The Good Air Lady
The Good Air Lady
talks about what you breathe
indoors and out

Effects of Air Pollution on Health

If you can see your air be careful. The effects of air pollution on health can be serious, and are uncomfortable at the very least. Your life could be in danger if air quality is really bad.

The effects of air pollution on health are various, subtle, and long term. The effects of air pollution on health come from a variety of air pollution sources, some common and others specific to particular environments. The severity of effects of air pollution on health also vary according to the level and duration of exposure to air pollutants. Thus, the effects of air pollution on health are an extremely complex branch of medical research and treatment.

In urban areas, air pollution is mainly composed of emissions of gases and particulates from cars, trucks, buses, and other vehicles or machinery powered by internal combustion engines. In rural areas, air pollution consists mainly of dust raised by vehicles on dirt roads, plowing of agricultural fields, rock quarrying, smoke from burning of wood and crop materials, and other sources.

Ground-level ozone is a major air pollutant in urban areas. Ground-level ozone forms when gasoline and diesel fuel combustion products are exposed to sunlight. Ozone levels in cities increase when the air is still, sunlight is bright, and temperatures are warm.

The effects of air pollution on health include irritation of the eyes, lungs, and throat. Some people may notice tightness of the chest and/or coughing. Because exercise causes faster, deeper breathing that draws more air pollution into the lungs, it can increase the effects of air pollution on health. People who have heart diseases such as angina, or lung disease such as emphysema, asthma, or COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) should avoid exercise and other strenuous activity during periods of high ground-level ozone readings.

Children seem to feel the effects of air pollution on health more keenly than adults. They also feel more illnesses such as ear infections, sinus infections, and bronchitis in areas of high air pollution.

The elderly, on average, tend to have less efficient pulmonary function than younger people. Their lungs are less able to expel air pollutants. Therefore, the elderly are more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution on health.

Industrial air pollution comes from many sources and can cause more severe effects on health than general air pollution. Fumes from chemicals used in manufacturing, metalworking, and other processes can contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Acidic and caustic chemicals are used in many industrial processes and can cause chronic bronchitis. Particulate matter from asbestos, wood dust, concrete dust, and other sources can cause a variety of cancerous and mechanical damage to lungs. Heavy metals such as beryllium, cadmium, and lead are other forms of air pollution that can have negative effects on health.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for monitoring, reporting, and controlling air pollution levels in the United States. The EPA has thousands of monitoring stations around the country, and conducts regular inspections of significant sources of air pollution such as factories and power plants. The EPA has the power to issue fines for excessive air pollution releases, and may take polluters to court to assess criminal and civil penalties. Thanks to the efforts of the EPA, the U. S. air quality has vastly improved over the past 20 years.

Pay attention to air quality. The effects of air pollution on health are real, and of concern everywhere.