Effects of Air Pollution on Human Health – Kills 7 Million a Year!

Air pollution can affect your health adversely. People living in urban and industrialised areas are at a higher risk. Let us look at the effects of various components of air pollution on human health.

Health effects of Sulphur Dioxide

The air in the vicinity of industries have a significant proportion of sulphur dioxide. People exposed to sulphur dioxide face a higher incidence of cough, shortness of breath, colds, bronchitis, and display signs of fatigue.

The sulphur dioxide content in the air results in the formation of sulphate salts. Exposure to SO2 is dangerous to children as well as asthmatics.

Health effects of Nitrogen Dioxide

Nitrogen dioxide is a toxic gas that can enter the human body during breathing. Exposure to NO2 can result in chronic respiratory diseases like emphysema, bronchopneumonia, chronic fibrosis, and bronchitis.

Health effects of Particulate Matter

Particulate matter is the most dangerous of all pollutants. They can cause skin problems as well. They are dangerous when you inhale them.

The pm 2.5 and pm 10 contaminants can lodge inside the lungs and alveoli. Particulate matter smaller than pm 2.5 can enter the bloodstream and cause cardiovascular problems including heart attacks. Asthma and allergic alveolitis are the two principal respiratory problems related to exposure to Particulate matter.

Specific particulate matter contains pathogens like bacteria and viruses. These pollutants can cause more complications, especially in people having pre-existing heart problems.

Health effects of Carbon Monoxide

Vehicular and industrial pollution is the primary cause of the presence of carbon monoxide in the air. Carbon monoxide is an obnoxious gas capable of causing dangerous health problems like stroke, atherosclerosis, and hypertension.

Pregnant women should be cautious with exposure to carbon monoxide. Inhaling CO exposes them to serious health concerns like premature delivery, and reduction in birth weight of the child. It affects the new-born child as well.

Health effects of Ozone

People living in coastal areas experience high levels of ozone in the air they breathe. Inhaling high levels of ozone causes health problems like irritation in the eyes, nose, and throat.

Headaches, cough, and chest discomfort are also some problems affecting people exposed to high levels of ozone in the atmosphere. People exposed to high levels of ozone ranging between 235 to 314 µg/m3 experience inflammations of the lungs. Ozone increases susceptibility to pulmonary bacterial infections.

Health effects of Benzene

People living near industrial estates and rubber factories experience comparatively higher levels of benzene in the air. Benzene is a toxic chemical capable of causing genetic change and chromosomal aberration.

High levels of benzene in the atmosphere in the range of 1 mg/m3 can cause cancer in the kidney, brain, stomach, pancreas, bladder, respiratory tract, and the uterus.

Continuous exposure to benzene produces a euphoric feeling followed by giddiness, irregular heartbeat, nervous instability, and unsteadiness in walking. Women are more susceptible to benzene poisoning as compared to men. It causes menstrual disorders and can retard the development of the foetus in pregnant women.

Health effects of Volatile Organic Compounds

It is a pervasive pollutant you experience in every home. People use air conditioners, refrigerators and other equipment that use coolant gases. Similarly, insect repellents, mosquito coils, perfumes, camphor, and so on can cause the emission of volatile organic compounds in the air.

The volatile organic compounds react with the oxides of nitrogen in the presence of sunlight and create smog. It restricts visibility and can irritate the eyes and lungs.

Health effects of Lead

Lead is a dangerous environmental poison that can affect every system in the body. Prolonged exposure to lead can cause damage to the kidneys, nervous system and the reproductive system.

Children are more susceptible to lead poisoning as compared to adults. Similarly, pregnant women are at high risk. Lead can accumulate in the bones. A demand for calcium during pregnancy and lactation can result in the release of lead.

There are instances of detection of lead in placenta and breast milk. Constant exposure to lead can cause health problems like drowsiness, lack of muscular coordination, and anaemia.

We have seen the ill effects of various kinds of pollutants in the air. These contaminants affect not only humans but also plant and animal life.


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