Air pollution—the kind that comes from automobiles, power plants, and industrial activity—is known to cause health problems in humans, including asthma and lung disease, heart attacks and strokes, decreased respiratory function, and even cancer.
But many people don’t realize just how many different ways pollution can harm your body. From diminished fertility to brain damage to genetic mutations, here are five of the most surprising health effects of air pollution you probably didn’t know about.
1. Brain damage:
Exposure to pollution can have serious health effects, including brain damage. Growing up in a polluted environment has been linked to a variety of neurological disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism.
Additionally, research has shown that infants living in polluted areas are more likely to die than those who grow up in cleaner environments.
2. Heart disease:
Air pollution can lead to heart disease. Long-term exposure to particulate matter can lead to thickening of the artery walls, leading to a buildup in plaque, which increases the risk for heart attacks and strokes.
A 2013 study found that 10% of all deaths from heart attacks in the United States are linked to air pollution. Exposure to diesel exhaust fumes may also be linked to an increased risk of developing coronary artery calcification.
It is estimated that 5% – 20% of the death toll from cardiovascular diseases may be due to air pollution .
3. Lung cancer:
The World Health Organization reports that lung cancer is the most common type of cancer in both men and women, with an estimated 1.8 million new cases diagnosed each year.
One study found that people living in an area with high levels of pollution were up to 3 times more likely to develop lung cancer than those who live in less polluted areas.
What’s more, the risk for developing lung cancer increases exponentially with exposure to air pollution.
4. Skin problems:
A study published in the Archives of Dermatology found that populations with greater exposure to polluted environments had a higher prevalence of skin problems. These include:
- Acne vulgaris;
- Contact dermatitis;
- Contact urticaria;
- Seborrheic dermatitis.
A large body of evidence also suggests that pollution can have adverse effects on mental health. In particular, people who are exposed to high levels of air pollution experience elevated levels of anxiety and depression.
Researchers at Columbia University looked at data from more than 500,000 Americans and found that those who live near highly trafficked roads were 21% more likely to develop depressive symptoms and 16% more likely to develop anxiety disorders than those living away from major roadways.
5. Birth defects:
Birth defects are the most common health effect of pollution, with the World Health Organization estimating that 7% to 17% of all birth defects can be attributed to environmental factors.
A study in New Delhi, India found that babies born to mothers living within 500 meters from a polluted river were more than twice as likely to have a birth defect compared with those living farther away.
Moreover, there’s evidence that certain types of pollution may be more harmful than others.
Whether you live in the countryside or in the city, you’ve likely experienced some degree of pollution. Unfortunately, pollution has many negative effects on your health—ranging from minor to life-threatening—that aren’t always easy to detect at first glance. The above mentioned five surprising health effects of pollution can give you an idea of the dangers that you and your loved ones are facing each day, so that you can protect yourselves accordingly.
Air pollution can be found in the air we breathe and has been proven to cause lung disease, heart disease, and asthma—and that’s just the beginning of what it can do to your body. Air pollution is one of the leading causes of illness and death in the world today. It’s important to be proactive in reducing air pollution, and here are a few things you can do: 1) Keep car tires at recommended levels 2) Turn off engines when they’re not being used 3) Use natural energy 4) Buy locally grown foods; and 5) Plant trees.