Air pollution is a well-known health risk. There’s no mistaking the smell of exhaust billowing across a busy highway or the smokestack plume rising from a city. Some air pollution is invisible, but its odor alerts you.
Back in 1970, the National Ambient Air Quality Standards were set up to protect respiratory health. Public health concerns grew over the decades with advances in air pollution research.
Exposure to air pollution causes oxidative stress and inflammation in human cells, leading to chronic diseases and cancer. The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified air pollution as a human carcinogen in 2013.
How Is Air Pollution Defined?
Air pollution is a combination of dangerous pollutants emitted by human activity and natural sources.
Vehicle emissions, fuel oils and natural gas to heat houses, byproducts of manufacturing and electricity generation, particularly coal-fired power plants, and odors from chemical products are the principal sources of air pollution caused by humans.
Nature sends harmful compounds into the air, such as smoke from wildfires, which humans frequently spark; ash and gases from volcanic eruptions; and gases, such as methane, generated by soil decomposition.
Impact for both outdoors and indoors.
Outdoor air pollution comprises of the following:
- particles produced by the combustion of coal and natural gas.
- Noxious gases, for example, nitrogen oxides or sulfur dioxide.
- Cigarette smoke
- ozone at ground level.
Indoor air pollution causes by the following:
- chemicals found in the home.
- Toxic gases, such as carbon monoxide or radon.
- Materials used in construction, such as lead or asbestos.
- cigarette smoke
The World Health Organization (WHO) identifies the pollutants that pose the greatest threat to a person’s health as follows:
- Particulate matter
- Nitric oxide
Exposure in the short term
Short-term exposure to air pollution, such as ground-level ozone, can have a detrimental effect on the respiratory system, as most contaminants enter the body via the airways.
Exposure to air pollution for a short period might result in respiratory illnesses and decreased lung function. Additionally, it may worsen asthma in those who already have the condition.
Sulfur dioxide exposure can be harmful to the eyes and respiratory system and irritate the skin.
Some studies have related air pollution to significant health problems, bad birth outcomes, and early mortality. COPD is an acronym for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Particle pollution exposure may result in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). According to the WHO, air pollution is responsible for 43% of COPD cases and deaths globally.
COPD is a set of disorders that include emphysema and chronic bronchitis. These disorders obstruct the airways and make breathing difficult. Although COPD has no cure, therapy can help alleviate symptoms and improve the overall quality of life.
Cancer of the lungs
According to the World Health Organization, air pollution is responsible for 29 percent of lung cancer diagnoses and fatalities.
Particle pollution is likely to contribute significantly to this figure due to its tiny size and ability to penetrate the lower respiratory tractTrusted Source.
According to research, living in a region with greater levels of air pollution may raise your risk of dying from a stroke—air pollution associates with strokes and heart attacks.
According to research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, exposure to polluted air can increase the risk of premature delivery in pregnant women.
The researchers discovered that reducing exposure reduced the risk of premature birth.
Specific pollutant effects on health
According to a study conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, outdoor air pollution is a carcinogen, which means that it can cause cancer.
Polluted air contains various particles and chemicals, each of which has a unique effect on one’s health.
Particle pollution is a collection of various airborne particles.
Because these particles are so minute, they can enter the lungs and increase the risk of developing lung and heart disease.
Additionally, they may exacerbate asthmatic symptoms in specific individuals.
Ground-level ozone forms when pollutants react with sunlight. Smog is primarily composed of ozone and is a significant contributor to asthma symptoms.
Carbon monoxide appears not to affect a person’s health if the concentration is less than 2%, according to a 2016 articleTrusted Source., On the other hand, can be lethal at levels more than 40%. The poisoning presents with the following symptoms:
- achy chest
If someone feels they are suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, they should immediately transfer to a fresh air place and seek medical attention.
Sulfur dioxide produces as a byproduct of the combustion of fossil fuels like coal and oil.
It can irritate the eyes and increase an individual’s susceptibility to respiratory tract infections and cardiovascular problems.
Vehicle exhaust emissions contain nitrogen dioxide. Additionally, this gas is produced in significant quantities by gas and kerosene heaters and stoves.
Nitrogen dioxide exposure links to respiratory illnesses in some people. Nitrogen dioxide inhalation typically results in wheezing or coughing and may cause headaches, throat irritation, chest pain, and fever.
How can we minimize our exposure?
Individuals can minimize their exposure to air pollutants by reducing their time in regions with poor air quality. It is critical to be aware of potential air contaminants, both outside and within.
Pollution of the outside air
Individuals, governments, and companies may all contribute to reducing air pollution. Reduced vehicle emissions and pollution levels in the atmosphere may enhance air quality.
Additionally, the AirNow website can be used to check the current air quality. This federal agency monitors air quality throughout the United States.
The website provides data on air pollution levels, which are color-coded according to their potential health consequences. If the level is orange or higher, individuals can assist in protecting their health by:
- avoiding walking alongside congested highways
- Spending less time outdoors or exercising in an indoor venue rather than remaining indoors until the air quality improves
Polluted indoor air
A person can help reduce indoor air pollution by maintaining clean and well-ventilated facilities.
Allergens such as dust, mold, and pollen can contribute to an increased risk of respiratory difficulties.
Radon gas can accumulate in dwellings built on the uranium-bearing ground—radon gas links to lung cancer.
A radon test kit uses to determine the presence of radon in the residence. They might also engage an expert to take this measurement for them.
Radon test kits sold in stores and online.
A carbon monoxide detector can be used to monitor the carbon monoxide levels in a person’s home or workplace.
Carbon monoxide detectors are accessible in stores and on the internet.
In summary, air pollution can be detrimental to one’s health. It links to respiratory and cardiovascular problems.
Individuals can lower their risk of developing health problems by monitoring the air quality in their immediate surroundings and aware of any pre-existing health disorders.
Carbon monoxide is a lethal gas. If a person believes they have carbon monoxide poisoning, they should immediately seek fresh air and medical attention.