Air Quality Awareness Week

What are the Health Effects of Air Pollution?

People most affected by air pollution include children, senior citizens, people who work or exercise outdoors and people with pre-existing respiratory disease.

Children make up about 25 percent of the population but account for approximately 40 percent of all asthma cases. Their lungs breathe faster and inhale more air and air pollution per pound of body weight than adults. Recent studies indicate that children active in high ozone environments have diminished lung capacity and more easily develop or exacerbate asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

In this article we will discuss the three most prevalent types of pollution in Maricopa County and the greatest health risk.

Ground-level ozone is the most widespread air quality problem not only in Maricopa County but in the United States. Approximately one out of every three people is susceptible to ozone-related health problems, including shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, headaches, nausea, and throat and lung irritation. Ozone irritates the respiratory system and can inflame or damage the lining of the lungs, much like experiencing a sunburn. If this happens repeatedly over months or years, studies suggest lung tissue may become scarred, resulting in less lung elasticity/capacity, reduced or permanent loss of lung function and a lower quality of life because of respiratory difficulties.

Elevated levels of particulate matter (PM) in the air affect all Arizonans. Both dust (PM10) and smoke (PM2.5) are so small they can pass through your throat and nose, enter the lungs, and may even get into the bloodstream. PM2.5 is believed to pose the greatest health risk because these tiny particles can lodge deep in the lungs. What is noteworthy is that everyone can suffer from temporary symptoms due to high amounts of PM in the air.

You should always consult your physician if you have any concerns or questions regarding high pollution days and how it could affect you.

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