Women and Environmental Health
Reduce exposure to environmental pollutants that can harm your health
Chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and asthma are more common in women over 50 compared to men in the same age group. This page offers information on steps you can take to reduce your exposure to environmental pollutants and conditions to be aware of as you age. For more detailed information, please see our series of easy-to-follow facts sheets and brochures.
Reduce your exposure to environmental pollutants
- Air pollution: Air pollution is the contamination of air with harmful substances. Staying indoors does not necessarily protect you against air pollution, because fine particles can enter your home or workspace through open windows, doors or air conditioners. If indoor ventilation is inadequate, tobacco smoke or fumes from cleaning products can become concentrated and quickly degrade air quality.
- Health effects of air pollution: Air pollution may worsen coronary atherosclerosis or chronic heart conditions, which can result in a heart attack, especially among postmenopausal women. If you have a lung disease, air pollution can cause lung inflammation, breathing difficulty and aggravation of asthma and COPD. If you have diabetes, it may increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.
- How to avoid or minimize your exposure to air pollution: Check the Air Quality Index (AQI) each day. On days that the AQI is high, reduce your outdoor activity as much as possible. Avoid smoke from tobacco. Encourage smokers to smoke outdoors. Do not use or limit the use of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces and kerosene heaters.
- Pesticides and cleaning agents: Overexposure to harmful chemicals in pesticides and cleaning agents can lead to headaches, dizziness, muscle twitches, nausea and weakness.
- How to avoid or minimize your exposure to pesticides or cleaning agents: Keep products in their original containers. Read instructions carefully before using them and dispose of them according to those instructions. Make sure you have good ventilation when using household cleaners and pesticides indoors. Never use products made for outdoor use inside your home. Always wash your hands after using such products.
- Lead: Lead you were exposed to earlier in life is stored in your bones. During menopause, bone stores break down and release accumulated lead into your bloodstream. Among older women, blood lead levels may be up to 25 to 30 percent higher than prior to menopause, increasing your risk for hypertension, atherosclerosis, reduced kidney function and decreased cognitive functioning, with symptoms similar to dementia.
- What can you do: Call your local public water supplier for annual drinking water quality reports. Have a certified laboratory test your well water annually. Do not remove lead-based paint yourself; hire a certified abatement professional.
- Women’s Health Issues
National Research Center for Women and Families http://www.center4research.org/
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services http://www.womenshealth.gov/
- Find your Air Quality Index http://www.airnow.gov/
- Basic information about indoor air http://www.epa.gov/iaq/ia-intro.html
- Safe Drinking water http://www.epa.gov/safewater/index.html
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- English (PDF)
Publication Number EPA 100-F-07-028
- Arabic | العربية (PDF) (4pp, 3.58MB)
Publication Number EPA-100-F-08-008
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Publication Number EPA-100-F-08-022
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Publication Number EPA-100-F-08-026
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Publication Number EPA-100-F-08-067
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Publication Number EPA-100-F-08-005
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Publication Number EPA-100-H-08-056
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Publication Number EPA-100-F-10-007
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Publication Number EPA-100-F-08-009
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Publication Number EPA-100-F-11-003
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Publication Number EPA 100-F-08-007
- Polish | Polski (PDF) (4pp, 337K)
Publication Number 100-F-08-027
- Portuguese (PDF) (4pp, 223K)
Publication Number EPA 100-F-07-051
- Russian | Русский (PDF) (4 pp, 275K)
Publication Number EPA 100-F-08-044
- Spanish | Español (PDF) (4pp, 358K)
Publication Number EPA-100-F-08-010
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Publication Number EPA-100-F-08-066
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Publication Number EPA-100-F-09-026
- Vietnamese | Tiếng Việt (PDF) (4pp, 358K)
Publication Number EPA-100-F-08-012