We’ve become quite aware of the environmental damage that comes from air pollution, but what impact is it having on your health? The concern over climate change issues and the environment need to be at the forefront of our discussions, but the health effects of air pollution impact us on a personal level.
The damage being done by air pollution is having a double-pronged effect now. Learning about the mental and physical effects of air pollution will help us gain a greater understanding of how serious this is.
This article will look at this air pollution issue and the 6 effects damaging your health.
How Is Air Pollution Caused Exactly?
The short answer is that any particles – whether they contain liquid or solids – can contain gases. These gases, which we call aerosols, can end up becoming suspended in the air. There are obvious causes such as fossil fuels and exhaust from cars, trucks, and factories, but other causes still contribute.
Things like dust, pollen, and mold spores also make up air pollution. There are some other natural causes, including volcanoes and wildfires. When you combine these natural contributors to the manmade ones, it’s led to some pretty disastrous results.
In cities, gases can take the form of ozone. This is a greenhouse gas that can be both good and bad for our environment. The good ozone is located up high in the earth’s atmosphere, and it’s important for blocking dangerous rays from the sun.
The bad ozone keeps heat trapped on the earth, leading to rising temperature levels. This is just a quick overview of the topic, as it’s possible to go much more in-depth.
The issue we want to look at right now is how air pollution causes certain health effects.
1. Respiratory Problems
This is one of the obvious health effects of air pollution, but it is significant for a few reasons. Air pollution from fine particle matter such as nitrogen and ozone can lead to premature death. In Canada alone, there were 14,6000 deaths because of this.
If the respiratory problems didn’t end in death, they resulted in very serious asthma. In 2015, the number of asthma symptom days in Canada reached 2.7 million. With respiratory symptom days, the total was 35 million.
Not only is this hurting an individual person, but it’s also hurting the economies of nations. Those health impacts because of air pollution have been costing the Canadian economy $114 billion a year.
2. Air Pollution Can Affect Your Heart
This is not as commonly known, but another effect air pollution has on our health centers on heart conditions. There are links between air quality, the lungs, breathing, and the heart, but some conditions caused include:
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Increased risk of stroke
3. The Day-to-Day Physical Symptoms of Air Pollution
These will not be the life-threatening health effects that come from air pollution, but they are still less than desirable. One such problem is the feeling of tiredness. You may also experience headaches and dizziness. Coughing and sneezing will also be a symptom, as well as wheezing and difficulty breathing.
You may find that you have more mucus in your nose and throat, along with dry eyes, nose, throat or skin. Many times, people chalk these health effects up to other issues when in fact, it may be the air pollution to blame.
4. Air Pollution and Violent Crime?
You’ve seen some physical effects that come from air pollution, but is it also affecting us mentally? Researchers from the University of Colorado have found strong links between exposure to air pollution and aggressive behavior. They observed that when you have more air pollution; you see a significant increase in violent domestic crime.
Their research shows that a 10 microgram-per-cubic-meter increase in air pollution is associated with a 1.4 percent increase in assaults. The main concern was that not only could there be specific violent crimes, but people’s level of aggression rose to lead to things like verbal assault.
5. Cognitive Decline
Air pollution known as fine particulate matter is the type that comes from power plants, factories, cars, and trucks. This is one pollutant known to cause cardiovascular damage, but it looks like its impact can reach the brain.
Research shows that older women that have been exposed to high levels of this pollutant experience greater cognitive decline compared to other women the same age.
Long periods of cognitive decline are often followed by dementia, and this exposure to air pollution may cause long term mental damage.
They’re also looking at air pollution on young minds. The Boston University’s School of Public Health followed 200 kids from birth to age 10. They found that the kids exposed to greater levels of black carbon score worse on tests of memory and verbal and non-verbal IQ.
6. Mental Health Issues & Depression
With issues regarding mental health and depression, air pollution may be to blame. Researchers in New York City observed kids from birth to around age 6 or 7. They discovered that children who had been exposed to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons while in utero were more likely to experience anxiety and depression.
These same kids were also likely to experience attention deficit problems. It appears that the bigger the city, the more likely there are to be health effects – both physical and mental – because of air pollution.
The health effects of air pollution are scary stuff. It hopefully motivates you to make positive changes regarding your own carbon footprint and, hopefully, more people follow the same path. If you live in a big city, this can be a good motivator to get out into nature more to give your body a break from the pollution.
It’s also important to keep your body fed as clean as possible, keep yourself moving, and get sufficient rest. We may not be able to control the pollution happening in the world, but we can control how we treat our bodies to lessen the impact.