Deaths Increase as Air Pollution Levels Rise
WebMD News Archive
EPA officials recognize the threat of particulate pollution.
With an annual budget of $62 million, Vandenberg says the National Research
Program for Particulate Matter is the agency's "single largest health
research project," and that within the EPA, this project receives more
funds than do drinking water programs.
Jane Q. Koenig, PhD, a professor of environmental medicine at
the University of Washington in Seattle, as well as Samet and other experts
interviewed by WebMD say that people who need or want to protect themselves
from particulate matter pollution can follow the same guidelines that are
commonly issued on days when ozone levels are elevated. These include staying
indoors when possible and avoiding strenuous outdoor activities, which bring
pollutants deeper into the lungs.
People with asthma and other breathing disorders should check
with their doctor about using their inhalants and other medications more
frequently on days when particulate pollution is high.
Avoiding areas of congested traffic, shunning wood-burning
devices, stopping smoking, and buying a good air-filtering system using a HEPA
filter for home use may also help. A diet with fruits and vegetables that are
high in antioxidants may thwart the effects of air pollution.
But these efforts, unfortunately, are likely to be of limited
benefit. "There's not much you can do," says Lippmann. "You can
retreat indoors [from] ozone. But fine particles follow you indoors. They come
in through cracks. You are getting 80% of the particles indoors that you are
getting outdoors. All you can do is press for greater action on the part of the
EPA to get the sources of air pollution under control." He adds that people
could cut down their use of electricity and use more mass transportation.
The EPA is not yet advising people to take any precautions to
reduce their risk from particulates based on research available today. But that
is likely to change. "In the next year or two, we are going to have much
more data on monitoring of particles in the air than we have now,"
Vandenberg tells WebMD. "We are trying to understand who is affected, why