Pittsburgh’s air quality is one of the worst in the nation, which is one of the reasons for this city’s increased prevalence of breathing problems. Why does air pollution have such a negative effect on your lungs?


Air pollution consists of:

  • Ozone – the chemical reaction between sunlight and soot from exhaust, gasoline vapor. Ozone is the primary component of smog
  • Particulate Pollution – a mix of nitrates, sulfates, metals, soil and dust particles, and organic chemicals
  • Nitrogen dioxide – from motor vehicle emissions, it forms small particles
  • Carbon monoxide – often formed from heavy traffic, it is an odorless, colorless gas
  • Sulfur dioxide – interacts with other pollutants to form harmful particles

What impact do these components of pollution have on your lungs and your health?

  • Small particles imbed themselves deep in your lungs, causing or worsening respiratory problems, and worsening existing heart conditions.
  • Pollutants kill protective cells and damage the lungs, increasing your risk of heart attacks or cardiovascular disease.
  • Causes inflammation of the lungs, producing mucus, coughing, and serious breathing problems, especially for those with pre-existing breathing conditions.
  • Increases flare-ups for those with chronic lung diseases, such as COPD and asthma.
  • Makes you more susceptible to respiratory infections.
  • Causes stress to your arties and your heart.
  • Long-term, exposure to air pollution can cause atherosclerosis, a hardening of the arteries.
  • Decreases lung function even those with healthy lungs.

How can you protect your lungs from dangerous air pollution in Pittsburgh and other major metro areas, which tend to have worse air quality?

  • Limit time in the car and outdoors
  • Monitor the Air Quality Index before spending time outdoors
  • Install ventilation fans in your garage and kitchen
  • Use HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) air filters

How do you protect yourself from air pollution? Let us know in the comments!