Is There A Link Between Air Pollution & Rates Of Asthma

Published May 20, 2014
asthma and air pollution

Photo by KristyFaith / CC BY

As anyone with asthma already knows, removing the trigger that can cause the attack is essential; but what does an individual do if the trigger is the very air they breathe?

Air pollution in the United States has improved over the years with the introduction of the Clean Air Act in 1970. The levels of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, lead, and particles in the air have decreased substantially in the last 40 years. Because of the efforts towards cleaner air Americans now have lower risks for serious health issues and premature death.

For Americans that is good news but for others who live in countries without environmental regulations the lack of clean air and water poses an even more serious health risk than could be found 40 years ago. The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 7 million deaths annually can be linked to air pollution. The countries of Pakistan, Qatar, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Egypt, Mongolia, the United Arab Emirates, India, and Bahrain have the dubious honor of being the 10 countries with the worst air pollution in the world. The really staggering part of the WHO study is the fact that only 12 percent of the worldwide population lives in a city that meets the clean air guidelines of the WHO; their study encompasses 1600 cities in 91 countries.

Agencies such as the World Health Organization, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Centers for Disease Control all agree that asthma and bronchitis in some cases can be directly linked to poor air quality, both indoors and outdoors. Recognizing what triggers the occurrences and limiting activity during those times is the only preventative measure one can take at this time. For those with asthma and bronchitis knowing the air quality where you live and work can help when planning activities for the day.

If you have not been diagnosed with asthma but feel a tightening of the chest, have difficulty breathing, coughing or a shortness of breath on days when the air quality is bad you should make an appointment with your physician. A respiratory therapist will perform tests to access whether or not you may have asthma, and what you can do to minimize the occurrences.

There are many diseases present today that still hold mysteries as to why they occur, but asthma is not one of them. We know that it is directly linked to bad air quality, and that children suffer the most from it. Helping other countries to recognize and control their air pollution is one way we can as a society, all be assured of healthy air to breathe.

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