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Doctors say diminished air quality can cause permanent damage

Wildfire smoke and high ozone levels causing poor air quality across the Midwest and East Coast.

ST. LOUIS — Air quality is dominating national headlines, especially as wildfire smoke blankets the East Coast. In the Bi-state, we've been dealing with diminished air quality for days. 

"There have been patients who have definitely had some problems related to the both the heat and the air quality, and they're kind of linked together," Steven Brown, a Mercy Virtual Care physician and lung specialist, said. 

High ozone levels are common on warm days with stagnant wind. St. Louis and the surrounding area have already seen a handful of Ozone Action Days.

Shiraz Daud, M.D., a pulmonologist at Missouri Baptist Medical Center, said it's kind of a combination of a lot of bad luck. There are a lot of pollutants in the air and the smoke from Canadian fires have contributed to the problem. 

Canadian wildfire smoke has been making headlines. The haze has drifted south and settled over multiple major North American cities including, Detroit, New York and Boston. 

"There's not a whole lot of difference between cigarette smoke and wildfire smoke when it gets to the lungs," Dr. Daud said. 

"These particulates will get into the deepest portions of the lung, the alveoli and the small bronchial tubes, and then persons who are sensitive, and that's a lot of people who are sensitive, it may cause worsening symptoms including cough and shortness of breath and chess, tightness," Dr. Brown said. 

With prolonged exposure, there can be permanent damage. Dr. Daud said patients' lungs can actually age prematurely, and people can suffer long term effects. 

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