Good quality air is essential to living a healthy life. However, according to the American Lung Association , it is estimated that 45.8% of people live in an area with unhealthy ozone or particle pollution. Here’s everything you need to know about air quality and how it can affect your lung health.
Causes of Poor Air Quality
Experts believe that warmer weather, wildfires and changes in rain patterns have contributed to a decrease in air quality. Other causes of air pollution include transportation, the burning of fossil fuels and the open burning of garbage waste.
There are different things that can cause air quality to be poor. Common types of air pollution include:
Ozone: A hazardous gas that irritates airways and can reduce lung capacity
Nitrogen Dioxide: This gas can cause irritation in the airways. Those with asthma and COPD may experience flare-ups when exposed to this air pollutant.
Sulfur Dioxide: A gas that can trigger asthma attacks by irritating the lining of the airways.
Particulate Matter: Small particles, including dust, soot and smoke, can get in the airway and affect breathing.
Location and Air Quality
There are some states that have worse air quality than others. As published by World Population Review , Hawaii is known for being the state with the best air quality. It has received an Air Quality Rating Index of 21.2. The Air Quality Index ranges from 0 to 500. The lower the number is, the better the air is.
Utah is known for being the state with the worst air quality. It has an Air Quality Index rating of 51. For reference, our State of Nevada has an Air Quality Index rating of 37. Unfortunately, Clark County (where Las Vegas is located) can have high concentrations of ozone and particle pollution. If you suffer from lung disease, you may notice breathing issues or flare-ups on days when air pollution is particularly bad.
Who Is Affected By Poor Air Quality?
If you already have a respiratory illness, you may start to develop symptoms after being exposed to poor-quality air for a short amount of time. The people who are most likely to be affected by poor-quality air are people with lung disease, heart disease, pregnant women, people who work outdoors, children who are under the age of 14 and people with pre-existing lung problems.
People With Asthma
Those with asthma are at risk for developing issues due to poor air quality. This is a condition that affects 20 million people in the United States. It causes coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. Common outdoor pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and ozone, can trigger an asthma attack.
People With COPD
Also, if you suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it has also been linked to poor indoor air quality. This is a condition that causes the airway to narrow. The vast majority of COPD patients are current or former smokers. However, air pollution can worsen the condition. The air pollutants can irritate the airways.
Children Under the Age of 14
Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of poor-quality air. They have a tendency to breathe through their mouths instead of noses. The nasal passages are designed to filter out contaminants. That is why if someone breathes through their mouth, then more contaminants will enter the lungs.
Children also spend more time outdoors than adults. Additionally, children have immature immune systems. Their bodies will have a harder time fighting off the effects of the contaminants. There has also been evidence to suggest that air pollution can interfere with a child’s lung development, as stated by the American Lung Association .
Lung Effects of Air Pollution
There are short-term and long-term lung effects that you may experience if you are exposed to poor-quality air. The effects will be determined by your current health status, the type of particles you are exposed to, their concentration, and how long you are exposed to it. Short-term exposure to air pollution can damage the cells in your respiratory system. It can also put stress on your lungs and heart. These organs will have to work harder to deliver oxygen to the cells in your body.
Furthermore, lung cancer has been linked to air pollution, according to the American Association for Cancer Research . There are several factors that will affect your chances of getting lung cancer, such as smoking. However, particulate matter and ozone can increase your chances of getting lung cancer.
Air pollution has been linked to premature death. Even if you are only exposed to air pollution for a short amount of time, your lifespan can still be cut short.
How to Reduce the Damage
If you live in an area known for poor-quality air, then there are some things that you can do to reduce the damage. If you exercise outdoors, then you will need to avoid exercising in a polluted environment. It is best for you to exercise in an indoor area that is well-ventilated.
Pollution is at its highest during rush hour. Try to avoid being outside during that time. If you have an inhaler, then you will need to keep it with you at all times. Additionally, you will need to keep your windows closed while you are riding in the car.
The Importance of Low-Dose Lung CT Scans
You may not realize that your lungs have been damaged by air pollution. That is why it is important to see your doctor on a regular basis. Your doctor may recommend that you get a low-dose lung CT scan to check for damage or abnormal growths that could be cancerous. A CT scan is a non-invasive, painless test that can be done in minutes.
If you’d like to learn more about lung CT scans and how they can help, call the team at Preventative Diagnostic Center in Las Vegas. We want to empower you to take control of your health with accessible and affordable preventative scans. We can walk you through the CT scan process and book your appointment today!
Dr. John J. Pierce is the Medical Director at Preventative Diagnostic Center. He is Board-certified in Emergency Medicine as well as Board-certified by the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine. He received his medical training from Western University of Health Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific, in Pomona California. He also has a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. In addition to his regular practice, Dr. Pierce serves as a Tactical Physician with the Las Vegas SWAT team.