air sprays and disinfectants. Examples may be sanitation mist or alcohol wipes.



Air purifiers. Not all air purifiers are created equal – shop the labels to make sure all kinds of impurities are filtered out.


Lastly, make sure your home is properly ventilated. As often as the weather allows, open windows and let air circulate around freely. While stuffy indoor air is not, in itself, a serious concern, homes without proper ventilation can develop serious air quality problems. Stagnant indoor air, combined with airborne contaminants like dust mites, pollen, viruses, bacteria, pet dander, tobacco smoke and other volatile organic compounds (lead, radon, asbestos, etc) can pollute the air in your home and possibly lead to moderate to severe conditions like heart disease and cancer.

Open windows regularly to prevent stagnant air

Fun: During annual flu seasons (and global pandemics), medical experts encourage us to avoid touching our faces – here’s a quick and easy chant:

No - To - Yo - Mo - No, short for
No Touching Your Mouth and Nose



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