How Air Pollution Can Affect YOU: Ozone and Other Dangers Pollutants
Sadly, the modern times we live in feature daily air pollution that we breathe in constantly. From cars, trucks, and other vehicles to wastes caused by factories, dry cleaning, and other means, the air we breathe to keep us alive can sometimes be quite dangerous. It's hard to believe something so precious to life itself can be so dirty. These pollutants can cause long-term or short-term effects to anyone's health, and it can prove deadly for those who already suffer from dangerous chronic conditions such as asthma and other respiratory conditions, or any other illnesses as well.
The main component of "smog" (which is formed by combining the two words smoke and fog) is ozone, or O3, which is a highly reactive gas molecule. Ozone attacks lung tissue. Ozone can come from many different sources. It can be caused from burning fuels, such as gasoline, diesel, and coal. Ozone can also originate from chemicals, such as paint evaporating, refineries, factories, power plant emissions, and elsewhere. Pollution is comprised of many tiny airborne particles. They can be solid or liquid, and primary (released into the atmosphere directly from a source) or secondary (formed in the atmosphere through a reaction). Our body tries to guard itself by reactions such as sneezing, coughing, and blinking, for example, but sometimes the particles are so small they can penetrate deep within our bodies where these reactions cannot clear them out.
There are many, many dangers from breathing in too much smog. Some acute problems include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, chest pain, wheezing and coughing, lowered immune system, lung inflammation, asthma attacks, eye irritation, and more. Long term effects of breathing too many pollutants can actually take years off your life, as many studies are showing risk of premature mortality. It has also been thought to be linked to heart problems, fatigue, and increased risk of cancer as well.
Some groups are more susceptible to the effects of ozone more than other healthier people. Many factors can change how people react to smog. Certain conditions such as how much pollution is present, how quickly one breathes, how long one has been exposed to ozone, etc can all impact how ozone will effect a person. Children and elderly tend to be more sensitive to ozone, as well as those who already have a preexisting respiratory disease. Those who work outside or exercise outdoors frequently may also be more sensitive to ozone since they are more exposed to the pollution. Finally, some people, called "responders," can be generally healthy, but may have a more enhanced reaction to ozone.
There are some things we can do to protect ourselves and the air. The American Lung Association suggests walking, biking, or carpooling whenever possible. Fill up your gas tank after dark and on cooler days to prevent the gas from evaporating as much. Do not burn firewood or trash. Use hand-powered tools, such as lawnmowers, rather than gasoline-powered ones. Avoid exercising outdoors or long-term exposure outdoors on days when pollution levels are high. Limit your time and your children's time outdoors. (You can check area air pollution forecasts at http://www.epa.gov/airnow , or your local news stations.) They also encourage you to get involved and support local and nationwide efforts to clean up the air.
Not only does air pollution effect all of us, it also effects the world around us, including plants, animals, and drinking water. Clean Air Acts and other environmental laws have been in effect for decades, but, unfortunately, thanks to big corporations buying their way out of the damages they cause, the laws tend to serve little purpose and are not widely enforced in many cases.
Many businesses are trying to reduce their impact on our health and the environment. Vehicle manufacturers have been working on hybrids and other more ecologically friendly alternatives. Dozens and dozens of companies are trying to recycle more and pollute less. However, much of the damage is already done, and we might not be doing enough to reverse decades and decades of pollution and abuse to our planet. Are you doing all you can to help not only the planet, but also yourself? After all, we all need to breathe.
(Originally published at Y!CN/AC, which is no longer in operation.)
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