Almost everyone’s heard of smog: a combination of the words smoke and fog. While fog is mostly moisture, smog typically refers to dense air pollution caused by motor vehicle exhaust fumes. Smog is compounded in areas with higher populations where individuals drive cars on long commutes to and from work everyday.
The ride may include passing by factories and industrial plants with smoke stacks pumping out thick clouds of smoke. This kind of pollution can saturate the atmosphere with all sorts of toxic dangers that people of all ages and medical conditions then inhale. Atmospheric pollution levels are increased when temperatures rise and a process called inversion causes the air pollution to become trapped close to the ground, in the lower level of the atmosphere where people live and breathe. This kind of pollution can be highly toxic to humans and can cause severe health problems, chronic illnesses and more.
However, an article in USA Today cited a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, where researchers at the University of Southern California have been conducting a long-running study evaluating lung function among 2,120 children from ages 11 to 15 – a critical time for lung function. Doctors evaluated the children’s lung function by measuring how much air they could exhale into a special instrument. Three comparisons were conducted from 1994-1998, 1997-2001, and 2007-2011. Pollution levels fell about 40% from the time that researchers studied the first group of kids to the last, partly due to tough emission standards for cars, the study says.
“At the beginning of the study, 7.9% of children had abnormally low lung function, meaning that their lungs were functioning at less than 80% of the normal level for their age,” lead author James Gauderman, a professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at USC, told USA Today. “By the time the last kids turned 15, the number with abnormally low lung function had fallen by more than half, to 3.6% of kids.” Two major types of emissions fell sharply during the two decades of the study: Nitrogen dioxide dropped by 33% and fine air particles dropped nearly in half at 47%.
“Children are breathing better today because our air is cleaner. This is the first study to provide sound, scientific evidence that cleaning up our air actually improves the health of children. That’s an impressive achievement, given that the number of cars and trucks driving on California roads has only grown in the past two decades. Our research partly justifies efforts to clean up our air,” Gauderman says. “This is an incredible environmental success story.”
If you’re concerned with your indoor air quality – regardless of the levels of pollution in your area – there are some effective steps you can take.
- Be vigilant about what you’re spraying into your air: cleansers, air fresheners, and anything that can emit fumes (like paint) cause build-up inside closed environments like a home or office.
- Using plant-based and natural alternatives for cleaning can help.
- Using vacuums equipped with HEPA filters can also help trap allergens and contaminants when you’re cleaning.
- And investing in high quality air purifiers that not only treat the air in your home but the surfaces as well can go a long way to helping clean up your indoor environment.