How Air Pollution Can Affect Your Wellbeing
Air Pollution in the Modern Age
Air pollution has deleterious impacts on our health and has plagued society since the industrial revolution. Despite improvements in industrial processes and more stringent regulations to try to improve air quality, we still have to deal with worsening levels of air quality. The growth of societies and populations create the perpetual need to accommodate increased energy consumption and transport needs. Even with regulatory pressure, many companies have avoided regulation. The operation to clean up after these polluting companies has been limited and hasn’t been able to mitigate the damage caused, nor introduce punitive measures that would deter future corporate negligence and misfeasance.
The Impact on Us
Air pollution comes from a variety of sources, both natural and anthropogenic, but urbanized areas account for where most exposure to individuals occurs. Clear links exist between instances of asthma, and severity of asthma attacks in urbanized areas vs. rural areas. Connections to a variety of other serious health issues have been also made.
Air pollution is thought to affect the cardiovascular system, causing lasting changes to the physical structure of the heart. There have also been links drawn between sexual health and air pollution; erectile dysfunction is thought to be a symptom of a compromised cardiovascular system. Not only can it be a causal factor for erectile dysfunction, but it has also been shown to reduce the sperm quality of men exposed to extreme pollution levels. More interestingly, it has been shown to skew the ratio of X:Y chromosomes in men’s sperm samples, with exposure linked to increases in X chromosome carrying sperm.
For the female sex the news is no less pleasant, it has been shown that proximity to busy roads is associated with an increased risk of infertility. It has also been demonstrated that children whose mothers were exposed to higher levels of pollution during pregnancy are more prone to severe health conditions later in life. It is important to note that for both men and women genetic damage can occur more readily when exposed to pollutants as they can act as oxidants.
Don’t Pull your Hair Out!
Links between Particulate Matter (PM), a component of the smog common in dense urban areas has been linked to premature hair loss in both men and women. This particulate matter is able to absorb Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heavy metals onto their surface. These can be inhaled and find their way into the bloodstream, or can be deposited onto the scalp causing inflammation and a reduction in hair follicle density through oxidation of the follicles.
Equally distressing, as all of the aforementioned factors, is the well-established link between mental wellbeing and air pollution exposure. It has been noted that those living in urbanized areas close to roads are at greater risk of experiencing psychotic episodes. It has also been established that in days following a spike in air pollution, rates of estimated suicide risk are 2% more than the norm. This correlation was established over a thirty year period. Furthermore, pollution has been shown to reduce the level of intelligence of people, particularly in the young and old. With evidence suggesting that toxicants are particularly responsible for diseases like Alzheimers and Parkinson’s, this is due to the body producing inflammatory mediators in response to the pollution.
What Can be Done?
Sadly, due to the nature of air pollution it is extraordinarily difficult to cut down your exposure entirely. There are some ways in which to limit the effects air pollution has on your body. A good diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables is essential, ensuring plenty of antioxidants to combat the oxidizing effect of toxicants. Your liver and thyroid’s co-dependent relationship must be respected, given these are the parts of the body responsible for processing and removing heavy metals and other harmful chemicals. To this end, iodine is vital in the role it plays in healthy thyroid function and ultimately, healthy liver function. Ensuring 150μg per day included in your diet is recommended by the European Union Nutrient Reference Values. Combining a healthy diet with exercise is also essential.
If you really want to promote positive long-term change, you must challenge the systems provided by society that rely on fossil fuels to function. Switching from combustion cars to electric is a must. Purchase solar panels and reduce reliance on the energy grid which itself relies mainly on oil, coal, gas and nuclear. Agriculture is also a large contributor to air pollution, and a meat-free diet should be considered.