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Air Pollution: Impact On Respiratory Disease

Raina Rahul Agarwal 24 Feb, 2023 Health & Fitness No Comments
Air Pollution


Air pollution has been a global health threat because millions of deaths occur due to air pollution every year. According to WHO in 2016 4.2 million deaths occurred due to air pollution. Air pollution is emerging as a critical concern in human health because it is the major cause of the origin of respiratory disease. These respiratory diseases invade children and adults due to prenatal or perinatal exposure to air pollution. Air pollution is linked with acute and chronic diseases such as lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cardiovascular diseases. WHO estimated 16% of lung cancer deaths, 25% of (COPD) deaths and about 17% of ischaemic heart disease and stroke and about 26 % of respiratory infection deaths occurred due to air pollution.

What Is Air Pollution

Air pollution is the release of pollutants into the air that are detrimental to human health. It is a complex of solid and gas particles in the air. Chemicals from industries, households combustion devices, and car emissions are the sources of air pollution. Air pollution has chemical and physical characteristics depending upon the source of origin. Pollutants of health concern include particulate matter, carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide. Ozone is considered a major part of air pollution in cities. When ozone forms air pollution it is called smog.

Air Pollution

Earth’s climate and ecosystem are associated with the quality of air. Combustion of fossil fuels is also a source of the greenhouse. There are types of air pollution that affect our respiratory system:

Ozone Smog:

Ozone is considered a major part of air pollution in cities. When ozone forms air pollution it is called smog. It is formed by a chemical reaction between the volatile organic compound and nitrogen oxides in the presence of sunlight. It can reduce lung capacity and disturb the airways. Nitrogen dioxides can cause asthma or COPD.

Fine particulate matter:

It is a tiny particle or droplet in the air usually a byproduct of combustion. e.g auto diesel exhaust, power plant emission or wood smoke. It can damage the airways.

Air pollution

Sulphur Dioxide:

It is a gas that can irritate the lining of airways, particularly in asthma patients.

Respiratory Infection: 

The negative effect of air pollution has been shown in children especially. High concentration of air pollution usually affects urban cities.

Acute Effects:

People who are affected by high concentrations of air pollution may have acute symptoms. These symptoms are:

  1. Irritate airways
  2. Dyspnea (Shortness of breath)
  3. Wheezing

Chronic Effects:

Studies show that chronic exposure to air pollution increases the incidence of lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cancer.

Based on epidemiological research in 2013 World Health Organization (WHO) declared that air pollution was carcinogenic to humans.

How Does Air Pollution Affect the Human Body:

The bronchopulmonary tract has multiple layers for protection e.g. mucosal cilia and air-blood barrier. Air pollutant has the ability to pass through lung tissue depending on the size and chemical nature of air pollutants. The ultrafine particles are capable of translocation through blood circulation to body organs and tissues such as the liver and placenta tissue.

When a person breathes air pollutant enters and irritates the airways and it leads to shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, asthma and chest pain, Exposure to air pollution may put a healthy man at risk of lung cancer, heart attack and stroke.

Impact Of Air Pollution On Asthma And COPD

Both indoor and outdoor air pollutant affects the human body. It includes O3, NO2, CO, SO2, PM10, PM2.5, dust mites, pollen, pet dander and smoke. The pollutants contribute to a severe allergic response. Air pollution is one of the major causes that is associated with the development of allergic respiratory disease. This particulate matter mainly originates from the traffic and burning of fuels such as coal, gasoline and diesel. Diesel emission is the major source of origin of air particulate matter in urban cities. Exposure to diesel-emission and airborne allergens increases allergen-specific IgE levels, the severity of asthma, inflammation and airway hyperresponsiveness.

Air Pollution

Impact Of Air Pollution On Lung Cancer

Lung cancer can also be the result of air pollution. According to International Agency For Research On Cancer WHO officially declared that outdoor pollution is a group-1 carcinogen. When we breathe small particles found in the air can be trapped in the lungs. The formation of the particles in the lungs can damage o the cells of the lungs and leads to inflammation. Studies showed that long-term exposure to air pollution can cause DNA damage, mutation and altered gene expression.

Air Pollution In pregnancy Disorder

Ambient air pollution exposure can be a cause of pregnancy disorder. The harmful effects of air pollution exposure have been shown during pregnancy for different birth outcomes: higher infant mortality, lower birth weight, impaired lung development, increased later respiratory morbidity and early alterations in immune development.


Air pollution is a major environment-related threat to human health. It is a major risk factor for children and also a major risk factor for acute and chronic respiratory disease. Air pollutants affect respiratory disease, birth defects, heart attack, cancer, and developmental disabilities in children. To prevent this problem we need to follow the government rule and increase awareness among the people.



Raina Rahul Agarwal

A Non-Medical Scientist, BSL-2 Lab, Mirzapur

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