Have you noticed that air quality alert days are increasing in our area? We need to take these alerts seriously. The alerts include ground level ozone, particulate matter (2.5 micrometers and 10 micrometers), carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and wildfire smoke. All these pollutants are harmful to our health, but I will focus on ozone in this blog.
Ground level ozone (GLO) forms when pollutants from cars, power plants, industrial boilers, refineries, trash incinerators, and chemical plants react chemically in sunlight. We certainly have plenty of those pollutants in our area. In the past, ozone levels were higher in summer, but high ozone concentrations are now occurring in cold months too.
How ground level ozone affects health
Long-term exposure to GLO can play a role in the development of asthma. GLO is associated with increased death rates, especially in summer. We all are affected by GLO, although those most at risk of serious respiratory problems are children, seniors and those with lung diseases like asthma and COPD.
On days when ground ozone levels are high, people with asthma, COPD or other lung problems can experience:
- Throat irritation
- Pain, burning, or discomfort in the chest when taking a deep breath
- Chest tightness, wheezing, or shortness of breath
- More asthma attacks
- Read Air Quality & Your Health to learn more
If this EPA.gov graph doesn’t impress you, consider this: the annual economic cost of asthma is about $20 billion dollars. With increased air pollution, that cost will only go up.
What you can do
- Check air quality daily. Wear a mask outdoors if air quality is poor.
- If you are in the high-risk category, stay inside on poor air quality days.
- Use an indoor air purifier.
- Urge your legislators to enforce Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.
- Share this information with family, friends and neighbors.