Is Your Neighborhood Lung-friendly? New Study Provides the Answer
With views of trees from every window, pollution never crossed my mind when I signed my current lease. Which is how I ended up in an area with unhealthy air. If you live in the U.S., there’s a good chance you’re in one, too.
The American Lung Association released its annual “State of the Air” report on Wednesday. My county was the second worst in Pennsylvania for air quality, just shy of taking first place from Philadelphia.
Considering how common pulmonary sarcoidosis is within our sarcoidosis population, and that it affects the lungs of roughly 90% of those with sarcoidosis, finding out your own ranking is a good idea. That can be done by plugging in your zip code at the American Lung Association’s website.
Pollution isn’t always where you think
I was lulled by suburban landscapes and wildlife into believing I was breathing clean air. It took a pandemic that emptied cars from nearby streets, and the return of gridlock again, for me to notice smog. It is a nationwide problem.
More than 40% of Americans live in areas with unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution, according to the report. People of color are more than three times as likely as white people to be breathing the nation’s most polluted air, according to the most recent data.
Even brief exposure can be harmful and trigger symptoms many of us are all too familiar with: coughing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and decreased lung function. A small study in 2018 found that short-term exposure to air pollution exacerbated respiratory symptoms in patients with fibrotic sarcoidosis.
Knowledge is power
As someone always on the lookout for pulmonary threats, it was disturbing to learn I was in the thick of pollutants. My gut screamed move. That sentiment was popular during the pandemic, as 8.93 million people relocated between March and October of last year, according to the National Association of Realtors. But job uncertainty made that a risky prospect for me, so I added two small changes to my lung wellness efforts instead.
I began regularly checking the Air Quality Index and planning my days around it. If the rating is green, I don’t worry about spending time outdoors or letting the fresh air in. But as pollution ramps up, that changes.
Even knowing what I do now hasn’t dampened my love for my neighborhood, which is a short walk from everything. I continue discovering and enjoying more of it each day. But at the back of my mind is a nagging question: What price have I paid, and continue to pay, for living in areas with unhealthy air? That question isn’t likely to go away until clean air is a given where I call home.
Brighter side: We all could use a break from bad news right now. So, I’ll be closing my columns with a roundup of positivity until we are able to say goodbye to masks, hug our loved ones, and leave our homes without fear.
- Rubik’s Cube art: A computer programmer in Denver, Colorado, is using Rubik’s Cubes to create art, 6ABC reported. Brian Kobasa designed a portrait of Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid with 768 Rubik’s Cubes, which took about seven hours to complete. You can check out his other creations here.
Note: Sarcoidosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sarcoidosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sarcoidosis.