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Air Quality Warnings: Not Just Hot Air!

Air Quality Warnings: Not Just Hot Air!

Ahh, summer! Sunny skies, warm temperatures … perfect for spending time outdoors! Unless that is, you’re vulnerable to air quality issues because of age, illness, or chronic respiratory issues.

You may have heard your local TV or radio station issuing air quality warnings during the height of summer. What gives?

Why Summer Air Quality is a Concern

It turns out that the same weather conditions many people find pleasant — sunshine, clear skies, high temperatures, low humidity, and light winds — are the very same conditions that aggravate air pollution.

Here’s how it works. On hot days, sunlight reacts with oxides of nitrogen and other volatile organic compounds emitted by vehicles, construction equipment, and other industrial sources to create ground-level ozone, more commonly known as “smog.”

Some ozone is produced every day, no matter what the weather conditions are. Ironically, though, the weather conditions many people find inhospitable — precipitation, cold temperatures, and strong winds—work to “clean” the air, preventing smog from accumulating to dangerous concentrations.

During high-pressure fronts, however, the air stagnates and literally thickens. These fronts are characterized by warm, sunny weather.

Is Smog Dangerous?

Ground-level ozone is an irritant. It can affect your lungs, eyes, nose, and throat. In large quantities, smog can cause coughing and headaches.

Smog can also reduce lung function, the amount of air that you can inhale and the speed at which you are able to exhale, making it difficult to breathe as deeply and quickly as normal. It can also burn the linings of the lungs, similar to the way a sunburn affects your skin. This heals quickly but can have cumulatively damaging effect with repeated exposures.

Smog can also aggravate chronic respiratory issues such as asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis, and can even make people more sensitive to allergens like dust mites, pet dander, and pollen.

These effects are most pronounced in children, the elderly, those with compromised respiratory function, and anyone who spends the majority of their time outdoors.

So, if you hear about an air quality warning for your area, try to stay indoors and reduce the number of pollutants you emit by limiting driving to emergency trips. Smog is nothing to sneeze at!

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  • Lani says:

    We are all now beginning to experience the result of mans impact on Earth, and the facts that we were warned about by scientists in the 1980’s are now becoming easily understood by everyone. To think we as a species could have prevented this and did not listen… I can only hope the inclusion of all of Earth’s people to this knowledge will finally bring about a change in how we function globally with reference to industry. Thank you for this article. If everyone just did their part, we could make a difference.

  • cathy says:

    really opened my eyes . had severe 4 day asthma attack in wonderful weather . could not figure out why –now i know more –thanks , cathy

  • gfharrison says:

    This is good information. I have asthma and the air really slows me down.

  • If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1919, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.

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