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Outdoor air pollutants

Outdoor air pollutants pose a special problem for people such as home builders and farmers who work outside.

Image: Urban workers may be exposed to high levels of ozone, dust, and gasoline exhaust productsUrban residents are typically exposed to such outdoor air pollutants as ozone, particulate matter (dust and smoke), and mixtures that contain chemicals like benzene, and xylene (found in gasoline.) In addition, sulfur compounds, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and compounds containing bromine and chlorine may be found in the air in urban areas.  Levels of these pollutants are measured in terms of ozone levels.  As ozone levels increase, levels of all other air pollutants tend to increase.

image: Farm workers may be exposed to grain dust and toxins found on moldy grain.The outdoor air pollutants that rural residents are exposed to are slightly different from pollution encountered in urban areas. Agricultural workers, for example are at risk to being exposed to grain dust and toxic residues from moldy grains such as aflatoxin.  Heavy exposure to grain dust can cause a respiratory disease called Farmer's Lung.  Exposure to aflatoxins can cause cancer.

Outdoor air pollutants, regardless of their source, tend to cause or worsen respiratory problems such as asthma and emphysema.

The best protection from outdoor air pollutants is to remain indoors, especially during ozone alerts.   When this is not possible, try to keep your level of activity to a minimum.   Also, wear a dust mask when working in a dusty environment.

There are many types of outdoor air pollutants.  Go to the next page to find out more about different types of outdoor air pollution.

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