Polluted air is an unfortunate side effect of the world’s emphasis on industrialization. Air pollution often goes unnoticed, especially since the particles are often too small to be seen by the naked eye. Despite this, air pollution is considered a silent killer, causing a variety of diseases every year. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 9 in 10 people breathe polluted air daily. Air pollution is also estimated to cause the death of around 7 million people annually.
One factor that makes it hard to combat air pollution is because it’s very pervasive. Even rich neighborhoods and areas suffer from air pollution. Air pollution is closely linked with climate change and global warming so it can be addressed by environment-friendly practices.
However, progress is slow on this front, so air pollution continues to be a problem even for the foreseeable future. Here are ten diseases you can catch from breathing polluted air.
- Lung Cancer
Breathing in polluted air can cause lung cancer. Researchers estimate that in the US, 2% of lung cancer cases are caused by breathing in polluted air. This leads to approximately 223,000 cases of lung cancer caused by air pollution each year.
Polluted air contains dust, smoke, and harmful chemicals that can abnormalize your breathing. Vehicle emissions are particularly large contributors to the harmful chemicals in the air. The more polluted air a person breaths, the larger his chance of getting lung cancer.
- Cardiovascular Problems
Air pollution has been associated with a significant rise in blood pressure. A rise in blood pressure and constant exposure to polluted air has been connected to cardiovascular problems in people. Studies have shown that air pollution might cause atherosclerosis development and progression.
- Neurobehavioral Problems
Some studies have suggested that there is a correlation between neurobehavioral problems and air pollution. It is hypothesized that the toxins found in polluted air, such as mercury, could lead to neurobehavioral problems such as autism and memory problems. It could also lead to long-term neurobehavioral problems like problems in intelligence and cognitive development.
- Asthma Attacks
Asthma is a long-term disease of the lungs. Classic symptoms of asthma include shortness of breath and wheezing. Asthma may manifest itself early on in childhood, or even in late adulthood. Breathing in polluted air can trigger asthma attacks. Airborne particles have been found to be asthma triggers in several studies. Long-term exposure to polluted air can cause severe asthma attacks and reduced lung function.
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is a very common disease. The most recognizable symptom of COPD is difficulty in breathing. There are two types of COPD. The first is Chronic Bronchitis, which involves a long-term cough with mucus. The second is Emphysema which damages the lungs over time. Exposure to polluted air can increase your risks of COPD.
This disease takes on the form of a malignant tumor. It is caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. Although asbestos is not as commonly used nowadays, small particles of it may still be found in polluted air.
Polluted air can increase the risk of contracting pneumonia by impairing the function of pulmonary alveolar macrophages and epithelial cells.
- Birth Defects
Harmful particles and toxins found in polluted air have been shown to cause birth defects when inhaled by pregnant women.
- Lower Respiratory Tract Infection
Air pollution has been shown to be connected to lower respiratory tract infections in children.
Short term and long-term exposure to polluted air can cause strokes. Particles can enter the blood and harden arteries in the brain.
Prevention is better than cure. Although air pollution is extremely prevalent, knowing the diseases it causes can help you decide the steps you can take to minimize the risk.
Helpful steps can include air purifiers and wearing masks in areas where air pollution is bad.