Posted on May 06, 2021, 3 p.m.
This month recognizes National Clean Air Month. Whether indoors or outdoors, your health and wellbeing should not be overlooked. Air pollution is a worldwide issue. Scientists estimate that 2.5 million people die every year as a result of substandard air conditions in cities, homes, at work, or in suburban areas.
Pregnant women, young children, and the elderly should take precautionary measures when dealing with polluted air. Their immune systems may not be able to handle the health effects that come with inhaling toxic particles. Healthy adults are most likely safer. Although, this depends on every city’s air levels and the duration of exposure.
Since unhealthy air still has an impact on healthy adults, you should understand more about Clean Air Month. Polluted air can have the potential to cause several diseases. It also produces negative environmental consequences. These include:
- Respiratory infections
- Lung cancer
- Heart disease
- Climate change
Cities experience more harsh effects of air pollution compared to rural areas. For example, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency reported asthma rates in two different parts of the state. Children hospitalized in the Twin Cities for asthma have a 50% higher rate than children living in the rest of Minnesota. They concluded that the city populations were “more susceptible to air pollution effects.”
The previous list indicated that there was more than respiratory health at stake. A 2019 investigation by the JAMA Network found that the risk of emphysema increased with long periods of exposure to air pollutants. The risk exceeded that of “smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.”
For conditions and diseases like stroke, lung cancer, and heart disease, certain air particles and toxins can cause and worsen the chances of development.
Particulate matter (PM), which can either be coarse or fine, has the ability to penetrate the lungs. There is an association between PM and heart attacks, strokes, asthma, and bronchitis. However, they also lead to premature death from lung disease or cancer.
Environmental issues like burning fossil fuels can create black carbon. It is linked to hypertension, chronic pulmonary disease, and similar diseases also caused by particulate matter. When fossil fuels contain sulfur, it emits SO2. Sulfur dioxide puts people at risk. They become more vulnerable to respiratory infections and cardiovascular symptoms.
A majority of research and advocacy for Clean Air Month regards outdoor air. Healthy indoor air levels are also vital as the majority of our time is spent inside. Various factors could contribute to dangerous airborne toxins. Poor ventilation, pets, building renovation, and improper use of chemicals can lead to chronic conditions.
Ventilation is a huge factor when it comes to protecting yourself indoors. Carbon monoxide, gas fumes, and other chemicals can linger in your home, slowly poisoning you. Carbon monoxide is especially harmful. It is odorless and colorless, making it invisible until you feel nausea, headaches, shortness of breath, and disorientation. Longer exposure time can be fatal. Proper carbon monoxide prevention requires a carbon monoxide detector to immediately warn you of any poisoning.
Asbestos is another air quality hazard. Due to the prevalence of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in buildings, it becomes airborne through the construction of these products. If asbestos fibers enter the body, they can have symptoms related to lung cancer. Most worrying, asbestos is the primary cause of mesothelioma. This cancer has a short life expectancy. The only prevention is professionally removing ACMs and not handling asbestos.
Keeping a dust-free, tobacco-free, humidity-controlled, clean indoor environment is the best practice for managing clean air in any type of building.
When outdoors, you stay away from heavily populated areas. You should also try to reduce your use of cars, fuel, and other air pollutants, and try to educate others about it as well. For Clean Air Month, participation means learning about the effects of air pollution and reducing sources of toxins and airborne particles.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before making any changes to your wellness routine.
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