Thursday, July 17, 2008
How fine particles can affect your health
Particle exposure can lead to a variety of health effects. For example, numerous studies link particle levels to increased hospital admissions and emergency room visits—and even to death from heart or lung diseases. Both long- and short-term particle exposures have been linked to health problems. For a more complete discussion of woodsmoke health effects research,
see Health Effects of Breathing Woodsmoke (PDF) (5pp, 58k).
Long-term exposures, such as those experienced by people living for many years in areas with high particle levels, have been associated with problems such as reduced lung function and the development of chronic bronchitis—and even premature death.
Short-term exposures to particles (hours or days) can aggravate lung disease, causing asthma attacks and acute bronchitis, and may also increase susceptibility to respiratory infections.
If you have lung disease, and you are exposed to particles, you may not be able to breathe as deeply or vigorously as normal. You may have respiratory symptoms including coughing, phlegm, chest discomfort, wheezing and shortness of breath.
In people with heart disease, short-term exposures have been linked to heart attacks and arrhythmias. If you have heart disease, particles may cause you to experience chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath, and fatigue.
Healthy children and adults have not been reported to suffer serious effects from short-term exposures, although they may experience temporary minor irritation when particle levels are elevated. (source: http://airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=static.aqguidepart)