Warmer climate conditions are causing pollen levels around the world to rise, leading to more sneezing and wheezing on a global scale. Richmond, Virginia, recently topped a list of America’s most congested cities, with Memphis and Oklahoma City not far behind.
A report on low air quality levels from the National Resources Defence Council (NRDC) found that — as a direct consequence of urbanization — 109 million Americans are more likely than ever to suffer from congestion problems like itchy eyes, sneezing, and runny noses. Worryingly, the report also found that asthma prevalence increased to around 26 million in 2010 , from 20 million in 2001.
The NRDC worked closely with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America to name the metropolitan areas with the highest concentration of factors known to trigger asthma symptoms. Many of them are located in places where the ozone contains dangerous amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and high-pollen levels, two factors that often go hand in hand.
High levels of CO2 in the air cause pollen-producing plants to release their pollen earlier, for a longer time, and in greater quantities than they do in areas with less pollution. This in turn attracts plants like ragweed that thrive in urban and suburban environments under these “CO2 domes,” causing the release of even more pollen and creating challenges for the local population. These high pollen levels most severely affect those already living with Asthma.
Other than these crippling levels of pollen production, poor air quality is responsible for many other health risks.Lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other respiratory illnesses can result from low air quality — the World Health Organization estimates that more than two million people die prematurely each year from poor air-related illnesses, according to LiveStrong. With few signs of this situation abating any time soon, how can people in cities like Richmond protect themselves?
The NRDC published recommendations on “how to protect your family” alongside their report. Unfortunately, most recommendations involve saving outdoor activity for low risk days, a solution that simply isn’t realistic for most Americans. A day is considered low risk when local pollen and pollution levels are low. Sometimes our busy schedules mean we can’t save outdoor activity for the days when the weather is cooperating.
In light of this, the NRDC is appealing directly to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ask for legislative action that will cut down carbon emissions and lift air quality levels throughout the country.
Until the government responds to these appeals and makes truly effective changes, the people of Richmond and other cities with poor air quality are simply going to have to do as much as they can on their own. The NRDC recommends regularly checking in with a qualified physician for personalized information on how air quality may affect you.
Whether it’s to see what you can do to protect yourself from pollution or any other health concern, become a member of SingleCare to obtain affordable healthcare in Virginia. With pre-negotiated rates, you as a SingleCare member can get that wheezing and sneezing checked at a cost that you will know before your visit and not in a surprise bill down the road.
(Main image credit: Gary Tognoni/Thinkstock)