Air pollution is the most problematic and harmful of all types of pollution, which is the cause of several life threatening effects. The most dangerous aspect of air pollutants is the fact that everyone in the world is exposed to it since we need to breathe air each and every moment. Also, air pollutants can travel long distances from their source, which creates a risk for human health. However, high exposure to even low concentrations of contaminants in air can also have harmful effects on human health.
The people who are mostly exposed to the harmful effects of air pollution are those working and living near the source of air pollutants, for instance industrial and vehicular emissions, indoor pollution with poor ventilation system. Moreover, everyone is aware of smog, which is another effect of air pollution and potentially increases the diseases caused due to air pollution. As per World Health Organization, approximately 2.7 million people die each year from diseases caused due to air contaminants.
There are 2 types of air pollutants:
- Particulate matter
Although air contaminants can cause some harmful effects of air pollution by entering our bodies through the respiratory tracts and lungs and get absorbed in our bloodstream. Air pollution is the primary cause of several life threatening disorders. Some of them include lung cancer, paralysis, skin infections etc. and in many cases the conditions of the existing diseases caused due to air pollution exaggerated. For instance in some cases of COPD, asthma, Tuberculosis & other infections, eye problems etc. the conditions worsened due to deteriorating quality of air.
Most Harmful Diseases due to Air Pollution
There are several diseases caused due to air pollution. According to National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, long term exposure to air pollutants increases the risk for respiratory diseases. NIEHS also reports that children and elder people are more vulnerable to the harmful effects of air pollution, which includes ozone, fine particulate matter and other toxicants. Some of the most harmful diseases for human health are:
Asthma is a chronic disease of the airways that may or may not be directly caused due to air pollution, but triggers asthma attacks due to high level of pollutants. For some patients, asthma is caused due to the deteriorating quality of air. Ground-level ozone, sulphur dioxide, fine particulate matter and nitrogen oxide are some of the common air pollutants that trigger asthma. Sulphur dioxide narrows the airways in the lungs and makes breathing a harder process even for healthier people.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a disease, which is spreading quickly due to increase in level of air pollutants. COPD refers to the repetition of the respiratory problems like bronchitis. Smoking has also been recognised as the primary factor in the development of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). More than a lakh people in the United States died from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
Cystic Fibrosis is a harmful disease, which increases with long term exposure to air contaminants. This hereditary disease affects the mucous glands present throughout the human body, including the lungs. Thick areas of mucous in lungs allows several types of bacteria to grow there. This causes lung infections and breathing problems to patients.
Lung cancer is a disease that can be caused by air pollution, which is caused due to the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in one or both of the lungs. Over the time, abnormal cells develops into a tumour and damages the lung’s primary functions to supply the human body with blood and oxygen.
Brain is depended on oxygen supply and 20% of the oxygenated blood is directly supplied to the brain, which comes directly from the heart to meet the demands. Decreased oxygen content in air leads to loss of memory in some cases.
Many traditional health treatment systems like Yoga, Ayurveda and Homoeopathy have various means of treating the different types of respiratory diseases caused due to air pollution. Yoga has simple breathing exercises called ‘Pranayam’ that have proven results.
However, prior to start any of them, one should consult experts of those systems. Obviously some of the harmful habits like smoking and drinking alcohol must be given up to get the best results.