3rd, March 2013
Air pollution is common in various cities and affects a larger number of people, since this occurs more frequently in the environment. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) notes that air pollution occurs everywhere, but greatly affects city dwellers. The major types of air pollution identified by ATSDR include gaseous pollutants, the greenhouse effect, acid rain, damage to Ozone layer, climatic effects, and particulate matter. In addition, the ATSDR notes the effects of air pollution on humans, which are negative, including heart attack and lung damage. However, children and the elderly people are more vulnerable to air pollution. Nonetheless, anyone can be affected when they inhale the toxic substances in the air or take food or water that is contaminated with these toxins (ATSDR, 2009).
In 2011, the American Lung Association reported that nearly all major cities in the USA are affected by air pollution, and the toxic air in these cities poses a health challenge to the cities’ population. More than half of the American population is exposed to toxic air pollution in their surrounding environment. Air pollution occurs through many ways. The most common ways include emissions from factories and factories. Additionally, air pollutants exist in liquid, gas, and solid forms and most of these occur because of human activity. Major health effects of air pollution include respiratory diseases and heart diseases (Rogers, 2011).
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes only six main air pollutants, which are common in the whole of the U.S.A. These include Lead, Sulphur Dioxide, Ozone, particulate matter, Nitrogen Dioxides, and Carbon Monoxide. However, particulate matter are more common compared to the other five air pollutants. These affect humans and the environment in an adverse way. Mainly, people affected by air pollution will suffer from various respiratory diseases, lung and heart diseases, and in extreme cases, might succumb to premature death (EPA, 2012).
According to EPA (2012), the nature of Ozone determines its influence on humans and the environment. Good Ozone occurs naturally, and protects the environment form harmful UV rays. This layer is found in the earth’s stratosphere. On the other hand, bad ozone is the air pollutant, and forms a layer closer to the earth’s surface. The bad Ozone is composed of exhaust fumes from automobile, emissions from industries, and chemical solvents, among others. This layer resembles smog covering most cities in the U.S.A. Particulate matter comprises both tiny solid and liquid particles in the air. These can be metallic, soil, or dust particles and particles, which are acidic in nature. These particles are inhalable by humans, and settle in the lungs.
On the other hand, Carbon Monoxide is a toxic gas emitted from automobiles and combustion process. Production of CO utilizes Oxygen, thus reducing amount of Oxygen in the environment. If inhaled, a person might experience insufficient Oxygen in their body. In addition, Nitrogen Monoxide gas is a toxic gas produced through high-temperature combustion, and forms part of the bad Ozone. Furthermore, Sulphur Dioxide is a toxic chemical compound produced by industries, volcanic action, and power plants. This too forms part of the bad Ozone, and affects the human respiratory system in an adverse manner. Finally, Lead in most manufactured products is toxic. However, Lead smelters are responsible for most of the Lead emissions today (EPA, 2012).
Each source of air pollution, including ozone layer, Sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, among others have a unique effect on the body and health of individuals, which are observable after a few days or several weeks following exposure to air pollution. In addition, air pollution causes invisibility, in most cities of the U.S., which poses a challenge to those driving on the roads. Some of the health effects of air pollution include coughs, headache, malaise, conjuvital irritation, and heart and lung disease, among others (Dickey, 2009).
So far, air pollution is identified as a threat to human health. Different organizations have called and advocated for measures to reduce the impact of air pollution on human health, and eradicate air pollution all together, in order to safeguard the environment and human life. These have all agreed that air pollution leads to health complications in human beings. Most of the health threats that are identified are in the form of respiratory diseases, including lung and heart diseases. In addition, these agree on the different forms of air pollution, which include Lead, Sulphur Dioxide, bad Ozone, particulate matter, Nitrogen Dioxides, and Carbon Monoxide, which affect one when they are inhaled or taken in contaminated food or water.
On the contrary, a number of scientific researchers in United Kingdom have argued that air pollution might not be as dangerous to human health, as modern researchers posit. These researchers from Glasgow University and the University of Edinburgh used the scenario of air pollution in Canada as a basis for their argument. In Canada, air pollution was worse in the 1970’s than it is today. Therefore, these have reasoned that the effects of air pollution in the 1970’s should have been worse than the effects experienced today. Judging from past records, in the 1970’s and other consequent years, there was no increased hospitalization experienced due to air pollution. Therefore, these researchers have deduced that increased air pollution does not result in increased hospitalization of people due to lung and heart disease (Gorman, 2010). According to these researchers therefore, Carbon dioxide and Nitrogen Dioxide in the environment has some positive effects on the lungs, especially in those patients suffering from lung disease. Although this research might raise many controversies, it gives a platform for further research on the issue. This is because, currently, it is widely known that air pollution is harmful to the environment and to the human health, and must be prevented at all cost.
People are exposed to air pollution in different ways. For instance, the sources of Carbon Monoxide exposure include parking lots, traffic tunnels, passenger cars, and busy roads. Particulate matter is found in dust, pollen, and particles from combustions, among others. Bad ozone results from gasoline vapors, consumer products, and Nitrogen Oxides in the air, among others. On the other hand, Sulphur Dioxide results from combustion of fuels composed of Sulphur, metal smelting, and paper manufacturing, among others. Therefore, exposure to these sources of air pollution will make one to experience adverse effects depending on the type of pollutant they are exposed to (Dickey, 2009).
Air pollution is both a chronic and acute chemical threat. This is because it is an amalgamation of various toxic chemicals in the air. Some effects of bad ozone on human health are considered chronic. This leads to different types of chronic respiratory diseases, including asthma. On the other hand, particulate matter has acute effects on health. This leads to restricted activity, which makes one to lose work or school days because of respiratory illnesses. One might also experience asthma exacerbations, bronchitis, and chronic cough among others. However, people more vulnerable to acute illnesses because of air pollution are the elderly people and people suffering from heart and lung diseases. Air pollution is also considered as a carcinogen, since it sometimes results in lung cancer for those people exposed to pollutants such as particulate matter and bad ozone (Dickey, 2009).
When Sulphur Dioxide interacts with different catalysts such as nitrogen dioxide, the process of oxidation occurs, and this results in acidic rain, which is equally harmful to human health, as it also causes respiratory diseases. This is a synergistic effect since acidic rain unlike Sulphur dioxide, will be experienced by many people, therefore, raising the exposure level of the pollutant (Rogers, 2011). Personally, I am more vulnerable to particulate matter, especially dust particles. Exposure to dust causes much sneezing because of my allergy to dust. However, there are no any personal behaviors that increase my risk of being affected by air pollution.
According to the World Health Organization, air pollution results in 4.6 million deaths worldwide (WHO, 2011). On the other hand, the American Lung Association in 2007 reported that more than 60 percent of Americans are exposed to air pollution, as more than 186.1 million Americans live in areas affected by air pollution (RedOrbit, 2009). Nonetheless, a person might be affected by air pollution when they are constantly exposed to pollutants. The consequences of exposure can be observed after a few days or several months, depending on the level of severity of the pollutant. Therefore, there are short and long-term effects of air pollution. Sneezing and coughing are short term effects while lung cancer and other serious respiratory diseases are long-term, since these take a long period to develop, and a long period to cure. Nonetheless, the treatment of effects and diseases resulting from air pollution are both pharmacological and behavioral, with regard to the type of disease and exposure level (Science Daily, 2012).
Different measures can be taken to reduce exposure to pollutants in the air. These include reducing the number of trips taken in a car, using paints and home products that are environmentally safe, eliminating use of stoves and burning wood, stop burning or avoid areas where trees and trash are being burnt, and using air conditioner at home and in school, among others. I am able to determine the chemical threats I face using the reaction of my body. If it makes me sneeze or cough, then it is harmful. Mainly, my allergy for dust can be prevented by avoiding dusty places, and wiping all the surfaces in the house to reduce dust. Before using home products and equipment, it is important to study the safety procedures on the product package. This will help to avoid wrong use of products, which might lead to exposure to the pollutants.
In conclusion, air pollution remains a threat to human health. This is because of the various toxic chemicals in the environment, which settle in the air that humans breathe. When inhaled or taken through contaminated food or water, this is proven to result in various health complications, including lung cancer and other respiratory diseases. This also continues to be a source of death for a large number of people in the world today. Therefore, it is essential that air pollution be put under control. This should be through the collective responsibility of all parties involved. Government agencies must conduct public awareness on air pollution through the media and other channels. Similarly, the authorities at the Indiana University should educate students through seminars and various talks about air pollution. On the other hand, manufacturers should use components that are environmentally friendly to develop their products. In addition, products should be labeled appropriately, including warning against air pollution and the amount of exposure the product presents. All these will help to curb the effects of air pollution on humans.
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). (2009). Air Pollution. Retrieved
Dickey, J. (2009). Air Pollution and Primary Care Medicine. Physicians for Social Responsibility
(PSR). Retrieved from, http://www.psr.org/chapters/boston/health-and-environment/air-pollution-and-primary.html
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (2012). Air Pollution. Retrieved from,
Gorman, L. (2010). Is Air Pollution Harmful to your Health? Maybe Not. National Center for
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Rogers, S. (2011). Common Air Pollutants. Mother Nature Network, 31 May. Retrieved from,
RedOrbit (29 April 2009). 60 percent of Americans Affected by Air Pollution. Retrieved from,
Science Daily (2012). Air Pollution. Retrieved from,
World Health Organization (WHO). (2011). Air Quality and Health. Retrieved from,
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