Health Effects of Air Pollution

We all know what we’re looking at when a brown haze settles over the city. Air pollution is an environmental health hazard that we’re all familiar with.

But what exactly are the health effects of air pollution? 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, immune system, neurological, and reproductive disorders.

A city with air pollution.

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 ash from volcanic eruptions, gases like methane, which is emitted from decomposing organic matter in soils, and smoke from wildfires, which are 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

Both short-term and long-term exposure to air pollution can lead to a wide range of diseases. In this section, we will go over some of the possible health effects of air pollution.

Cardiovascular Disease

The function of the blood vessels can be impaired by fine particulate matter and 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 stroke and short-term daily exposure of women post menopause to nitrogen oxides.

Lowered levels of high-density lipoprotein can result from traffic-related air pollution, which can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

According to a report by the NTP (National Toxicology Program), traffic-related air pollution also increases the risk for 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 linked wildfire smoke with additional COVID-19 deaths and cases, and the study built upon a well-established connection between infections in the respiratory tract and air pollution.


A study found that the risk of breast cancer for women is increased by living near major roadways. Another 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, certain groups 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.


The Children’s Health Study at the University of Southern California 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.

Moreover, there is an increased risk of 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.

Do you want to know the quality of the air you breathe? Download AirCare – our free mobile app that tracks air pollution from your pocket, and check out the AirCare blog!

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