Two of the most common pollutants in the U.S. -- ozone, sometimes called smog, and particle pollution -- pose health risks for hundreds of thousands of Americans each year. Are you one of them?
Many of us are. If you’re very young, if you’re a senior citizen -- or if you’re somewhere in between – you may be at increased risk from ozone or particle pollution exposure.
That’s bad news. The good news? You can do something about it.

  • Children (including teenagers)are at greater risk from air pollution because their lungs are still developing, they are more likely to be active outdoors, and they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults. Both ozone and particle pollution can prevent children’s lungs from working and developing like they should. Children are also more likely than adults to have asthma which also increase their risk.

  • People with asthma or another lung disease are risk from both ozone and particle pollution, which can increase symptoms like coughing and wheezing– and can lead to a trip to the doctor or hospital.

  • Healthy adults who are active outdoors are at risk from ozone, which can make it more difficult to breathe deeply, cause symptoms such as coughing or scratchy throat, and inflame and damage the lining of the lungs – damage that can continue even after symptoms are gone.

  • People with cardiovascular disease (that’s your heart and blood vessels) are at risk from particle pollution, which can contribute to heart attacks, strokes, cardiac arrest, congestive heart failure – and premature death. Ozone can also harm the heart. And both pollutants can increase the risk of premature death.

  • People in middle age and older. As we hit middle age, our risk for heart and lung diseases generally increases – and so does our risk from ozone and particle pollution. Factors that increase your risk for heart disease and stroke like being overweight, having diabetes, or having high blood pressure or high cholesterol, also may increase your risk from particle pollution.

Now for the good news: You can take steps to reduce your pollution exposure. Use the Air Quality Index (AQI) to adjust your outdoor activities so you can reduce the amount of pollution you breathe in while still getting exercise. It’s not difficult – and your health is worth it.

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