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Health Damage Caused by Air Pollution

With 1 in 9 deaths worldwide linked to air pollution, have you ever wondered how it's impacting your health?

  • Respiratory System
  • Cardiovascular System
  • Nervous System
  • Bones
  • Reproductive System
  • Digestive System
  • Muscular System
  • Skin, hair and eyes
  • AIR POLLUTION TRAVELS STRAIGHT TO YOUR BODY’S RESPIRATORY SYSTEM

    Pollutants are the primary cause of respiratory diseases and exposure to high levels of air pollution can cause significant lung damage.

    Particulates and toxic gases accumulate in your airways causing nasal congestion, sinusitis and irritation of the throat.

    Then they travel to your lungs, damaging lung membrane and causing airway inflammation, which is linked to asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchitis, allergies and lung cancer.

    Between 1990 and 2017, air pollution was associated with 40% of COPD cases, 35,6% of lung infections and 25.8% of lung cancer.

  • AIR POLLUTION CAN DAMAGE YOUR HEART

    Statistics from the UK’s most polluted areas link as many as 36,000 cardiac deaths to air pollution each year. CO, NOx and PM2.5 particles damage the inner walls of the blood vessels, causing them to stiffen and narrow. This in turn restricts blood flow and increases blood pressure and the risk of clotting.

    Further evidence demonstrates how pollutants in the bloodstream can affect the electrical and physical structure of your heart, resulting in heart arrhythmia, cardiac arrest and heart failure. There are on average 124 more heart attacks on days that are considered “High Pollution Days” in the UK, than days when the pollution levels appear lower.

  • AIR POLLUTION CAN CAUSE BRAIN DAMAGE

    Ultrafine particles (UFP or PM0.1) enter your brain through nerve endings inside the nose, then travel to brain tissue and damage neurons. This contamination can lead to cognitive abnormalities, neural death, dementia and brain cancer.

    Studies show that exposure to PM2.5 and NO2 can increase the risk of Dementia by 10% and 30% respectively. Air pollution related strokes account for 50% of Dementia cases. Premature ageing of the brain is also linked to air pollution as dysfunctional circulation, caused by damage to the respiratory system, restricts delivery of nutrients and minerals.

  • AIR POLLUTION CAN CAUSE OSTEOPOROSIS (LOSS OF BONE MASS DENSITY)

    When particulate matter (PM2.5) and carbon monoxide (CO) accumulate in bone marrow, they deplete your body’s supply of vitamin D, nature’s bone-strength champion.

    Air pollutants can reduce the calcium levels in your bones, making them weaker and more brittle. 

    Data from 700,000 medical subjects found a 4-7% annual increase in osteoporosis-related hospital admissions in areas with high pollution. This increase was as high as 20% in people aged 46 and over.

  • AIR POLLUTION AFFECTS FERTILITY

    Women who are exposed to higher levels of carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) have fewer healthy eggs. This is because anti-mullerian hormone secretion, responsible for healthy egg production, is much lower in women living in high pollution areas.

    Studies show that PM2.5 actually changes the structure of sperm and reduces sperm count.

  • AIR POLLUTION WREAKS HAVOC WITH YOUR GUT

    Fine particles and soot can cause long term damage to your digestion. When PM2.5 particles in your blood reach your gut, they kill-off good bacteria and puncture your stomach wall’s protective lining. This has been linked to Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, appendicitis, bowel disease, stomach and prostate cancers.

  • AIR POLLUTION MAKES YOU LOSE MUSCLE AND GAIN FAT

    In a study of elderly people, a strong correlation was found between chronic exposure to PM2.5, reduced muscle mass and slowed metabolism. Muscle mass decreases by up to 5% in people who have been chronically exposed to air pollution. This decrease corresponds to  a higher propensity for fat storage.

  • AIR POLLUTION CAUSES SKIN CANCER, HAIR LOSS AND BLINDNESS

    Harmful air particles such as oxides, ozone, VOC and Particulate Matter damage your skin in several ways: larger particles gather on the skin’s outer layer, clogging pores and triggering acne and brown spots. Smaller particles can go deeper, breaking the skin’s barrier. This makes it susceptible to ageing, inflammation and in some cases cancer. Particulate matter can infiltrate your follicles and actually stop production of beta-catenin, a protein responsible for hair growth. 

    When you breathe in significant amounts of nitrogen oxide (NO) and Ozone (O3) it can get into your bloodstream and travel to the small veins in your eyes, resulting in glaucoma and even blindness over time.

Types or Air Pollution

Based on Air Quality Index Reports by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), here are the six most common air pollutants

  • NITROGEN OXIDES (NOX)
  • PARTICULATE MATTER (PM)
  • SULFUR DIOXIDE (SO2)
  • OZONE (O3)
  • CARBON MONOXIDE (CO)
  • LEAD (PB)
  • NOx Pollution Kills 23,500 PEOPLE IN THE UK EVERY YEAR

    For people that live near busy highways and polluted areas, NOx is the main cause of respiratory disease. Nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) come mainly from car engines - recent data shows that 50% of total emissions in London are caused by road transport. 

    Chronic NOx exposure ruptures and inflames the lining of the lung, which weakens your respiratory immune system. NOx is strongly associated with asthma and bronchitis.

  • PM is now everywhere and it builds-up in our organs

    This makes PM one of the main causes of heart and lung disease, leading to increased hospital admissions and premature deaths. But that is only the tip of the iceberg. Recent research findings point to more and more illnesses that can be attributed to PM in the air and in our bodies, such as cancer and diabetes.

    A report by the WHO revealed that over 91% of cities fail to have PM within tolerable ranges. And research from UCL, showed that PM2.5 pollution in the London tube could be as much as 88 times over the safe limit.

  • Trains, ships, and petroleum refineries contribute to the spread of this deadly gas

    6.5 million tons of SO2 are emitted every year by ship and train diesel engines and through petroleum refining and metal extraction.


    According to Greenpeace, the following countries have intolerable levels of SO2 emissions: the US, India, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, South Africa, Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania.

    According to Greenpeace, countries that have intolerable levels of SO2 emissions, include the US, India, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, South Africa, Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania.

    A clinical study from Brazil revealed that above-average exposure to SO2 for only 7 days increases the risk of mortality from circulatory diseases by 3.6%.

  • OZONE IS POISONOUS IF FORMED AT GROUND LEVEL

    132 million people in the US currently live in areas that don’t meet standard ground-level ozone criteria. 

    Ground-level ozone gradually accumulates into smog, that is usually associated with high-pollution cities. It is more aggressive in summer months, as sunlight accelerates its formation.

    Ozone attacks your lungs’ protective barriers and can cause chronic respiratory complications. Even short exposure can trigger inflammation, asthma and bronchitis.

  • CARBON MONOXIDE CAN POISON YOU IN YOUR HOME

    Carbon monoxide (CO) is generated instead of CO2 when oxygen is limited, often in your car or home appliances. Even short-term exposure can lead to CO poisoning, which deprives your body from oxygen and can cause irreparable brain damage. It is also attributed to: memory problems, loss of concentration, problems with vision and hearing, Parkinsons, coronary heart disease and heart attacks.

  • Lead was used across all industries until the 1970s, when it was found to be poisonous

    Although the use of lead has been reduced in recent decades, the recovery of our planet from industrial lead use is not fast enough and lead pollution remains a serious health threat. Urban soil contains large amounts of lead and it is still used in aviation gasoline and lead-battery manufacture.

    According to Penn State University, 5-10 million children in the US are still exposed to lead suspended in dust. Lead can’t be processed by the human body, so even in small quantities it can cause irreversible effects ranging from brain damage to cancer.