Breathing comes so naturally that we oftentimes give it little thought and take our lungs for granted. The reality is, every cell of our body counts on them and the oxygen they supply, which is why it is so important to prioritize lung health, especially during extreme weather conditions.
With the risks from airborne pollution so great, the Clean Air Partnership seeks to inform people who may be in danger during the hot summer months, including children and teens, anyone 65 and older, people who work or exercise outdoors, and people with existing lung diseases or cardiovascular disease. While cities all across the nation have made significant strides towards cleaning up the air, still, more than 141 million people live in counties with unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution—meaning the air we breathe could pose an increased risk of premature death, cause lung cancer or other harmful effects. According to the findings of this year’s “State of the Air” report from the American Lung Association, more than 75,200 people with lung cancer live in counties that received an “F” for at least one pollutant. Similarly, more than 8,600 people with lung cancer live in counties failing all three tests. In St. Louis County alone, nearly 85,000 adults suffer from lung cancer or cardiovascular disease.
Fortunately, there are several things that individuals can do to preserve lung health and breathe easier this summer. Exercise helps to strengthen the lungs, however, it’s important to workout indoors on poor air quality days as heat can trigger an asthma attack or cause symptoms of COPD to flare up. Practicing specific breathing exercises – like slowly inhaling and exhaling – is another great way to help keep your lungs in shape and improve their capacity.
The Clean Air Partnership, along with several other organizations, helps play a significant role in raising awareness about all the ways people in the St. Louis region can reduce emissions to help keep the air quality in healthy ranges. As a driving force in the fight for cleaner air, The Partnership is best known for its daily air quality forecasting. St. Louisans can stay tuned all summer long by signing up at www.cleanair-stlouis.com to receive forecasts that utilize a color-coded system designed to keep individuals informed about ozone pollution levels in the region, and how those levels can affect their health. Given that auto emissions are a key contributor to poor air quality, area residents are encouraged to carpool with friends or coworkers, utilize public transit, bike or walk instead of driving when air quality conditions are favorable, avoid vehicle idling, and visit www.gatewayguide.com or use MoDOT’s 511 travel information number to get real-time traffic information and use it to better plan routes to avoid traffic tie-ups and construction zones.
For more information and additional tips for taking action to clean the air this summer, visit our website, like the Clean Air Partnership on Facebook or follow @gatewaycleanair on Twitter.