Two of the most common pollutants in the U.S. are ozone, or smog, and particle pollution. They can be harmful to the health of hundreds of thousands of Americans each year. You could be one of them, especially if you're very young, an older American, or otherwise on the list below.
- Healthy adults who are active outdoors are at risk from ozone, which can make it more difficult to breathe deeply, cause coughing or a scratchy throat, and inflame and damage the lining of the lungs – damage that can continue even after symptoms are gone.
- People in middle age and older. As we age, our risk for heart and lung diseases generally increases, and risk of harm from ozone and particle pollution does too. Factors that increase your risk for heart disease and stroke – like being overweight, having diabetes, or having high blood pressure or high cholesterol – also may increase your risk of harm from particle pollution.
- Children and teenagers are more susceptible to air pollution because their lungs are still developing, they are usually more active outdoors, and they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults. Both ozone and particle pollution can prevent children’s lungs from working and developing like they should. Children are also more likely to have asthma, which can increase health risks.
- For people with asthma and other lung disease, both ozone and particle pollution can make symptoms like coughing and wheezing worse– and can lead to a trip to the doctor or hospital.
- People with cardiovascular disease (your heart and blood vessels) are at risk from particle pollution, which can contribute to heart attacks, strokes, cardiac arrest, and congestive heart failure. Ozone can also harm the heart. And both particle pollution and ozone can increase the risk for premature death.
So what’s the good news? Air pollution doesn’t have to make you sick – you can do something about it. Take action to reduce your pollution exposure by referring to the Air Quality Index (AQI). When you need to, adjust your outdoor activities to reduce the amount of pollution you breathe in-- while still getting exercise. It’s not difficult – and your health is worth it.
Learn more: AirNow.gov
For information about the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA’s) air quality prediction capability: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/ost/air_quality/