Climate Change Could Trigger Respiratory Issues

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Climate Change Will Make Breathing in Summer Harder
Climate Change Will Make Breathing in Summer Harder

(HealthDay News) — Summertime ozone air pollution levels in the United States could rise 70% by 2050 due to climate change, according to a new study published online May 5 in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres. As a result, heavily polluted areas in the East, Midwest, and West Coast that already have many days with high ozone levels could be faced with unhealthy air for most of the summer.

According to the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO, ground-level ozone forms as a result of chemical reactions from compounds that occur naturally and those produced by man, such as emissions from coal burning. Ground-level ozone can cause a number of health problems, such as coughing and throat irritation. Ozone can also aggravate the lungs of people who already have trouble breathing, such as those with asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema.

The news isn't all bad, however. The researchers' computer model also showed that a steep decline in emissions of certain pollutants would result in much lower ozone levels even as temperatures rise due to climate change.

"It doesn't matter where you are in the United States -- climate change has the potential to make your air worse," study lead author Gabriele Pfister, PhD, from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said in a center news release. "A warming planet doesn't just mean rising temperatures, it also means risking more summertime pollution and the health impacts that come with it," she added. "Our work confirms that reducing emissions of ozone precursors would have an enormous effect on the air we all breathe."

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