Bu Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer
Normally, I am a big advocate of getting outdoors and getting some fresh air. but not today. The National Weather Service has issued an Air Quality Alert for Chicago today, warning people that outdoor activities like brisk walking and running could make them sick.
According to Pamela Jones of CBS News: The problem is tiny particles and they could put the health of people in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin at risk. Each particle is less than 2.5 millionths of a meter in diameter. By comparison, a human hair is about 80 to 100 millionths of a meter across, said Brian Urbaszewski, director of environmental health programs for the Respiratory Health Association of Greater Chicago.
But why are pollution levels suddenly higher?
Every day, dangerous fine particulate matter is pumped into the air by cars, trucks, coal-fired power plants, and factories. But on most days, we have wind or rain that moves the pollution away and spreads it out, so it doesn’t stay concentrated at unhealthy levels, Urbaszewksi said.
“What’s happening now is we have a high-pressure system, which basically means that the air is sinking so that all the population is being compressed into the ground and concentrated, and we don’t have any winds today,” Urbaszewski said. “So we’re being forced, essentially, to breathe what we produced.”
“It is pretty rare. Normally we hear about air pollution action days in the summer, but in the winter time there can be higher levels of particulate matter in the air, and the cold weather can cause that,” said Katie Lorenz of the American Lung Association.
Such tiny particles in the air could pose a lot of problems, especially for those with illnesses like asthma or allergies. Doctors say people shouldn’t ignore the symptoms.
Dr. Lindsey Buswell-Cleary of Michigan Avenue Immediate Care says to see the doctor “if you’re having trouble breathing, if you feel like your chest is tight, you can’t fully take a deep breath or you’re having a cough that’s just persistent.”
The Illinois EPA suggests that people try to cut down on pollution during these action days, by carpooling or taking public transportation. And if you have to drive, try running errands in the evening.
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