Pulmonary Q&A by Dr. Schiffman

Is air pollution really that bad for your lungs?

Medical Author: George Schiffman, MD
Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD

Answer:

Yes, air pollution is really bad for your lungs and your entire respiratory tract. It can also be seriously irritating to your mucus membranes, especially around your eyes. Children, the elderly, and people with underlying chronic disease, especially of the heart and lungs, are particularly at risk for respiratory problems.

Ozone, a component of smog, is a common pollutant in air. The Clean Air Scientific Advisory committee unanimously recommended that the EPA lower the current ozone standard to protect the public. Recent research suggests that ozone can be extremely dangerous, and in sensitive individuals it might even hasten their death. This common pollutant can impair lung function, worsen respiratory symptoms, and aggravate asthma and other lung conditions. Particulate matter in the air can also harm the public, especially those with lung disease, the young, and senior citizens. The American Lung Association recommends tighter standards for limiting particulates in the air than are currently being recommended by the EPA.

As stated by the President of the American Lung Association, John Kirkwood, in September of this year," Thousands of studies - most funded by EPA itself - unmistakably demonstrate that particulate matter is a dangerous air pollutant, endangering life and health at levels well below those announced by EPA today".

Thank you for your question.

Reference: American Lung Association press release September 21, 2006


Last Editorial Review: 5/21/2008