Health Program

 Outdoor Pollutants

Air Pollution


Air pollution is mainly made up of many kinds of gases, droplets and chemical particles that reduce the quality of the air. Air can be polluted in both the city and the country.


Causes


  • Smog contributes greatly to the outdoor environment pollution. It is caused by chemical elements resulting from diverse sources, principally driving vehicles and manufacturing emission. Cities are regularly the heart of these doings, so many suffer from these chemical effects, particularly in the summer months of the year. Source: Air Quality Management District in southern California

  • The precise cause of pollution may be different for each city. It depends very much on the physical location, temperature, wind and weather factors, so pollution is dispersed dissimilar. However, this does not happen and the pollution can build up to unsafe intensity. A temperature inversion happens “when air close to the earth is cooler than the air above it. Under these conditions the pollution cannot rise and be dispersed”. For example, cities enclosed by mountain terrains can entrap pollution. Inversion is very likely to happen in any season on the year. Winter inversion is common to cause carbon monoxide pollution throughout the surroundings. Summer inversion is more likely to create smog.

  • Another type of outdoor air pollution is acid rain. “When a pollutant, such as sulfuric acid combines with droplets of water in the air, the water (or snow) can become acidified”. The result of acid rain on the atmosphere can be very serious. It harms plants “by destroying their leaves, it poisons the soil, and it changes the chemistry of lakes and streams. Damage due to acid rain kills trees and harms animals, fish, and other wildlife”. Source: U.S. Geological Survey, Environmental Protection Agency, Environment Canada

  • The greenhouse effect, also known as global warming, is considered to come from the increase of carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide created when petroleum, firewood, oil, coal, and gas are burned. The plants are responsible for converting carbon dioxide back to oxygen, but unfortunately the discharge of carbon dioxide from human doings is higher than the world’s plants can handle. The condition is becoming worst since a lot of the world’s forests are being cut off, and plant life is being damaged by acid rain. Therefore, the amount of carbon dioxide in the air is continuing to increase. This phenomenon performs like if it were like a blanket, locking in heat close to the surface of our earth. If even small changes of a few degrees happen, it will affect us all resulting in drastic “changes in the climate and even the possibility that the polar ice caps may melt”. One of the effects of polar ice cap melting would be an increase in sea level, producing widespread coastal flooding. Source: Environmental Defense Fund, Science Education Academy of Bay Area, Society of Environmental Journalists

  • Ozone depletion is another effect of pollution. All the chemicals liberated by human activities affect the “stratosphere”, one component of the atmospheric layers here on earth. The ozone layer in the atmosphere is responsible for protecting the earth from harmful ultraviolet rays coming straight from the sun. Chemical discharge of “chlorofluorocarbons” from aerosol cans, cooling systems and refrigerator equipment removes some of the ozone, resulting in “holes”, which open up the ozone layer and allows the radiation to get in contact with the earth. Ultraviolet rays are extremely dangerous since they cause skin cancer and has harmful effects on plants and wildlife. Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Ozone Action


Symptoms of air pollution


It is very common for the eyes to get irritated, throat and lungs. A burning eye sensation, coughing and chest tightness are very ordinary to experience due to high levels of air pollution. All people respond very differently to air pollution. Some people suffer from chest tightness or coughing, while other people may not be aware of any side effects. Exercising requires faster and deeper breathing, so symptoms may be worst. People suffering with heart disease, such as chest pain, or any other lung disease, such as asthma or emphysema, may be more susceptible to outdoor pollution, and may be aware of the symptoms more easily when other do not. Source: American Academy of Family Physicians


Risk Groups


Children are more sensitive to the effects of air pollution than other people. Children are more susceptible to lower levels of outside pollution than adults. They are also more vulnerable to illness, such as bronchitis and earaches, in regions of high pollution than in regions with cleaner air. Source: American Academy of Family Physicians


Protection


Be aware of high-risk weather conditions, such as hot, sunny days, and you start to improve symptoms like chest tightness, burning eyes or a cough. Take action to protect yourself and your family form the consequences of outdoor pollution by following the next prevention tips:


  • Hang indoors as much time as you can during those days when air pollution is higher in level.

  • If you have to go outside, try to do your activities in the early morning hours or postpone them after the sunset. This is very vital, especially in large cities because sunshine increases ozone levels.

  • “Do not exercise or put yourself outdoors when air-quality reports indicate unhealthy conditions”. Have in mind that the faster and deeper you breathe the more pollution you are inhaling into your lungs. These simple steps will normally decrease the symptoms in healthy people. But if you live or work close to a manufacturing structure, or if you suffer from a chronic heart or lung condition, talk to your doctor and find out other ways to protect yourself and loved ones. Source: American Academy of Family Physicians


Increasing Clean Air


  • “Modify your transportation” - vehicles contribute greatly to air pollution, so consider substituting your car to a more-efficient one.

  • “Conserve energy”- energy use transform into air pollution, so consider using it wisely to avoid negative effects in our environment.

  • “Reduce waste”- The making of needless items or throwaway supplies generally produces air pollution, so “reduce, reuse, repair, recycle”.

  • “Eliminate toxic chemical use at home”- A numerous household cleaning items are poisonous and volatile. Many of these items discharge vapors into the air, indoors and outdoors. This can be very dangerous for your family health and unsafe for the community.

  • “No burn barrels”

  • “Cut back or eliminate lawn mowing”

  • “Plant leafy trees and shrubs”

  • “Limit your family size”

  • “Get involve and talk to your legislators”