Bad Air, Bad Health

The effects of pollution on health and how it can be avoided
Rahman Mohamed

Today global attention is focused on war and international relations.  But on November 20 CBC reported that a study by the McKinsey Global Institute revealed that obesity is costing the world’s economy almost $2 trillion, “nearly as much as smoking or the combined impact of armed violence, war and terrorism”.  According to The Guardian obesity costs the United Kingdom £47 billion a year, more than armed violence, and terrorism, but second in cost to smoking.

Factors for obesity include an unhealthy diet and lack of physical exercise.  In an article published 10 November, WebMD reported that in addition to lung cancer air pollution plays a role in many more health problems than lung cancer and can be just as bad as obesity.

Recent research has linked air pollution to many health problems including autism and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).  Pregnant women who are exposed to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) were found to be 5 times more likely to give birth to a child with ADHD.  Another study, published in October, found that exposure to chromium and styrene, chemicals often found by power plants and factories can increase the chances for an unborn child to develop autism at an early age.

Although reports have revealed that pollution has decreased over the last 20 years it has also been found to play a role in poorer lung function.  According to Kathleen Sheerin, MD,

Those days when you can’t see the downtown buildings, people with respiratory issues might need to use their inhaler more, might not sleep as well at night, depending on how much time they spent outside.

But there are ways to protect yourself.  Its recommended to get a pollution report before leaving the home on summer days.  If pollution is high it’s better to stay home.  Sheerin also advises of avoiding smoking as she considers it an air pollutant.

Pollution can harm you in more ways than one but it can be fought.

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