July, August, and September are the hottest months of the year, which means many people start spending more time outdoors.
There are plenty of fun summer activities to engage in, like swimming and biking and hiking, but it’s important to make sure that you don’t overdo it or expose yourself to dangerous pollutants when you do these things.
Summer air pollution is caused by many factors, some local and some further away. These factors include temperature and rainfall conditions, ozone, and dust storms. Here are some air pollution trends affecting summer air quality that you need to be aware of.
Excessive Pollen in The Air
Allergies are one of the most common causes of summertime asthma flare-ups. This is especially true when someone lives in a region with high pollen concentrations from trees, grasses and weeds.
Because pollen causes many reactions in susceptible people—coughing, sneezing, red eyes, watery eyes and itchy skin among them—the amount in your area can be tough to gauge. By signing up for daily email or text alerts from your local National Weather Service office, you can keep tabs on where and when pollen counts are expected to be high, and wear a high-filtration face mask to protect yourself if you must be outside.
Some locations—particularly those in high-latitude areas—have higher levels of airborne fungal spores from late summer through early fall. This phenomenon is often referred to as sea smoke because, at certain times, it can resemble a cloud of steam over water
Although less potent than pollen, these spores are known to cause various respiratory symptoms. The most severe problem they cause is a buildup of scar tissue in your lungs (pneumonia).
People with asthma or other chronic lung problems can develop more severe cases if exposed to large amounts. It’s important to note that pollen and fungal spores trigger their effects when breathed in by people who are already sensitive or allergic to them.
In heavily populated cities, sources of dust are ever-present. If you live in a rural area, dust might be a less familiar pollution contributor, but it’s worth being aware of nonetheless.
Construction sites kick up lots of dust, as do dirt roads and unpaved footpaths – not to mention farmlands and even some lawns. The air is full of it – both outdoors and indoors. Dust particles are small enough to pass through your nose into your lungs, where they can cause health problems like allergies or asthma.
The warmer it is, the more dust rises into your lungs, so when it’s hot outside, and you go for a long walk, hike, or run, look out for people wearing scarves over their mouths and noses.
Increased O-Zone Levels
While ozone is created naturally in the earth’s atmosphere, increased levels are a byproduct of poor pollution management and automobile emissions. During the summer, higher temperatures mean increased evaporation and more water vapor in our atmosphere, which helps form ground-level ozone.
Increased ozone levels can lead to irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, cause difficulty breathing and trigger asthma attacks. It can also exacerbate several health problems, including cardiovascular disease.
While natural ozone levels are typically only a problem in areas with excessive industrial or vehicle emissions, high ozone concentrations can blanket wide areas at high levels of pollution, especially in the hot summer weather.