Air pollution is made up of gases and particulates, such as soot and dust. In cities, air pollution is most often attributed to vehicles, construction, and industrial factories. In the country, wood, crop, and garbage fires can cause air pollution.

Ground level ozone is not like atmospheric ozone. Ground level ozone results from sunlight hitting engine and fuel gases. It becomes especially potent when there is a lot of traffic, the sun is high and hot, and the air is still.

Being in pollution can cause irritation in the throat, lungs, and eyes. For most healthy adults, ill effects of being in pollution clear up as soon as the air quality improves. People who are chronically in polluted areas may experience more frequent bouts of earache, sore throat, and bronchitis. Children, elderly individuals, and people with asthma, emphysema, angina, and other lung and/or heart problems may feel the effects more acutely.

In the U.S., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regularly checks and reports air quality of most major cities and many rural areas. They report the Air Quality Index (AQI), which ranks the quality of the air on a scale from 0-500. A rating of 100+ indicates unhealthy pollution levels.

If you are sensitive to pollution or care for children or elderly individuals, it’s a good idea to check the AQI before planning to spend a lot of time outdoors. Exercising outdoors in polluted air can cause compounded issues because heavy breathing causes more pollutants to go into the body. During times of high pollution, most frequently in summer months when the weather is warm, limit outdoor activities to the morning or after sunset.

 


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