Our lungs are always hard at work to keep us alive and well, but oftentimes we take them for granted. During the coming summer months, when weather conditions create a risk for higher ozone pollution levels and ozone-related health concerns, it is especially important to prioritize lung health by minimizing exposure to air pollution and taking action to reduce harmful emissions that contribute to the problem.
Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, those who suffer from existing lung conditions and older adults are more at risk for severe disease than others. When it comes to poor air quality, those same individuals are also at risk, along with children who are more susceptible to air pollution as their lungs are still developing. Even though cities all across the nation have made noteworthy strides towards cleaning up the air, millions of Americans – including St. Louis residents – are living in communities impacted by unhealthy levels of pollution in the form of high ozone days, more particle pollution days and higher annual particle levels than ever before. According to the American Lung Association’s 2020 State of the Air report, 2.5 million children and 10.6 million adults with asthma live in counties that received an “F” grade for at least one pollutant. Likewise, more than 316,000 children and 1.4 million adults with asthma live in counties failing all three tests, meaning there is still much work to be done to protect local communities from the growing risks to public health.
With that in mind, there are a number of things individuals can do to promote lung health and minimize exposure to ozone and particle pollution. For starters, the Clean Air Partnership releases daily air quality forecasts to let residents know what the air quality will be during the prime of summer. Signing up to receive the color-coded forecast via email at www.cleanair-stlouis.com helps to ensure St. Louisans know what the next day’s air quality will be and if they should take precaution by altering their outdoor activities to avoid being exposed to polluted air. Avoiding exercising near high-traffic areas with excess pollution and avoiding working out outdoors when poor air quality is forecasted are also crucial steps for preserving lung health as heat can trigger an asthma attack or cause symptoms of COPD to flare up.
While weather conditions do play a significant role in our region’s daily air quality, transportation-related emissions have always been one of the biggest contributors to air pollution, and the choices people make on how to get around affects air quality and the health of the region. Actions like walking and biking instead of using a vehicle for short trips, combining errands into a single trip, not topping off your gas tank and avoiding vehicle idling can all greatly impact the amount of ozone-forming emissions generated on any given day.
For more information and a host of additional tips to clean the air so individuals all across St. Louis breathe easier this summer, visit our website, like the Clean Air Partnership on Facebook or follow @gatewaycleanair on Twitter.