Health and Environmental Effects of Air Pollution
Air pollutants are always suspected to have far-reaching harmful human health and environmental effects. Air pollution is the result of combustion from space heating, industrial and vehicular emission. People exposed to such high levels of certain air pollutants may experience:
- Irritation of the eyes, nose and throat
- Wheezing, coughing and breathing problems
- Worsening of lungs and heart problems
- Increased risk of heart attack
Long-term exposure to air pollution can cause cancer and damage to the immune system. It can even cause an effect on reproductive, neurological, and respiratory systems. In some major cases, it can even cause death.
Air pollution is a major problem for everyone. Especially for people who are sensitive to common air pollutants such as ground-level ozone and pollutants. According to WHO, some 88% of the premature deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries, and the greatest number in the WHO Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions. Air pollution has an adverse effect on children, people with heart diseases and asthma patients. Generally if you are young and in a good state of health, exposure to moderate air pollution levels will not lead to any serious short term effects. However, long term exposure to air pollution can lead to some serious effects on human health.
There are different types of pollutants most commonly found in the environment:
- Nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide and particles- Irritates the airway of the lungs.
- Carbon monoxide- It prevents the uptake of oxygen by blood which leads to the reduction of oxygen supplied to the heart.
- Particles- Particles can be carried deep into the lungs which can cause inflammation and worsening of heart and lung diseases.
Also Read: How Air Pollution Affects Your Skin
Air pollution does not harm human health only, it causes a variety of environmental effects as well.
Acid rain contains harmful amounts of sulphuric and nitric acids which are formed when sulphur oxides and nitrogen oxides are released into atmosphere while fossil fuels are burned. As per Environmental Protection Agency of United States, these acids falls either in wet form (rain, snow, or fog) or dry form (Gas and particulates).
Eutrophication happens in water body where nutrients are present in high concentrations such as nitrogen. It is a natural process in the aging of lakes and human activities boosts the process by increasing the rate at which nutrients enter aquatic ecosystem. Air emissions of nitrogen oxides from vehicles, power plants also contributes to the nitrogen entering aquatic ecosystems.
Haze is caused when tiny particles are encountered by sunlight in the air. It unclears the clarity, colour, texture and the form of what we see. Some particles are directly emitted to the atmosphere by sources such as power plants, industrial facilities, vehicles, and construction activities.
Effects on wildlife
Like humans, animals also experience health problems if they are exposed to concentrations of air toxins over time. Air toxins results in birth defects, reproductive problems and disease in animals.
Ozone is a gas that is both on ground level and in the Earth’s upper atmosphere known as stratosphere. At ground level, it harms human health as a pollutant. But, in the stratosphere ozone forms a layer which protects everyone on earth from the harmful ultra violet rays. Thinning of ozone can cause more UV rays to reach earth. This will lead to serious diseases like skin cancer, cataracts.
Global climate change
Earth’s atmosphere contains a specific balance of naturally occurring gases that trap sun’s heat near the Earth’s surface. This “greenhouse effect” keeps the Earth’s temperature stable. But humans have disturbed this balance by producing more greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane. As a result, Earth’s atmosphere is trapping more of sun’s heat causing the temperature to rise.
The action of one has the potential to affect many. The action can be good or bad depending on what the action is. Our mistakes has polluted the whole environment but we all are trying to reverse the damage. Even the smallest positive action counts and can drive us to a greener environment. So, save the natural resources that are left to make this world a better place to live for all of us.