Air Quality Alert!! What You Need to Know for Lung Health

Jul 2, 2024 | Healthy Body

The past two years have been fraught with images of forests and houses aflame. Last year, Canada had a record 45.7 million acres burn, more than three times any previous years’ fires. The skies of northern US states were cloudy, sometimes with an orange hue, and the air was filled with smoke. Summer camps and vacations were canceled, flights around the country were affected, and it just wasn’t safe to be outdoors for days at a time.

It seems this trend, at least for now, is here to stay. Summers are seemingly hotter and drier than they have been in previous years. Air pollution is quickly becoming one of the most important health concerns worldwide. It accounts for over 6.5 million deaths from all causes, becoming the 4th leading risk factor of early death in 2019. Burning coal, oil or wood, running vehicles, industrial plants, emergencies/natural disasters, acid rain, etc., contributes to poor air quality.

Dangers of Poor Air Quality

Why be concerned about air quality? Well, when you breathe, small particles from the air can travel deep into your lungs. This may cause many different problems as particles enter the bloodstream. These particles lead to inflammation; the body’s immune response to an injury or foreign invader. On small levels, this is great because the immune system is engaged and can fight off foreign invaders or stimulate the healing of a wound. However, if the immune system is constantly bombarded by these invaders, it eventually causes issues. This leads to immune system problems, which can include the body having difficulty regulating inflammation, organ damage, or even altered genes.

Poor-quality air can cause symptoms like runny nose, burning eyes, throat/lung irritation, excess phlegm, or even trouble breathing. Those with heart and lung conditions are especially at risk of symptoms. If you suffer from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, or other diseases that affect your lungs, poor air quality can be life-threatening. Those who are pregnant, children, or elderly are also at higher risk of problems due to poor air.

How to Know What Your Air Quality Is

In the United States, the Clean Air Act, originally enacted in 1963, has been amended many times. This act made it possible to develop the United States Air Quality Index (U.S. AQI) for outside air conditions. The AQI value runs from 0 to 500 with under 50 being good quality and anything over 300 being hazardous. Roughly, anything AQI value under 100 is generally okay, but as it gets over 100, those sensitive to air conditions are affected. As the number rises higher, even healthy people can develop symptoms. When the AQI is high, everyone should do their best to avoid being outside for more than very short periods. Here’s a chart from Air Now, the U.S. government website on the AQI:

Daily AQI ColorLevels of ConcernValues of IndexDescription of Air Quality
GreenGood0 to 50Air quality is satisfactory, and air pollution poses little to no risk.
YellowModerate51 to 100Air quality is acceptable. However, there may be a risk for some people, particularly those unusually sensitive to air pollution.
OrangeUnhealthy for Sensitive Groups101 to 150Members of sensitive groups may experience health effects. The general public is less likely to be affected.
RedUnhealthy151 to 200Some members of the general public may experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.
PurpleVery Unhealthy201 to 300Health alert: The risk of health effects is increased for everyone.
MaroonHazardous301 and higherHealth warning of emergency conditions: everyone is more likely to be affected.

 

Enter your zip code at airnow to see your current air quality.

What You Can Do About It

Living in a place with poor air quality can be scary. First, you should try to stay indoors as much as possible, keeping windows and doors closed. Secondly, avoid exercising outside, especially near high-traffic areas, to avoid breathing particles deep into your lungs. Here are a few additional tips to consider:

Air filtration. During hot weather, having an air conditioner can help with air quality. Typically, all air conditioners have a filter to help keep impurities out of the air. If you are sensitive to low air quality (you have asthma, COPD, or other lung condition) you may want to consider a separate HEPA filtration unit for your room or house. HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air [filter]. These filters are great at reducing particles and other impurities in the air. HEPA filters are also available for central heating/cooling units. These can be found at your local hardware store.

Dietary Support. As always, eating a whole-food diet with fewer processed foods and sugars is a good idea. Higher antioxidant diets can reduce the risk of chronic respiratory diseases. And, highly processed foods should be avoided, as they are more inflammatory than fruits and vegetables. Any variety of fruits or vegetables is when replacing processed foods. Blueberries, blackberries, prunes, apples and pears, cherries, plums, mangoes, pineapples, etc. are good fruits to consider. Vegetable choices include bell peppers, asparagus, red cabbage, tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, kale, and even artichokes.

Supplemental Options. Several products on the market may be helpful for lung support. In general, the body’s main antioxidant, Glutathione, is helpful with lung disease. It’s a powerful antioxidant, though it’s not well-absorbed orally. Liposomal glutathione products are the better ones on the market. N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is also a good product to consider, especially if you have a lung condition. It seems to thin mucus, is a potent antioxidant, and supports the body’s production of glutathione. Vitamin D has been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities and may be helpful. Vitamin C, a potent antioxidant, is another option.

Should I Be Worried About this?

Poor air quality might be here to stay. Controlling your lifestyle and adding in air filtration can help support your body with poor air quality. As always, have a conversation with your doctor. If you notice any shortness of breath, heaviness, wheezing, chest pain, lightheadedness, etc., seek medical attention right away. If you want more natural solutions to support lung health, speak with your local holistic practitioner today.

References:

Image attribution: user17581499/freepik.com