By Shandra Bellinger
Air pollution. I’m sure you’ve heard of the effects in relation to the toll it takes on the planet, for instance, Climate Change. But what are the effects on our body? That’s the purpose of this blog, to explore how the polluted air we breathe can cause disease and illness, and who is more affected. According to the WHO (World Health Organization), “Ambient air pollution alone caused some 4.2 million deaths in 2016, while household air pollution from cooking with polluting fuels and technologies caused an estimated 3.8 million deaths in the same period,” which amounts to 7 million premature deaths a year Worldwide.
With such a high number of deaths caused by air pollution, it is obvious that the body is susceptible to damage from these ultrafine particles. The health impacts will vary from person to person due to multiple factors; length of exposure, age, predisposing conditions, nutritional status, other coexisting pollutants, and pollutant type. Those with lung disease, asthma, cardiovascular disease, pregnant women, children and older adults are thought to be more susceptible due to their underlying health issues and life stages. People with low socioeconomic status have been “consistently associated with greater harm from air pollution,” according to the American Lung Association. Living in the city or having occupational exposure, also puts you at greater risk. According to WHO deaths are due to Pneumonia with 21%, Stroke with 20%, Ischemic Heart Disease with 34%, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease with 19% and Lung Cancer with 7%. The small air particles that make up the components of air pollution are able to gain access to lung and systemic circulation, which can result in those diseases. In addition to the respiratory and cardiovascular system, your nervous system, urinary system, digestive system, and gestation can be affected. In 2013 the WHO declared that outdoor air pollution is a carcinogen for humans. With such detrimental effects, I hope that now you are aware of the effects that air pollution can have on your body.
About the author -- Shandra Bellinger is a recent graduate of the M.S. in Biomedical Sciences at Larkin University College of Biomedical Sciences. Shandra is also an intern-Research Assistant in the RIPL_Effect Research Team under the mentorship of principal investigator, Dr. Félix E. Rivera-Mariani.
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