Brought to you by the Sacramento Metropolitan, El Dorado, Feather River, Placer and Yolo-Solano Air Districts
Overall Health Effects
Even healthy people can experience health impacts from polluted air including respiratory irritation or breathing difficulties during exercise or outdoor activities. Your actual risk of adverse effects depends on your current health status, the pollutant type and concentration, and the length of your exposure to the polluted air.
High air pollution levels can cause immediate health problems including:
Aggravated cardiovascular and respiratory illness
Added stress to heart and lungs, which must work harder to supply the body with oxygen
Damaged cells in the respiratory system
Long-term exposure to polluted air can have permanent health effects such as:
Accelerated aging of the lungs
Loss of lung capacity and decreased lung function
Development of diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and possibly cancer
Shortened life span
Those most susceptible to severe health problems from air pollution are:
Individuals with heart disease, coronary artery disease or congestive heart failure
Individuals with lung diseases such as asthma, emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Older adults and the elderly
Children under age 14
Athletes who exercise vigorously outdoors
People in these groups may experience health impacts at lower air pollution exposure levels, or their health effects may be of greater intensity.
Ground-level Ozone Ground-level ozone is formed when volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) react with the sun’s ultraviolet rays. The primary source of VOCs and NOx is mobile sources, including cars, trucks, buses, construction equipment and agricultural equipment.Ground-level ozone reaches its highest level during the afternoon and early evening hours. High levels occur most often during the summer months. It is a strong irritant that can cause constriction of the airways, forcing the respiratory system to work harder in order to provide oxygen.
It can also cause other health problems including:
Aggravated respiratory disease such as emphysema, bronchitis and asthma
Lung damage, even after symptoms such as coughing or a sore throat disappear
Wheezing, chest pain, dry throat, headache or nausea
Reduced resistance to infections
Weakened athletic performance
Particulate Matter (PM) and Wildfire SmokeParticulate Matter is a complex mixture that may contain soot, smoke, metals, nitrates, sulfates, dust, water and tire rubber. It can be directly emitted, as in smoke from a fire, or it can form in the atmosphere from reactions of gases such as nitrogen oxides.
The size of particles is directly linked to their potential for causing health problems. Small particles (known as PM2.5 or fine particulate matter) pose the greatest problems because they bypass the body’s natural defenses and can get deep into your lungs and potentially your bloodstream. Exposure to such particles can affect both your lungs and your heart.
Long-term exposure to particulate pollution can result in significant health problems including:
Increased respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty breathing
Decreased lung function
Development of chronic respiratory disease in children
Development of chronic bronchitis or chronic obstructive lung disease
Nonfatal heart attacks
Premature death in people with heart or lung disease, including death from lung cancer