The lifelong impact of air pollution – an overview.

Air pollution is the greatest risk to human health. With every breath we inhale such chemicals as particulate matter (PM), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). In addition to industrial processes leading source of pollution is the petrol and diesel combustion. Despite strong efforts through declared Clean Air Acts (1950s/1960s), the smog associated deaths peaked again in 1990s and these traffic-originating pollution is still a serious problem world-wide.

Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) in UK has summarised air pollution impact on human health in a following points:

  • All sorts of small airborne particles (PM10, PM2,5) and especially ultrafine PM0,1 are leading cause for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
  • Indoor air quality problems are seriously underestimated. At least 99,000 deaths/each year in Europe are due to exposure to poor indoor air.
  • Main sources of indoor pollutants are: In developing countries – the biomas burning for heat and cooking purposes; In modern urban areas the efficiently sealed houses closing in chemicals released from furniture, cooking, household as well as particles penetrating from the outside.
  • Years-long observations and research has identified that air pollution affects embryo development, lung growth as well as brain functioning.
  • Pollutants increase risk for developing allergies, asthma, cancers, type 2 diabetes, and even obesity.
  • Risk of stroke is increased by one third comparing for people leaving in clean air areas.
  • Air pollution impact on human health reaches even the molecular level, for example by influencing genetics regulation.
  • Air pollution peaks in the urban areas, nearby the heavily trafficked roads.
  • Finally, the air pollution impact has been reported to be enhanced by tobacco smoking as well as climate change effects.