Our bodies crave good, clean air. It’s essential for our health and survival. We know that air quality fluctuates naturally as the seasons change, when there’s more pollen, or when forest fires are active. Sometimes, dangerous chemicals can enter the air we breathe. Factories or chemical plants have accidents and explosions that cause widespread toxic pollution. These events create concern and health risks to those who might be exposed. It’s important to understand some basics to remain calm and to stay safe when these occur.
As air enters our nose, mouth, and lungs, many pollutant particles like dust and pollen and smoke are filtered along the way. People might notice itchy, watery eyes, sneezing or even coughing, as the body reacts to mild pollutants, in an attempt to expel those polluting particles from our bodies.
When pollutants in the air reach dangerous of toxic levels, our bodies may have more significant reactions leading to difficulty breathing and even death, without prompt medical attention. Those with chronic illnesses like asthma and COPD might experience flare-ups of their disease requiring additional medication and even hospitalization.
Chemical spills, plant explosions, and massive wildfires get big headlines for a reason. They’re serious and can be deadly. It’s essential to take protective care when toxic chemicals or severe pollution from smoke might be in the air around you. Fleeing the immediate area and getting far away from the most dense pollution is always the safest approach to preventing toxic injury. Community health departments and local emergency officials will make announcements and generate community awareness when these events occur.
If you are exposed to irritating or possibly harmful air pollutants:
- remove yourself and others and flee from the source of the pollution
- cleanse your body well, including your eyes, hands, and face
- If you have respiratory symptoms after an exposure, seek medical attention
- if your symptoms are severe or if you have having difficult breathing, call 911
- notify local officials – City of Houston Bureau of Pollution Control and Prevention 832-393-5730 or dial 3-1-1
The City of Houston has helpful information at https://www.houstontx.gov/health/Environmental/bpcp/outdoor_air.html
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) also posts information about air quality in general.