Air Quality and Your Health: Get the Facts


August 15, 2012, Portage, IN – The Northwest Indiana Clean Air initiative ( has been diligently working to help educate and inform the community about how to think green so that we can all breathe easy. However, to understand how individuals, families, and businesses can positively impact air quality, it’s important to understand how the reverse – poor air quality – can affect day-today activities and, more importantly, the health of everyone in Northwest Indiana.

According to the American Lung Association, two types of air pollution dominate the problem in the United States – ozone (smog) and particle pollution (soot). They aren’t the only serious air pollutants. Others include carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide, as well as scores of toxins such as mercury, arsenic, benzene, formaldehyde, and acid gases.

However, ozone and particle pollution are the most widespread pollutants and among the most dangerous. Recent research has revealed new insights into how they can harm the body.

  • Breathing ozone can trigger a variety of health problems including chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and congestion.
  • It can worsen bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma.
  • Ground-level ozone also can reduce lung function and inflame the linings of the lungs. Repeated exposure may permanently scar lung tissue.

A major review of particle pollution and other air pollutants concluded that many cause heart attacks, even when people inhaled elevated levels for as little as one week. This review looked at evidence from 177 studies and found that particle pollution (both fine and coarse), carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide all increased the risk of heart attack.

“It’s important to be aware of the many types of air pollutants,” stated Kathy Luther, Director of Environmental Programs, Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC). “However, we have recognized how the two most prevalent – ozone and air particles – are affecting the lives of Northwest Indiana residents.”

According to Luther, across the three counties of Northwest Indiana, recent studies from the American Lung Association show that 9% of adults suffer from asthma, 4% live with chronic bronchitis, 38% have a form of cardio-vascular disease, and 10% of the children in Lake and LaPorte counties struggle with pediatric asthma.
Luther added that the number of adults with asthma is nearly that of adults with diabetes. When you consider how diabetics make adjustments to their diet in order to be as healthy as possible, everyone should make adjustments to improve air quality for those who live with asthma and other lung diseases.

When it comes to air quality in local, Northwest Indiana communities, people can access the Air Quality Index – a measurement of pollutants in the air – on The Air Quality Index (AQI) tells you how clean or polluted your air is and what associated health effects might be a concern for you. By using the AQI, you can better determine whether or not it’s a good day to go for a bike ride, spend an afternoon in the park, or head to one of the many beaches along Lake Michigan’s southern shoreline.

“The Air Quality Index is my go-to resource in planning outdoor activities with my family,” commented Stacie Brouses. “I’ve suffered with asthma all of my life, and my six-year old son, who is active in soccer and baseball, is affected to the point that his inhaler is a part of his sports gear…when the AQI is green, he’s good to go. Anything worse that yellow, and he’s sitting on the sidelines.”

“Everyone can make ‘lifestyle’ adjustments to the air quality in Northwest Indiana,” said Luther. “By logging on the, we’ve assembled a list of easy-to-do changes in your daily activities that can help to improve the air quality in our community.

“I take one trip to drop the kids off at school, go to the bank, and pick up my dry cleaning,” concluded Sandy Harms of Valparaiso. “And, instead of being the ‘drive-thru’ queen everywhere I went, I now park my car and go into a bank or a store. I know it’s good for the air…with the combined benefit of a bit of exercise that’s good for my health.”

For more information on air quality and your health, in addition to easy tips on how individuals and businesses can join the efforts of NWI Clean Air, visit today.

Northwest Indiana – where it all adds up to cleaner air. Brought to you by Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, a clean air leader.


For more information:
Kathy Luther,
Director of Environmental Programs
Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission

6100 Southport Road
Portage, IN 46368
219-763-6060 x 127