Air Pollution-A Health Risk Factor

Posted on May 10, 2013



The World Health Organization(WHO) describes air pollution as ” contamination of the indoor and outdoor air  environment by any chemical, physical  or biological agent, that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere.”

The Center for Disease Control(CDC) describes air pollution as ” The presence of substances in the air that are either present in an environment where they do not belong, or present at levels greater than they should be.”

Air pollution is a major environmental problem that affects everyone, the exposure; however, is beyond the control of individuals. It requires public health authorities at all levels to reduce the level of pollution in order to protect health.

Air pollution-A health risk factorAir pollutants degrade the quality of air. Air pollutants can be localized around a source or can travel very far globally. Air pollutants that contribute to poor air quality can be cycled out of the local environment within a day or persist over weeks.

The health effects of air pollution are affected by social, demographic, and economic factors. Factors that may increase vulnerability to health effects include income, race and ethnicity, health insurance, and age.

Indoor Air Pollution

Two million people worldwide die because of indoor air pollution each year. This air pollution includes pollutants from open fires or traditional stoves. Cooking and heating homes using solid fuels in open fires and stoves produce high levels of air pollution.

Indoor air pollution from biomass fuel has been associated with high risk of tuberculosis, more research is being done.

Outdoor air pollution takes the lives of about 1.3 million. Common sources of outdoor air pollution are motor vehicles, forest fires and industrial facilities.

Particulate Matter

Particulate matter(PM) affects more people than any other pollutant, they are made up mainly of sulfate, nitrates, ammonia, sodium chloride, carbon and water.

Chronic exposure to PM is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease(CVD), respiratory disease, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease(COPD).

Fine particulate matter  are particles less than 2.5 micrometers in width, their tiny size makes it easy  for them to get into the Lungs.   Once in the lungs, they  cause breathing problems, decreased lung function and can  even cause heart attacks.  Long exposure to them increases the risk of dying from heart disease and stroke.  Examples of fine particulates are:

  • Metal
  • Dust
  • Organic chemicals
  • Liquid droplets
  • Microscopic particles

Read more on particulate matter.

According to current research, clean air can improve life expectancy.

Second hand smoke– You don’t smoke, but you inhale second smoke from those around you, thus  exposing you to air pollution . Second hand smoke is the third preventable cause of death in North America.  Second-hand smoke degrades the quality of air and puts those subjected to it at risk for diseases due to air pollution and smoking tobacco.

Our health program prepares people to take care of their  health by reducing air pollution and other risk factors in their lives..Click Here to read about it.

Further reading

Health Effects of Fine  Particulate Matter.