Air Pollution Harms Every Part of The Body, Finds A Global Review 

An extensive review on air pollution has found that exposure to toxic air may harm every organ of a person’s body. 

Published
Health News
2 min read
Air Pollution claims over 1.2 million lives every year in India according to World Health Organisation.
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World Health Organisation estimates that air pollution kills around 8 million people around the globe every year. The ways in which it impacts the health of the world’s population are beyond count.

An extensive report titled ‘Air Pollution and Noncommunicable Diseases’ elaborates on some of these ways and finds that exposure to toxic air affects almost every part of an individual’s body, signalling the need for active intervention.

The study, reported in the journal Chest, mentions that “air pollution can harm acutely, usually manifested by respiratory or cardiac symptoms, as well as chronically, potentially affecting every organ in the body.”

Air Pollution and Its Effects on the Human Body

In India, over <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(18)30409-1/fulltext">5.5 crore </a>people live their lives struggling to breathe as they battle progressive lung diseases.
In India, over 5.5 crore people live their lives struggling to breathe as they battle progressive lung diseases.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

A report in The Guardian breaks down the findings of the study by enlisting the ways in which exposure to toxic air affects particular parts of the body.

  • Lungs and Heart: There is sufficient evidence to prove the direct link between air pollution and respiratory problems like asthma and lung cancer. The current study, also adds to the list a higher risk of heart attacks because of the weakening of muscles and narrowing of arteries.
  • Brain: Air pollution may cause problems such as strokes, dementia, poor sleep and a negative impact on intelligence. According to Prof Dean Schraufnagel at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who also led the review, ‘systematic inflammation’ is the cause for such issues. The Guardian quotes him,
Immune cells think a [pollution particle] is a bacteria, go after it and try to kill it by releasing enzymes and acids. Those inflammatory proteins spread into the body, affecting the brain, the kidneys, the pancreas and so forth.
  • Abdominal organs: The liver, bladder and the gut (cancers as well as irritable bowel syndrome) may also be affected due to exposure to pollution.
  • Reproduction: Air pollution has caused damage to fertility and reproduction, even affecting the fetuses. Low birth weight, miscarriages, higher risk of childhood obesity and mental health problems are also known consequences. The study states “exposures to air pollutants during the prenatal period and during childhood can have harmful and irreversible effects on the lung and other organ systems.”

A separate section of the review deals with vulnerable populations- people who are more likely to be affected by air pollution. Persons are more vulnerable to air pollution if they have ‘other illnesses or less social support.’

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