Smoking is the number one cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema. But nonsmokers have been diagnosed with it more and more frequently. Why? The answer may be ozone.
Good Versus Bad Ozone
You remember the hole in the ozone layer. It is not that ozone. Ozone in the stratosphere is good ozone. Over six miles above the ground, ozone protects the earth from the sun’s harmful rays. The ozone that is causing trouble is at ground level.
Ozone is O3 meaning three (3) atoms of oxygen come together. Unlike O2, you can smell ozone. It is caused by a chemical reaction of nitrous oxides and volatile organic compounds (both of which come from industrial and electric companies as well as gasoline and cars) in the presence of sunlight.. The reason you hear about ozone alerts during the summer is the intense heat and ultraviolet waves of the sun acting as a catalyst help create more ozone.
New Study On Lungs and Ozone
As the climate heats up, more ozone is produced. And now, due to a new and comprehensive study there is unmistakable evidence of just how dangerous ozone on the ground level is to lung health. Comprehensive because this study, conducted over an 18 year period, involved over 7000 participants of all ethnicities living in five difference cities: Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, St. Paul, Minnesota and Winston-Salem, N.C. Air quality at participants’ homes was measured and the participants underwent CT scans of their lungs- more than 15,000 CT scans- to learn what happens with exposure to ozone. These scans could identify holes made by ozone in the aveoli—the small air sacs that make up the lungs.
What the study found was a significant association between long-term ozone exposure and emphysema as seen on CT scans. Moreover the research found that the damage incurred by ozone exposure over 18 years was equivalent to what would happen if the individuals smoked one (1) pack of cigarettes per day for 29 years.
Ask for Renewable Energy
If this news is upsetting, knowing that climate change which heats up the atmosphere at ground level even more, can produce more ozone is incredibly depressing. You may feel nothing can be done to stop global warming. But you are wrong. Climate change is something we can get depressed about or that we can take whatever action on a local and personal level that is available. One option is to call your utility company and request that your home be powered by renewable energy—wind farm energy or solar energy. If enough people ask for this, we can reduce the number of coal burning utilities and so reduce the amount of nitrous oxides and volatile organic compounds going into the atmosphere. Just an idea!
To learn more about your lungs, see 5 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know about Your Lungs.