What is Air Pollution?
The Earth is bounded by a shield of air (made up of various gases) called the atmosphere. Without the atmosphere, we will be exposed to intense heat by day and frozen by low temperature at night. Life on earth is made possible because of the atmosphere.
When gas, dust particles, fumes (or smoke) are introduced into the atmosphere, they cause air pollution. This is harmful to humans, animals and plants because the air turns out to be dirty (contaminated or unclean).
Any other gas, particle or odors that distort the natural balance of the atmosphere and cause harm to living things can be called air pollutants.
Sources of air pollution:
- natural sources – wind-blown dust, wildfires, and volcanoes
- area sources – agricultural areas, cities, and wood burning fireplaces
- mobile sources – cars, buses, planes, trucks, and trains.
- stationary sources – power plants, oil refineries, industrial facilities, and factories
Health Effects of Air Pollution
The health risk that people face depends on their current health status, the type of pollutant, its level of concentration, and how long a person has been exposed to the polluted air. Healthy people, when exposed to polluted air can get respiratory irritation or breathing difficulties during exercise or outdoor activities with other pollution related symptoms like watery eyes, coughing, or wheezing occurring.
Air Pollution and High Blood Pressure
A report from the “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention” showed that more than 360000 American deaths in 2013 (That is almost 1,000 deaths each day) included high blood pressure as a primary or contributing cause.
Human beings are at risk of suffering high blood pressure after prolonged exposure to air pollution. Another study was done by the European Study of Cohorts for Air Pollution Effects on 41,072 people living in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Spain to investigate long-term effects of exposure to air pollution in Europe. Information on blood pressure was gathered when the participants joined the study and during a follow-up examination in later years. None had hypertension when they joined the study, but during the follow-up period 6,207 people (15%) reported that they developed hypertension or started to take blood pressure-lowering medications.
High blood pressure is one of the most powerful contributors to heart diseases – It is a silent killer. High blood pressure increases your risk of coronary heart disease and stroke which is why managing exposure to air pollutants is so important and it isn’t noticed immediately most times.
People who are exposed to higher levels of pollution from vehicles are somewhat more likely to have high blood pressure, a known risk factor for heart disease.