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Breathing Polluted Air

200 Million Americans are Breathing Air with Dangerous Levels of Pollutants

Six out of 10 Americans, or nearly 200 million people, live in areas where air pollution levels endanger lives, according to the 10th annual American Lung Association State of the Air report released on April 29, 2009.

Included in the report was a measurement of three of the most widespread types of pollution: ozone (smog), annual particle pollution, and 24-hour particle pollution levels.

State of the Air 2009 found substantial progress against air pollution in many areas of the country, but nearly every major city still has dangerous levels of air pollution.

Furthermore, the report found that although some cities have made improvements in air pollution levels, most cities are actually getting worse despite the growing green movement.

According to Stephen J. Nolan, American Lung Association National Board Chair, this should be a serious wakeup call.  Many Americans are breathing air dirty enough to send people to the emergency room, shape how kid's lungs develop, and significantly lower life expectancy.

A large body of scientific research has linked air pollution to a variety of heart and lung diseases and increased rates of mortality among the elderly.

Among the biggest sources of air pollution are dirty power plants, dirty diesel engines and ocean-going vessels.  These sources also contribute to the worsening global warming problem.

Many of the detrimental effects of air pollution are due to oxidative damage and inflammation. Oxidative damage occurs as we metabolize oxygen from the air we breathe. This creates free radicals, which can destroy cell membranes, DNA, and proteins. While this metabolism is a natural process in our bodies, breathing polluted air creates too many free radicals for our bodies to neutralize without external help.

As study conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, found that exposure to high levels of air pollutants is associated with inflammation in the brain and the accumulation of toxic proteins.  These are two causes of neuron dysfunction that show up before classic signs of Alzheimer's disease.

One way to combat the detrimental effects of air pollution is by consuming more antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, particularly those from fish oil.

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