By Loren Koehler
When a smog alert is issued, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
“Will the protective membranes in my nose and throat swell?” “Will I have red, itchy eyes?”
“Will my working lung capacity will decrease?” Chances are, probably not.
But those questions are issues that could arise when smog levels are high. Smog is formed when pollutants are present in the air and they react with sunlight.
These pollutants are formed from emissions from vehicles, industries and consumer products such as oil-based paint and cleaners.
Smog is harmful to your cardiovascular system as well as your respiratory system. If you already have respiratory problems, such as bronchitis or asthma, smog could further exasperate your condition. When particulate matter (dust and soot) is inhaled, it can get into your nose and throat and dry it out causing swelling. The small particles can also decrease the working capacity of your lungs. This can allow for more infections to take place within the body.
Cardiovascular problems result from inhaling particulate matter and ozone which allows the fine airborne chemicals to get into your lungs; aggravating allergies. This could in turn reduce the blood flow and oxygen supply to your heart.
Although smog affects every person, there are three categories that are affected at higher levels than everybody else when smog levels rise.
The first group includes children because their lungs are not fully developed and are more prone to infections by breathing smog infested air. The elderly are another high risk group, due to the fact they may have pre-existing cardiovascular and respiratory problems.
They typically also have weaker lungs, heart and immune systems which can make them more susceptible to illnesses and infections. The last group includes people that already have respiratory problems.
These people have poor lung function and therefore, asthma attacks and other breathing issues are more prevalent because of the inflammation in the lungs.
It is impossible and unrealistic to completely avoid the air outside but there are several things you can do to stay healthy. Be aware when smog alerts are issued through your local media outlets and websites such as Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments’www.doyourshare.org. Avoid long-term exposure to the outdoors when a smog alert is called, especially if you are in one of the three high-risk categories.
There are no safe levels of smog. However, if you take action by keeping your vehicle maintained, driving less, hydrating more, and avoiding the use of gas powered equipment before 8 p.m. everybody can breathe a little easier.
For more information and additional tips to reduce air pollution, visit www.doyourshare.org, become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/doyourshare, or call 1-800-621-SMOG.
Loren Koehler is an OKI Communications Intern.