When we look at health outcome data it can be difficult to make the connections about how an illness may be related to environmental hazards or exposures. Some adverse health effects, like carbon monoxide poisoning, can have quick short-term harmful results as a result of exposure. Other adverse health outcomes, like certain cancers, may take years or even decades to develop as a result of exposure. Tennessee Health Tracking puts both health and environmental data together to assist in identifying and exploring the connections.
Asthma is a serious lung disease. During an asthma attack, the airways get narrow, making it difficult to breathe. Symptoms of asthma include wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain and tightness and coughing. Asthma can even cause death. Asthma can be controlled by taking medicine and avoiding the triggers that can cause an attack. You must also remove the triggers in your environment that can make your asthma worse. Asthma may be triggered by allergens and irritants that are common in homes including secondhand smoke, dust mites, pets, molds, air pollution, foods, respiratory infections, pests and exercise. About 20 million Americans have asthma. Asthma is the leading cause of long-term illness in children.
Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a poisonous gas that cannot be smelled, seen or tasted. It can cause death in minutes if breathed at high levels. CO can quickly build up to unsafe levels in enclosed or semi-enclosed areas. People may be exposed to unsafe levels of CO when charcoal, natural gas, propane, gasoline, fuel oil or wood are burned in a poorly ventilated area. Breathing exhaust from a car, truck, generator or power tool in a confined area can also result in CO poisoning. Enclosed garages can quickly fill with CO if automobiles are left idling inside. CO is the leading cause of acute, unintentional poisoning and death (excluding alcohol and drug-related intoxication).
A heart attack, or acute myocardial infarction, happens when the blood supply to part of the heart muscle is severely reduced or stopped. The loss of blood or oxygen causes damage and potential death of heart tissue. Coronary artery disease is the main cause of heart attack. A less common cause is a severe spasm of a coronary artery which also can prevent blood supply from reaching the heart.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is a term given to any of a number of progressive lung diseases. Two common diseases are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. In simple terms, people with COPD have increasing breathing difficulty over time. COPD can cause coughing that produces large amounts of mucus. People may experience wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness or other symptoms. COPD is most common in adults over age 40.
If heat exposure exceeds the body’s ability to cool and core body temperature rises, a range of heat-related symptoms and conditions can develop. The most common heat related illness is heat exhaustion. Heat-related symptoms range from mild heat edema and rash to heat cramps. Heat-related cramps, rash and edema are relatively minor, readily treatable conditions. These symptoms are important warning signs as heat exhaustion, heat syncope and heat stroke can be more harmful.
If cold exposure exceeds the body’s ability to warm and core body temperature falls, a range of cold-related symptoms and conditions can develop. The most common cold-related illness is hypothermia. Cold-related symptoms range from shivering to fatigue. These symptoms are important warning signs as cold stress can lead to harmful endpoints like disorientation, unconsciousness or death. Frostbite occurs when a part of body freezes causing loss of feeling. Frostbite most often affects the nose, ears, checks, chin, fingers or toes. Tissue damage from frostbite can be permanent.