Can you see a clear sky these days? Probably not because the air is polluted. The air quality index is lowering with each passing day and that is extremely concerning because air pollution is an environmental hazard. Before you realise, pollution attacks your system and cause various health issues. Sadly, even people with stronger immunity fall in its trap because of the strong influence of pollutants. Sometimes, the pollution may not be visible but you can smell and feel it with irritating eyes, pungent odour and uneasiness. Air pollution is one of the fatal health threats that affect all the systems including sensory organs and vital organs. Respiratory problems are highly common followed by an increased risk of cardiovascular issues, neurological problems, oxidative stress, to name but a few.
What is air pollution?
There are several substances that when get released into the air make it toxic. These hazardous substances come from natural sources and well as human-made sources. Vehicular emission, gases and toxic smoke released by industrial plants, stubble burning, etc. are the most common causes of air pollution in India. Here are all the elements that cause air pollution:
Human-made air pollution: Sources of pollution that are controlled by humans are fuel oils, vehicle emission, coal-fueled power plants, fumes released by chemical plants, etc.
Natural pollutants: There are certain pollutants released by the nature such as methane gas released during the decomposition of organic waste; wildfire smoke; gases and ashes from a volcanic eruption, etc.
Traffic-Related Air Pollution (TRAP): This comes under vehicular pollution as it comes from motor vehicle emissions. The dangerous pollutants released are- oxides of sulfur, carbon, nitrogen; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds.
Ozone gas: This is an atmospheric gas that is created when all the pollutants including smoke, toxic gases, etc. react chemically in the presence of sunlight. Ozone gas is what we generally call ‘Smog’.
Noxious gases: The rest of the pollutants like sulfur oxides, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and other byproducts.
Particulate matter: These mainly contain cigarette smoke, mineral dust, chemicals, fossil fuel combustion releases, etc. You’d be surprised to know that this particulate matter is nearly 30 times thinner than human hair. This means that it is very fine and can be easily inhaled. This causes severe destruction to health. PM 2.5 subset of particulate matter is the most dangerous of the other subsets.
Volatile compounds: These contain carbon and vaporize at room temperature. Pesticides, paints, glue, cleaning supplies, gasoline, etc. are common volatile compounds.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH): As the name suggests, these contain hydrogen & carbon and when combusted, these release toxic gases that are carcinogenic in nature. These are byproducts of many industries.
Health problems caused by air pollution
Air pollution affects nearly all organs including internal and external. The major health hazards caused due to air pollution are listed below.
It is a no-brainer that air pollution mainly affects the respiratory system. It attacks the lungs and triggers respiratory illnesses like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, bronchitis, etc. If you stay in polluted air without protection, you are highly susceptible to respiratory issues.
Fine pollutants not only impair the functioning of the respiratory system but also blood vessels. They cause calcification in arteries that increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases by many folds. Several studies have also found that long-term exposure to pollution can also cause hemorrhagic stroke. In women, this can leads to hypertensive disorders, pre-term birth, foetal and maternal illness & deaths.
Those who are exposed to air pollutants on a regular basis are at a greater risk of developing cancer. Most pollutants are carcinogenic in nature that can cause lung cancer. Airborne toxic substances are associated with breast cancer.