Air Quality, Ozone and Lung Health

Breathe in, breathe out. Clean Colorado air is of great importance to everyone liv­ing in this great State. Colorado has identi­fied ten winnable battles that are key public health and environmental issues with a goal of making significant progress in these areas in the next five years, with addressing clean air at the top of our list. Poor air quality has been related to decreased lung function and is significant in triggering respiratory flareups among those that suffer from lung disease. Air pollution is of growing concern in the State of Colorado with the increases of industry and population growth that have been realized in the past few decades.

Outdoor air pollution is caused by small particles and ground level ozone that comes from car exhaust, smoke, road dust and fac­tory emissions, which are particularly higher in the hot summer months. In the urban areas of the front range in Colorado, these concen­trations of pollutants can reach levels that are aggravating to those that deal with asthma, and other respiratory illnesses.

The heightened levels of pollutants have been associated with increased hospital admissions due to related respiratory symp­toms. In the 2014 State of the Air report that was recently released, it revealed that Colorado and the Denver metro area have too many days of high levels of ozone pol­lution. While the average number of days with spikes of short-term particle pollution remained the same as last year, the number of unhealthy days of ozone pollution increased. Denver ranked as the 77th most polluted city in the nation for short-term particle pollu­tion and 26th most polluted for ozone, both worse rankings than last year’s report. “The air in Denver is certainly cleaner than when American Lung Association started the ‘State of the Air’ report 15 years ago,” said Anthony Gerber, MD, PhD at National Jewish Health. While this is an important take away from the current report, there is still work to accom­plish that will address the ozone and particle matter pollution that can cause exacerbations of lung disease such as asthma and increasing risk of hospitalization.

Armed with this information, there are many actions we can all take to start creating the meaningful changes that we wish to real­ize in our air quality. If you drive a car and are going to be parked for awhile, do not leave your car idling. Most people waste up to two tanks of fuel each year from idling, and only one minute of idling deposits more carbon monoxide in the air than what comes from three packs of cigarettes. To protect yourself from the associated triggers that can affect asthma and other respiratory symptoms, it is important to check local air quality informa­tion, which can be accessed at In addition, decrease time spent outdoors during the afternoon and early evening hours when ozone levels are highest. You can personally make a difference in reducing the amount of air pollution impacting Colorado air quality by utilizing alternate forms of transportation such as carpooling, riding the bus, or walking when air quality is good. Together we can all help make our Colorado air clean to breathe in!

For more information on lung health, call the American Lung Association Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-548-8252) to speak to someone directly, or submit a question online. We’re here to answer your lung health ques­tions! Breathing Matters is presented by the Colorado Lung Health Connection

Written by John Streit, RRT
Manager of Lung Health Programs
American Lung Association in Colorado

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