It is “potentially affecting every organ in the body”, researchers from the Forum of International Respiratory Societies wrote in the two-part review, published in their journal Chest.
Ultrafine particles are small enough to penetrate the lungs into bloodstream. These particles are then transported throughout the body to all other vital organs.
WHO has called air pollution the “silent killer”. It can harm us when it accumulates in the air in high enough concentrations. More than 90% of the global population is enduring toxic outdoor air. New analysis indicates air pollution causes 790,000 premature deaths every year in Europe and 8.8 million worldwide. But the risks associated with air pollution towards health is often neglected or underestimated by the vast majority. Many doctors and parents are unaware of this wide-ranging damage.
Prof Dean Schraufnagel, at the University of Illinois at Chicago , who led the reviews said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if almost every organ was affected. If something is missing [from the review] it is probably because there was no research yet.”
Potential Health Effects of Air Pollution
- Breathing problems: asthma, emphysema, lung cancer, chronic laryngitis
- Increase the risk of heart attacks as arteries narrow and muscles weaken
- Brain and mind: strokes, dementia and reduced intelligence
- Abdominal organs: kidney cancer, bladder cancer, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, fatty liver disease
- Skin ageing, hives and brittle bones
- Poor sleep
- Systemic inflammation
- Reproduction: Fertility is reduced and miscarriages increased
- Low birthweights for babies, infant health problems
- Stunted lungs, childhood obesity, leukemia and mental health problems
More than 70,000 studies have already been conducted to investigate the health effects of air pollution, but scientists are just beginning to unravel the many ways it increases mortality rates.
“The best way to reduce exposure is to control it as its source.” said Schraufnagel. The main causes of air pollution include burning fossil fuels to generate electricity, heat homes and power transport.
“We need to work on these factors in a very dramatic way,” said Dr Maria Neira, WHO director of public and environmental health. “We are probably the first generation in history to be exposed to such a high level of pollution. People will say that in London or other places it was worse 100 years ago, but now we are talking about an incredible number of exposed for a long time.”
- Read the original article “Revealed: air pollution may be damaging ‘every organ in the body’” on the Guardian with more details of widespread effects on human health
- Review on Chest Journal: Air Pollution and Noncommunicable Diseases
- Sign Petition against the Government Proposal to Increase PM2.5’s allowable exceedances from 9 times to 35 times a year
- Let’s Beat Air Pollution – Take Action on World Environment Day
- Project Matter – A group of Student Building a School Network for Air Monitoring