The more air pollution you’re exposed to, the more damaged your lungs become.
The increasing number of high ozone days in Lancaster County, having almost doubled in the past two years as a result of hotter summers, worries local health officials.
Lancaster County’s air quality, ranked 15th worst in the country by the American Lung Association, continues to be considered troublesome because of its particulate matter air pollution and ozone levels.
“Both ozone and particle pollution can increase the risk of lung cancer, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm,” says Dr. Silverstein, a Lancaster pulmonologist and board member for the Partnership for Public Health, referring to the American Lung Association “State of the Air” report for Lancaster.
More intense heat from sunlight reacts with volatile organic compounds, released by the growing flowers, fruit and crops throughout the county, to produce air pollution. The invisible emissions in air pollution damage even healthy lungs, increase your risk for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, known as COPD, and more quickly decrease lung function, according to a new report from the European Respiratory Journal.
On June 27 the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued a Code Orange Air Quality Action Day for Lancaster County because the ozone AQI was high enough that young children, the elderly, and those with respiratory problems were likely to experience negative health effects.
In the past month alone, there have been eight days with a moderate air quality index (AQI) rating for particulate matter. A moderate AQI means that there is a moderate health concern for people who are unusually sensitive to air pollution because of the concentration of pollutants.
Particle pollution can come in the form of dirt, dust, soot, or smoke in the air from coal- and natural gas- fired plants, cars, agriculture, unpaved roads, and construction sites, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
The largest contributors to fine particulate matter emissions in Lancaster County are 30 percent agricultural crop and livestock dust, 15 percent residential fuel combustion, 10 percent industrial fuel combustion, and 9 percent biomass waste disposal.
As the temperature is expected to remain in the high 80s and 90s, experts advise all people to avoid outdoor physical activity during high ozone days and those with health issues should stay indoors, where ozone concentrations are significantly lower.
The public can help reduce air pollution by using less electricity, driving less and not burning trash, advises Kevin Stewart, director of environmental health at American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic.