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Poor outdoor air quality and air pollution affect everyone, but individuals with pulmonary problems are at greater risk. Individuals with liver problems may also be at risk. Contaminants are present all around us from varying sources: exhaust from vehicles, discharges from industrial plants, air pollution, smog, chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, bacteria, mold spores, and fungi. All of these substances contribute to poor air quality.

There are areas around the country that are known to have poor air quality and these exert a harmful effect on health. 

Individuals with Alpha-1 lung disease are likely to experience more difficulty breathing in locations where the altitude is significantly higher than sea level. This is because the concentration of oxygen is less at higher altitudes than it is at lower altitudes. This reduced oxygen concentration forces the lungs to work harder and places a strain on a respiratory system that is already compromised. The consideration of whether you can live “at altitude” will depend on your functional capabilities at that altitude and whether or not breathing symptoms are present and tolerable. Currently, there is no evidence to suggest Alphas without lung disease can prevent the development of disease by changing their place of residence from a higher altitude to a lower one.

Humidity may also be a factor that affects breathing for some Alphas. Some individuals report that they are able to breathe more easily in a humid location, while others prefer a dry climate. Without further research, one geographic location cannot be recommended over another for maintaining good health because each individual’s response and tolerance is different.
Before making any dramatic changes in your geographic location for the sake of your health, we suggest you visit the area you are considering for relocation and arrange a prolonged visit. You may want to visit during the various seasons to assess how seasonal changes may affect you. Consideration should be given to the prevalence of allergens and other irritants that may be present in a specific location as well. Before instituting any changes, you may wish to review them with your health care provider to evaluate if the change is a good choice for you.

In communities where air pollution can be routinely problematic, reports and warnings are broadcast to the public during news reports and weather updates. Depending on the level of air quality, warnings and instructions are given as to whether it is advisable to be out of doors and what level of activity is appropriate. Adhering to the recommendations during periods of poor air quality and instituting some simple measures can reduce your risk of exposure.

  • Avoid poor air and noxious fumes when travelling by car. Steer clear of travelling on crowded highways at the height of rush hour. Whenever possible, seek alternate routes away from congested highways or plan travel when traffic is lighter. Keep the air conditioner on and roll up the windows. 
  • Stay indoors when air quality reports deem it necessary. Keep windows closed and turn on air conditioners and air filters.

Despite taking precautions, you may still experience breathing difficulties when exposed to pollutants and other irritants. Always consult your physician before you adjust your medications or the level of your supplemental oxygen. Your health care provider is the individual who is best able to assess your condition and offer you the appropriate recommendations for treatment and risk avoidance.

What are your favourite apps or websites to check for poor air quality?