Physical health effects on human health caused by air pollluntants

Categories: Air Pollution

Have you ever wondered how to protect yourself from air pollutants or how to reduce it? Well air pollution has always existed. It was prevalent in History in 1930 as a fog in Meuse Valley in Belgium, the great smog of London (1952), New York smog (1950s and ‘60s) and many other occurrences. As human population, agriculture and modernisation increases air pollution also increases. It seems somewhat inevitable to some and to others it seems like something that can be further reduced.

Some people\'s mindsets are based on the statement that Air pollution is Bad! Terrible!! Or a silent killer!!! That’s the reason it hasn’t been given that much recognition by the public. Did you know that air pollutants, like fossil fuel particles, lead to a cut in the average lifespan of a person by 1.8 years approximately 2 years (Air pollution)? The American lung association estimates that 40% of the US population are at risk of premature death or risk of diseases due to air pollution.

Less than 20% of people in America are current smokers (Smoking in America) and 74.6% smoked every day (Burden) According to CDC, the life expectancy of smokers is 10 years shorter than that of a non-smoker (Tobacco). When looking at these two facts combined it shows that death would be very high in places with much pollution and smokers can have their life span cut by 12 years and that would be a bad thing for the economy. Air pollutants will escalate into something bad rather than good.

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Air pollution has been very prevalent in different regions in the world and has had some great consequences on the inhabitant’s physical health.
Air pollution is an underrated topic and occurrence in our world today. It is the existence of harmful toxins in the air that contaminates it and therefore makes it a health risk to living things. Most recent occurrences like Australia’s wildfire, the increasing rate of cardiovascular diseases and asthma are all linked to Air pollutants. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research the annual average fine particulate matter between 2009 and 2016 reduced by 24.2% and between 2016 and 2018 it increased by 5.5%, although this increase seems small it is very significant due to the health implications because it caused 9700 premature death with damages of $89 billion in 2018 (Karen). Everyday fossil fuels are being burnt and landfills are created to enable the functional working of the society, people move from one place to the other every single minute and the amount of emission keeps growing, industrial wastes and emission are also things that people create and just having a bad leaking refrigerator is very bad because it causes air pollution through the leakage of CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) called Freon which is a gaseous compound that comprises of chlorine atoms and is also very harmful to the environment and to us. All these human actions create pollution.
Air pollutants affect the environment and people\'s health directly but are less noticeable and time extensive via environment. Organic chemicals which are called VOCs (volatile organic compound) which are emitted as gases can be found in some household products which can cause indoor pollution and some other air-polluting particles like sulfur dioxide, particulates (such as dust and smoke), carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides, ozone, and lead. VOCs, CFCs and other air particles are directly responsible for the increasing rate of Skin Cancer. They work in an indirect way to make this happen, CFCs are under VOCs, VOC is considered as a blanket term and CFC is a chlorine compound containing groups under VOCs, at varying degrees they form ground-level ozone. VOCs were regarded as a high risk to human health and therefore the United States most influential environmental policy, The Clean Air Act of 1970 recognized these VOCs to be regularly monitored due to the health risks it poses. “CFCs were used for many years as coolant in refrigerators, aerosol propellants, and as cleaning agents. While generally chemically inert and non-toxic in these settings, CFCs diffuse into the upper atmosphere where they destroy the ultraviolet-absorbing ozone shield. Ozone depletion is a concern for the health of humans, as increased exposure to the sun ultraviolet radiation can cause genetic damage that is associated with various cancers, especially skin cancer”(Hoyle). Ozone is a reactive gas that is in the earth’s stratosphere(upper atmosphere) and the earth’s troposphere (lower atmosphere). This protective layer shields us from the sun’s harmful UV-rays. But when this protective layer begins to thin out (deplete) due to CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons) and other VOCs there would be an increase in the amount of the sun UV rays hitting the earth’s surface which therefore increases the risks and rates of Skin Cancer. A temporary effect of being affected by UV rays is having sunburns, but when exposed for a long time the UV rays from the sun focuses on the skin, it begins to damage the DNAs and RNAs of the skin which increases and causes cells to grow abnormally (Skin cancer). VOCs are regularly monitored because they are regarded as an indoor pollutant which is way worse than outdoor pollutants. Indoor pollutants are way more harmful than outdoor pollutants because they are given more chance to build up in a compact space than outside. VOCs like benzene and benzopyrene are already cancer-causing substances (carcinogens) but a VOC like Methane is a naturally occurring greenhouse gas that indirectly increases the risk of getting cancer. “The environmental impact caused by the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is a subject that has generated intense interest in the scientific community and the public at large. The relationship between observed climate change and increased atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane produced by human activity is generally accepted as a scientific fact” (Davis). Methane is a potent gas that absorbs the heat from the earth atmosphere that brings about a greenhouse effect whereby the heat from the sun’s radiation is trapped on earth to make it warmer to an abnormal temperature. The greenhouse effect further leads to climate change eg. wildfires and global warming. Through atmospheric interaction greenhouse gases cause ozone depletion. When overly exposed to the harsh UV rays from the stratosphere there would be a high risk of getting skin cancer like malignant melanoma which is the 3rd most common cancer among 15-29 years olds (Health effect of UV rays). The increasing rates of our little mistakes from smoking to farming using harmful substances then to companies mass production will eventually lead to many pop up cases of skin cancer around the globe.
Scientists and researchers have linked air pollutants to some damages in the respiratory system and the development of respiratory diseases. Some causes of these respiratory problems are low immune functioning, adverse climatic conditions and intolerable air pollution. These air pollutants can be really harmful to those with a weaker immune system, lung injuries or pre-existing lung diseases or damages. Those who have a healthy working body can or might be struck with respiratory diseases or problems. Carbon monoxide otherwise known as CO2 is a gas that is created from the burning of fossils from human activities. These gases are odourless and colourless but are very harmful and toxic when inhaled into the body through the lungs. When it goes into the body a lot of bad things begin to happen. “Normally, oxygen is transported from the lungs to cells in red blood cells…The oxygen is then available to carry out metabolic reactions in cells, reactions from which the body obtains energy. If carbon monoxide is present in the lungs, this sequence is disrupted. Carbon monoxide binds with iron in hemoglobin to form carbonmonoxyhemoglobin, a complex somewhat similar to oxyhemoglobin”(Newton). Oxyheamoglobin is a substance that is formed when heamoglobin (protein molecule in the blood) and oxygen combine to form an oxygenated blood that is transported within the bloodstream of the body. When carbon monoxide disrupts the flow of oxygen to the tissues and cells then some parts of the body might shut down if there\'s a prolonged halt, this would, therefore, lead to stroke. Carbonmonoxyheamoglobin is the same as carboxyheamoglobin which is also called Carbon monoxide poisoning. The conversion of heamoglobin to carbon oxyheamoglobin (COHb) can lead to death. This compound, COHb is present in smokers which can lead to Hypoxaemia (deprivation of adequate supply of oxygen to tissues and cells). Hypoxaemia is the major factor that leads to fatigue in all parts of the body and that leads to a risk of blood clot formation which will cause a respiratory disease called Pulmonary embolism (blockage of an artery in the lungs).
Oxygen and hemoglobin mixture→Oxyheamoglobin →Oxyheamoglobin and Carbon Monoxide combination →Carbon Monoxide poisoning→COPD or Hypoxaemia→ Fatigue→ Pulmonary Embolism.
Air pollutants have really made a record in history with its high records and cases. Some air pollutants create some communicable diseases in humans that lead to ghastly results. Communicable diseases are diseases that can be spread from one person to another through different mediums like direct contact, fluids through the air, etc. Some common examples are HIV/AIDs or the flu. According to WHO’s top 10 causes of death in the world: “Ischaemic heart disease and stroke are the world’s biggest killers, accounting for a combined 15.2 million deaths in 2016. These diseases have remained the leading causes of death globally in the last 15 years. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease claimed 3.0 million lives in 2016, while lung cancer (along with trachea and bronchus cancers) caused 1.7 million deaths…Lower respiratory infections remained the most deadly communicable disease, causing 3.0 million deaths worldwide in 2016” (the top 10 causes of deaths). \nThe top 5 causes of death in the world are all linked to air pollution in a way. These diseases are all caused by the harmful present toxins in the air. The leading causes of death in both underdeveloped and developed countries in the world are respiratory diseases (Walsh) and this is so in developed and undeveloped countries because \"laws are weak or not applied, vehicle emission standards are less stringent and coal power stations more prevalent. And in the big cities of developing countries, it’s the poorest who live in cramped informal settlements, often near rubbish dumps, who feel the full force of air pollution.\" (UN).
Ischaemic heart disease, stroke, and COPD are usually as a result of the presence of carbon monoxide in the bloodstream. Tuberculosis is also due to the transportation of the virus in the air to other people and lung cancer is caused by these harmful substances flying in the air then into our throat and everything. Almost all forms of respiratory problems and diseases are caused by inhaling carbon. People are prone to this due to its characteristics and therefore every person should try their best to reduce the emission of carbon so that humans won’t die off due to some little mistake.
According to NCI radiation is the “energy released in the form of particle or electromagnetic waves” (NCI). Radiation has been quite helpful to humans through Radiation therapy which is usually used to cure cancers (tumors). Radiation is also used to obtain X-Ray images which are used in small doses. But radiation can also be very harmful to health based on the type used or the one we are exposed to. When exposed to radiation for a long time you are prone to a mutation in your DNA or otherwise known as a DNA disruption. The mutation is often as a result of an unrepaired DNA. On August 6th, 1945 a bomb was deployed over a Japanese city of Hiroshima which killed more than 70,000 inhabitants. Three days after Hiroshima bombing an A-bomb was dropped over the city of Nagasaki in Japan which killed an estimate of over 40,000 inhabitants of the city. This bomb was said to be highly radioactive and was filled with Uranium-235 and plutonium-239. Those two bombs were named “little boy” and “fat man” which was the most complex designed bomb. “These first atomic bombs affected earth, water, air, and all living organisms in the targeted area…and sowed radiation poisoning in human and animal tissue, water supplies, building remains, and the very earth itself, which would affect generations to come” (Cheek). Uranium is a colourless, odourless gas that is an alpha particle which can be found in mines which can be fabricated into fuels. Alpha particles are a type of radiation that can be inhaled or ingested, these particles are very dangerous to people\'s health when internally exposed but not too dangerous when externally exposed. Uranium is an ionizing radiation that causes mutation, mental retardation, impairment of physical growth because the DNA has been directly affected by the emission and exposure. Exposure to radiation during pregnancy and birth isn’t quite noticeable to anyone. Uranium particles are known to exist for a long period of time above 700 million years and they are also naturally occurring. “In the September 1, 2008, issue of Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, the scientists report that subjects who lived close to the blast sites, were comparably young at the time, and developed the cancer quickly once they reached adulthood, were likely to have a chromosomal rearrangement known as RET/PTC that is not very frequent in adults who develop the disease. \"Recent in vitro and in vivo studies suggest that a single genetic event in the MAP kinase-signaling pathway may be sufficient for thyroid cell transformation and tumor development,\" said the study\'s lead author, Kiyohiro Hamatani, Ph.D., laboratory chief, Department of Radiobiology and Molecular Epidemiology at the Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF) in Hiroshima” (Researchers). Embryos and Fetus are very sensitive to ionizing radiations like gamma rays, beta and alpha radiation and when they are exposed even in small volumes it can be very dangerous. When these kids are born they are usually diagnosed with birth defects commonly in the brain, malformation, stunted growth, impaired brain functions and carcinogenesis (cancer formation) like Leukeamia. You can’t be fully safe from the exposure to radiation but you can still protect yourself. Even if the radioactive particles are non-ionizing or ionizing it can still pose a health risk.
Pollution greatly affects the planet and what\'s in it but air pollution particles are the most recognized ones due to their adverse effect on health and the population. In developing countries like America there is no doubt that pollution has taken a huge toll on people\'s physical health. VOCs in the air leads to a destruction in the earth\'s ozone layer and therefore starts a greater risk of skin cancer, 6 out of 10 causes of death in the world listed by WHO was mostly occupied by respiratory diseases caused by air pollutants according to the chat above (The top). Some harmful gases are also moving in the air as a form of an odourless gas to cause a mutation or disruption in our DNA. In the 1850s through 1990s or thereabout people died from this pollution because they had little knowledge of what it was and how to protect them like a trend that was created in Donora, Pa. where there was an extreme haze. Due to this incident in Donora, Pa. in 1948 people began to take steps to reduce these occurrences and states passed legislations and later on the clean air act was created. This incident primed the world and health organizations to push forward and investigate. Due to this people are still alive and the planet still exists 65 years later. Although many efforts have been made to reduce air pollution and stop bad occurrences air pollution still increases in a way and if this continues then there would be no earth and everyone would die off due to climate change, rising sea levels, ozone layer depletion, and other factors. We might not be fully liberated from air pollution but before you do something think about the after effect.

Works Cited

  • “Air Pollution Reduces Global Life Expectancy by Nearly Two Years.” University of Chicago News, 19 Nov. 2018,
  • “Burden of Cigarette Use in the U.S.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23 Mar. 2020. Web. 1 Apr. 2020.
  • Cheek, Dennis W. \"Atomic Bomb.\" Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics, edited by Carl Mitcham, vol. 1, Macmillan Reference USA, 2005, pp. 134-137. Gale In Context: High School, Accessed 27 Feb. 2020.
  • Clay, Karen, and Nicholas Z. Muller. “Recent Increases in Air Pollution: Evidence and Implications for Mortality.” NBER. N.p., 17 Oct. 2019. Web. 1 Apr. 2020.
  • Davies, Bryan Thomas. \"Waste Gas Treatment.\" Biotechnology: In Context, edited by Brenda Wilmoth Lerner and K. Lee Lerner, Gale, 2012. In Context Series. Gale In Context: High School, Accessed 27 Feb. 2020.
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  • “NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms.” National Cancer Institute,
  • Newton, David E. “Carbon monoxide.” The Gale Encyclopedia of Science, edited by K. Lee Lerner and Brend Wilmoth Lerner, 5th ed., Gale, 2014. Gale In Context: High School, Accessed 24 Feb. 2020.
  • \"Researchers discover atomic bomb effect results in adult-onset thyroid cancer.\" NewsRx Health, 21 Sept. 2008, p. 67. Gale In Context: High School, Accessed 8 Mar. 2020.
  • “Smoking in America: Why More Americans Are Kicking the Habit.”, American Heart Association News, 30 Aug. 2018,
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  • Walsh, J.A. “Disease Problems in the Third World.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1989,

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Physical health effects on human health caused by air pollluntants. (2021, Oct 31). Retrieved from

Physical health effects on human health caused by air pollluntants
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