A Few Facts About Air Pollution

Every day, the average human breathes in approximately 2,000 gallons of air. As a source of life, it is important to be aware of the air one breathes, as breathing in polluted air can impact one’s health. Air pollution is a critical environmental concern that affects all of us, with ozone pollution being of greatest concern in our area during the hot summer months.

While ozone is not visible to the naked eye, the effects it has on one’s health are crystal clear; and those effects can be from both short-term and long-term exposure to ozone air pollution. Here are five facts about air pollution you might find interesting:

  1. Children are more susceptible to the negative impacts air pollution. Because they are so active and breathe in a great deal of air, the negative impact of poor air quality can be greater on kids. As children’s lungs continue to develop, air pollution can hinder the development of their lungs, and lead to them having a decrease in lung function as adults. Developing lungs are also more prone to infection from exposure to air pollution. It can even affect babies while they are still in the womb, with studies revealing increased exposure to particle pollution resulted in a higher risk for preterm birth and lower birth weight.
  2. There’s a link between poor air quality and cardiovascular disease. Studies show that air pollution can increase the risk of both heart attacks and stroke.
  3. Going outside for a breath of fresh air might be more dangerous than you think. Depending on the day, breathing in air on a poor air quality day can be more harmful than staying inside. During times of orange and red air quality days, it is advised to skip the run in the park and opt for indoor exercise.
  4. Where you live matters. Studies have shown long-term exposure to traffic pollution can lead to poor cognition and may increase the risk for dementia. Those living near busy roads and highways are at the most risk with an increase of air pollution from vehicles expanding up to one-third of a mile away. Asthma attacks can be another linked effect of traffic pollution.
  5. You can make a difference. Air quality can be improved by reducing pollutants in the first place, which can limit the negative effects on health and the environment. Carpooling, using transit, telecommuting and supporting programs to limit idling can all help reduce emissions, as can using less energy at home and avoiding the use of gas powered equipment when doing yardwork.

Knowledge is power. Knowing more about the air you breathe can help make a difference for everyone. To learn more about health effects of exposure to air pollution and actions you can take to reduce emissions visit, cleanair-stlouis.com or www.lung.org.

Stay Lung Healthy when Outdoors this Summer

Our lungs are always hard at work. In just one day, a healthy person breathes nearly 25,000 times. For those with lung ailments, each and every breath can be a challenge, particularly when the air they breathe is unhealthy.


Many areas in the United States produce enough ozone during the summer months that it can be felt right away. Immediate problems – in addition to increased risk of premature death – include shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing; asthma attacks; increased risk of respiratory infections; increased susceptibility to pulmonary inflammation; and increased need for people with lung diseases, like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), to receive medical treatment or go to the hospital. Anyone who spends time outdoors when ozone levels are high may be at risk, but some are especially vulnerable to the effects of breathing ozone: children and teens; anyone 65 and older; people who work or exercise outdoors; people with existing lung diseases; and people with cardiovascular disease.

There are a number of things individuals can do to help keep their lungs in shape. Aerobic exercise helps improve lung capacity. Specific breathing exercises can also help improve your lung function if you have certain lung diseases, like COPD. But, perhaps one of the best things people can do is make sure they are breathing in clean air and avoiding exposure to pollutants that can damage the lungs. That’s where the Clean Air Partnership comes in.


The Clean Air Partnership releases daily air quality forecasts to let residents know what the air quality will be during the summer months. Signing up to receive the air quality forecast via email at www.stlouis-cleanair.com helps to ensure that area residents know what the next day’s air quality will be and if they should alter their outdoor activities to minimize exposure to polluted air.


The Partnership also helps raise awareness about all the ways people in the St. Louis region can reduce emissions to help keep the air quality in healthy ranges. Given that auto emissions are a key contributor to poor air quality, area residents are encouraged to:

  • Carpool with friends or coworkers or utilize public transit.
  • Bike or walk instead of driving when air quality conditions are favorable.
  • Avoid vehicle idling – idling vehicles emit 20 times more pollution than a car traveling 30 mph!
  • Visit www.gatewayguide.com or use MoDOT’s 511 travel information number to get real-time traffic information and use it to better plan your route to avoid traffic tie-ups construction zones.
  • Combine errands into a single trip to minimize car use.


Bikesharing Finally Comes to St. Louis

The Clean Air Partnership advocates for activities that reduce emissions leading to poor air quality. Since transportation is one of the largest contributors to air pollution, new bike-sharing programs here in St. Louis provide an exciting opportunity for area residents to have a positive impact on the quality of the air we breathe.


Bikesharing is a service that provides members of the community with bikes for shared use. Essentially, users can borrow bikes for a short period of time by paying just a small fee.


Ofo and LimeBike are two bike-sharing companies that entered the St. Louis market in recent weeks. Both companies have initially provided the city with 750 bikes each, but that number is likely to grow. Members of the community can utilize the bikes for their daily work commute, to get to school, exercise or for touring around the city of St. Louis. Unlike other bike-sharing options in other cities, Ofo and LimeBike do not have fixed docking stations, which means bikes are scattered in many locations across the entire city, making them a convenient option and a great way to complete the first or last mile between a transit stop and point of origin or final destination.


Bike-sharing is a way of getting around that offers great advantages over other modes of transportation. Choosing a convenient bike trip instead of driving a personal automobile means fewer vehicles on the roads, resulting in fewer emissions to combine with heat and sunlight to create ozone pollution that leads to poor air quality. Helping to keep the air quality in healthy ranges can minimize the negative effects poor air quality has on health, as high concentrations of ground-level ozone can cause shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, headaches, nausea, and eye and throat irritation.  Other benefits of the service include lower transportation costs, faster trips and the ability to fly past traffic jams.


To take advantage of this ecofriendly opportunity, area commuters simply need to download the app for either company. Because LimeBike and Ofo do not have fixed docking stations, all bikes are tracked using GPS. Users can locate a nearby bike through the apps. When an individual arrives at the desired bike, they use the app to scan a code on the bike which unlocks the brakes. The bike is now ready for use and customers can ride the bike to their desired stopping point. When users arrive, they simply leave the bike in a safe spot at the destination, lock the bike wheel and are charged by the company based on the amount of time the bike was in use. The bike is now ready for another user. Ofo charges $1 per hour and LimeBike charges $1 for each half-hour, making the programs quite affordable.


So next time you are headed to the grocery store for a last-minute item, want to visit a nearby friend or need to get across town for an appointment, consider picking up a bike from LimeBike or Ofo instead of hopping in your car.  Learn more about how to incorporate bikesharing into your routine at http://www.stlbikeshare.org/  or download the LimeBike or ofo bike share smartphone app.