Air Pollution

smoke on the water

More hot days mean more smog, more lung problems, and more kids like Elizabeth Martin forced inside to play sports.

Until developing asthma at age 12, Los Angeles resident Elizabeth Martin seemed born to be an athlete.She excelled in every sport she tried. “I loved soccer most of all,” says Martin. “I was always the fastest person on my team, and I was the top female runner in my school, most of the time beating the boys as well.”

Her dreams of a soccer career ended with the diagnosis of asthma, brought on by exercise. Martin took medication, but since most sports are played outside in the warm months, when smog shrouds the city, she soon found herself unable to participate. By age 13, her lung capacity was half what it should have been.chinese pollution
Hot, smoggy days lead to lung problems
Martin’s story is likely to be shared by increasing numbers of active children–everywhere. Global warming is expected to increase the number of very hot days around the U.S., elevating smog levels to unsafe levels.
According to Dr. John Balmes of the American Lung Association of California, higher smog levels “may cause or exacerbate serious health problems, including damage to lung tissue, reduced lung function, asthma, emphysema, bronchitis and increased hospitalizations for people with cardiac and respiratory illnesses.”
Smog forms when sunlight, heat and relatively stagnant air meet up with nitrogen oxides and various volatile organic compounds. Exposure to smog can do serious damage to our lungs and respiratory systems. Inflammation and irritation can cause shortness of breath, throat irritation, chest pains and coughing and lead to asthma attacks, hospital admissions and emergency room visits. These consequences are more severe if people are exposed while being active.
More hot days mean better conditions for creating smog that can trigger asthma and other breathing problems.
“The number of people with asthma in this country has more than doubled over the past 25 years, led by soaring rates in children” says Dr. John Balbus, head of Environmental Defense’s health program. “With climate change worsening smog in some areas and altering pollen levels, future air quality may pose a greater threat to our health, especially those of us with asthma and other lung diseases.”

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