Outdated standards don't protect us from soot

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Outdated standards don't protect us from soot

Postby Wilberforce » Thu Dec 06, 2012 11:24 pm

December 6, 2012
Column: Outdated standards don't protect us from soot

Barbara Kwetz Allan The Andover Townsman

I look out my kitchen window and see another glorious, crystal-clear day in Massachusetts, yet I know from my professional life that unseen, microscopic particles of air pollution are wreaking havoc on so many with respiratory ailments and heart conditions. Most of us walk through our daily lives unaware of the price our most vulnerable – children, elderly, and others with compromised health – are paying, as air pollution irritates lung airways and infiltrates bloodstreams.

This point is not lost on my friend whose son suffers with asthma. “Most people don’t know that pollution can aggravate asthma,” she said.

Having rushed her son unable to breathe to the emergency room more than once, my friend is hyperaware of the need to reduce the things that exacerbate his asthma. She does what she can around their house to limit asthma triggers, but feels helpless when she lets him walk outside.

On Dec. 14, my friend’s son and others with chronic diseases may get some relief if the Obama Administration chooses to support stronger limits on particle pollution, commonly called soot. These limits, called the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, ensure that everyone in the nation is protected based on the most current public health science. The present standard, set in 1997, no longer reflects what the most current science shows to be protective of public health. In fact, many are living under the false sense of security that the air is safe to breathe when it is not. Hundreds of scientific studies have confirmed that millions of asthma attacks, as well as heart attacks, strokes, and even deaths, could be prevented every year if the standard were strengthened.

The black smoke that spews out of smokestacks, chimneys, and from the tailpipes of countless vehicles contains billions of particles of soot. The body reacts to soot in much the same way it does cigarette smoke. These microscopic particles are easily inhaled and inflame not only the lungs, but all of the body’s essential life systems. In fact, breathing soot has been compared to taking a piece of sandpaper and rubbing it against the tissue of the lungs.

The 2011 Sick of Soot report, which the American Lung Association coauthored, concluded that adopting an annual standard of 11 µg/m3 and a daily standard of 25 µg/m3 would provide the most health benefits. Most notably, these more protective standards would prevent as many as 35,700 deaths from occurring annually as a direct result of breathing in soot –almost enough lives saved to fill every seat in historic Fenway Park.

Massachusetts has the unfortunate bragging rights of having asthma rates that are among the highest in the nation, with approximately one in 10 adults and children living with the disease. Unfortunately, children suffer most, as their lungs do not fully develop until they reach early adulthood. Early exposure to particle pollution during this critical development period can hinder lungs from maturing properly and cause respiratory problems that children will carry with them for a lifetime. Asthma is a common chronic condition in children and is a leading cause of emergency room visits and missed school days in Massachusetts. Although the human suffering associated with asthma is great, so is the cost to our wallets. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, total charges for asthma hospitalizations in Massachusetts in 2010 were $113 million - a 126 percent increase since 2000. Taxpayers are expected to pay 66 percent of those costs.

It is a shame that we live in a state that prides itself on being a leader in the health, environmental, and renewable energy fields, yet our residents are suffering at the mercy of a national pollution standard that is outdated and does not provide adequate public health protection. For the sake of children like my friend’s son and many others who suffer with asthma or compromised health, President Obama must ensure that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adopts the most protective soot standard possible. Anything less places the health of current and future generations at risk.

Barbara Kwetz Allan is the former director of air quality at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and a board member of the American Lung Association in Massachusetts.

http://www.andovertownsman.com/opinion/ ... -from-soot


It's been a smokey world out there
Posted: 12/06/2012 07:13:55 AM MST

I f only I'd had one of those magical balls that would have told me the future, last week's article would have been all about the warnings of exercising outside in the smoke infested world of Estes Park and our surrounding area. What a crazy turn of events for our beautiful town, which usually benefits from fresh, clean air almost every day of the year.

Exercising outside when there are environmental hazards in the air is not smart. It's as simple as that. These wildfires have turned our clean air into a major problem for all who breath it. "Smoke from forest and grass fires contains particles that can irritate the eyes, throat and lungs. This can be bothersome for many people, but especially for those with compromised lungs."

Smoke can increase respiratory issues for individuals with and without pre-existing respiratory conditions. Smoke will irritate the eyes and airways, causing coughing, a scratchy throat, irritated sinuses, headaches, stinging eyes or a runny nose. Seasonal allergies and increased pollen will be made worse by smoke.

Individuals with heart disease might experience chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath, or fatigue. People with lung disease may not be able to breathe as deeply or as vigorously as usual, and they may experience symptoms such as coughing, phlegm, chest discomfort, wheezing and shortness of breath.

When smoke levels are high enough, like it's been this past week in Estes Park, even healthy people can experience some of these same symptoms. We've got to be more proactive with regards to outside activities. Here are the recommended guidelines for living within wildfire areas from the National Jewish Health Website.

Continue to take your medications as prescribed, using your rescue inhaler if your doctor has recommended one. Stay indoors as much as possible. Limit exercising outdoors. Consider leaving the area if smoke is making you sick, until the air is clear again. Stay in touch with your doctor if respiratory and chest symptoms become severe.

Protecting yourself is what's most important. It really is important to try to limit your exposure to the smoke. Pay attention to local air quality reports by staying alert to news and health warnings related to smoke. Use visibility guides, where they are available. Use common sense, if it looks smoky outside then stay inside. It's probably not a good time to be outdoors for any activity.

If you are advised to stay indoors, take steps to keep indoor air as clean as possible. Keep our windows and doors closed. Run your air conditioner, or air purifying systems, keeping intakes and filters clean if possible. Close your fireplace dampers vents. Keep particle levels inside your home lower, by not burning wood fireplaces, gas logs, gas stoves or even candles. Don't vacuum, it stirs up particles already inside your home and don't smoke that puts even more pollution in your lungs and the lungs of people around you. When driving through smoky areas, car windows and vents should be kept closed with your air conditioning set to "recirculate" to avoid bringing in outside air.

Smoke inhalation is a serious and the long term effects of breathing smoke correlates with some serious health issues, including shortened life spans. Healthy individuals are at little risk for any long-term effects from breathing wildfire smoke for a temporary amount of time. Once the exposure to smoke goes away, so should your symptoms.

Firefighters and other safety personnel are at risk for health concerns due to long-term exposure as they work endlessly to put out wildfires. Smoke inhalation, long working hours, and scorching temperatures all contribute to health concerns. Long-term respiratory problems could be seen down the road, such as decreased lung function, although these effects can be reversed with proper care. The proper use of personal protective equipment is very important in limiting the effects of smoke exposure.

With regards to your exercise, don't exercise outside at these times and don't avoid exercise by using the smoke as an excuse to take a break. Stay inside; find a health club with a daily or weekly rate and one that has an air conditioning system that can protect your lungs.

http://www.eptrail.com/estes-park-colum ... source=rss
"The View"
Message board

Submitted by ciscokid_67 6/12/2012 08:55 am PST

My Mom just told me Mr Obama wants to do away with wood burning stoves/fireplaces.
I asked her where she heard this, and she said it was brought up during the campaign.
Is this true? Has anyone heard of this?

https://theview.abc.go.com/forum/my-mom ... e-mr-obama
• The Surgeon General has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to ambient smoke!

• If you smell even a subtle odor of smoke, you are being exposed to poisonous and carcinogenic chemical compounds!

• Even a brief exposure to smoke raises blood pressure, (no matter what your state of health) and can cause blood clotting, stroke, or heart attack in vulnerable people. Even children experience elevated blood pressure when exposed to smoke!

• Since smoke drastically weakens the lungs' immune system, avoiding smoke is one of the best ways to prevent colds, flu, bronchitis, or risk of an even more serious respiratory illness, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis! Does your child have the flu? Chances are they have been exposed to ambient smoke!
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