Air Pollution and its Health Concerns
July 09, 2021 | Farah Jassawalla

Air Pollution and its Health Concerns

Pollution is of several types. The main ones include noise or sound pollution, water pollution, land pollution, and air pollution. As the word itself suggests, the excretion of harmful substances into the atmosphere can cause serious acute and chronic health-related issues in humans as well as other living beings and can damage the surrounding environment. 

It is a very dangerous form of pollution as the particles in the air are mostly invisible to the naked eye. The air pollutants that disrupt the natural breathing air include several different types of gases, chemicals, and their fumes, particulates, germs, etc. Some pollutants, like carbon monoxide, are poisonous.

The source of these harmful substances is car exhaust and traffic, burning of coal and plastics, gases produced by refrigerators and air conditioners (CFC), chemical fumes emitted from factories, forest fires, leakage of gas pipes, aerosol cans, smoking, etc. 

Effects on human health

Air pollution is a major problem that has a serious toxicological impact on human health and the environment. People experience a wide range of health effects from being exposed to air pollution. These can be broken down into short-term and long-term effects.

Short-term effects include illnesses and diseases such as pneumonia or bronchitis. These are usually temporary. They also include distress and discomfort such as irritation to the nose, throat, eyes, or skin. Itchy skin, rashes, blisters, and acne are common skin problems. Redness in the eyes, dryness, and irritation in the eyes is also caused by air pollution. Severe exposure can even lead to flu and even coughing up blood.

Air pollution can also cause headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Bad smells made by factories, garbage, or sewer systems are considered air pollution too. These odors are less serious but still unpleasant. Smog (a serious air pollution issue in populated cities) also causes discomfort, skin problems and many other medical issues which may be acute or chronic.

The long-term effects of air pollution can last for years or an entire lifetime. They can even lead to death. The length of exposure and the amount and type of pollutants are also factors. Inhaling chemicals for long periods can cause severe chronic diseases and lessen one’s life span.

Long-term health effects of air pollution include heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory diseases such as emphysema. Air pollution can also cause long-term damage to people's nerves, brain, kidneys, liver, and other organs. Overall, the lungs and heart are the most affected organs due to air pollution.

According to the World Health Organization, people who are most susceptible to concerns regarding air pollution are pregnant women, elder citizens, and children. Some scientists also suspect air pollutants cause birth defects in newborns. These defects may include skin problems, lung or heart-related issues, low birth weight, blood-related issues, and even issues related to the eyes and brain.

Young children and older adults, whose immune systems tend to be weaker, are often more sensitive to pollution. Conditions such as asthma, heart disease, and lung disease can be made worse by exposure to air pollution.

Air pollution is considered as the major environmental risk factor in the incidence and progression of some diseases such as ventricular hypertrophy, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, psychological complications, autism, retinopathy, fetal growth, and low birth weight. Contact Shifa4U for more information and medical help.

People in populated areas are more affected by air pollution than the ones who live far away from polluted areas. The population living in the countryside is relatively safer from all these health-related concerns due to a lack of industrial air pollution.

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Farah Jassawalla

Farah Jassawalla is a graduate of the Lahore School of Economics. She is also a writer, and healthcare enthusiast, having closely observed case studies while working with Lahore's thriving general physicians at their clinics.