In the United States, air pollution tends to be dominated by ozone and particle pollution like truck exhaust. Most people associate lung and breathing problems with this kind of air pollution–with good reason. Air pollution can aggravate asthma and decrease your lung’s ability to function properly. But air pollution can also wreak havoc on your eyes, causing dry eye syndrome. Dry eye syndrome occurs when your eyes can’t produce enough tears to lubricate the surface of your eye, and research shows people living in areas with high levels of air pollution are at increased risk for this condition. Location Matters Pollution can dry out the surface of your eye, also known as the ocular surface. When your eyes are too dry, they may sting or burn. You might experience blurred vision, or you may notice some sensitivity to light. It’s very uncomfortable at best and painful at worst. Unfortunately, a lot of people living in the United States are at risk for dry eye syndrome as a result of exposure to air pollution. The American Lung Association’s “State of the Air 2019” report states that 141.1 million people live in counties with unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution, an increase from the 125 million people listed in the 2017 version of the report. That’s more than four out of every 10 people living in the U.S. Currently, the pollution levels are highest in several metropolitan areas in California, according to the report. The Los Angeles area ranks at the top of the list for cities with the highest levels of ozone, while short-term particle pollution is the highest in Bakersfield. Meanwhile, year-round particle pollution is the worst in the Fresno-Madera-Hanford area (which also “won” the second spot on the short-term particle pollution list). But don’t rest too easy if you don’t live in one of those areas. Many, if not most, major cities have elevated levels of air pollution. And if your lungs are at risk, your eyes are, too. Seeking Relief If you live in an area with high air pollution levels, watch out for the signs of a developing case of dry eye syndrome. If you notice your eyes feel dry, itchy, and scratchy, try using some preservative-free eye drops to keep your eyes moisturized. Use a humidifier in your bedroom at night to add more moisture to the air, and get a high-quality air filter in your home to screen out some of that air pollution. If you continue to experience dry eye symptoms, talk to your doctor. There are some prescription options that can help, and it’s important to know there are steps to take for relief.