With most of the U.S. facing a prolonged heat wave this summer, one of the dangerous side effects to people is an increase in air pollution. High heat alone can cause serious health problems for the elderly and those individuals with lung and heart conditions. The combination of sunlight with nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions from cars and coal-fired plants can create a high level of unhealthy pollutants. On days of greater sunlight more ozone forms, and on hot humid days sulfate particles form more readily in the atmosphere. Creating a double whammy of toxic pollution that can kill. Young children, the elderly, and those with heart and lung conditions are more susceptible to this toxic mix. This type of air pollution targets the same organs: ozone the main ingredient in smog and sulfite particles penetrate the lungs, aggravating asthma and other breathing problems, and eventually end up harming the heart. These health consequences all arise once a heat dome settles in over an area. The best defense if you suffer from any lung or heart conditions are to stay in doors and lessen your physical activities. But, the obvious long-term solution is to continue to reduce these toxins from entering the atmosphere to begin with, and that would necessitate political will from Washington.
Photo: New York City Credit: EPA