We all know what we’re looking out when a plume rises from a smokestack or a brown haze settles over the city. Air pollution is an environmental health hazard that we’re all familiar with. Primarily, air pollution was regarded as a threat to our respiratory health. However, as air pollution research advanced over the decades, public health concerns broadened to include obesity, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, and immune system, neurological, and reproductive disorders.

Air pollution is a mix of hazardous substances from both natural and human-made sources.

There are also hazardous substances released into the air by nature, such as gases and ash from volcanic eruptions, gases, such as methane, which are emitted from decomposing organic matter in soils, and smoke from wildfires, which is frequently caused by people.

The primary sources of air pollution made by humans include fumes from chemical production, power plants fueled by coal, by-products of manufacturing and power generation, natural gas and fuel oils to heat homes, and vehicle emissions.

Air Pollution Health Effects

Cardiovascular Disease

The function of the blood vessels can be impaired by fine particulate matter, as well as the calcification in arteries that can be sped up. Researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences have established a connection between the increased risk of hemorrhagic stoke and short-term daily exposure of women post menopause to nitrogen oxides. Lowered levels of high-density lipoprotein can occur as a result of traffic-related air pollution. Lowered levels of high-density lipoprotein increase the risk for cardiovascular disease.

According to a report by the NTP (National Toxicology Program), traffic-related air pollution also increases the risk of pregnant women for hypertensive disorders, or dangerous changes in blood pressure. These hypertensive disorders are the main cause of fetal and maternal illness and death, low birth weight, and pre-term birth.

Respiratory Disease

Lung development can be affected by air pollution. Air pollution is also implicated in the development of asthma, emphysema, and other respiratory diseases, such as COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Nitrogen oxide and PM are connected to chronic bronchitis. In addition, a study published in 2021 linked wildfire smoke with additional COVID-19 deaths and cases, and the study build upon a well-established connection between infections on the respiratory tract and air pollution.

Cancer

A study found that the risk for breast cancer for women is increased by living near major roadways. Another study conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Sister Study concluded that other toxic substances that are airborne, such as methylene chloride, which is used in paint removers and aerosol products, are also linked with a bigger risk of breast cancer.  

Benzene, a component of gasoline and industrial chemical, and occupational exposure to it can cause leukemia and is associated with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. A study that lasted for 16 years, starting from 2000 and ending in 2016, found a connection between increased reliance on coal for energy generation and lung cancer.

Who’s At Risk from Air Pollution?

Even though everyone’s health is affected by air pollution, there are certain groups that are more at risk. The health risk of people from air pollution varies greatly depending on their underlying health, age, where they live, and other factors.

What people are most at risk of health problems related to air pollution?

Older Adults

Air pollution has been connected to a bigger chance of developing a few neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other dementias. The physical disabilities in order adults may be significantly hastened by long-term exposure to traffic-related air pollution. The risk is more pronounced among low-income people and racial minorities. There is also a link between Alzheimer’s and memory problems and PM 2.5 pollution, which was seen among women that were 65 years of age and older.

Children

The Children’s Health Study at the University of Southern California funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences did several studies regarding the effects that air pollution has on the respiratory health of children. It concluded that children who live in high ozone communities and play outdoor sports are more likely to develop asthma. Additionally, there is an increased risk for asthma for children that live near busy roads. Children that were exposed to high levels of air pollutants and had asthma were more likely to develop symptoms of bronchitis.

How Can AirCare Help?

With AirCare, you can see the air quality and air pollution in real-time, all from your pocket. When there is a change in air quality in your favorite locations, you will get notified. By monitoring air pollution, you will be able to act accordingly and reduce health risks.