May is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. For some of you this is an understatement. You may be thinking, “Well, of course it is. I was well aware of asthma and allergies when I walked outside this morning, saw what I thought was my car covered in a thick yellow mist, and began sneezing fifteen times in a row.”
It’s easy to be aware of something when the majority of the United States population is suffering because of it. Many people attribute this suffering to pollen, but pollen doesn’t deserve all of the credit. Automobile emissions and coal-fired power plants are among some of the largest contributors to particle and ozone pollution. The State of the Air 2010, recently published by the American Lung Association, found that despite great progress, over half of U.S. residents live in cities where the air is unsafe to breathe.
The ALA’s State of the Air 2010 ranks cities in three categories for 2006, 2007 and 2008: ozone air pollution, year-round particle pollution and short-term particle pollution. Among the most polluted cities in all three categories are Bakersfield and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, Calif. Fargo, N.D. and Lincoln, Neb. ranked among the cleanest cities in all three categories. Use the “Report Card” on the left hand side of the State of the Air website to determine your area’s ranking.
Environmental air pollution causes many health problems, and long term exposure can significantly decrease life expectancy, not to mention, quality of life, as many of us have witnessed in the midst of countless sneezing fits. According to the ALA, people who work or exercise outside are at a greater risk. However, indoor air pollution is also a threat to your health, as you may recall from one of our older posts. The ALA lists several things you can do to reduce air pollution outdoors, but don’t forget to take steps to improve the indoor air quality of your home and office buildings, as well, with a high quality air filter.