Tag Archives: pollution

What is the toughest life form?

So who or what is the toughest of them all?

A really good contender for the title of the toughest life form on earth is not a human at all, but a bacterium. It is Deinococcus radiodurans, a bacterium that can survive extreme cold, acid, vacuum, and dehydration. As if this wasn’t enough, it can also survive a huge amount of radiation. According to Wikipedia:

D. radiodurans is capable of withstanding an acute dose of 5,000 Gy (500,000 rad) of ionizing radiation with almost no loss of viability, and an acute dose of 15,000 Gy with 37% viability.[9][10][11] A dose of 5,000 Gy is estimated to introduce several hundred double-strand breaks (DSBs) into the organism’s DNA (~0.005 DSB/Gy/Mbp (haploid genome)). For comparison, a chest X-ray or Apollo mission involves about 1 mGy, 5 Gy can kill a human, 200-800 Gy will kill E. coli, and over 4,000 Gy will kill the radiation-resistant tardigrade.

That is pretty freaking amazing. No wonder deinococcus radiodurans is called a “polyextremophile”. All humans could go extinct due to a nuclear holocaust, and this little bacterium would survive. Its ability to survive extreme radiation is due to a very robust DNA self-repair mechanism. This ability makes it useful in bioremediation:

Deinococcus has been genetically engineered for use in bioremediation to consume and digest solvents and heavy metals, even in a highly radioactive site. For example, the bacterial mercuric reductasegene has been cloned from Escherichia coli into Deinococcus to detoxify the ionicmercury residue frequently found in radioactive waste generated from nuclear weapons manufacture.[22] Those researchers developed a strain of Deinococcus that could detoxify both mercury and toluene in mixed radioactive wastes.

It’s great to know that it is possible to decontaminate even some of the most dangerously polluted sites in the world, thanks to this powerful bacteria.

Can house plants improve indoor air quality?

Spider plant. Source: Wikipedia.

Spider plant. Source: Wikipedia.

It goes without saying that indoor air quality can affect human health. Indoor air is often more polluted than outside air. There are many strategies to help clean the air, like mechanical air filters. House plants and the microorganisms associated with them offer another method for cleaning the air. Or do they? The Centre for Environmental and Marine Studies put this to the test and reported:

The presence of potted plants likely favored a decrease of approximately 30% in PM₁₀ concentrations. Our findings corroborate the results of NASA studies suggesting that plants might improve indoor air and make interior breathing spaces healthier.

“PM” means “particulate matter“, which are extremely tiny particles that tend to be inhaled deep into the lungs and can have toxic effects.

Plants that clean the air the most include: peace lily, philodendron, mother-in-law’s tongue, spider plants, asparagus ferns, English ivy, bamboo palms, purple heart plant, pothos, potted mums, gerbera daisy, and orchids.

Besides this, greenery beautifies.

If you do a lot of indoor exercise, consider getting more houseplants to clean your air.

Green space beneficial for health

It’s always sweet when something we intuitively know gets verified by science. So it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that science has found that living near green space is associated with better health, even after controlling for socio-economic factors. So if you have a significant amount of parkland or woods nearby, consider yourself lucky, even if bears or wolves live in them.

According to J Epidemiol Community Health. 2002 Dec;56(12):913-8.- Urban residential environments and senior citizens’ longevity in megacity areas: the importance of walkable green spaces.


Living in areas with walkable green spaces positively influenced the longevity of urban senior citizens independent of their age, sex, marital status, baseline functional status, and socioeconomic status. Greenery filled public areas that are nearby and easy to walk in should be further emphasised in urban planning for the development and re-development of densely populated areas in a megacity. Close collaboration should be undertaken among the health, construction, civil engineering, planning, and other concerned sectors in the context of the healthy urban policy, so as to promote the health of senior citizens.

One of my favorite parks

One of my favorite parks. It is also a supermarket to me, since I love to gather edible plants from here when they are in season

There are few things as refreshing as going to the park to relieve stress, to observe wildlife, to exercise, to meditate, to get bitten by bugs(not very refreshing unless you’re a masochist) or just to explore. As I always say, the larger the park, the better! Besides beautifying neighborhoods, trees also remove CO2 from the air. This is one of the reasons parkland is so essential for human health.

When it comes to exercise, nothing beats a park. If you don’t like indoor gyms(like me), just bring some resistance bands with you to the local park and you can do a total body workout there, besides of course juggling, running, or joggling around it.

”Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.” -Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)

This subject is related to my earlier post – The effects of air pollution on exercise

Whatever you do, try to promote green space wherever you live. Get involved in park activities or community gardens, plant trees, or even start a garden(indoor or outdoors) to help clean the air. Do it for your own health and for the health of your community.

The effects of air pollution on exercise

How air pollution affects exercise performance doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. It is a rather complex subject, although it seems rather intuitive that the more polluted the air, the worse it is for exercise. Although air pollution is everywhere, it is far worse in urban centers, with most of it coming from vehicle exhaust.

On this issue, it appears that science agrees with our intuition. According to this study – Subclinical Effects of Aerobic Training in Urban Environment, which compared people trying to improve their aerobic fitness in urban and rural settings, both groups became equally fit, though reaction times were better in rural settings and the urban exercisers had significantly higher levels of inflammation markers(exercise even in a non-polluted area can cause inflammation, it’s just worse in polluted areas).

I don’t believe the lesson to be learned from this is to not exercise if you live in a polluted area, unless you have respiratory disease, but rather to be more cautious or try to seek out an area with cleaner air to exercise if possible.

Also, I think it could be possible to prevent the inflammation caused by pollution by eating better. Some foods have a pro-inflammatory effect, like food with a high saturated fat content, as well as fried, roasted and overly processed foods. On the other hand, many fresh fruits and vegetables either have a neutral effect on inflammation or can help prevent it from getting out of control. Curcumin, a natural compound which is found in turmeric(an important ingredient in curry), has potent anti-inflammatory effects. Ginger, a close cousin of turmeric has similar benefits. Leafy greens may also help. Try to get all this from food, not supplements.

Besides this, if you are a runner living in an urban environment, try to stay far away from highways or areas with heavy traffic when running. In my personal experience, it seems that I’ve had to apply more effort when running in polluted areas than in non-polluted areas to achieve my usual pace. Also, the study I cited seems to suggest that air pollution would have more of an effect on jogglers than runners, since air pollution interferes with reaction rates/cognition during aerobic exercise. In my experience, I am more likely to drop the balls in polluted areas.

Do not let this discourage you from exercise, unless you have medical issues.