Impact of Urban Air Pollution on Health

Urban air pollution is a major concern of governments, international organizations and people worldwide. It has proven to have a serious impact on human health and the environment.

A variety of air pollutants have major harmful effects on human health and the environment. As a result of these pollutants, air quality is destroying our health. According to a study, air pollution causes around seven million deaths a year worldwide.

The urban population is more prone to suffer from the effects of pollution. In addition, old people and children are particularly vulnerable. Also, people with coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure or lung diseases such as asthma or chronic pulmonary diseases are susceptible to severe health problems from air pollution. Outdoor workers are one of the worst affected people because they suffer from an increased level of pollution intake due to their work which involves being outdoors. Other affected people include pregnant women, sick adults, the elderly and children. Even healthy people like athletes experience health impacts from polluted air. These include breathing difficulties during exercise or outdoor activities.

The immediate health problems due to high air pollution include:

  • Irritation in the eyes, nose and throat
  • Coughing
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue, headaches, nausea
  • Added stress to heart and lungs which must work harder to supply oxygen

Long-term exposure to high air pollution causes health problems that include:

  • Respiratory illness
  • Cardiovascular damage
  • Aggravated ageing of the lungs and decreased lung function
  • Development of diseases such as asthma, bronchitis
  • Shortened life span

According to a study by the World Health Organization, the very air we breathe is growing dangerously polluted. WHO iterates that nine out of ten people breathe polluted air which kills 7 million people every year.As a step forward in the direction of a pollution-free environment, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) which is made up of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and 54 nations, among other agencies, launched the BreatheLife initiative to address the effects of atmospheric pollution on health. Under the program, BreatheLife“aims to mobilize cities and individuals to protect our health and our planet from the effects of air pollution”. The program has also fixed its objective which is to cut the number of deaths linked to air pollution by half before 2030. The actions taken will be local and focused on improving transport, waste management, indoor air quality, energy supply, industry, food and agriculture.

We, as a society can do our bit by opting for pooling service, planting more trees and staying indoors on days when the pollution levels are high. Also, visiting the doctor at the indication of the slightest symptoms that seem to be related to respiration or nausea help in minimizing the effect of pollution due to early detection and timely care.

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