Impact of Air Pollution on Human Health


Impact of air pollution is a global public health concern leading to significant morbidity and mortality. It is the ninth leading cause of death across the world. Air pollution contributes to cardiac and respiratory diseases, amongst the diseases of chest asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, and respiratory tract infections such as tuberculosis and lung cancer.

What are the Sources of Air Pollution?

The major contributors to outdoor pollution are vehicular exhaust, industrial air pollution, burning of fossil fuels, and crop burning. Air pollutants are carried across huge distances by wind, sand storms, and changes in atmospheric pressures. On the other hand, indoor air pollution is seen particularly in rural areas where firewood, coal, and biomass are burnt for cooking, and other purposes.

How do we measure air pollution?

Air pollutants are made up of a mixture of manmade and natural pollutants. The “criterion” pollutants are primary pollutants which include particulate matter (PM), sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, ozone, and lead. The chief source of PM particles is traffic pollution or vehicular exhaust. They are divide into coarse particles 2.5-10 microns (PM10), fine particles less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5), and ultra-fine particles less than 0.1 microns (UF). Ozone is a gas that mixes with organic compounds, and oxides of sulfur, nitrogen, and carbon to create the dangerous ozone smog, particularly in the winter.

What are the chest or lung diseases caused due to air pollution?

Air pollution leads to irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat. A dry hacking cough is often the only manifestation. The most vulnerable groups include pregnant females, children, the elderly, and individuals with chronic heart, lung, and kidney disease. Traffic-associated air pollution (TRAP) is related to the development of asthma in children. One unit increase in PM10 is associate with increase acute exacerbations and deaths due to COPD. The expose individuals are predispose to exacerbation of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and interstitial lung disease. Impact of air pollution is associate with more emergency visits, greater hospitalization rates, and higher death rates.

How can we reduce air pollution?

The need of the hour is to use renewable sources of energy such as solar energy, and wind energy. Electronic vehicles are necessary to bring down air pollution and greenhouse effects. Try to reduce the use of vehicles, walk rather than use cars.

How to protect yourself from the ill harms of pollution?

Lung development starts in the womb and continues upto 6years, thus exposure to pollutants may impact the lung is most marked during this period. During the days with high air quality index, it is preferable for predisposed individuals such as children, the elderly, pregnant females, and patients with chronic disease to stay inside and avoid strenuous activities outdoors. By consulting Dr.Sheetu Singh, the patients should take their optimal treatment for their diseases and maintain regular follow up with their physicians. It is important to use protective masks during outdoor activities. However, masks do not provide full protection.

Do air purifiers with HEPA filters purify the air and reduce the risk of disease?

Purifiers may be use for small enclose spaces such as a room. Recommend HEPA-filtered ones. However, they have a limited role in outdoor spaces. Air pollution remains a matter of concern. We need to act fast otherwise we will have to face the consequences.

Dr. Sheetu Singh, a nationally renowned pulmonologist, Director ILD & Pulmonary Rehab Clinic, is an expert in chest-related conditions. She got her training from SMS Medical College, Jaipur followed by a visit to Cleveland Clinic, USA.

Contact Info

Address: Mahavir Jaipuriya Rajasthan Hospital Milap Nagar, JLN Marg, Jaipur

Mobile: (+91)-8696666380


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