Air Pollution Can Increase The Risk of Stroke and Heart Attacks


heart_attack_More than 15.8 million adults ages 65 or older and 32.8 million children under 18 live in areas with unhealthy air. Nearly 2.7 million children and 8.7 adults with asthma live in counties with higher levels of air pollution and 5.8 million people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and 32.4 million people with cardiovascular diseases live in counties with exposure to at least one pollutant. Approximately, 4.2 million people suffering from diabetes live in areas with exposure to ozone, or short-term or year-round particle pollution.

Due to the greater risk of airborne pollution, the American Lung Association wants to inform people that they may be in danger. The State of  The Air 2013 study conducted by ALA found that short-term spike air pollution can increase the risk of stroke, heart attacks, and emergency-room visits for people with cardiovascular disease, and  increase the risk of early death. It was also found that exposure to particles can increase the risk of damage to the lungs, hospitalization for asthma, and increase the risk of premature death.

In these monitored areas, the poor air qualities are putting people at risk for cardiovascular disorder, aggravated asthma, premature death and lower birth rate. Exposure to unhealthy levels of pollution poses a threat to health and can increase the risk of lung damage. The ALA also informs that older people are at greater risk due to asthma, chronic lung disease, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

State of The Air 2013

The State of The Air 2013, indicates that the country’s air quality is overall cleaner compared to 10 years ago. Thanks to the more aggressive Clean Air Act, the U.S. is making huge improvements in providing a healthier environment for its citizens. However, 48 percent of the nation still has pollution levels increase and the air is too dangerous to breathe, affecting over 131.8 million people. The report checks the level zones and particle pollution across the country from 2009 through 2011. The report utilizes up-to-date quality assured information nationwide for analyses. The Clean-Air Act has been designed to cut pollution since 1970, yet despite the risk, many have taken strides to weaken the public health law.

The report examined the particle pollution in two areas: the annual average and the (for a twenty-four-hour period) short term levels. The second way is to examine the short term particle pollution and ozone. The analysis allows for levels of pollution, using a weighted average number of days to places with higher pollution levels. The total average is then calculated and reported by the E.P.A. Overall, the United States garnered favorable results in terms of reduction in particle pollution, ozone, and other contaminant for many years.

The study indicates that many places made huge improvements in pollution reduction, particularly from decreased coal-fired power plant emissions. The plants switched to cleaner diesel engine and diesel fuels, and the results showed lower annual particle levels, especially in the Eastern U.S. cities. However, the EPA decided to strengthen the air-quality standards in December 2012, in order to lessen the pollution even more. In contrast, there are a number of days when the particle pollution is increasing in many cities, and although the annual levels are dropping, the short-term results show that there are days when the particles are notably high, specifically in winter. This happened in the Fairbanks AK, and Salt Lake cities where burning wood for indoor heating, wood stoves, and outdoor boilers is prevalent.

Most Polluted Cities

While some cities continued to make progress in air pollution reduction, many cities still have higher ozone, short term particle pollution and year-round particle pollution. Out of 27, fifteen cities today enjoy much-improved air quality and thirteen of the most smog polluted counties at the moment are enjoying the best year yet. Los Angeles remained the city having the worst ozone pollution. Here, are the cities with fewer unhealthy ozone days:

• Visalia, San Diego, Merced, Fresno, Sacramento, Bakersfield, and Modesto in California
• Philadelphia, Charlotte, New York City, Phoenix, and Pittsburgh.

Some of the most improved counties are San Luis Obispo and Hanford California. However, twelve cities suffered more unhealthy days, and three that moved for the first time to the polluted list which includes Tulsa OK, Oklahoma City, and Beaumont Port Arthur TX. Other cities having worst days from 2009 through 2011 are DC-Baltimore; El Centro CA, Dallas, Washington, Las Vegas, St Louis, Birmingham, Cincinnati, and Louisville.

For the year-around particle pollution results, there are 18 cities with lower annual levels between 2009 to 2011. Cities of Merced and Bakersfield CA have the worst particle pollution in the country. In 2012, the American Lung Association took legal action that strengthened the long and outdated limits of the EPA in year-round particle pollution, which will provide more protection from deadly particles.

What Can You Do?

The Clean-Air Act alone cannot eradicate the pollution problem. Communities and individual citizens can help reduce air pollution and therefore the risk of stroke and heart attacks.

• By urging the Congress to help support the Clean-Air Act and oppose the impedance of air pollution cleanup. Urge the EPA to set stricter pollution standards for ozone, tailpipe, and gasoline pollution for vehicles.
• By carpooling or using public transportation.
• By using energy-efficient appliances.
• By converting wood to natural gas if you are using wood stoves to help relieve air of pollution.
• By getting involved in reviewing the air pollution plans with your community. Support the efforts to clean up the air and join the local air pollution control agency in your own county.

Written by: Janet Grace Ortigas

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