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Impact of Pollution on Health

May 8, 2019 by

A recent law enacted in London charges motorists over $16 a day to drive into the area if they do not meet specific strict emissions standards. This law in meant to reduce emissions from cars by almost 50% in London.

The majority of the population in London support this law to charge polluting vehicles because air pollution in London is a public health emergency that leads to around 40,000 deaths each year.

Research has shown that in 2015, 9 million premature deaths were a result of pollution, which accounted for 16% of deaths worldwide. Breathing polluted air results in insidious damage beginning in the womb and compounding over one’s lifetime. Over 3% of premature births are caused by air pollution– especially dirt, soot, dust, and smoke. These particulates permeate the body and lead to chronic inflammation, which increases one’s risk of chronic health problems, such as cancer and lung disease.

Exposure to pollution may also lead to low birth weight in babies, intrauterine growth delay, stillbirth, congenital anomalies, and delays in fetal brain growth.
Air can impact unborn babies because pollution particles can enter the placenta and potentially harm the developing fetus.

Particles from pollution don’t have to enter a baby’s body to have a negative impact on their health. Because pollution can impact the placenta, it has a direct effect on the fetus. Air pollution is also very harmful for children, causing respiratory diseases that lead to 543,000 deaths of children under the age of 6 every year. It also leads to asthma in 14% of children worldwide.

Even children living in low-emission zones have a reduced lung capacity, and no improvements are seen even if minor improvements in air quality are made.

Vehicle emissions lead to air pollution, but other factors such as corn, are often-overlooked sources as well. Air pollution that comes from growing corn has been related to 4,300 premature deaths each year in the U.S. — with associates costs reaching up to $64 billion.

Most of the pollution from growing corn comes from the emissions of ammonia from the nitrogen fertilizer, which accounted for about 70% of the deaths. Ammonia is released from nitrogen fertilizers as they break down. Once the ammonia in the air reaches industrial areas, it creates microparticles as it creates a combination with pollution from diesel and petroleum combustion. People living or working near these areas have a higher incidents of disease. The closer people live to factory farms, and the more livestock at the farm, the more lung diseases are revealed. Research has demonstrated that in some densely populated regions, emissions from farming are much more harmful to people’s health than other sources of air pollution.

Researchers have known that soil microbes change nitrogen-based fertilizers into nitrogen oxides, which are then released into the air. However, it has been underestimated the amount of gas that is produced form fertilizer. Also, while researchers thought gas would increase linearly, or remain at 1% of the amount of fertilizer used, they found that the increase in harmful pollution was actually exponential, meaning that it greatly increased with only a small amount of an increase of fertilizer.

In California, crop lands may lead to as much as 51% of nitrogen oxides in the air, especially in places that use man-made nitrogen-based fertilizers. Air pollution has even been linked to diabetes, brain damage, and heart damage. Breathing polluted air is harmful to the health of people of all ages, from infants to adults. While lung function typically declines with age, research shows that air pollution speeds up the decline in lung health. Living in an area with more air pollution has also been linked with Type 2 diabetes in adults and decreased brain function, as well as sleep disturbances.

MRIs have shown evidence that exposure to air pollution negatively impacts brain structure, indicating that higher exposure to pollutants is associated with a reduced total brain volume. The evidence for the effects of exposure to air pollution on the heart in adults is strong. Breathing in polluted air can aggravate existing heart conditions and add to the development of heart disease, resulting in more hospital admissions and an increased number of deaths from heart disease.

TO decrease your exposure to polluted air, you can purify your home’s air and you can eat a diet of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats, which are heart healthy and can protect your cardiovascular system from damage due to air pollution. Vitamins C and E can also improve your health, which can be especially helpful to children suffering from asthma. B vitamins in high doses have shown themselves to completely reverse damage possibly caused by air pollution. Corn can also be created in a more environmentally friendly way in order to reduce pollution.

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