Essay on Air Quality and Environmental Health

Air pollution is one of the greatest problems nowadays because it can cause numerous health problems, especially in urban areas. There was invented special Air Quality Index by EPA to measure the air quality and find out six major air pollutants, which influence our health. The two pollutants, ground-level ozone and airborne particles, endanger our lives greatly. Ground-level ozone can be the reason of such a disease as asthma, and it can easily increase the number of asthma attacks. It happens because ozone reduces lung functions and the person can feel shortness of breath, wheeze or tightness in the chest. It is one of the main irritators of the respiratory system and, as a result, it causes coughing, sore throat and other irrigative feelings.

People who spend a lot of time outdoors or suffer from lung diseases are at greater risk because of ozone. It is possible to avoid or reduce unhealthy exposure to ozone. The more time you spend outdoors, the more are the chances that you will be affected by ozone. You can try to avoid this influence, fro example changing the exertion of your activity from heavy to moderate one. It is also possible to plan activities outdoors in the morning or in the evening because ozone levels are lower at that time.

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Airborne particles are microscopic solids, which can cause serious lung diseases. It happens because these solids because of their extremely small size easily get deep into person’s lungs causing serious consequences. People who suffer from heart or lung diseases are at greater risk of death cases or complications because of airborne particles. From different complications usually suffer children and elderly people. People who are healthy also can be disturbed by airborne particles. The main symptoms are shortness of breath, irritation of nose, eyes or throat, tightness in chest, phlegm and some others. To reduce the influence of particles it is also necessary to minimize the time you spend outdoors. Indoor particles can be reduced with the help of special air cleaners and filters.

Nowadays the consequences of air pollution have become so serious that in the year 1990 there was developed the Clean Air Act by EPA, which sets National Ambient Air Quality Standards for the major air pollutants. Except sulphur oxides and ozone we can also add to this list such pollutants: lead, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter (PM10) and particular matter (PM25). “Units of measure for the standards are parts per million (ppm) by volume, milligrams per cubic meter of air (mg/m3), and micrograms per cubic meter of air (µg/m3)” (Reuters, 2006).

Our atmosphere is filled with sulfur dioxide and smoke in the polluted urban areas, which cause not only different bronchial diseases but also can be the reason of other serious complications. Smog is the reason of the secondary pollutant, PAN (peroxyacetyl nitrate), which, in its turn, causes eye irritation and can lead to numerous eye diseases. There can also increase cases of the heart attack because of the air pollution. Polluted air is characterized by high concentration of carbon monoxide because of great number of cars in urban areas and our heart has to work much harder to get oxygen from the air. At first, it was very difficult to find the reason of increased number of heart attacks and only numerous investigations could do it. It is often difficult to demonstrate that people suffer specifically from air pollution because air pollution is not the only factor that increases diseases. “There is a widespread belief that contemporary air pollutants are involved in the increases in asthma, but the links between asthma and air pollution are probably rather complex and related to a whole range of factors” (World Health Organization, 2003, p. 203).

The roots of health problems which hare connected with the air pollution are very deep and it is not an easy thing to find them. For example, black lung disease, the so-called anthracosis, was found in the lung tissue that was mummified some centuries ago. Nevertheless, nowadays these problems lead to serious concerns because there are more and more complains on polluted environment and health problems, as a result.

Recent researches show that air pollution in urban airs has become one of the reasons of the increased number of cancer cases. “Formaldehyde from insulating foams causes illnesses and adds to concerns about our exposure to a substance that may induce cancer in the long run” (National Research Council, 2001). Such products, as gloves, asbestos or paints may cause the emanation of solvents, which, in their turn, can be the reason of cancer. These components can cause allergic reaction. In simple case these allergies are treated but in extreme cases they can become the reason of death, and the bacterium Legionella is a bright example (cited in United States Environmental Protection Agency).

It goes without saying that nowadays people suffer from a great number of health problems which are closely connected with air pollution. The result of air pollution can be respiratory diseases, for example asthma and many, many others. It is often difficult to find out that the reason of this or that disease is the high rate of air pollution in urban areas because there are a lot of other factors which influence this process.


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