Smog To Suffering: Link Between Pollution And Respiratory Diseases

Air pollutants are linked to respiratory health issues: What sources are responsible for their release into the atmosphere?

The combustion of fossil fuels or industrial operations releases the colourless gases sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. Both substances can harm the lungs and airways, aggravating cardiovascular illnesses in people who already have them. Another possibility for the cause and effect of asthma is nitrogen dioxide. In addition, several specific air pollutants have been extensively linked to respiratory issues, exacerbating conditions and increasing the risk of respiratory infections. Therefore, Dr Anjali Khalane, Consultant pulmonologist and sleep disorders specialist, Ruby Hall Clinic, Hinjewadi, Puneunderstand the sources responsible for releasing these pollutants into the atmosphere are essential for effective mitigation strategies.

  1. Ozone (O3): Ozone, a secondary pollutant formed by volatile organic compounds, can cause respiratory distress. Prolonged exposure to high ozone levels can lead to inflammation, reduced lung function, and increased respiratory symptoms. Industrial emissions, vehicle exhaust, and chemical solvents contribute to ozone formation.
  2. Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2): NO2, primarily emitted by burning fossil fuels, is a crucial pollutant associated with respiratory problems. It irritates the airways, increases susceptibility to respiratory infections, and worsens asthma symptoms. Traffic-related emissions, power plants, and industrial processes are primary sources of NO2.
  3. Sulfur Dioxide (SO2): SO2 is primarily released by burning fossil fuels, particularly in power plants and industrial processes. Exposure to high levels of SO2 can irritate the respiratory system, trigger asthma attacks, and contribute to developing respiratory diseases.
  4. Particulate Matter (PM):Pollutants can penetrate the respiratory system, leading to inflammation, decreased lung function, and respiratory symptoms. Sources include vehicle emissions, industrial activities, construction sites, and biomass burning.

In What Ways Do Air Pollution And Respiratory Infections Affect The Elderly?

Young children exposed to air pollution have slower lung growth, slower brain development, and a higher chance of developing illnesses like asthma. People's bodies become less capable of making up for environmental risks as they age. The most vulnerable groups are infants, young children, and older people. For instance, air pollution can raise the risk of pneumonia, killing almost a million children under five each year, making it the leading cause of mortality worldwide. Air pollution's short- and long-term effects on the human body harm health. Studies associating air pollution have shown to lower cognitive performance in older adults and that bad air quality is particularly detrimental to children who appear to be most at risk.

How Does Long-Term Exposure To Air Pollution Contribute To Developing And Progressing Chronic Respiratory Conditions?

Pollutant components and sources vary based on nation, season, and time, affecting the health effects of air pollution. Therefore, people, particularly those who suffer from COPD, should take precautions, including limiting their outdoor time and using masks when necessary. In addition, people should utilise clean fuels and upgrade their stoves to burn energy more effectively and vent emissions to the outside to reduce interior air pollution.

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