Clean air is a basic precondition of our health. However, most of us living in United States and other developed countries suffer from exposure to many air pollutants that put our health at risk.
Air pollution effects greatly human health, mainly the respiratory and cardiovascular system. The individual reactions to air pollutants vary depending on the type of agent to which people are exposed, the degree of exposure and health conditions, and genetic factor of the person. Air pollutants can cause variety of effects on health, ranging from biochemical and physiological changes to breathing difficulties, cough, and aggravation of respiratory and cardiac disorders. It left untreated, those medical conditions may result in hospitalizations and even premature death.
Air pollution affects our health in different ways from simple to serious problems.
The quality of the air we breathe affects the quality of our health.
Air quality has an impact on the health of our lungs and the entire respiratory system. In addition to oxygen, the air contains other substances such as pollutants, which can be harmful to health. The inhalation of those pollutants may have harmful effects on the lungs and other organs of the body.
The respiratory system is particularly sensitive to air pollutants because it is made up of a mucous membrane covering its internal surface. The lungs are designed to absorb large amounts of air (400 million liters on average over a lifetime) in close contact with the bloodstream and facilitate the transport of oxygen.
The cells of the lung tissue can be damaged by air pollutants such as ozone, metals and free radicals.
Ozone can cause damage to the alveoli - air sac in the lungs where exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide is produced. More specifically, the airway tissues, which contain a large number of bio-activation enzymes, can transform organic pollutants into reactive metabolites, which can cause lung injuries, neuro-behavioral disorders, and cancers possibly including breast cancer.
Air pollutants, once inhaled, are absorbed by the blood and transported to the heart.
A wide range of chemical and biological substances can directly affect the cardiovascular system and lead to structural damages, such as necrosis degenerative and inflammatory reactions.
Some pollutants may also affect contractility of the heart. If these functional changes are sufficiently serious, they can cause fatal arrhythmias.
The changes in the organic systems may also have effects on the endocrine system.
Some cytokines released by other inflamed organs (due to air pollutants) may also produce negative effects on the cardio-vascular, including the reduction of the mechanical performance and metabolic efficiency of the heart and blood vessels.