Air pol­lu­tion is a big threat to our health

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Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODPOSTER - SARAH POLUS

HAVE you ever run around out­side on a hot sum­mer day, and sud­denly your lungs feel as though they’re burn­ing? You could be overly tired. Or your lungs may be re­act­ing to pol­lu­tants and chem­i­cals in the air. Un­der­stand­ing air pol­lu­tion can help you avoid it and think about ways you can make the air cleaner.

Air pol­lu­tion of­ten refers to two things: ozone and fine par­tic­u­late mat­ter, each of which is harm­ful to hu­mans.

Fine par­tic­u­late mat­ter, or tiny pieces of sub­stance, is mostly pro­duced from burn­ing fos­sil fu­els, for in­stance, petrol in cars and coal in power plants.

Fine par­tic­u­late mat­ter is much smaller than the kind of dust that you find af­ter you haven’t cleaned your room in a while.

The small size is what makes this mat­ter prob­lem­atic to our health, be­cause it can set­tle deep in our lungs, mak­ing it hard to breathe.

Ozone hap­pens be­cause of a chem­i­cal re­ac­tion. Sun­light chemi- cally re­acts with gases pro­duced from burn­ing fos­sil fu­els to form ground-level ozone.

When ozone is high in the at­mos­phere, it helps pro­tect life on the ground from harm­ful ra­di­a­tion from the sun.

That ra­di­a­tion causes prob­lems such as skin can­cer. Ozone be­comes a prob­lem when it’s close to Earth. When ozone gets into our lungs, it be­comes harm­ful to our health.

Kids are at higher risk of the dam­ag­ing ef­fects of ozone and par­tic­u­late mat­ter, es­pe­cially kids with asthma, be­cause their bod­ies and lungs are de­vel­op­ing.

“Chil­dren tend to have a higher res­pi­ra­tory rate ( in­hal­ing and ex­hal­ing more rapidly than adults),” said Janet Phoenix of Clean Air Part­ners, an US or­gan­i­sa­tion that ed­u­cates peo­ple about air pol­lu­tion.

“So they’re more ex­posed to any chem­i­cal par­ti­cles that might be in the air.”

Some of the worst air-qual­ity days are ac­tu­ally the most beau­ti­ful days. On hot, sunny days with­out wind, the air doesn’t move around and pol­lu­tants build up.

“Poor air cir­cu­la­tion, heat and light kind of help to bake the chem­i­cals into the air,” Phoenix said.

Rain helps wash the bad things out of the air, so the worst time to be out­side is when it hasn’t rained in a while.

“It’s like if you don’t take a shower for a few days, you know what hap­pens,” said Ross Salaw­itch, a pro­fes­sor of at­mo­spheric and oceanic stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Mary­land. “The rain is cleans­ing like a shower is cleans­ing.”

In or­der to help you know when it’s safe to be out­side, days are as­signed colour codes that cor­re­spond to num­bers, which rep­re­sent how much of th­ese nasty sub- stances is in the air.

When the amount of ozone and par­tic­u­late mat­ter reaches un­safe lev­els, the day will be la­belled as code orange, code red and on the worst days, code pur­ple.

“When we have air- qual­ity alerts that are either red or pur­ple, even orange, those are the days to stay in­side and play video games,” Salaw­itch said.

Ac­cord­ing to Phoenix, the worst time of day for air qual­ity is when peo­ple are go­ing back and forth from school and work.

“If you can wait un­til later in the day to do some of th­ese (out­door) phys­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties, es­pe­cially when in the red or orange zone, then you’re bet­ter off,” she said.

The good news? Be­cause of stricter pol­lu­tion reg­u­la­tions, air qual­ity is im­prov­ing, ac­cord­ing to Salaw­itch.

But even short ex­po­sure to poor air qual­ity can have neg­a­tive ef­fects on your body.

That’s why you should limit ac­tiv­i­ties that in­crease air pol­lu­tion, Phoenix said.

En­cour­age your fam­ily to walk to the pool or the li­brary. When school starts, take the bus in­stead of hav­ing your par­ents drive you. Keep­ing your fam­ily’s cars off the road means less air pol­lu­tion.

Phoenix said: “I think peo­ple are re­ally mak­ing an ef­fort, and that’s won­der­ful.” – Wash­ing­ton Post

See page 2

SMOG: En­cour­age your fam­ily to walk to the pool or the li­brary. Keep­ing your fam­ily’s cars off the road means less air pol­lu­tion.

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