Info, Tips and Resources
Air pollution can harm our lungs and isn’t good for the environment. But with the proper knowledge, we can protect our health and the well-being of those we love. We have the power to keep ourselves and others healthy!
According to the American Lung Association®, air pollution can interfere with the normal growth and functioning of our lungs, and it increases our risk of lung cancer. It can also affect other parts of our body, raising our risk of heart disease and possibly even causing damage to our brain and nervous system.
All of us face the harmful effects of air pollution. But the health risks are even greater for infants, children and teens, and those with existing conditions. People with lung diseases – including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer – are at the greatest risk, as are those who smoke, are obese or have heart disease.
There’s also this: according to a recent study in Cardiovascular Research: for those who get COVID-19, there’s a higher risk of dying if you’ve had long-term exposure to polluted air.
Pollution Outdoors and In
To know how to avoid air pollution, it’s important to know what it is. Basically, it’s the presence of tiny solid and liquid particles in the air. These particles vary in size and can harm us when we breathe them in.
Outdoors, these particles are often from:
- Smoke from factories, coal-fired power plants, campfires and wildfires.
- Tailpipe exhaust from automobiles.
- Dust from construction projects and agriculture.
There are other sources as well, all polluting the air we breathe.
But not all pollution is outdoors. According to a recent article in Scientific American®, the indoor environment is a significant source of air pollutants too. Building materials, furnishings, electronics, personal care products and many other consumer goods emit chemicals harmful to our health. Cooking, cleaning and burning wood in the fireplace are among the most common culprits.
Tips to Protect Your Lungs
But there’s good news – we can limit our exposure to air pollution by following these helpful tips:
- Before heading outdoors, check your city’s current air quality on AirNow.gov. Plan activities in the morning before particle levels rise.
- If you’re at a campfire, sit upwind of the smoke and a safe distance away from the fire pit.
- Make sure your home has proper air flow and ventilation. Open windows in the summer, and always air out spaces after cooking and cleaning. Perhaps even purchase a portable air purifier.
- If you have a range hood or kitchen fan, use it consistently and clean it from time to time.
- Gas stoves emit more particles than electric ones, and the gases they use are also potentially harmful. If possible, cook with electric appliances or limit how often you cook with gas.
- Don’t clean with bleach. Also avoid cleaning products that contain peroxides, chlorates or perchlorates.
And not only can we limit our exposure – we also have the power to help ourselves, those we love and future generations by actively reducing our own contributions to air pollution. Take these easy actions:
- Don’t burn leaves or trash.
- Take less trips in your car or purchase an electric or hybrid automobile.
- Avoid – or limit your use of – gas-powered lawn and garden equipment.
- Turn off lights and appliances when they’re not in use. Using less electricity means less pollution from the power plants that supply this energy to our homes.
- Buy fewer products made from fossil fuels.
- Store solvents in air-tight containers.
- Plant trees.
With awareness and action we can fight back against air pollution, for ourselves and for the future. Our lungs deserve it!
For more information:
- Read more about indoor pollutants from our friends at OSF HealthCare.
- View these tips for staying healthy during days of peak outdoor air pollution, from the experts at Virginia Mason Health System.
- Find out more about pollution and lung cancer, from our partners at FirstHealth of the Carolinas.
- Learn more about common air pollutants and other asthma triggers, ways to control your asthma and much more in this asthma education booklet from Springfield Clinic.