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How do PM and Ozone affect our Health?

An image of a fogged city view.

How do PM and Ozone affect our Health?

One of the biggest, most underrated blessings in life is the ability to breathe freely and abundantly. The second most underrated blessing is to have access to clean air. Unfortunately, both these fundamental blessings have taken a serious hit following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. Additionally, India has repeated and infamously made a consistent spot in being one of the most polluted countries of the world. 

With extremely high toxins in the air, many cities in India, or maybe even the entire country on the whole, are exposed to pollution that is an alarming 5.5 times higher than what is suggested by the W.H.O. (World Health Organization). And according to recent studies, the most lethal source of this toxic air pollution containing PM2.5, is mainly from low-income households, who don’t have access to cooking stoves and are required to burn wood, fuels, or cow dung to cook their food.

In this article, we’re going to shed some light on how air quality affects our health, especially in a country like India! So, without further ado, let’s look into the many ways air pollution can affect our health:

How does Air quality affect health?

When we think about air pollution, we often picture heavy traffic jams, emission of carbon monoxide, construction sites or burning of trees, tyres and garbage. But shockingly enough, our indoor air may also be equally or even more polluted than outdoors. This mainly occurs from the spread of mould during rainy seasons or water damages, and other factors like pollens, kitchen smoke, cigarette smoke, dust mites, radon, or animal dander (pets).
Unfortunately, this means that we are, subconsciously, breathing impure air 24×7. This constant inhalation of impure air gives rise to many health concerns which especially affects young children and older individuals or people with respiratory or cardiovascular problems.
PM and Ozone
Some health complications that arise from short-term or long-term exposure to air pollution are as follows:
  • Short term effects of exposure to high levels of air pollution:
  1. Irritation of eyes, throat, nose or skin.
  2. Cell damage of respiratory organs.
  3. Headaches and nausea.
  4. Overload on the heart and lungs to compensate for lack of oxygen.
  5. Worsening of respiratory and cardiovascular problems.
  6. Increased chances of asthma, pneumonia and bronchitis.
  • Long term effects prolonged exposure to air pollution:
  1. Decreased lung function.
  2. Increased chances of Cancer, Emphysema, Tumours and Neurological disorders
  3. Premature aging of the lungs.
  4. Damage to many vital organs like kidneys, liver and brain.
  5. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  • Health complications from Particulate Matter (PM):

Particulate matter or ‘particle pollution’ is a mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets that are larger than 0.1 mm and smaller than 2.5 mm. Particle pollution is made up of many components that include nitrates and sulphates, metals, organic chemicals, and other particles. Since these particles are so minute in size, it is particularly difficult to eliminate them from our atmosphere. Inhaling these fine particles for an increased period of time may cause the following health concerns:

  1. Increased chances of chronic respiratory illness in children
  2. Increased chances of chronic bronchitis.
  3. Irregular heartbeats leading to minor heart attacks
  4. Worsening of asthma and other pulmonary illnesses
  5. Difficulty breathing or irritation in the airways
  6. Premature death, especially from lung damage
  • Health complications from Ground-Level Ozone:

Ground level ozone
develops when the sun’s ultraviolet rays come in contact with Volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) and Nitrogen oxides (NOx). The highest levels of Ground level Ozone are most notable in the afternoon and early evening hours especially during peak summers. These pollutants primarily come from automobiles and cause the following health concerns:

  1. Dry cough, dry throat and wheezing
  2. Effects the body’s ability to resist infections
  3. Reduced lung function
  4. Worsening of existing pulmonary diseases.
  5. Fatigue
As lightly as we have taken it, air pollution is easily one of the most serious environmental concerns that directly affects humans. It is absolutely vital to reflect and take the necessary measure to improve our air quality and provide cleaner, pollutant-free air for our generations to come.

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