It is universally known that air pollution causes health problems all over the world.
Has air pollution affected your health, or the health of people you know?
Read the informative article from Wikipedia on Health Effects of Air Pollution below, and add a comment in the comments section below in which you discuss your experience with health effects of air pollution.
Air pollution is a significant risk factor for a number of health conditions including respiratory infections, heart disease, COPD, stroke and lung cancer. The health effects caused by air pollution may include difficulty in breathing, wheezing, coughing, asthma and worsening of existing respiratory and cardiac conditions. These effects can result in increased medication use, increased doctor or emergency room visits, more hospital admissions and premature death. The human health effects of poor air quality are far reaching, but principally affect the body’s respiratory system and the cardiovascular system. Individual reactions to air pollutants depend on the type of pollutant a person is exposed to, the degree of exposure, and the individual’s health status and genetics. The most common sources of air pollution include particulates, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. Children aged less than five years that live in developing countries are the most vulnerable population in terms of total deaths attributable to indoor and outdoor air pollution.
It is estimated that some 7 million premature deaths may be attributed to air pollution. India has the highest death rate due to air pollution. India also has more deaths from asthma than any other nation according to the World Health Organization. In December 2013 air pollution was estimated to kill 500,000 people in China each year. There is a correlation between pneumonia-related deaths and air pollution from motor vehicles.
Air pollution is estimated to reduce life expectancy by almost nine months across the European Union. Causes of deaths include strokes, heart disease, COPD, lung cancer, and lung infections.
The US EPA estimates that a proposed set of changes in diesel engine technology (Tier 2) could result in 12,000 fewer premature mortalities, 15,000 fewer heart attacks, 6,000 fewer emergency room visits by children with asthma, and 8,900 fewer respiratory-related hospital admissions each year in the United States.
The US EPA estimates allowing a ground-level ozone concentration of 65 parts per billion, would avert 1,700 to 5,100 premature deaths nationwide in 2020 compared with the current 75-ppb standard. The agency projects the stricter standard would also prevent an additional 26,000 cases of aggravated asthma, and more than a million cases of missed work or school.
A new economic study of the health impacts and associated costs of air pollution in the Los Angeles Basin and San Joaquin Valley of Southern California shows that more than 3,800 people die prematurely (approximately 14 years earlier than normal) each year because air pollution levels violate federal standards. The number of annual premature deaths is considerably higher than the fatalities related to auto collisions in the same area, which average fewer than 2,000 per year.
Diesel exhaust (DE) is a major contributor to combustion-derived particulate matter air pollution. In several human experimental studies, using a well-validated exposure chamber setup, DE has been linked to acute vascular dysfunction and increased thrombus formation. This serves as a plausible mechanistic link between the previously described association between particulates air pollution and increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.
A 2007 review of evidence found ambient air pollution exposure is a risk factor correlating with increased total mortality from cardiovascular events (range: 12% to 14% per 10 microg/m3 increase).
Air pollution is also emerging as a risk factor for stroke, particularly in developing countries where pollutant levels are highest. A 2007 study found that in women, air pollution is associated not with hemorrhagic but with ischemic stroke. Air pollution was also found to be associated with increased incidence and mortality from coronary stroke in a cohort study in 2011. Associations are believed to be causal and effects may be mediated by vasoconstriction, low-grade inflammation or autonomic nervous system imbalance or other mechanisms.
A study from around the years of 1999 to 2000, by the University of Washington, showed that patients near and around particulates air pollution had an increased risk of pulmonary exacerbations and decrease in lung function. Patients were examined before the study for amounts of specific pollutants like Pseudomonas aeruginosa or Burkholderia cenocepacia as well as their socioeconomic standing. Participants involved in the study were located in the United States in close proximity to an Environmental Protection Agency. During the time of the study 117 deaths were associated with air pollution. Many patients in the study lived in or near large metropolitan areas in order to be close to medical help. These same patients had higher level of pollutants found in their system because of more emissions in larger cities. As cystic fibrosis patients already suffer from decreased lung function, everyday pollutants such as smoke, emissions from automobiles, tobacco smoke and improper use of indoor heating devices could further compromise lung function.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) includes diseases such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Research has demonstrated increased risk of developing asthma and COPD from increased exposure to traffic-related air pollution. Additionally, air pollution has been associated with increased hospitalization and mortality from asthma and COPD.
A study conducted in 1960-1961 in the wake of the Great Smog of 1952 compared 293 London residents with 477 residents of Gloucester, Peterborough, and Norwich, three towns with low reported death rates from chronic bronchitis. All subjects were male postal truck drivers aged 40 to 59. Compared to the subjects from the outlying towns, the London subjects exhibited more severe respiratory symptoms (including cough, phlegm, and dyspnea), reduced lung function (FEV1 and peak flow rate), and increased sputum production and purulence. The differences were more pronounced for subjects aged 50 to 59. The study controlled for age and smoking habits, so concluded that air pollution was the most likely cause of the observed differences.
It is believed that much like cystic fibrosis, by living in a more urban environment serious health hazards become more apparent. Studies have shown that in urban areas patients suffer mucus hypersecretion, lower levels of lung function, and more self-diagnosis of chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
A review of evidence regarding whether ambient air pollution exposure is a risk factor for cancer in 2007 found solid data to conclude that long-term exposure to PM2.5 (fine particulates) increases the overall risk of non-accidental mortality by 6% per a 10 microg/m3 increase. Exposure to PM2.5 was also associated with an increased risk of mortality from lung cancer (range: 15% to 21% per 10 microg/m3 increase) and total cardiovascular mortality (range: 12% to 14% per a 10 microg/m3 increase). The review further noted that living close to busy traffic appears to be associated with elevated risks of these three outcomes — increase in lung cancer deaths, cardiovascular deaths, and overall non-accidental deaths. The reviewers also found suggestive evidence that exposure to PM2.5 is positively associated with mortality from coronary heart diseases and exposure to SO2 increases mortality from lung cancer, but the data was insufficient to provide solid conclusions.
In 2011, a large Danish epidemiological study found an increased risk of lung cancer for patients who lived in areas with high nitrogen oxide concentrations. In this study, the association was higher for non-smokers than smokers. An additional Danish study, also in 2011, likewise noted evidence of possible associations between air pollution and other forms of cancer, including cervical cancer and brain cancer.
Around the world, children living in cities with high exposure to air pollutants are at increased risk of developing asthma, pneumonia and other lower respiratory infections. Air pollution is also a significant contribution to environmental toxins in pregnancy.
The World Health Organization reports that the greatest concentrations of particulates are found in countries with low economic world power and high poverty and population growth rates. Examples of these countries include Egypt, Sudan, Mongolia and Indonesia. In the United States, despite the passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970, in 2002 at least 146 million Americans were living in non-attainment areas—regions in which the concentration of certain air pollutants exceeded federal standards. These dangerous pollutants are known as the criteria pollutants, and include ozone, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and lead. Protective measures to ensure children’s health are being taken in cities such as New Delhi, India where buses now use compressed natural gas to help eliminate the “pea-soup” smog.
Health effects in relatively “clean” areas
Even in the areas with relatively low levels of air pollution, public health effects can be significant and costly, since a large number of people breathe in such pollutants. A 2005 scientific study for the British Columbia Lung Association showed that a small improvement in air quality (1% reduction of ambient PM2.5 and ozone concentrations) would produce $29 million in annual savings in the Metro Vancouver region in 2010. This finding is based on health valuation of lethal (death) and sub-lethal (illness) affects.
Effects on the central nervous system
Data is accumulating that air pollution exposure also affects the central nervous system. In a June 2014 study conducted by researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, it was discovered that early exposure to air pollution causes the same damaging changes in the brain as autism and schizophrenia. The study also shows that air pollution also affected short-term memory, learning ability, and impulsivity. Lead researcher Professor Deborah Cory-Slechta said that “When we looked closely at the ventricles, we could see that the white matter that normally surrounds them hadn’t fully developed. It appears that inflammation had damaged those brain cells and prevented that region of the brain from developing, and the ventricles simply expanded to fill the space. Our findings add to the growing body of evidence that air pollution may play a role in autism, as well as in other neurodevelopmental disorders.” Air pollution has a more significant negative effect of males than on females.