Mother Earth is indeed a beautiful place– but for years, there has been a serious problem that has existed and been hugely detrimental to human health. Enter air pollution and the introduction of the different forms of waste materials into the environment, which not only have negative effects on the entire ecosystem, but also were reported to have caused about 3.7 million premature deaths worldwide in 2012, according to Phys.org. Air pollution and health are directly related and if we don’t take action now the damage may be irreversible.
Breathing small amounts of air pollution over the decades is considered phenomenally dangerous to the body. In fact, it has even been known to contribute to life-threatening diseases such as cancer or other diseases.
How Does Air Pollution Affect Our Bodies?
There are a number of consequences that come out of the releasing of pollutants into the environment, with many having already been seen in the form of global warming, contaminated seafood, and increased cases of lung diseases, to name just a few. Because humans have no choice but to breathe in the air around them, the ozone, the particles, and all the harmful gases that are being inhaled often go on to severely damage overall human health.
Air pollution and health are at constant odds, with dirty air causing coughing, burning eyes, and breathing problems. Damages to the immune system, endocrine, and reproductive systems have also been reported, and high levels of particle pollution have been associated with higher incidents of heart and lung problems, along with more chances of a shortened life span. Actual risks depend on the current health status of the individual, the type of pollutant and concentration, and the length of exposure to the polluted air.
Who is Affected and How?
It is also important to remember that children, seniors, and people with asthma or other lung and heart conditions are most vulnerable to the effects of air pollution. Children are more vulnerable because their lungs are still developing and because they breathe faster than adults do. Recent studies have also shown that air pollution can contribute to early childhood asthma. More specifically, people that are most susceptible to severe health problems from air pollution include:
- Individuals with heart disease – such as coronary artery disease or congestive heart failure
- Individuals with lung disease – such as asthma, emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Pregnant women and young children under age fourteen
- Outdoor workers
- Athletes who exercise vigorously outdoors
How Can We Combat the Pollution Problem?
Unfortunately, outdoor air pollution has no boundaries, and working to dramatically improve its quality will definitely take a worldwide effort and vigilance that should become present in both city and rural settings alike.
There are many things that individuals can do to help fight against the effects of air pollution, including choosing to take public transportation, as anything that reduces car emissions can drastically help. At home, people can avoid using wood fireplaces or coal burning stove because alternative sources of heat are usually better for the environment.
To reduce your personal exposure to air pollution, be sure to:
- Regularly Check the Air Quality Index (AQI): The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regularly measures and reports air quality in cities and rural areas. An AQI score of more than 100 means unhealthy air conditions.
- Stay indoors when pollution is high: Use the AQI to reduce your risk of going outside on bad days if you don’t need to. This is especially important in high-ozone conditions (such as in many large cities) because sunshine increases ozone levels. Also learn to avoid heavy physical activity on high air pollution days (the faster you breathe, the more air pollution you inhale).
- Support collective efforts: Take individual steps to reduce air pollution.
It’s good to know that the United States has made slight progress against air pollution since the mid-twentieth century. Still, because millions of American citizens are still being threatened by air pollution, it is vital to keep rigorously working together to improve national air quality standards. Even the smallest of steps in the right direction can be of ample help to a huge problem that can literally steal one’s breath away.
To learn more about the connections between air pollution and health, as well as to find out more about how to best manage specific symptoms caused by pollutants, try contacting Dr. Mayank Shukla today. Doctor Shukla and his team have years of experience in pediatric respiratory medicine, particularly asthma, allergies, and other chronic breathing problems, and can be of help to make sure you stay happy and healthy.