Air pollution is the talk of the day. Delhi, the capital of India, is in the forefront in the news channels, newspapers as it is in the worst sufferer’s list. India, along with a few more countries is having the worst air pollution in the whole of the world. Air pollution is the fifth most common cause of deaths as of 2017. Air pollution contributes to COPD (Asthma, Bronchitis, Respiratory Allergy), Lung Cancer, Stroke (Paralysis), and Heart disease. In 2017 WHO (World Health Organization), found the world’s top 14 polluted cities are in India. Air pollution killed 1.24 million (12.4 lacs) people in India according to Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Six major air pollutants are:
1.) Particulate Matter – 2.5 micron (PM2.5) and 10micron (PM10) size
2.) Ozone (O3)
3.) Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
4.) Carbon Monoxide (CO)
5.) Sulphur Dioxide (SO2)
6.) Ammonia (NH3)
The most important of these is PM2.5. The major components of PM are Sulfates, Nitrates, Ammonia, Sodium Chloride, Black Carbon, dust, water etc. It has solids and liquid particles of organic and inorganic origin. They are so light that they remain suspended in the air. Particles more than 2.5 until 10-micron size get stopped by the lungs but smaller than 2.5 Micron can pass the lungs and enter the blood. From the blood, they can spread to the whole of the body and are more harmful. Air quality measurements usually consider PM2.5 concentrations per cubic meter of air volume. In India and few other countries, AQI or Air Quality Index is used to measure air pollution.
Causes of Air Pollution:
1.) Air pollution due to Vehicles – About 9 percent of India’s emissions were from transportation (like cars, trains, two-wheelers, aeroplanes, others). Vehicles are the cause of 28 per cent of PM2.5 levels in cities.
2.) Industrial activities like mining, manufacture of cement, ceramic and bricks, and smelting.
3.) Construction – buildings, mall, roads, factories are also a big source of pollution.
4.) Combustion of fossil fuels, like coal and oil for electricity and road transport, producing air pollutants like nitrogen and sulfur dioxide.
5.) Emissions from industries and factories.
6.) Agricultural activities, due to the use of pesticides, insecticides and fertilizers that emits harmful chemicals
7.) Domestic sources like household cleaning products and paints contain toxic chemicals that are released in the air.
Effects of Air pollution on health:
1.) Breathing polluted air puts you at a higher risk for asthma and other respiratory diseases.
2.) Air pollutants are mostly carcinogens and living in a polluted area can put people at risk of Cancer.
3.) Coughing and wheezing are common symptoms observed on inhalation of polluted air.
4.) Damages the immune system, endocrine, and reproductive systems.
5.) The toxic chemicals released into the air settle into plants and water sources. Animals eat contaminated plants and drink the water. The poison then travels up the food chain – to us.
6.) Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat.
7.) Harm to liver, spleen, and blood.
8.) Nervous system damage.
Air Pollution Leads to Heart Disease:
Although Air Pollution was not included in the list of “Risk Factors” for heart disease – now it is agreed that it is probably the fifth cause of heart disease after Diet, Blood pressure, Diabetes and tobacco. This is especially for those places where the level of air pollution is high. The Particulate Matters (PM2.5) – after entering the circulation reaches the coronary arteries and cause local inflammation of the inside wall. This increase the chances of Heart Attack. The polluted air also contains Free Radicals – which leads to Oxidative stress (Oxidation of LDL Cholesterol). This also contributes to more speed of atherosclerosis.