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Health Effects of Air Pollutants

Updated: Jul 28, 2021

Air pollution is one of the biggest environmental risks. Each and every one of us can experience health impacts from polluted air including respiratory illness, cancers, eye problems, etc.

Air pollutants can be primary air pollutants or secondary air pollutants. Let us now see the effects of individual air pollutants.

Health Effects of Primary Air Pollutants

Primary air pollutants include oxides of sulfur, carbon, and nitrogen, volatile organic compounds, suspended particulate matter, H₂S, etc.

  • Sulfur Dioxide: Sulfur dioxide is emitted by the burning of fossil fuels. It causes eye irritation, worsens asthma, increased respiratory infections.

  • Carbon Monoxide: Carbon monoxide has a high affinity for hemoglobin than oxygen. So it can readily bind to hemoglobin reducing the oxygen levels in the blood. It can result in headache, dizziness, confusion, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, finally, it may lead to death.

  • Nitrogen Oxides (NO and NO): These are produced by the transportation sector. It causes acute exacerbation of asthma and bronchitis. Also increases the risk of respiratory infection like sore throat, cough. It can also increase the risk of heart disease.

  • Suspended Particulate Matter: Particulate matter is composed of small airborne particles like dust, soot, etc. Coarse particulate matter (PM10) causes nasal irritation and upper respiratory tract infections. Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause asthma, bronchitis, heart attack, strokes, death due to lung disease, and cancer.

Health Effects of Secondary Air Pollutants

Secondary air pollutants consist of ozone(O₃), formaldehyde, peroxyacetyl nitrate, etc. Health effects due to these air pollutants include:

  • Ozone may cause atherosclerosis, asthma, respiratory irritation, chest pain, etc.

  • Formaldehyde inhalation may cause watery eyes, burning sensation of eyes, nose, and throat, cough, wheeze, nausea, skin irritation, etc.

  • Peroxyacetyl nitrate may exacerbate asthma, allergic conditions. It can irritate skin and eyes.

Thank you for not polluting Air! Keep the air clean and protect yourself and others.

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