Air pollution is an unfortunate result of vehicle exhaust, building energy, factory emissions, and environmental waste. Poor air quality can provoke numerous chronic health conditions such as asthma or could develop into life-threatening cancer. Both of these could be avoided by reducing airborne toxins and other similar factors that put our overall health at risk.
Clean Air Day is June 20th and this is an opportunity to acknowledge air pollution as a compelling and ongoing issue that is detrimental to long term health. During the age of COVID-19, people with respiratory diseases and those living in places with severe air pollution face an increased vulnerability of contracting this virus. With these issues at the forefront, air pollution is a weighty topic that requires awareness. As air pollution is a strong indicator of general wellbeing, reviewing the potential diseases and health conditions of hazardous air pollution leads to improved vigilance concerning respiratory health.
Healthy air directly correlates with healthier populations and can be regulated both indoors and outdoors. Outdoor air pollution is a preeminent source of death and disease globally. People affected by poor ambient air quality, as well as indoor air toxins, may find themselves at a heightened probability of emergency room visits and hospital admissions. The worst-case would be premature death due to uncontrolled symptoms, ineffective treatment, or severe reactions.
The World Health Organization (WHO) believes that approximately 4.2 million people die from air pollution every year. Detrimental air quality can worsen pre-existing health conditions. Heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and acute respiratory infections are the pressing medical illnesses associated with extreme air pollution.
Ambient pollutants that advance these health conditions include particulate matter (PM), ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and sulphur dioxide (SO2). PM, depending on the diameter, may enter lung passageways or the bloodstream and instigate cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and respiratory complications.
While ambient air quality is difficult to control, indoor air pollution is also consequential, and oftentimes is easier to manage. Mold, dust, asbestos, lead, radon, and formaldehyde are sources of respiratory diseases. Evidently, increased time spent indoors where poor air quality is not mitigated, any one of these carcinogens or toxins will elicit a negative response creating allergic reactions, risk of infections, or sickness.
The good news is that indoor air quality usually only brings discomfort. Occasionally leading to cold-like symptoms or worsened allergies, removing the pollutant should quickly improve one’s health. Typically, this is done by installing ventilation for mold, hiring an abatement professional in cases of asbestos exposure, or installing a radon mitigation system.
The majority of these air pollutants are inhaled or can infiltrate the body causing asthma attacks, mesothelioma, lung tissue damage, or brain damage. Life-threatening diseases are less prominent, but they do happen. Prolonged exposure to poor air quality is a significant factor in whether or not these symptoms manifest and take hold of one’s health critically.
Clean air is a right, as it influences one’s life and the life of others, especially during COVID-19, a respiratory virus. Everyone deserves to live in a safe environment without fear of contracting or developing malignant diseases. In light of observing the value of clean, breathable, non-threatening air, we need to raise awareness and continue to validate this need.