In urban areas of the United States, air quality is a public health concern, since air pollution can cause respiratory problems, asthma, and even heart attack and stroke. Poor air quality or pollution does not always affect everyone the same. Some groups of people are more susceptible to harm from air pollution due to their location or socioeconomic status.
What Is Being Done About Air Quality?
Air pollution has decreased over the past year, but research shows that the effects of it on our health are worse than they were originally thought to be. So what is being done about it?
· Clean Air Act. In 1970 Congress passed this act, which sought to protect people and the environment from the effects of air pollutants. A main component of the act was that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was required to reduce routine, or daily, emissions of powerful air pollutants that cause serious health problems.
· Amendment to the Clean Air Act. In 1990, the Clean Air Act was amended to require the EPA to use a technology-based and performance-based method of reducing toxic emissions from major sources of air pollution.
· Enforcement. National Air Quality standards are enforced at both the state and local levels. In Florida, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection monitors air quality, and in Hillsborough County, the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission does.
· Transportation/ metropolitan planning. As transportation contributes to air quality, the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for transportation plays a role in reducing air pollution. MPO implements Congestion Management System planning, organizes bicycle and pedestrian programs, and promotes mass transit in an effort to reduce air pollution.
Why Are Some People Affected More?
· Location. Sometimes, sources of pollution may be located closer to areas of underprivileged communities, thus increasing the residents’ exposure to toxins.
· Socioeconomic status. People of a lower social position may be more inclined to health effects of air pollution. They may lack the access to health care, work at places with poorer air quality, or already have existing health conditions that would put them at greater risk.
What Can I Do?
While changing air quality altogether is a larger issue that you cannot change on your own, there are ways you can protect your own health and reduce your exposure to poor air and pollution.
· Check the AQI. The Air Quality Index shows you the air quality in your area on a daily basis. You can check it each day through Air Now and reduce your exposure on days when the index is at an unhealthy level.
· Avoid heavy traffic. Regularly commuting during rush hour may increase your risk of health effects from air pollutants, so if possible, try commuting during irregular hours.
· Exercise at the right time. Exercising outdoors is best done in the morning, when ozone is low. Avoiding exercising outdoors during rush hour traffic, as that will protect you from air pollutants as well.
· Use your car’s A/C re-circulate. If you do sit in rush hour traffic often, use your air conditioning’s re-circulate feature.
Air Quality and Health (WHO)
Your Health: Air pollution affects brain, heart, blood vessels (USA Today)
Health Buzz: U.S. Air Quality Better, But Still Unhealthy (US News)