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Asthma is more prevalent throughout the U.S. than one might believe, and several factors can worsen asthma symptoms or spark asthma attacks. While asthma is a lifelong struggle, receiving proper medical care and being aware of what worsens asthma is crucial to mitigating the illness’s effects on the body.
In the U.S., numerous cities with poor air quality and limited access to health care worsen asthma. The list of the top 100 most challenging places to live with asthma features six Ohio cities, three of which rank in the top 20. Let’s discover which city in Ohio is the worst place to live with asthma and how air quality relates to increased asthma symptoms in this city.
What is Asthma?
Asthma is a lung disease that affects 1 in 13 people in the U.S. For people with asthma, airways in the lungs can become narrow or experience inflammation. This action causes difficulty exhaling. Asthma typically first develops during childhood and continues into adulthood. Symptoms of asthma include coughing, tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, and wheezing.
Asthma attacks occur when pollen, infections, cold air, or exercise cause an overreaction in the airways of the lungs. Asthma attacks are not something to be overlooked or ignored. In some cases, asthma attacks can be fatal. There is also no cure for asthma; even if a person is not experiencing asthma symptoms, they still have the illness and could experience an asthma attack.
September is the worst month of the year for people with asthma. As fall begins, ragweed pollinates and causes complications for those with asthma and seasonal allergies. In addition, mold counts increase when leaves begin to fall. The start of the school year brings many children together who share germs in buildings that typically possess asthma triggers. Finally, September marks the beginning of the cold and flu season, which can worsen asthma symptoms.
The third week of September is called Asthma Peak Week. During this period, many people experience increased asthma symptoms and asthma attacks. Thus, people with asthma should be cautious and aware during Asthma Peak Week. Taking care of oneself and the lungs is crucial to preventing an asthma attack. Furthermore, access to sufficient health care can help mitigate the effects of worsening asthma symptoms or asthma attacks.
The Worst Place to Live with Asthma in Ohio
A few key factors determine national rankings. The primary three outcomes measured by Asthma Capitals include asthma prevalence, emergency department visits for asthma, and deaths due to asthma. Factors that contribute to these outcomes include air quality and air pollution, poverty, tobacco policies, pollen count, access to health care, and more.
Cleveland, OH, is the worst town in Ohio to live with asthma. Cleveland ranks No. 2 in the worst towns to live with asthma across the entire U.S. Right above Cleveland is Detroit, MI, at No. 1. Cleveland scores worse than average in all three categories with a total score of 99.51. The average score for the top 100 most challenging places to live with asthma is 63.79. The higher the score, the worse the conditions are for someone with asthma.
Air quality is one of the largest factors contributing to asthma attacks and complications for other respiratory illnesses. The air quality index (AQI) measures the amount of air pollution in a given area based on abundance of air particle pollution and ground-level ozone. Currently, Cleveland has an AQI of 33, which falls into the “good” bracket on the AQI table. An AQI above 50 can begin to cause health problems for some susceptible individuals.
While Cleveland’s AQI has been considered “good” recently, it does not reflect the city’s problem with air pollution. Cleveland has failed to meet standards for air particle and ground-level ozone pollution set by the Environmental Protection Agency. For instance, Cleveland ranks No. 14 for air particle pollution on a scale that ranks 199 cities in the U.S.
Cleveland’s air pollution sources include manufacturing, vehicle emissions, and the oil and gas industry. While the city has decreased air pollution by approximately 75% in the last 30 years, the air is still considered unhealthy by many government agencies. Ohio’s oil and gas industry is likely the biggest contributor to Cleveland’s unclean air. Ohio produces 4.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas daily, which results in mass amounts of pollution released into the atmosphere.
Other Towns in Ohio that People with Asthma Should Avoid
Due to the oil and gas industry, vehicle emissions, and manufacturing, several cities within the state of Ohio report high AQIs and rank in the top 100 most challenging places to live with asthma. Columbus, OH, reports worse than average scores for estimated asthma prevalence and emergency department visits for asthma. However, the city performs better than Cleveland for crude death rate for asthma with average scores. Columbus ranks No. 11 on the list with a total score of 85.55.
Toledo, OH, ranks No. 19 on the list, scoring 79.45. Like Columbus, Toledo reports worse than average scores for estimated asthma prevalence and emergency department visits for asthma and average scores for crude death rate for asthma. Dayton, OH, ranks No. 24 on the list with a total score measuring 75.62. Dayton sees worse than average scores for emergency department visits for asthma and average scores for estimated asthma prevalence. However, Dayton performs better than average for the crude death rate for asthma.
Shockingly, Cincinnati, OH, ranks lower than Dayton on the top 100 most challenging places to live with asthma list at No. 26. The ranking is surprising because Dayton reports a better-than-average score for one outcome while Cincinnati does not see a better-than-average score for any of the three outcomes. Cincinnati underperforms in crude death rate for asthma and emergency department visits for asthma. The city reports average scores for estimated asthma prevalence.
The last Ohio city on the list of 100 worst cities for asthma is Akron, OH. Akron ranks No. 42 with a total score of 67.37, which is just over the average score for the top 100 cities. Akron reports a better-than-average score for estimated asthma prevalence, an average score for crude death rate for asthma, and a worse-than-average score for emergency department visits for asthma.
Other Respiratory Illnesses at Risk
When it comes to air pollution, the results are never positive. Air pollution can cause asthma attacks and increased asthma symptoms, but it can also create complications for other respiratory illnesses or introduce new respiratory illnesses to adults and children. People with lung cancer and heart disease are most at risk of being affected by air pollution or a high AQI.
Air pollution problems include lung cancer, heart attacks, strokes, chest pain, trouble breathing, increased seasonal allergy symptoms, asthma, wheezing, and coughing. Groups most affected by air pollution include those with existing respiratory conditions, elderly people, children and infants, and those that spend much of their time outdoors. Those that work near pollutants, such as construction workers whose tasks create air particle pollution, are also at risk of experiencing adverse effects.
One way to decrease air pollution and mitigate its effects on susceptible groups and individuals is to limit emissions released into the atmosphere. The burning of fossil fuels for transportation and industry is the primary cause of air pollution and decreased air quality. When corporations, government agencies, and individuals implement policies and lifestyle changes that reduce emissions, the air and the environment benefit. Furthermore, human health benefits, too. A few ways that people can help limit their contribution to air pollution include using public transportation, riding a bike, limiting the number of trips taken in a vehicle, and using electric cars.