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Having a Safe Vacation in the Midst of Air Pollution

2011 July 11

By Sarah Bae

My mom works full-time, and has done so for decades. Although she’s nearing 60, and has various health issues stemming from the stress of her work, because I have an 11 year old sister, she says she won’t be retiring anytime soon. Our family has always lived in big cities, and on vacations we go to places like Washington D.C. or New York City – always cities. My mom deserves a relaxing vacation, as does every mom, so it is important to be aware that women are susceptible to multiple environmental health impacts. Be prepared during trips. A big one, strongly associated with congested urban areas like cities, is air pollution.

Air pollutants can come from fine particles, like vehicle exhaust and soot, gases such as ozone and carbon monoxide, smoke from tobacco and stoves, as well as fumes released from the burning of coal, oil, kerosene, everyday household cleaning products and paints. Fine particles, and ozone in particular, are considered the most harmful pollutants.

For older women who may already have health problems, like my mother, exposure to air pollution can be particularly harmful. Air pollution can cause sudden variations or an increase in heart rate for those with cardiovascular problems, which could be a catalyst for conditions leading to a heart attack. For those with a lung disease, air pollution can lead to lung inflammation, difficulty breathing, and aggravation of asthma. Additionally, those with diabetes may also find that their risk of suffering a heart attack, stroke, and other heart problems increases.

To avoid or minimize exposure to air pollution, check the Air Quality Index (AQI) daily. The AQI reports on how clean the air is and whether it can affect your health. It recommends to reduce outdoor activity on bad air quality days. More information about the AQI is available. Information about daily air quality can also be obtained through newspaper, television, and radio weather reports. However, staying indoors doesn’t guarantee complete safety from air pollution as fine particles can enter buildings through open windows or doors, and tobacco smoke as well as fumes from cleaning products can concentrate in indoor areas with inadequate ventilation.

For more information

About the author: Sarah Bae is a summer intern for the Office of Public Engagement. She is a rising senior at UC Berkeley majoring in Society and Environment.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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6 Responses leave one →
  1. armansyahardanis permalink
    July 11, 2011

    Congratulations To U.S. AQI Forecast – Monday, July 11, 2011.-

    Hello Sarah,
    How I wish to feel peaceful in U.S., today, that its most of AQI forecast are good and moderate. It is indicates good relationships among God, people and environment. God Bless America !

  2. Anonymous permalink
    July 11, 2011

    The premise of this article is completely assinine and the whole reason why the EPA has such a deep credibility–and now funding–problem. I and my wife are “59” and will be visiting my Mom, who turns “89” this September, in a suburb of big, bad, dirty-air New York City. Do you suppose that just maybe the forest fires outside of Taos—or in CA every year or so—might be a far bigger concern than those “congested urban areas”?

  3. wade harter permalink
    July 11, 2011

    The picture of a factory billowing smoke is very misleading in today’s world. With the clean act regulations I surmise that it would be extremely hard to find such operating today. If one did then the state or fed regulatory agency incharge is falling down on their job. if I am in error in my thinking, please send location of such a site. thanks, wade harter, engineer

  4. Mike permalink
    July 12, 2011

    As both an asthmatic and an engineer I understand the premise of this article. I have personally experienced increased symptoms on high AQI days. Is it better than prior to the Clean Air Act? Yes. Can those with health issues still be susceptible to environmental irritants? Also yes. Give me a break! My hats off to a college student who takes the initiative to post instead of only spending time issuing petty critiques.

  5. Mike permalink
    July 12, 2011

    As both an asthmatic and engineer I understand the premise of the article. I have personally experienced increased symptoms during high AQI days. Is it better than prior to the Clean Air Act? Yes. Is it still possible for those with health issues to be susceptible to environmental pollution and irritants? Also yes. I commend the initiative of this posting in lieu of posting petty critiques.

  6. Sarah permalink
    July 13, 2011

    Thank you for your reply! Yes, as you have noted, the intention of my post is purely to provide advice and some warning to those who are more susceptible to environmental risks, and not to issue critiques as to why air pollution still exists, whose fault it is, etc.

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