Whenever you breathe while in a populated area, the inhaling of some air pollution too should be expected. More specifically,ozone, carbon monoxide, airborne particles or sulfur dioxide.
The final word on long term respiratory and other health effects of air pollution isn’t conclusive. However, it’s believed that ozone, aka smog, and airborne particles pose the greatest peril to your health.
Ozone is a natural, desirable non-pollutant when it’s high above the earth’s surface because it shields you from the sun’s harmful UV rays. However, ground level ozone isn’t brought to you without health effects.
Ground level ozone can irritate your respiratory system, causing;
- throat irritation
- respiratory inflammation
- airway burning sensation
- aggravate, trigger asthma
- exasperate chronic lung diseases ~ emphysema, bronchitis
- chest tightness, wheezing, dyspnea because of diminished lung function
Reduced lung function makes it more difficult to breathe as deeply and vigorously as you normally could. So, you take more rapid and shallower breaths resulting in less health promoting oxygen to go around.
Ozone caused inflamed and damaged cells lining your lungs are replaced. And studies suggest that if this happens repeatedly, lung tissue may become permanently scarred and lung function permanently reduced.
Ozone air pollution is produced when the sun reacts with pollutants emitted from cars, power plants, industrial boilers, refineries and chemical plants. Thus, the ozone layer causing respiratory and other health effects forms during the sunniest times of the year.
Airborne particle pollution, aka particulate matter, are tiny solids or liquid droplets that are so small that they can make it deep into your lungs and cause serious respiratory health problems.
When exposed to elevated levels of these small particles, you may experience:
Some even die if they have previous, ongoing heart or respiratory disease, like:
Major sources of fine particle air pollution are motor vehicles, power plants, residential wood burning, forest fires, agricultural burning and some industrial processes.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas. It forms from incomplete combustion of fuels. Vehicle exhaust accounts for a lot of the carbon monoxide emissions. Yet, industrial processes and natural sources, i.e. wildfires, contribute as well.
Carbon monoxide is an issue during cold temperatures because combustion is less complete and inversions hold this air pollutant closer to the ground.
Carbon monoxide enters the bloodstream through the lungs and binds to hemoglobin, thus lessening the availability of oxygen for organs and tissues. You may experience pain in your chest and other symptoms during exposure, particularly during exercise, if you suffer from:
Even if you’re healthy, high levels of carbon monoxide air pollution can have an effect on your mind and vision.
Sulfur dioxide is a colorless, reactive gas that’s produced when coal, oil and other fuels containing sulfur are burned. Major emitters are power plants, refineries and industrial boilers.
Sulfur dioxide is not a major health concern so long as you breath through your nose. However, a brief exposure via mouth breathing may cause:
- chest tightness
- shortness of breath
Lung function usually returns to normal in a short time after exposure is terminated.
To reduce your exposure to unhealthy air pollution, limit the time doing outdoor activities that cause you to breath hard. And you can discover the level air pollution in your area via AIRNow.