Air pollution is a problem. We all know it is not healthy to breathe polluted air. However, everyone needs to breath; we have no other choice but to inhale and exhale (roughly 23,000 times a day) as we venture out into our community to work and live our lives. We notice the annoying symptoms of scratchy throats and itchy eyes, but the most profound damage to our health occurs deep in our lungs, where the particulate matter settles.
Locally as well as globally, air pollution is an increasing health concern and is taking its toll on human health. The International Energy Agency recently released a report attributing an annual 6.5 million premature deaths to air pollution worldwide. Particulate matter in the air increases the risk of being hospitalized and dying from pneumonia, heart attacks, strokes, and asthma. In addition, research has shown that when air quality is poor, mental health conditions such as anxiety are more likely to worsen, and pregnant women are more likely to go into premature labor. Those most vulnerable to the adverse health effects of air pollution are our children and the elderly.
There is little argument that air pollution is a concern. Somehow though, it often seems to be someone else’s problem. It is easy to blame someone else’s burn pile or inefficient wood stove. And yet, whether it is burning firewood, yard waste, or irrigation ditches, many of us play a role in producing air pollution. The smoke from burn piles or chimneys may seem as though it drifts up and far away from us, but the truth is that most of it stays in our local atmosphere. For our valley, our local air pollution is in general home grown: particulates from wood smoke are produced in Kittitas Valley and are inhaled in Kittitas Valley. During the winter months, high pressure systems – those bright blue winter skies – trap our pollution here for all of us to breathe.
Residents of Kittitas Valley pollute Kittitas Valley air, are harmed by air pollution, and can help reduce air pollution. Since air pollution is our own problem that we have created, we – as individuals – must contribute to the solution.
Learn more about how your health is effected by air pollution:
1. The American Lung Association: http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/
2. Moms Clean Air Force: http://www.momscleanairforce.org
3. The CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/airpollution/default.htm
Know when local air quality is poor: https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/enviwa/
Take individual action:
1. Replace an inefficient wood fireplace or stove with one that is clean burning. Talk to your neighbors and encourage them to do the same. There is financial assistance to do so: https://hopesource.us/woodstove.
2. Check out the helpful information provided by The Kittitas County Health Department: https://www.co.kittitas.wa.us/health/programs/environmental-health/air-quality.aspx
3. Instead of burning yard waste, take it to the transfer station composting center: https://www.co.kittitas.wa.us/solid-waste/waste-prevention.aspx.
Air pollution is quietly harming your health and the health of your loved ones. Poor air quality occurs from our individual actions, is difficult to escape, and is something each one of us can do something about. Our air quality will likely only get worse unless we do something about it.