Pollution can have a very serious effect on your health. One of the most dangerous is its effects on the functioning of the lungs. Low lying ozone is the main component of smog. It is formed through a chemical reaction resulting through the interaction of sunlight with particulates (soot) emitted from gasoline vapors, power plants dust, and motor vehicle exhaust.
Understanding Outdoor Pollution
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is one of a group of highly reactive gases. It is known to be a result of emissions from various off-road equipment, trucks, cars, and buses. As per the instructions released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), this compound interacts with moisture, ammonia, and other compounds to form minuscule particles.
These tiny particles can penetrate deeply into sensitive parts of the lungs to worsen their ability to function. It triggers respiratory diseases such as bronchitis and emphysema and even aggravates an existing heart disease resulting in hospitalization and premature death.
Another harmful gas, carbon monoxide (CO) is odorless and colorless, created when carbon in fuel is not completely burned. Very high levels of CO are common in regions with heavy traffic congestion. CO is a major component of the exhaust of the motor vehicle, which attributes to about 56 percent of all CO emissions. Some of the other major sources of this gas include wood, gas stoves, emissions from factories and cigarette smoke.
Burning of fuels that comprise of sulfur such as coal, oil etc., emit sulfur dioxide gases. Extraction of metals from ore also forms the gas. These are known to react with other pollutants and can produce great harm to health.
Impact of Outdoor Pollution on Lungs
Effects of outdoor pollution are seen on lung functioning. According to health experts, it is an excellent operative indicator of the impact of air pollution. Excessive amounts of ozone in the air are harmful to breathe. These can make an aggressive attack on lung tissue by reacting with it.
The air we normally breathe consist of particle pollution (a blend of very small solid and liquid particles) formed by various mechanical and chemical processes such as burning fossil fuels, construction of buildings etc. Tiny particles get trapped into your lungs and interfere in lung function causing incessant coughing, wheezing, inflammation of lung tissue etc. All of these side effects can be experienced even with short-term exposure. According to reports, long-term exposure to particle pollution can also result in lung cancer or even death.
According to a recent report released by the World Health Organization (WHO), over 2 million premature deaths occur in India annually due to outdoor pollution. The figure accounts to around 25% of the deaths due to poor air quality worldwide.
Air pollution has also been termed as a ‘silent public health emergency’ by the WHO.
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How to Minimize Exposure to Outdoor Pollution?
- Use public transport as far as possible or carpool to minimize emissions of harmful gases.
- Maintain your vehicle in good shape.
- Avoid burning crops, leaves, or trash.
- Restrict physical activity outdoors.
- Consume a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables to cut down swelling and irritation in the lungs.