Level of Air pollution and Health risk

| May 19, 2014

Air pollution simply concerns contaminants in the atmosphere. The source of contaminants can be natural or from human activities. Effects of air pollution to human health is always the main focus in studying the issue (Tabaku, Bejtja, Bala, Toci, and Resuli, 2010). Air pollution is not a modern problem. It started when fire was invented, which produced a lot of smoke in the air that chocked them especially those who inhabited caves. The history of the phenomenon of air quality and pollution started with smoke and it was a major environmental problem. During this time humans depended on burning wood and coal. One of the earliest recorded environmental concern on air pollution was in 1273 when the King of Old England forbade the use of all impure coal because it produced a lot of smoke, suit, and sulphur dioxide when burned. During the industrial revolution in 1873, air pollution became an environmental health concern in England when smoke and fog was linked with the death of 700 Londoners (Anderson, 2009). In 1956 the British parliament passed into law clean air act after a disastrous smog killed 4000 people. Due to strong legislative action, there is a much better air quality in London today. Air pollution and lungs and heart problems go hand in hand. In 1911, Pittsburg city and St. Louis city had industries that utilized great quantities of coal and produced massive smoke. During that time the city residents started developing smoke irritation conditions in their respiratory system (Anderson, 2009). The epidemiological effect air pollution are non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which include cancer, chronic respiratory illnesses and cardiovascular diseases. The World Bank (2011) reported that over 80% of China’s annual deaths are caused by NCDs. The report further indicates that 68.6% of the ailing population in China have NDCs and that the trend was increasing sharply. Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) and lung cancer are among the leading NCD in China (Matus, et al.,2011). COPD and lung cancer are primarily caused by exposure to tobacco smoke and general air pollution like exposure to dust, gases and fumes all of which are air pollutants. Studies of COPD indicate that large cities have higher rates COPD than rural areas (Dadvand, Rankin, Rushton, and Pless-Mulloli, 2011). This has been attributed to air pollution since pollutants inhaled daily slowly interfere with normal growth of the lungs. In addition, industrial waste gases like sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide have been discovered to cause COPD and asthma (Cisneros et al., 2010). One of the leading causes of COPD in developing countries, especially in women, is smoke from cooking fire from organic fuels like firewood and dry dung that pollutes indoor air. Environmental exposure to tobacco smoke (ETS) alone accounts to about 80-90% of all the COPD cases (Wang and Zhao, 2011; Pope III, 2011). It is also the leading cause of extra-pulmonary diseases like lung cancer. Lung cancer is one of the diseases that concerns environmental health because its control greatly depends on air quality. Apart from ETS, other environmental exposures that causes the disease include frequent inhalation of radon gas, which is mutagenic and carcinogenic, and exposure to suspended particulate matter (Wang and Zhao, 2011; The World Bank, 2011). Particulate matter concentration in the air has been discovered to have direct relationship with cancer prevalence. For instance, studies by American Cancer Society discovered that for every increase of 1% of particulate matter exposure the risk of lung cancer development increases by 14%. Air pollution also causes other pulmonary related cancer apart from lung cancer (Wang and Zhao, 2011; Matus, et al.,2011;The World Bank, 2011). For instance, inhalation of asbestos fibers causes mesothelioma, which is a pleura cancer. Lastly, air pollution can cause other pulmonary disease that are non COPD. For example, excessive exposure to silica dust causes silicosis, which is a restrictive lung disease.

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