Pollution developed into an acute problem everywhere in cities and industrial towns. Presence of smoke and gaseous byproducts of industries in the atmosphere is detrimental to health. Improper disposal of sewage water also causes pollution. Different forms of pollution are ravaging the human society in the present age of scientific progress and industrial growth. The majority form of pollution that is affecting the human kind very badly is air pollution. It is made up of many kinds of gases, droplets and particles that reduce the quality of the air.
Poor environment is directly responsible for around 25 per cent of all preventable ill health in the world today, and two-thirds of those affected are children. They fall sick due to lack of essential environmental resources – chief among them sufficient and clean water, food, shelter, fuel, and air.
People also become ill through exposure to hazards in the environment. Many diseases are because of environmental problems such as polluted drinking water, poor waste disposal, and exposure to mosquitoes and other carriers of disease. Some pollutants, such as pesticides, traffic emissions and industrial solvents, are created by human activities. Others, including arsenic or ultraviolet radiation, occur naturally in the environment, although exposure can be made worse by human activities.
These pollutants can undermine health in various ways, by causing diseases such as bronchitis or asthma, contributing to cancer or birth defects, or perhaps by damaging the body’s immune system which makes people more susceptible to a variety of other health risks.
But changes in the way people live and work can also cause a sudden increase in old diseases or the emergence of new ones. Overcrowding and industrialization affect the health of millions in the developing world. The emergence of some 30 new diseases in the past 20 years, including HIV, Ebola and haemorrhagic illnesses, has become a growing public health issue.
Health Impact of Some Specific Air Pollutants
- Tobacco smoke – Tobacco smoke generates a wide range of harmful chemicals and is a major cause of ill health, as it is known to cause cancer, burning sensation in the eyes or nose, throat irritation, bronchitis, severe asthma, and a decrease in lung function.
- Biological pollutants – These are mostly allergens that can cause asthma, hay fever, and other allergic diseases.
- Volatile organic compounds – Volatile compounds can cause irritation of the eye, nose and throat. In severe cases there may be headaches, nausea and loss of coordination. In the longer run, some of them are suspected to cause damage to the liver and other parts of the body.
- Oxides of nitrogen – This gas can make children susceptible to respiratory diseases in the winters.
- Carbon monoxide – Carbon monoxide combines with haemoglobin to lessen the amount of oxygen that enters our blood through our lungs. The binding with other haeme proteins causes changes in the function of the affected organs such as the brain and the cardiovascular system, and also the developing foetus. It can impair our concentration, slow our reflexes, and make us confused and sleepy.
How to Protect From Pollution Effects
You can protect yourself and your family from the effects of air pollution by doing the following:
- Stay indoors during days when pollution levels are high. Many pollutants will be at lower levels indoors than outdoors.
- If you have to go outside, limit outside activity to the early morning hours or wait until after sunset. This is important in high ozone conditions because sunshine increases ozone levels.
- Don’t exercise or exert yourself outdoors when air-quality reports indicate unhealthy conditions. The faster you breathe, the more pollution you take into your lungs.
These steps help prevent symptoms in healthy adults and children. However, if you live or work close to a known pollution source, or if you have a chronic heart or lung problem, talk with your doctor about other ways to protect yourself from pollution.
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