There is no need to look far , to see the extent of air pollution in our surroundings. The extent is so great, that if were to be given the actual detailed occurrence in our locality, many of us would opt to stay indoors.
The air we breathe contains emissions from many different sources: industry, motor vehicles, heating and commercial sources, household fuels as well as tobacco smoke. The effects of air pollution on health have been intensively studied in recent years. The results of these studies showed that air pollution harms human health and particularly is harmful for those who are already vulnerable because of their age as children and older people or existing health problems. The epidemiological evidence suggests that adverse health effects are dependent on both exposure concentrations and length of exposure, and that long-term exposures have larger, more persistent cumulative effects than short-term exposures, Ambient air pollution has been associated with a multitude of health effects, including mortality, respiratory and cardiovascular hospitalizations, changes in lung function and asthma attacks. Current scientific evidence indicates that air pollution from the combustion of fossil fuels causes a spectrum of health effects from allergy to death. Recent assessments suggest that the public health impacts may be considerable. Air pollution is associated with a broad spectrum of acute and chronic health effects, the nature of which may vary depending on constituent of the pollutants as well as the group of the population.
Air pollution refers to the release of pollutants into the air that are detrimental to human health and the planet as a whole. Air pollution can harm us when it accumulates in the air in high enough concentrations.
Many people live in areas where urban smog, particle pollution, and toxic
pollutants pose serious health concerns. People exposed to high enough levels of
certain air pollutants may experience:
Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat
Wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and breathing difficulties
Worsening of existing lung and heart problems, such as asthma
Increased risk of heart attack
In addition, long term exposure to air pollution can cause cancer and damage to the
immune, neurological, reproductive, and respiratory systems. In extreme cases, it can
even cause death.
Who Is Most at Risk?
Air pollution is a problem for all of us. However, some groups of people are especially
sensitive to common air pollutants such as particulates and ground level ozone.
Sensitive populations include children, older adults, people who are active outdoors,
and people with heart or lung diseases, such as asthma. If you are sensitive to air
pollution, you need to be aware of steps you can take to protect your health.
What causes air pollution
Most air pollution comes from energy use and production. Burning fossil fuels releases gases and chemicals into the air. Air pollution in the form of carbon dioxide and methane raises the earth’s temperature . Another type of air pollution is then worsened by that increased heat: Smog forms when the weather is warmer and there’s more ultraviolet radiation. Climate change also increases the production of allergenic air pollutants including mold (thanks to damp conditions caused by extreme weather and increased flooding) and pollen (due to a longer pollen season and more pollen production). Long-term exposure to polluted air can have permanent health effects: Accelerated aging of the lungs. … Decreased lung function. Development of diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and possibly cancer.
How it affects us
• Smog and soot
These two are the most prevalent types of air pollution. Smog, or “ground-level ozone,” as it is called, occurs when emissions from combusting fossil fuels react with sunlight. Soot, or “particulate matter,” is made up of tiny particles of chemicals, soil, smoke, dust, or allergens, in the form of gas or solids, that are carried in the air. The sources of smog and soot are similar. Both come from cars and trucks, factories, power plants, incinerators, engines—anything that combusts fossil fuels such as coal, gas, or natural gas. The tiniest airborne particles in soot—whether they’re in the form of gas or solids—are especially dangerous because they can penetrate the lungs and bloodstream and worsen bronchitis, lead to heart attacks, and even hasten death.
Smog can irritate the eyes and throat and also damage the lungs—especially of people who work or exercise outside, children, and senior citizens. It’s even worse for people who have asthma or allergies—these extra pollutants only intensify their symptoms and can trigger asthma attacks.
• Hazardous air pollutants
These are either deadly or have severe health risks even in small amounts. These are also most often emitted during gas or coal combustion, incinerating, or in the case of benzene, found in gasoline. Benzene, classified as a carcinogen , can cause eye, skin, and lung irritation in the short term and blood disorders in the long term. Dioxins, more typically found in food but also present in small amounts in the air, can affect the liver in the short term and harm the immune, nervous, and endocrine systems, as well as reproductive functions. Lead in large amounts can damage children’s brains and kidneys, and even in small amounts it can affect children’s IQ and ability to learn. Mercury affects the central nervous system.
• Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, are toxic components of traffic exhaust and wildfire smoke. In large amounts, they have been linked to eye and lung irritation, blood and liver issues, and even cancer. In one recent study, the children of mothers who’d had higher PAH exposure during pregnancy had slower brain processing speeds and worse symptoms .
• Pollen and mold
Mold and allergens from trees, weeds, and grass are also carried in the air, are exacerbated by climate change, and can be hazardous to health. They are not regulated by the government and are less directly connected to human actions, but they can be considered air pollution. When homes, schools, or businesses get water damage, mold can grow and can produce allergenic airborne pollutants. Mold exposure can precipitate asthma attacks or an allergic response, and some molds can even produce toxins that would be dangerous for anyone to inhale.
Pollen allergies are worsening because of climate change. Climate change also extends the pollen production season, and some studies are beginning to suggest that ragweed pollen itself might be becoming a more potent allergen. That means more people will suffer runny noses, fevers, itchy eyes, and other symptoms.
How to Help Reduce Air Pollution
• Burn less gasoline
• The less gasoline we burn, the better we’re doing to reduce air pollution and harmful effects of climate change. Make good choices about transportation. When you can, walk, ride a bike, or take public transportation. For driving, choose cars that get better miles per gallon of gas. Buying your food locally cuts down on the fossil fuels burned in trucking or flying food in from across the country. And perhaps most important , The less gasoline we burn, the better we’re doing to reduce air pollution and harmful effects of climate change, Make good choices about transportation. When you can, walk, ride a bike, or take public transportation. For driving, choose cars that get better miles per gallon of gas . Buying your food locally cuts down on the fossil fuels burned in trucking or flying food in from across the country.
• Protect yourself
Pay attention to your weather report. When you see in the newspaper or hear on the weather report that pollution levels are high, it may be useful to limit the time when children go outside or you go for a jog. Generally, ozone levels tend to be lower in the morning.
When you do exercise outside, stay as far as you can from heavily trafficked roads. Then shower and wash your clothes to remove fine particles.
If the air quality is bad, stay inside with windows closed.
Wear sunscreen. When ultraviolet radiation comes through the weakened ozone layer, it can cause skin damage and skin cancer.