New York Pollution and Asthma

How New York Air Pollution Affects Asthma

For asthma sufferers, air quality can dramatically impact your quality of life. This is especially the case when air pollution comes into play. Air pollution is an environmental issue New York City has struggled to control throughout its vibrant history, with varying degrees of success. As with all major international cities, the emissions produced from industry, construction, and transportation combine to create layers of smog abundant in airborne pollutants that pose a considerable health risk for asthma patients. In fact, asthma is the leading cause of hospital admission for children in New York City, with 10% of local children diagnosed with asthma.

Here is a look at the status of air pollution in New York, and what local asthma patients can do to protect their lung health.

The Impact of Air Pollution on Asthma

Air pollution has been defined by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as: “any visible or invisible particle or gas found in the air that is not part of the natural composition of air.” This can come from both natural and technological sources, including: chemicals, gases, smoke, ash, and dust. Evidence has shown that air pollution dramatically exacerbates asthma symptoms, increasing the likelihood of an acute asthma attack by as much as 40% when pollution levels are high. These asthma attacks are a common cause of hospitalization, especially for children.

Air Pollution in New York

A recent study conducted by EPA found that New York County citizens have the third highest cancer risk as a result of airborne chemicals; in a sample including all counties in the country. Other studies have found that air pollution has contributed to approximately 6% of deaths each year. In fact, the New York City hospitalization rate for children with asthma is double the national average. The immense cost of asthma to the New York State health system is the second-highest in the US: a steep $1.8 billion per year.

The majority of airborne emissions are a product of industry, construction, and transportation. Moreover, the health risk posed by air pollution is determined in part by its source. Major sources of air pollution in New York City fall under the following categories:

  • Fine Particulate Matter: Fine particulate matter is defined as miniature airborne particles measured at 2.5 micrometers or smaller. These particles are small enough to penetrate and damage the lungs, exacerbating airway inflammation and lung disease. Fine particulate matter is the product of combustion, with its sources including everything from transportation to heating.
  • Ozone: Ozone is a staple of city life, ever-present in the form we know as smog. The main culprits responsible for ozone production are emissions from industry and transportation. Research has proven that the concentration of ozone is directly related to the incidence and severity of asthma attacks, since ozone has been known to increase inflammation in the airways and greatly impair basic lung function.
  • Elemental Carbon: Elemental carbon is a fossil fuel emission that can greatly exacerbate inflammation of the airways, increasing the likelihood of an asthma attack and even lung cancer.
  • Nitrogen Oxides: Nitrogen oxides are released via fuel combustion, and include nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide. The presence of nitrogen oxide has been linked to greater inflammation in the airways, ER visits, and hospitalization for respiratory damage.
  • Sulfur Dioxide: Sulfur dioxide is a fossil fuel emission produced by power plants and industry factories, which leads to acid rain and higher incidence of respiratory illness.

Controlling Your Environment

The best thing you can do to protect your lungs when air pollution levels are high is to stay indoors, where you can maintain a controlled, purified environment. Keep your windows closed when the air quality is at its worst, use a HEPA filter in your vents and vacuums, and keep an air purifier running in the home.

Asthma Relief with Dr. Shukla

Make your lung health a top priority when walking the New York City streets, and schedule a consultation with trusted asthma specialist Dr. Mayank Shukla today. Dr. Shukla is accomplished in treating asthma and allergy symptoms in local pediatric patients, and has over 15 years of patient satisfaction to his name. For all of your respiratory needs, contact the Asthma Allergy Sleep Center of New York.

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