Is City Air Pollution Harming Your Health?

Is City Air Pollution Harming Your Health?

Unless you live in a remote part of the US – say, on a mountaintop in Montana, for example – the chances are good that whether you know it or not, you come into contact with some degree of air pollution on a regular basis. According to the American Lung Association (ALA), air pollution hovers at unhealthy levels in almost every major city, and breathing in particle pollution can increase the risk of early death, heart attacks, strokes and emergency room visits for people with asthma, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Take California – the world’s 9th largest economy and the nation’s most populous state – has the worst air quality in the nation. Despite being known for its beautiful beaches and stretches of coastline, California’s exhaust-filled corridor stretching from the ports of LA and Long Beach all the way to Riverside, has been dubbed by environmentalists as the “diesel death zone.”

Not surprisingly, researchers at University of Southern California (USC) conducting a long-term study on the link between chronic exposure to air pollution from freeway traffic and respiratory illnesses uncovered that the “lung development of children who lived near highly trafficked corridors was stunted — about 20 percent smaller than average — which greatly impaired their functioning. Their asthma symptoms also were worse.”

In their most recent State of the Air report, the ALA released data about their findings regarding the quality of air in the US. As it turns out, there are several factors that can significantly increase one’s risk for exposure to and side effects of air pollution.

• If you live or work near a busy highway, the pollution created from traffic can put you at a higher risk for exposure and breathing complications

• People who work or exercise outside face increased risk from the effects of air pollution

• Certain groups are especially vulnerable to the effects of air pollution, such as: infants, older adults and people with lung diseases like asthma

• Minorities and lower income groups are often disproportionately affected by air pollution, which put them at higher risk for illnesses

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published reports about the issue of pollution occurring at larger levels near roadways, airports and railroads. They found that “People who live, work or attend school near major roads appear to have an increased incidence and severity of health problems associated with air pollution exposures related to roadway traffic including higher rates of asthma onset and aggravation, cardiovascular disease, [and] impaired lung development in children….”

And there’s even an issue of increased exposure inside your vehicle. “In-vehicle air quality is influenced by surrounding vehicles and sometimes emissions from the vehicle itself. Studies generally report higher concentrations of air pollutants in vehicles when following heavy-duty trucks and cars with visible tailpipe emissions. Tailgating and stopping very close to the vehicle in front during a traffic jam or at an intersection can increase air pollution in the following vehicle.”

If you’re concerned about the air pollution levels in your city, you can visit the ALA’s website, and search your city by zip code or state. There, you’ll find the grades given for ozone levels, particle pollution (24 hour and annually), and how many of the population is potentially at risk for different ailments.

Taking proactive steps to improve the air quality in your home and vehicle can be a smart approach in combatting air pollution. Using an air purifier in your indoor spaces can go a long way toward improving your air quality! Some purifiers are outfitted with cutting-edge technology that can not only remove allergens and contaminants from the air, but also eliminates pathogens like viruses, bacteria and fungi from the air and on surfaces. Portable units for your car and/or hotel room are also available with the same technology.

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