How pollution can affect people with asthma

People with asthma can be affected by outdoor and indoor pollutants. Breathing in polluted air can trigger breathing difficulties and bring on asthma attacks. In cities, cars, buses, airplanes, as well as industry and construction may cause air pollution. In the country however, dust from tractors plowing fields, trucks and cars driving on dirt or gravel roads, rock quarries and smoke from wood and crop fires may cause air pollution.

The pollutants above consist of:

  • Pollution and the affects on asthmaOzone - generally produced at ground level when exhaust pollution from cars and trucks reacts with oxygen and sunlight and can become a big problem in cities with lots of traffic
  • Carbon monoxide – occurs primarily from emissions produced by fossil fuel powered engines
  • Sulphur dioxide - produced when coal and crude oil are burned
  • Lead – primarily comes from lead smelters, metal processing plants and incinerator
  • Particulate matter - a wide range of pollutants which can include dust, diesel exhaust particles, wood smoke and sulphate aerosols. All these get suspended as tiny particles in the air and these fine particles can then become lodged in the lungs and trigger asthma symptoms.

Indoor pollutants can also affect asthma sufferers. These can include mould and fungi which grow in damp or high moisture conditions, and decaying organic matter.

It is advisable for asthma sufferers to limit their exposure to air pollution if they find that it can trigger their asthma symptoms.

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Information written by the talkhealth team

Last revised: 6 December 2012

Next review: 13 December 2014