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What is the Quality of Your Air?

What is the true quality of  the air you breathe?

Katarzyna Ferraro MD ABoIHM FACEP

      As the climate changes, we are seeing an increase in air pollution.  Just look out your window, if you live in the Susquehana Valley or any mountainous or hilly region.  Can you see the trees clearly on the hillside?  Most of the time, the answer is no.  There is a haze that clouds your view.  This seems to be the new normal, at least where we live. 

      Interestingly, we may or may not get warnings on the true quality of our air. Many climate and weather stations only reveal when air quality reaches the "Orange range,"  or levels that are more concerning for all individuals.  

      There are, however, many more days than you realize that are in the "Yellow range."  What does this mean.  The air quality may be poor enough to affect sensitive individuals and children.  Anyone with a young soccer player with asthma may struggle more to breathe ( and you don't even know that there is something contributing to it in your air!).

      I encourage everyone to look at Airnow.gov daily.  This is the EPA (Environmental protection agency) monitoring system for air quality in many areas in the United States. Keep in mind, however,  that the EPA has lesser standards than the World health organization (WHO) for air quality.  The EPA allows 50 ppm of Particulate Matter 2.5 (PM 2.5) as safe vs 25 ppm of PM 2.5 for the WHO. Some sources suggest a level below 10 ppm of PM 2.5 is safest. 

      It surprises me how many "Yellow" days we have ( at the EPA's standard!), especially in PM 2.5.  PM 2.5 is the smallest air particles that we can measure, that can cause significant damage to our lungs. The smaller the particle is,  the more able it is to also enter our blood stream and affect organs of the body, including our brain, heart and others..  

      Be mindful of this.  Look outside,  consider purchasing an air purifier for your bedroom and especially your kids bedroom, preferably one with a HEPA filter. Limit exposure on bad air quality days.

     To decrease this problem globally, we need more awareness and improved government regulation.  On a smaller scale, consider limiting the burning of trash, home firework use,  idling of vehicles and minimizing the use of fossil fuels. 

     Also, be mindful of this when it comes to having your young athletes, or individuals with COPD exerting themselves outside.  

 Be wise and be well!

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