"You just have to look outside to see that bad air days don't just happen in the winter in Utah. Summer wildfires, fireworks, and high temperatures all play a role in increasing the amount of summer air pollution," says Denitza Blagev, MD, a pulmonologist at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah. "The smoke from wildfires can travel thousands of miles and still contain fine particle pollution, or PM2.5, which can lodge deep in the lungs."
Warm summer temperatures aid in the formation of ground-level ozone, which is created when chemicals in the air react with sunlight. Ground-level ozone + fine particle pollution = smog.
Who's most vulnerable to smoke pollution?
- Children and teens
- Pregnant women
- The elderly
- Anyone with lung or respiratory problems
"People in these groups are more likely to have increased lung irritation and inflammation, an increase in respiratory symptoms from asthma, bronchitis, emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or develop pneumonia when air quality is poor," Dr. Blagev adds. "If you have chronic pulmonary or cardiac disease, make sure you're taking your regular medications as prescribed, since air pollution can exacerbate existing heart and lung conditions.Check the air quality report at least once a day if you're in one of these sensitive groups."
Five ways to protect yourself from dirty summer air
- Stay inside as much as possible, with doors, windows and fireplace dampers shut.
- Use the recirculation setting on your home and car air conditioners.
- Close car windows and vents.
- Check with your physician about adjusting respiratory medications.
- Use masks when outdoors to help minimize PM2.5 exposure.
Four simple ways to reduce summer air pollution
- Use public transportation and reduce your driving time and mileage.
- Avoid using gas-powered lawn mowers, trimmers, chain saws, power-washers, air compressors, and leaf blowers on unhealthy air days.
- Use less electricity by turning air conditioning to a higher temperature setting.
- Turn off lights, TVs, computers, etc., when they're not being used.
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