Air is all around us and unavoidably effects our health. We need air to live, but many human activities such as driving cars or working at power plants have an inverse effect on air quality. A recent article by Business Insider dived into the various effects air pollution has on our bodies, and some of these are startling.
According to the article, studies conducted in China, Canada, and New York City show that children who breathe poor air are more likely to have difficulties breathing, have asthma, and need academic intervention. Research also found that pregnant women who breathe low-quality air expose their babies to these pollution particles and these mothers have a higher chance of having a preterm birth. Research conducted in California also proved that improving air quality levels raises academic test scores in schools, and another study found that schools which improve air quality inside their classrooms could also improve standardized test performance. These results showcase how vulnerable young minds and bodies are to air pollution.
Our youth are not the only ones affected negatively by air pollution. Adults can experience these types of effects as well, and as Business Insider explains, negative “cognitive effects continue to build up throughout life, with elderly people who breathe bad air more likely to suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s.” This belief is supported by studies in the US, which proved that dementia and cognitive decline rates are steeper in areas with higher air pollution. Research in China supporting these results show how “cognitive impairment associated with air pollution gets worse as people age, with a particularly strong effect on the verbal skills of less-educated men.” Furthermore, scientists have found that on days with low levels of air quality, adults and children are more likely to go to the ER or need medical treatment. Adults that live in areas with high levels of vehicle pollution have also been shown to be at higher risk of developing allergies.
High air pollution levels are dangerous not only for their direct impact on human health. They’re a danger through their effect on the environment as well. Business Insider’s post highlights that “air pollution from wildfire smoke kills around 15,000 people per year in the US, through heart disease, lung disease, asthma, and other respiratory problems.” A study published this summer warns this number could skyrocket to 40,000 a year if current environmental trends continue. As humans emit CO2 and NOx into the atmosphere, they reduce the earth’s ozone layer and cause ozone pollution, which is also bad news for human health. According to the American Lung Asociation, ozone exposure leads to a higher risk of heart attacks and heart disease. Research also proves that air pollution worsens the effects of heat waves. A study found that for “every degree Celsius the earth’s temperature rises, ozone pollution can be expected to kill an additional 22,000 people around the world via respiratory illness, asthma, and emphysema.”
All these scientific findings showcase how important air quality is to the environment and to human health. Business Insider found that “98% of cities with populations over 100,000 in low- and middle-income countries don’t meet the World Health Organization (WHO) air quality standards,” and this puts hundreds of millions of individuals at risk. Even though the U.S. has relatively high air quality standards in comparison to the rest of the world, it still has many areas that have high levels of air pollution. Just as food and water quality are important to human health, so is air quality, and it is important to invest in technology that can help improve it. Air pollution is a real threat to human health, but by implementing emission-reducing technologies, companies and governments can help reduce this threat significantly.