Air pollution: Relationship with Human Health

Air pollution is defined as a mixture of solid and gaseous particles into the air which has harmful or poisonous effects. Air pollution has been an area of growing importance in the last few decades, the response from the public and world leaders has been good and efforts have been made to decrease air pollution.

However decreasing air pollution is not as simple as it sounds, the main causes of pollution are combustion in the industry, vehicle emissions, agriculture side effects, deforestation, and many more. Pollution is also a big factor in human health, long and short-term exposure to air suspended toxicants has different toxicological impacts on humans including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, neuropsychiatric complications, skin diseases, and long-term chronic diseases such as cancer. The Lancet researched two important categories of air pollution, “indoor (household) and outdoor (ambient).

Household pollution concerns people who mostly use solid fuels, such as coal, wood, or charcoal. 4·3 million people die annually from household air pollution, around 3·3 million of whom live in Asia. The major causes of these deaths are stroke, ischaemic heart disease, chronic and acute lung disease, and lung cancer. WHO estimates that 3·7 million people die annually from ambient air pollution. Most of whom (2·6 million) live in Asia. The ranking of causes of deaths remains broadly similar. Most of those at risk of ambient pollution live in urban settings.” (The Lancet, 2016)

What is particulate matter in Air Pollution and why is it important?

Particulate Matter is a mixture of solid and liquid particles that are in the air. These are in three categories coarse, fine and ultrafine particles. Coarse particles have a diameter of 2.5 micrometres to 10 micrometres. Dust, spores, and pollen are some examples. PM2.5 refers to particles that have diameter less than 2.5 micrometres and remain suspended for longer. (Fuzzi et al., 2015) Some particles are more dangerous than others. Particles such as dust, soot, dirt or smoke, are large or dark enough to be visible. But the most damaging pollution particles are minuscule particles, PM10 and PM2.5. PM2.5 particles are invisible to the naked eye and small enough to pass through the lungs, into the bloodstream, and into your organs.

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