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Who is Most at Risk from Smog?

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Question: Who is Most at Risk from Smog?
Answer: Anyone who engages in strenuous outdoor activity—from jogging to manual labor—may suffer smog-related health effects. Physical activity causes people to breathe faster and more deeply, exposing their lungs to more ozone and other pollutants. Four groups of people are particularly sensitive to ozone and other air pollutants in smog:
  • Children—Active children run the highest risks from exposure to smog. Children spend a lot of time playing outside, especially during summer vacation from school when smog is most likely to be a problem. As a group, children are also more prone to asthma—the most common chronic disease for children—and other respiratory ailments than adults.

  • Adults who are active outdoors—Healthy adults of any age who exercise or work outdoors are considered at higher risk from smog than people who spend more time indoors, because they have a higher level of exposure.

  • People with respiratory diseases—There is no medical evidence that the ozone in smog causes asthma or other chronic respiratory diseases, but people who live with such diseases are more sensitive and vulnerable to the effects of ozone. Typically, they will experience adverse effects sooner and at lower levels of exposure than those who are less sensitive.

  • People with unusual susceptibility to ozone—Some otherwise healthy people are simply more sensitive to ozone and other pollutants in smog than other people, and may experience more adverse health effects from exposure to smog than the average person.
Elderly people are often warned to stay indoors on heavy smog days. According to the most recent medical evidence, elderly people are not at increased risk of adverse health effects from smog because of their age. Like any other adults, however, elderly people will be at higher risk from exposure to smog if they suffer from respiratory diseases, are active outdoors, or are unusually susceptible to ozone.

Smog: Frequently Asked Questions

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