Our bodies are amazing, performing a multitude of tasks unconsciously as we go about our day. However, our bodies can only handle so much. To set ourselves up for a long healthy life, we think about what we put into our bodies: the food we eat and the products we put on our skin. But what do we know about the air we breathe?
According to a 2013 study published in The Lancet, air pollution particles with a diameter less than 2.5 μm (PM 2.5) can cause significant health risks over the long term. The study authors found that for each 10 μg/m3 increase in these particles, lung cancer rates increased by 36 percent. These tiny PM 2.5 particles are usually by-products of power plants, industrial processes, wood burning, manufacturing or motor vehicle emissions. Larger particles, like stone dust or road dust, were also found to be dangerous.
Where you live can play a big role in how polluted your air is. At the end of 2015, HealthGrove compiled air pollution data for all 50 states based on data from The Centers for Disease Control. Air pollution rates were tallied by determining how much of the air was made up of particles smaller than PM 2.5 and at what concentrations. HealthGrove took the data and compared it with cancer rates in each state. Not surprisingly, the states with highest pollution rates also have higher rates of cancer deaths than states with low air pollution concentration.
Do you live in one of the top 10 most polluted states in America? Find out below just how dangerous your air really is:
Air pollution concentration (ug/m3): 13.35
Number of cancer deaths (per 100K): 223.2
Most polluted county: Beaver
Air pollution concentration (ug/m3): 13.38
Number of cancer deaths (per 100K): 190.1
Most polluted county: Wabash
Air pollution concentration (ug/m3): 13.47
Number of cancer deaths (per 100K): 178.9
Most polluted county: Garrett
#7. Washington, DC
Air pollution concentration (ug/m3): 13.58
Number of cancer deaths (per 100K): 169.4
#6. West Virginia
Air pollution concentration (ug/m3): 13.76
Number of cancer deaths (per 100K): 254.4
Most polluted county: Hancock
Air pollution concentration (ug/m3): 13.95
Number of cancer deaths (per 100K): 213.7
Most polluted county: Hale
Air pollution concentration (ug/m3): 14.02
Number of cancer deaths (per 100K): 214.8
Most polluted county: Polk
Air pollution concentration (ug/m3): 14.1
Number of cancer deaths (per 100K): 229.4
Most polluted county: Webster
Air pollution concentration (ug/m3): 14.23
Number of cancer deaths (per 100K): 215.9
Most polluted county: Carroll
Air pollution concentration (ug/m3): 14.36
Number of cancer deaths (per 100K): 201.8
Most polluted county: Posey
Not surprisingly, the largest cities in each state tend to have the highest rate of pollution. In most states, populated areas have pollution levels several times higher than areas with fewer people.
How to counteract pollution damage
Short of moving states or moving to a smaller town, there are a few steps you can take to reduce the risk of pollution-related illnesses.
- Most large cities have pollution monitoring that is publicized each morning (usually called the Air Quality Index). When air pollution levels are high, stay indoors.
- Exercise in a park or areas well away from traffic and other sources of pollution.
- Use a whole-house indoor air filter to remove some of the pollution from the air.
- Set your car to re-circulate air while sitting in traffic to avoid breathing carbon monoxide.
- Exercise outdoors in the morning, when pollution levels are the lowest.
By following these tips, you can help guard your health against the dangers of air pollution. However, the best way to reduce your air pollution risk is still to live far away from the largest sources of air pollution.
-The Alternative Daily