Thursday, March 14, 2013

Air Quality and Climate Change

 by Anna Bertrand

Scientists predict that climate change, specifically global warming, will have a negative impact on our health through an increased frequency of days with high levels of ozone, which is a component of smog. Ozone forms from the combination of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds on warm, clear, calm days.

Ozone is known to affect our respiratory systems by damaging our airways through inflammation and reducing our lung function. This will affect those with asthma by aggravating their symptoms, as well as others with chronic lung diseases. It will also affect the airways of those who work outside or those that are not in their prime, such as children and older adults.

This pollutant also has been associated with an increased susceptibility to respiratory infections. For this reason, it is also thought to contribute to a higher frequency of doctors visits, medication use, and hospital and emergency room visits for those who already suffer from lung disease and have been aggravated by the loss of air quality. This aggravation by ozone is also thought to increase premature mortality… a very important health impact as it literally shortens lives.

As climate change continues to progress, the warmer air that is a result will increase the formation of ozone. The stagnation of this warmer air in cities will cause the days of poor air quality to be on the rise… in fact, if the levels of emissions of air pollutants remains fixed until 2050, then our number of Red Ozone Alert Days will increase by 68% in the U.S.’s 50 largest eastern cities…

Even though we are doing what we can to slow the progression of climate change, it is important to directly protect ourselves from the negative impacts of this phenomenon by lowering our intake of ground-level ozone if at all possible. Many things can help avoid the aggravation of your vital respiratory system:

  • ·      Air pollution is most aggravating when the temperature is warmest, so if possible try and plan your activities around the coolest times of the day if the daily temperature is going to be hot.
  • ·      Stay away from the busiest streets, whose pollution tends to be higher.
  • ·      Eat foods that are high in antioxidants that will trap free radicals and protect the lungs from ozone damage.

For more information about protecting yourself from harmful ozone, check out these sites:


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