The dangers of air pollution
The risks of air pollution contribute to 6.5 million deaths annually. Air pollution is responsible for a host of negative health effects including various types of cancer, respiratory diseases, and other illnesses. It is now defined as the world’s leading environmental cause of premature death1. Read on below to learn more about the risks of air pollution exposure and how you can protect yourself.
What is air pollution?
Air pollution can be a result of both anthropogenic (human-made) and natural sources. Simply put, it is when hazardous substances are released into and suspended in the air and cause negative health effects.
Anthropogenic sources of air pollution can cause three types of air pollution: fine particle, chemical, and biological. Fine particle air pollution is caused by vehicle emissions, by-products of industrial manufacturing and refineries, emissions created by using natural gas or wood to heat homes, power generation (particularly coal-fuelled power plants), and other man-made fumes that are released into the air. Chemical air pollution is caused by volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are released into the air by everyday products like paints, solvents, DIY projects, formaldehyde, and pesticides. Biological air pollution is caused by infectious agents like microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, and toxins), allergens like pollen and pet dander, and mould and mildew.
Natural sources of air pollution may include wildfire smoke (often caused by humans), volcanic eruption gas and ash, and small quantities of gases like methane that come from decomposing soil matter2.
For more on the sources of air pollution, refer to our article here.
What are the dangers of air pollution?
Exposure to air pollution can lead to a host of illnesses and diseases including increased hospitalisation risk, cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease (including asthma, COPD, pulmonary fibrosis, and pneumonia), and premature death. The incidence of allergies is also increased as a result of air pollution. Furthermore, recent studies have shown that air pollution can impact mental health, causing higher rates of depression, anxiety, and fatigue3. The groups at the highest risk include infants and children, the elderly, immunocompromised individuals, and pregnant women, but anyone who lives or works in an area with polluted air is at risk of its dangers (which, as mentioned above, is 99% of the world’s population according to the WHO).
A recent study showed that by reducing air pollution levels in particularly polluted cities, the reduction of cancer rates would be as significant as it would be if smoking were eliminated. Reducing air pollution levels in these cities would result in a decrease of 12 different types of cancer, the same types of cancer associated with smoking, including lung, stomach, kidney, cervical, bladder, pancreatic, liver, oral, colon, oesophageal, cancer of the larynx, and acute myeloid leukemia. Doctors estimate that if a smoker stops smoking in a location with significant air pollution, the benefits may be insignificant4.
How we all can reduce our contribution to air pollution
On an individual scale
There are small steps that every one of us can take to reduce the impact we have on the environment, particularly on the air that we breathe. Since most air pollution is a result of human activity like transportation, we can work to reduce our vehicle emissions by cutting back on our vehicle use. Instead of using your car to get around, start carpooling, using public transportation, or, for a totally zero-emission solution, biking or walking to your destinations. If you must use your vehicle, be sure to never leave the engine idling. You can also switch to electric when possible: invest in an electric vehicle and/or replace petrol-consuming equipment such as lawnmowers with electric-powered alternatives. Small things like being conscious of turning off lights when you leave a room can also add up and make a big difference towards reducing your carbon footprint1.
On a national scale
The WHO has set guidelines for the maximum amount of air pollutants we should be emitting. Unfortunately, 99% of the world’s population breathes air that exceeds these guidelines. Countries should work to set caps on industrial emissions and finance more efficient transportation systems that emit less pollutants. Governments should favour renewable energy whenever possible, and they can also work to make clean household fuels accessible and available for everyone1.
Protect your health with an air purifier
The hard truth is that without executing an ambitious plan that pushes for lower air pollution levels on both national and individual levels, air pollution will continue to be a problem, and we will have no choice but to breathe air that could harm our health. Our air quality is ultimately out of our hands. Take control of your air quality by installing an air purifier in your home and office. Eoleaf air purifiers contain some of the most advanced filtration technologies on the market, ensuring that your breathing air will be free of fine particle and chemical pollution (including VOCs), germs (bacteria and viruses), allergens (pollen, dander, and dust), and more.
Let us help you find the right device for your needs and start breathing fresher, cleaner air today.
1 Johnson, A. (2023, February 16). Air pollution more dangerous than previously understood: Here are the biggest health risks and how to reduce it. Forbes. Retrieved February 22, 2023, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/ariannajohnson/2023/02/16/air-pollution-more-dangerous-than-previously-understood-here-are-the-biggest-health-risks-and-how-to-reduce-it/
2 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2023, January 10). Air pollution and your health. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Retrieved February 22, 2023, from https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/air-pollution/index.cfm
3 Armstrong-Carter, E., Fuligni, A. J., Wu, X., Gonzales, N., & Telzer, E. H. (2022). A 28-day, 2-year study reveals that adolescents are more fatigued and distressed on days with Greater No2 and Co Air Pollution. Scientific Reports, 12(1). https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-20602-z
4 Marusic, K. (2023, February 3). In polluted cities, reducing air pollution could lower cancer rates as much as eliminating smoking would. Environmental Health News. Retrieved February 22, 2023, from https://www.ehn.org/air-pollution-cancer-2659365270.html