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Insurance Article

Five Ways in Which Pollution Increases Genetic Risks

December 05 2015
Air pollution can have deadly consequences

Complications that may arise due to prolonged exposure to air pollution

Every day, we receive information that continually warns us about the evils of rising pollution. It creates an illusion that we comprehend the severity of the situation. However, pollution harms all living beings, at a deeper and more permanent molecular level. These lesser-known and more harmful alterations to our genetic code are called mutations. These disastrous changes do not end with you and are passed on over the generations, causing several diseases.

Given here are five categories of mutations, whose occurrences have increased due to various types of pollution:

1. Mutations causing respiratory complications

Air pollution is highly detrimental and an avoidable cause of death, responsible for approximately 4.3 million deaths annually. Air pollutants stem mainly from burning of fossil fuels in automobiles and industries, aerosols and smoke. Many chronic ailments, such as inflammation and asthma, are a result of or aggravated by regular exposure to polluted air. An article by National Research Development Corporation (NRDC) states that the occurrence of asthma has increased by 28% since 2001 due to climate change.


Responsible Pollutants: Carbon Monoxide, Sulphur dioxide, Tobacco Smoke, Aerosols

Diseases Involved Asthma, Inflammation, Pneumonia, Lung Cancer

Treatment Chronic medication, Surgery, Transplant, Chemotherapy

2. Mutations causing reproductive and pre-natal damage

WHO states that pre-term birth complications are a leading cause of death among children. Its occurrence keeps increasing due to consistent rise in chemical and air pollution. DNA molecules have a 60% higher chance of mutation when exposed to air pollution. Exposure to metal ions like methyl mercury, manganese, and arsenic in the water, during pregnancy has been proven to cause serious damages to the brain development of a child, as stated by Harvard School of Medicine. These are responsible for diseases that usually cannot be treated, resulting in lifelong suffering.

Responsible Pollutants: Methyl Mercury, Manganese, and Arsenic
Diseases Involved: Hampered brain development, Miscarriage, Pre-term Births
Treatment: Chronic medical care

3. Mutations caused by increased oxidative stress on DNA

Nowadays, we see the constant promotion of anti-oxidant food and beverages by doctors and dieticians all over the world. These help combat the negative effects of pollution on a cellular level. They nullify one of the most dangerous molecular poisons called reactive oxygen species that harm the cellular replication process and destabilize the regeneration of tissues, even causing inflammations and cell death.

Responsible Pollutants: Gaseous Oxides, Metal ions, Tobacco Smoke
Diseases Involved: Inflammatory Responses, Allergic Responses, Tissue Damage
Treatment: Short-term medical treatment routines, Transplants

4. Mutations due harmful solar exposure

Hazardous components of sunrays like ultraviolet and infrared radiations have been seeping into our atmosphere due to thinning of the ozone layer. Consistent and direct exposure to these radiations causes breakdown of molecules like DNA and RNA. Due to this toxicity, they are the foremost cause of skin cancer around the world. They are also known to cause other relatively less severe effects like alopecia and rapid ageing, apart from skin cancer

Responsible Pollutants: Ultra Violet Radiation, Infrared radiation
Diseases Involved: Skin cancer, Alopecia (severe hair fall), Rapid ageing of the skin
Treatment: Chemotherapy, Nutrient supplements

5. Mutation causing cardio vascular complications

Cardiovascular diseases are the highest cause of death in the human population. Apart from commonplace unhealthy eating habits, they are caused by the increasing introduction of fine particulate matter like metal particles, textile particles, aerosols etc. (PM10 - less than 10 micron) into the atmosphere by various industries, as stated by an epidemiology study by John Hopkins University. The primary damage it causes is chronic cellular inflammation of blood vessels as well as modification to the genes in cells. It leads to fatalities like strokes, heart attacks, arrhythmia etc.

Responsible Pollutants: Metal particles, Textile particles, Aerosols
Diseases Involved: Strokes, Heart attacks, Arrhythmia, Paralysis
Treatment: Surgery, Chronic medical attention, Regular course of medication

A health emergency can occur to anyone, anytime. To reduce unnecessary worries this monsoon, ensure you are prepared with a comprehensive health insurance plan.

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