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How Air Pollution Affects Your Health

Air pollution is an ongoing problem that not many people want to acknowledge, accept, or change. And yet it seems to be one of the most dangerous attacks on our health. A staggering 8 million people die each year because of the adverse effects air pollution has on human health.

Though most of those deaths occur in Asia, developed countries have air pollution levels that are impacting human health no matter where in the world you live. In essence, there’s no escaping it.

Air pollution is known as the “silent killer.” Even if you don’t necessarily die from air pollution, you can have lingering effects that will impact your health in the future. Air pollution’s health effects are impossible to perceive. That is because over time you are slowly, or maybe not so slowly, breathing in poison.

Unless you have a pre-existing condition, you are not typically consciously aware of your breathing. Therefore, you will hardly notice the small deterioration of your breathing quality over time until it’s too late.


How Air Pollution Enters The Body

Particulate matter is microscopic particles of solid or liquid matter that hang in the air and when inhaled can cause a slew of health problems. It is impossible to avoid being exposed, so it is a matter of how much you breathe in and how that affects your body.

Scientists have found that 1% of particulate matter that you inhale ends up in your blood. While our lymphatic system is pretty great at filtering our blood, it can not catch all toxins. Because of this, some of that matter then gets transferred to other organs such as your brain, kidneys, and heart.


Lung Problems

Over-exposure to particulate matter and allowing it to reach your lungs and other organs can be deadly. If your lungs become irritated and inflamed by particulate matter, it can lead to other diseases such as asthma.

This can also cause your lungs to become more penetrable by foreign substances. This will allow bacteria and viruses to easily enter your bloodstream, making you more susceptible to illnesses. Chronic lung diseases such as COPD and lung cancer have been linked to air pollution.


Heart Diseases

Heart disease has also been known to be caused by air pollution. Heart rate and blood pressure increase with exposure to particulate matter. Over time, this can cause a lot of stress on the heart and can lead to disruptions in heart rhythm, heart attacks, strokes, and more.


Diabetes Risk

Long-term exposure to particulate matter can lead some otherwise healthy people to develop diabetes. Particulate matter induces insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is what leads to your body not being able to properly utilize glucose and leads to spikes in blood sugar. Therefore, diet may not be the only cause of diabetes in modern society.


Brain Damage & Higher Levels Of Stress

High exposure to particulate matter disrupts cognitive function. The added stress of modern life over time can lead to the deterioration of the brain. Scientists also found that babies and infants have increased inflammation in the brain due to direct air pollution exposure and exposure from their mothers in the womb. It appears that regardless of age, air pollution can steadily chip away at your brain.

Stress hormones have been known to increase with exposure to air pollution. In a test done where subjects breathed in purified air, scientists found they had lower levels of cortisol and adrenaline. This led to the subjects being more relaxed and calm. 


Final Thoughts

Though modern humans spend about 90% of their time indoors, indoor air pollutant levels are now about two to ten times higher than they used to be. And once air pollutants make it indoors, unless there is a state-of-the-art air filtration system, they aren’t leaving.

Obviously, air pollution affects cities more than the suburbs but at this point in time, everyone is being affected on some level. 

While this may all sound like bad news, there is good news too. Air quality has been improving worldwide for the last two decades. Sulfur emissions have gone down by 90% letting us know that human effort is possible. If we all make strides toward decreasing our carbon footprint, along with being aware of the risks if we don’t, we can all live healthier lives.