By guest blogger Casey Harvell

americanlungPop quiz – what disease affects over one in ten children in Massachusetts?

Would you believe it is asthma? Maybe you haven’t considered asthma to be a lung disease, but it is, and the rates of children with asthma remain high in Boston, particularly in Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan.

Question two: what is one factor often overlooked in terms of preventing asthma attacks? Ok, that one might have a few answers, but did you think about air pollution? This pollution comes from a variety of sources, including cars, trucks and coal-fired power plants.  In the American Lung Association’s most recent report on the State of the Air, Suffolk County received a “C” for number of high ozone days and a “B” for particle pollution. While these grades reflect an improvement on previous years, vulnerable populations are still at risk, including those with asthma and children whose lungs are still developing.

Don’t worry; I won’t quiz you on ozone or particle pollution!  Ozone, also called smog, is the most widespread air pollutant, created by the reaction of sunlight on emissions from vehicles and other sources. When ozone is inhaled, it harshly irritates the lungs – like a bad sunburn – and can cause asthma attacks. Particle pollution often comes from vehicles and power plants. This microscopic dust is breathed deeply right into your lungs and may pass into the blood stream. As those of us within the city limits know, there is no shortage of cars and trucks clogging our streets and highways. My windowsills are constantly cluttered with particle pollution (also known as soot) that comes from the cars that pass by my busy road.

However, the American Lung Association is committed to making it easier for all to breathe. To learn more about protecting yourself from air pollution, please visit www.fightingforair.org.  Click here for more information on how to better manage asthma.

Casey Harvell is the Massachusetts Healthy Air Coordinator for the American Lung Association in Massachusetts.

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