Summer is here, which means an increased risk of ground-level ozone and fine-particle air pollution is on the horizon. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cautions you to be aware and take precautions when smog levels are expected to be higher than average.
To make this easier, you can check air quality conditions and next-day forecasts on www.airnow.gov, which is run by the EPA. You can also sign up to receive “Air Quality Alerts.” These free alerts automatically inform you when ozone or fine-particle levels in your area are expected to be high.
Actions to Take on Poor Air Quality Days
On days when air quality is projected to be “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” the EPA advises you to limit strenuous outdoor activity and help reduce air pollution. This includes actions like leaving your car at home and opting for public transportation, biking, or walking. You can also set your air conditioners to a higher temperature and turn off the lights, TVs, and computers when not in use.
Any little bit you can do will help, as a variety of pollution sources contribute to smog development, according to the EPA. Some of these include larger sources like motor vehicles and fossil-fuel burning at electric generating stations and smaller sources like gas stations, household products, and gas-powered lawn equipment.
Health Risks of Poor Air Quality
Breathing in particle pollution can have negative health effects, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Larger particles — i.e., course — can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat. Smaller particles — i.e. fine — are considered more dangerous, because they can get into the deep parts of your lungs — and even into your bloodstream.
While particle pollution can affect anyone, some groups of people are more likely to be sensitive to it, according to the CDC. This includes people with heart or lung disease — i.e., asthma — older adults, and babies and children.
Particle pollution has been linked to several health conditions, including eye irritation, lung and throat irritation, trouble breathing, lung cancer, and issues with infants at birth. Therefore, it’s important for everyone to take measures to avoid breathing in as much of this as possible.
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