Air Quality and Health
Health Impacts of Air Pollution
Air pollution is a leading environmental threat to human health. Sensitive people, including older adults, people with diseases, and children, are more likely to be affected by air pollution. Those most likely to be bothered by ozone include
- people with asthma or lung disease because they will feel the effects of air pollution sooner and at lower levels than less-sensitive people.
- children who spend a lot of time outdoors. Children are also more likely than adults to have asthma, which may be aggravated when they breathe in air pollutants. Being exposed to air pollution for short periods of time over many years may cause children to have more breathing problems as adults.
- older adults because they are more likely to have heart or lung disease.
- active people of all ages who exercise or work hard outside because they are in contact with air pollutants more than people who spend more time indoors.
- infants because their lungs continue to develop after birth and can be impacted by air pollutants.
Exposure to Air Pollutants
Ground level ozone
Your exposure to ozone depends mainly on where you live and work and how much time you spend outside. Everyone can have health problems from ozone. Symptoms might be very mild or more serious. People with lung disease, children, older adults, and people who are active outdoors are at the highest risk of having problems when ozone levels are unhealthy.
Many scientific studies have linked ground-level ozone contact to varied problems, such as
- lung and throat irritation
- wheezing and breathing difficulties during exercise or outdoor activities
- coughing and pain when taking a deep breath
- aggravation of asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema
- higher chance of getting respiratory illness like pneumonia or bronchitis
As a result of these studies, scientists know that breathing in too much ozone can increase events such as
- use of asthma medication,
- absences from school,
- visits to the emergency room and hospital admissions, and
- premature death from heart and lung disease.
Particle pollution, or particulate matter, consists of particles that are in the air, including dust, dirt, soot and smoke, and little drops of liquid. Some particles, such as soot or smoke, are large or dark enough to be seen. Other particles are so small that you cannot see them. Very small particles that are less than 2.5 micrometers in width are known as fine particulate matter or PM2.5.
Small particles are the most concerning because they are most likely to cause health problems. Their small size allows these particles to get into the deep part of your lungs.
Lowering PM levels would prevent deaths, mostly from heart attacks
and heart disease.
Studies have shown a 15% decrease in the risk of heart disease deaths with every PM2.5 decrease of 10ug/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter).
Being exposed to any kind of particulate matter may cause:
- increased emergency department visits and hospital stays for breathing and heart problems
- breathing problems
- asthma symptoms to get worse
- adverse birth outcomes, such as low birth weight
- decreased lung growth in children
- lung cancer
- early deaths