Anyone concerned about breathing better has probably thought about air pollution at some point. We know that it is unhealthy and we should take action to protect ourselves from it, but what exactly is air pollution and how does it affect our bodies? Air pollution refers to the introduction of chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials into the atmosphere that can cause harm to living organisms or damage the environment. Here in the United States, densely populated areas tend to have the highest levels of air pollution. Every year the American Lung Association ranks the most polluted cities in America; you can view the 2011 rankings here.
While some forms of air pollution are not visible to the eye, smog is usually very noticeable. It is a mixture of smoke and fog commonly found in major metropolitan areas, and is notorious for turning the air an ugly color and obstructing views. A number of particulates can be found in smog, including carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, soot, ozone, dirt and dust. Most of us know that these nasty substances are produced by cars and gas stations, but smog can also be caused by the smoke from fires or as a byproduct of waste treatment and industrial facilities.
The effects of breathing in air pollution differ depending on the duration and concentration of exposure; this means that those living in highly populated areas are more at risk. Young children, the elderly, and those with illnesses are also affected more than others. The short term effects of breathing in air pollution can cause a host of unpleasant health issues. Nausea, headaches, and irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat are common reactions. Breathing in polluted air can also aggravate existing conditions such as allergies, asthma, or emphysema and can even cause respiratory infections. Air pollution is even more dangerous in the long term, and can cause or exacerbate serious conditions such as chronic respiratory disease, lung cancer, heart disease, and damage vital organs.
Luckily, we can help protect ourselves from air pollution. Monitoring air pollution levels during the day is a good way to find out the best times to venture outside and when you should try to stay indoors. Making changes to help reduce pollution in your city benefits everyone, and can be as simple as switching from plastic shopping bags to reusable canvas ones. Of course, we at Rabbit Air know that if you want to protect yourself in your home or office, using an air purifier is a great way to keep the air clean and safe.
Visit the links below for more information on air pollution. If you have other facts or knowledge about air pollution that you want to share, please let us know by leaving a comment!
Berkeley Lab: How Can Air Pollution Hurt My Health?
American Lung Association: Most Polluted Cities: State of the Air 2011.
EPA: Six Common Air Pollutants
World Health Organization: Air Pollution
National Geographic: Air Pollution
Environment 911: Major Causes of Air Pollution
Think Quest: Smog – Causes