Posts Tagged ‘Nitrogen Oxide’
Everyone reacts differently to air pollution. Children, the elderly and those with heart or lung disease are most sensitive to the adverse health effects of air pollution. People with diabetes are also at greater risk because they are more prone to heart disease. Even Canadians who are relatively fit and healthy can experience symptoms when exercising or working outdoors if pollution levels are higher than usual.
This winter, pay attention to the air pollution readings in your area, even if the sky is blue and the air smells clean and fresh. Depending on the length of time you are exposed, your health status and the concentration of pollutants in your area, air pollution can make it harder to breathe, irritate your eyes, nose and throat and worsen chronic diseases such as heart disease, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and asthma.
The Government of Canada is making it easier for Canadians and their families to plan their activities around the quality of the air in their communities. The new Air Quality Health Index is currently available in certain Canadian communities, with more to follow. The index measures three contaminants known to contribute to air pollution – ozone, fine particulates and nitrogen oxide – and gives out readings from one to 10 with health risks associated with each number. The higher the number, the greater the health risk.
This winter, take the guesswork out of planning your outdoor activities and see what the air quality is like in your area. The AQHI is available in parts of British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick with more areas to follow as implementation expands across the country. The index measures air quality on a scale from one to 10 and offers suggestions for modifying your activity to reduce your level of exposure to air pollution, depending on your risk factors. For more information on the AQHI, please visit www.airhealth.ca.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology discovered a link between itchy skin, irritated eyes, and headaches with certain types of pollution.
French researchers studied the air’s nitrogen dioxide, small particulate matter and ozone levels in urban areas surrounding Bordeaux. Bordeaux is an area in France where pollution levels are usually slightly higher than the standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO). The research team collected medical case reports from SOS Medicins, a public health-care network that makes emergency house calls. They concentrated on the number of visits that are related to complaints of respiratory problems including tonsillitis, sinusitis, laryngitis, asthma, bronchitis, or cough, as well as conjunctivitis, skin rash, headaches and asthenia, a conditioned characterized by general feelings of weakness that are usually the result of allergies.
The researchers noted a 1.5 percent and 2.6 percent increase in the number of visits for upper and lower respiratory diseases respectively, a few days after particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide levels rose.
But what is most telling is the increase in doctor visits for other disease. On days when particulate matter was highest, visits for skin rash or conjunctivitis increased by 3.2 percent, while headaches and asthenia rose 3.5 percent.
When ozone levels rose, visits for skin rash or conjunctivitis increased by 3 percent, and 1.7 percent for headaches and asthenia.
Increased levels of nitrogen oxide caused a 2.8 percent increase in visits for headaches and weakness.
We know that air pollution affects the heart and lungs. But, these slight effects of air pollution on human health will likely affect more of us as it worsens.
“Once you start looking at the entire body, we start to realize this is not as benign as we think,” says Neil Kao, MD, an allergist at the Allergic Disease and Asthma Center in Greenville, SC, and a fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. “It’s not just bad for your heart—it’s bad for everything.”
Whereas allergy to pollen can trigger obvious reactions like sneezing, the subtle impact of pollution may not be evident immediately. Kao recommends staying indoors during sunny-but-polluted days. “As much as I promote a healthy, happy lifestyle with lots of exercise,” he says, “there are certain days just can’t reset your immune system.”
If polluted air is affecting your health, here are some things you can do to avoid it:
Check the air forecast –stay on top of high-hazard air pollution days.
Stay indoors – staying inside your home helps, but only if the air inside is less polluted than the air outside. Air washers, filters and the like, can help rid the air of particulate matters. However, they are useless against nitrogen oxide, ozone and other harmful gasses. So on days when pollution levels are particularly high, keep you windows shut; and on days when the air is clearer, let your home air out to decrease indoor toxins.
Wear a mask – breathing through masks with an N-95 rating can help cut help lower pollution-related headaches. Wearing protective clothing like long-sleeved shirts and sunglasses when outdoors will keep particulate matter off our skin and out of your eyes.