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The Air We Breathe: Is It Safe?

Summer can bring more than just sunshine and swimming opportunities. In many urban areas, summer is the time of year when smog is at its worst. Smog is a form of air pollution that’s particularly hazardous on hot days.

How Smog is Formed?
The atmospheric pollutants or gases that form smog are released in the air when fuels are burnt. When sunlight and its heat react with these gases and fine particles in the atmosphere, smog is formed. It is purely caused by air pollution. The main sources of these precursors are pollutants released directly into the air by gasoline and diesel-run vehicles, industrial plants and activities, and heating due to human activities.
Why should you worry about smoggy days?
smog is made up of a combination of air pollutants that can compromise human health, harm the environment, and even cause property damage.
Smog is often caused by heavy traffic, high temperatures, sunshine and calm winds. These are few of the factors behind increasing level of air pollution in atmosphere. During the winter months when the wind speeds are low, it helps the smoke and fog to become stagnate at a place forming smog and increasing pollution levels near the ground closer to where people are respiring. It hampers visibility and disturbs the environment.

Smog can cause or aggravate health problems such as asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and other respiratory problems as well as eye irritation and reduced resistance to colds and lung infections.
The ozone in smog also inhibits plant growth and can cause widespread damage to crops and forests.
Warning signs that smog may be causing you harm:
breathing difficulties (especially during exercising), including shortness of breath
increased mucus production in the nose and throat
chest tightness
cough or throat irritation
eye irritation
feeling unusually tired
low energy
How to protect yourself from smog?
No matter where you live, there are precautions you can take to protect yourself and your family on especially hot days, when smog warnings are in effect.
Be aware.Check the Air Quality Health Index in your community, remembering that "smog season" is generally from May to September.
Limit your exposure. On days when ozone levels are high, you have a greater likelihood of being harmed by smog if you stay outdoors for longer periods and if you perform strenuous activity.
Avoid using gas-powered engines, pesticides, and oil-based paints. These all contribute to lower air quality.
Stay hydrated. Hot temperature and high humidity often correspond with high smog levels. This makes it important to stay in the shade and drink lots of fluids to stay hydrated, especially before, during, and after exercise.
Consider exercising indoors in a smoke-free, air-conditioned environment. Avoid exercise outdoors, especially from mid-morning to early evening, when smog levels are higher.
Drive less. Carpool, ride a bike, walk, or use transit. If we all do our part, we can improve the air quality for everyone.
Protect those at higher risk of health problems. Pay special attention to children, seniors, those with lung problems (such as people with asthma), those with heart problems, and those who work outdoors.
Check the AQHI in your community.
Limit strenuous outdoor activities, when the AQHI is high.
Avoid exercising near areas of heavy traffic.
It’s important to note that smog affects everyone differently, and some people are more susceptible to its negative effects. Children, seniors, and people with asthma need to be especially careful on smoggy days.

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