Lung Diseases Caused By Air Pollution

Posted: September 17, 2010 in Research Questions

Asthma is a chronic, sometimes debilitating condition that has no known cure. It causes your airways to become constricted and swollen, filling with mucus. Your chest often feels tight causing you to cough or wheeze, and you just can’t seem to catch your breath. In severe cases, asthma attacks can actually be deadly. They kill approximately 5,000 people every year in the United States and 500 in Canada. It is believed that air pollution from cars, factories and power plants can cause asthma. Some elements known to stimulate the disease are as follows:
Ground Level Ozone:produced at ground level when tailpipe pollution from cars and trucks reacts with oxygen and sunlight. Ground level ozone is a big problem in cities with lots of traffic.
Sulfur Dioxide:produced when coal and crude oil are burned. Coal-fired power plants, particularly older plants that burn coal without SO2 pollution controls, are the worst SO2 polluters.
Particulate Matter:dust, soot, fly ash, diesel exhaust particles, wood smoke, and sulfate aerosols; which are suspended in the air as tiny particles.
Nitrogen oxide:A gas emitted from tailpipes and power plants, nitrogen oxide contributes to the formation of ground-level ozone and smog.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
A condition associated with frequent lung inflammation and infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Smoking is the main cause of COPD, but prolonged exposure to heavy air pollution can also cause the disease. Some indoor air pollutants can cause the disease as well such as cooking fire smoke in many developing countries around the world. More than 100,000 people in the United States alone die from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and 9,607 in Canada.

Emphysema is often associated with smoking and causes as much as 80 percent of cases, but air pollution and workplace air contaminants also cause emphysema. Pollutants in the air or smoke accumulate in the lungs and damage the mucus that keeps the lungs clean and healthy, leading to inflammation, infection and blockage.

Lung Cancer
Air pollution is a contributor to lung cancer, particularly in people who grew up in areas with significant air pollution, as pollution exposure during the developing years can have a significant impact on lungs. Accumulation of small particles from the air in the lungs can lead to cancerous growth, and air pollution has been determined to raise the risk of lung cancer as much as second-hand smoke.


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