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Diseases Caused by Air Pollution

Air pollution is linked to various health issues, and understanding the diseases it can cause sheds light on the significant impact of environmental factors on public health.

  • 28 Nov 2023
  • 3 min read

Air contaminated by any chemical, biological, or physical agent to alter its natural characteristics is called polluted air. Air pollution is a mix of gases, tiny particles, and chemicals that damage our health. The principal sources of air pollution are household combustion devices such as stoves and burners, motor vehicles, factories and industrial facilities, and wildfires. Every year, millions of people die prematurely from air pollution diseases. Besides posing severe health risks, air pollution also permanently damages the environment. So, what are the diseases caused by air pollution? How does it affect our bodies? Let's find out.


10 diseases caused by air pollution

Let’s explore in detail the top 10 diseases caused by air pollution.

  • Ischemic heart disease: The arteries get narrower in this condition, reducing blood supply to the heart. The risk of inflammation, oxidative stress, and blood clotting increases.
  • Stroke: The sudden stoppage of blood flow to the brain causes brain damage, which can be fatal. Air pollution increases the risk of stroke by elevating blood pressure and damaging the blood vessels.
  • COPD: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and makes breathing difficult. Air pollution can worsen COPD by irritating the airways, causing inflammation, and impeding lung function.
  • Lung cancer: Air pollution can increase the risk of lung cancer by exposing the lungs to cancer-causing materials, such as tiny particles, ozone, and benzene.
  • Acute lower respiratory infections (ALRI): These are infections in the lower respiratory system and include pneumonia and bronchiolitis. ALRI is common in kids and weakens the immune system, exposing kids to viruses and bacteria, and impeding lung growth.
  • Asthma: This problem narrows the airways, leading to excessive mucus production. Asthma causes wheezing, coughing, a tight chest, and trouble breathing. Air pollution can trigger asthma by irritating the airways, causing inflammation, and making the body more sensitive to allergens.
  • Mesothelioma: This rare cancer attacks the lining of the lungs, chest, belly, heart, and other internal organs. Mesothelioma comes from overexposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring fibrous mineral.
  • Leukaemia: This cancer affects the blood cells, causing anaemia, bleeding, infections, and damage to the organs. Air pollution can aggravate the risk of leukaemia by exposing blood cells to volatile chemicals, tobacco smoke, and industry fumes.
  • Neurological disorders: Some studies suggest that breathing in polluted air might be linked to brain problems, including Alzheimer's disease and issues with memory and thinking.
  • Congenital disabilities: Air pollution can raise the risk of birth problems by messing with the baby's growth, causing genetic or hormone issues.

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Air pollution can cause an extensive range of disorders and diseases, from mild irritation of the eyes, nose, mouth, and throat to COPD, lung cancer, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and more. Further, air pollution damages the environment and the climate by contributing to global warming, acid rain, smog formation, and biodiversity loss. We can all do our bit to arrest this frightening phenomenon by caring for plants, planting more trees, reducing energy usage, driving our cars less, etc.

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