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The Air Out There: a look at the health of the air outside your house
 by: Helena Ray
  • In the early 70's due to an energy crisis people started sealing up their homes. What people weren't informed of is the potential health risk it led too. Sealing up their homes also meant sealing up toxins as well. Over time, these toxins would eventually effect people's immune systems causing people to be more vulnerable to diseases. Unfortunately, bad air is invisible.

    Most of our lives are spent indoors. Whether it is in school, at work or in front of the television. Most people are brought up believing the safest place to be is at home. Safe to what extent? Scientific evidence has indicated that the air qualities inside your homes, schools and working environment is more polluted then the air outside. This is found to be 500 times worse in large industrial cities.

  • Most people say to themselves, "That can't happen to me." Whether it's a shooting, a car accident or an illness, News flash!! YOUR WRONG! It's happening to you, but you just don't know it! When you look at the world around you, most people are blind to the environmental dangers. Dangers such as the water you drink, the food you consume, and the air you breathe. Is the air you breathe safe? Air pollution is a problem for everyone.

    The average adult will breathe about 3,400 gallons of air a day. Unfortunately, children are at a greater risk, simply because they are more active outside. The elderly are also at a higher risk because they often have heart or lung disease.

  • It lingers in the sky like a blanket full of dirt. It gives the appearance of a gray haze. The toxic layer causes your eyes to burn and makes it hard for you to breathe. If you're living in a major city, you know exactly what we're describing. You see it ever day and if you can't see it you know it's there. Smog is a mixture of pollution. The brown hazy color is due to the presence of Nitrogen dioxide. Los Angeles is considered the poster child for smog. Thankfully, the city has made a dramatic change for the better. This is because of the strict emission laws.

  • Statement by Emily Figdor/ US Public interest Research Group
    "To reduce the public's exposure to harmful diesel emissions the Bush Administration should Fully implement clean air standards for diesel trucks and buses and should pass equivalent standards for diesel construction and farm equipment. Studies indicate that long-term exposure is said to be a chronic respiratory hazard to humans. It also contributes to the increase of asthma and respiratory problems."

  • The chemicals we are about to discuss are all present in major cities across the world. The following information will help you understand our atmosphere and give you a better idea to why our cities and other urban areas are polluted so severely.

    Nitrogen Dioxide
    It's described as a reddish brown, highly reactive gas formed when nitric oxide, (another pollutant) is combined with oxygen in the atmosphere. Once Nitrogen dioxide is formed, it then reacts with other volatile organic compounds. What eventually happens is the reaction of these gases results in the formation of ground-level ozone. It is released into our atmosphere from vehicles and power plants.

    Nitrogen oxides can have a huge effect to not only your health but also the environment around you. The presences of this gas along with many others, causes acid rain to fall, which amongst other things effects vegetation. Acid rain washes away essential nutrients the plants need to grow. It also makes the soil acidic and aids the release of aluminum and copper ions which are harmful to plants. In addition, acid rain also effects fresh water fish, leading to bad health and growth problems. Acid rain will cause damage to building materials as well.

    Sulfur Dioxide:
    This is a colorless, reactive gas, which is produced during the burning of sulfur-containing fuels, such as coal and oil. During metal melting and by other industrial processes you can find the highest concentrations of sulfur dioxide near industrial sources. Other places you can find sulfur dioxide are in or around power plants and industrial boilers. Sulfur Dioxides are said to be the primary cause of Acid rain. The gas is released when fossil fuels are being burned in industrial plants. If you suffer from a respiratory disease, such as asthma, the presence of Nitrogen dioxide can lead to the following symptoms; coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. The slightest exposure can effect your lungs. Children are also victims to respiratory illnesses by having minimum exposure.

    People who are active outdoors and suffer from asthma are the most vulnerable to the health effects of Sulfur dioxide. Even if you have very little exposure you may experience a narrowing of the airway. This is also referred to as Bronchoconstriction. Symptoms include wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. The more exposure you have the more severe the symptoms. At very high levels of Sulfur dioxide, if you don't suffer from asthma you too can suffer from the same symptoms as someone with asthma. Long exposure to sulfur dioxide can cause respiratory illness, alter the lung defense mechanisms, and aggravate existing cardiovascular disease.

    Carbon monoxide:
    This can be seen coming from the exhaust of cars and other vehicles that run off of fuel. The fuel used is mostly carbon containing. Because of the limited supple of oxygen, the exhaust may contain carbon monoxide and carbon particles also referred to as soot. This is what you call incomplete combustion. This is one of many gases that leads to smog.

    We have seen it done in countless movies. The person is in their car with the engine running, the garage door is closed and they end up dying. Well, the director did his or her research because if, in fact, you continue inhaling carbon monoxide it will kill you. In small concentration, it may cause dizziness and headaches.

  • What is Ozone?
    It's the gas that gives our sky that pretty blue color. What is responsible for destroying the ozone? Under this natural equilibrium, the rate of destruction should equal the rate of formation. The concentration of ozone is fairly constant in the stratosphere. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) is what's destroying the ozone and causing the depletion to be so severe. What causes the depletion is the chlorine radicals that attack and destroy the ozone molecules. CFCs are important compounds in industries and domestic use. There are three major ways CFCs escape into the atmosphere; During the use of the domestic products, scrapping of refrigerators, and air-condition and the disposal of foam plastics.

    Health Effects:
    Roughly, one out of every three people in the United States is at a high-risk of experiencing Ozone- related health effects. We are not just talking about getting sunburn. People effected the most are extremely active outdoors, especially children, and people with a respiratory disease. Repeated exposure to harmful ozone levels in children can have an impact on the developing lungs and lead to reduced lung functions as an adult. This is something that should happen naturally as a result of the aging.


    If you are in an area where the Ozone range is good, you are expected to have no health risks. Those who live in a moderate area should consider limiting their outdoor exposure. The sensitive group, which means you already have respiratory problems, such as asthma may experience problems taking a deep breath and reduced lung functions.If you live in an area that is considered unhealthy you could develop an aggravated cough and pain when trying to take a deep breath.

    There are ways to find out the ozone levels in your area. The EPA, State and local air agencies have developed a number of tools to provide people with information on local ozone levels, there potential health effects, and suggested activities for reducing ozone exposure. It is known as the AIR QUALITY INDEX. This index was designed to make it easier for people to understand the health significance of air pollution levels. To find out more information on the air qualities in your area go to the following:

  • Since most of the countries pollution is due to power plants, industrial sources and motor vehicles, change may seem pointless to you, but I think differently. The decisions made by you as an individual may only have a small affect but remember, something is better than nothing. If you learned anything by reading the information we have provided then you are a step ahead. Being aware is the first step, the second step is sharing your knowledge with someone. By spreading to others what you have learned, you are making the biggest difference of all. Remember you have the power. The power to change your home, your habits and more importantly the world around you.

Did You Know?

  • The land of the rich and famous, a place to see the stars and get lost in the movies. California brings tourist from all parts of the world. Unfortunately, California has a very high level of pollution. One of the reasons is due to the over population of many cars on the road. California is known to be the nation's smoggiest state. It has the potential cancer risk to adults that is a hundred times above levels seen acceptable by the Environmental Protection Agency.

    A statement by the National Environmental Trust said, "Even if a young child moved away from California, the potential cancer risk that a child rapidly accumulates in California from simply breathing will not go away. The study also concluded that children were more vulnerable to pollutions than adults because, pound for pound, they breathe more air, drink more water, eat more food and play outdoors more than adults." It is also said, " that a baby born in California will exceed the EPA's lifetime acceptable exposure level for cancer at a very early age, and will exceed the lifetime acceptable levels by many multiples by the age of 18. In spite of all of that, on the flip-side California's air quality has vastly improved over the last 30 years and we're still on the decline, as ozone levels have been dropping in the state.

  • The Environmental Protection Agency stated that North Texas was deemed unfit to breathe. The change was made when the state asked the citizens to help out with the problem. What the state failed to do was to ask the area that is the smoggiest of all to help out. The area having the largest industrial pollution is actually in Midlothian Texas. It just so happens, North Texas is downwind of Midlothian, which is South of Dallas.

    North Texas is effected simply because of poor construction planning. This is just one more example of mans doing. Had that industrial area never been built lives could have been saved. Fine Particulate Matter: Tiny particles of pollution smaller than 2.5 micrometers.

    Studies show that having long-term exposure to air pollution especially when breathing in small particles of soot and dust can increase the risk of dying from heart disease and cancer. Thankfully, fine particle pollution has lowered slightly over recent years, due to cleaner burning cars. Unfortunately, in the larger cities the condition has gotten worse because of the amount of vehicles on the roads. A simple way to help that problem is by car-pooling. By catching a ride with a friend you could potentially help save lives. Across the country as we speak more and more people are doing just that. Remember, changing your way of living will help make a better world.

    These systems can improve the quality of your sleep (less snoring or mouth breathing), great improvements in allergic symptoms like sneezing, scratchy throat, cough, wheezing, and nasal congestion. You will decrease your clinical visits for allergy related problems and cut down on your over the counter drugs (which most cause side affects over a period of time). Try an Air Filter we promise you won't be disappointed.
About the Author
Helena Ray is the creator of Convictions of the Heart, a website dedicated to helping people become aware of the current environmental problems and the personal effects on your health. Convictions of the Heart supports all green merchants and offers a variety of environmentally friendly products, all natural products, and whole foods.
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