Monday 15 July 2024
Ambient air pollution and health effects

Increasingly in recent years talk about environmental pollution, although often not well understood what environmental pollution, that is caused if there are ways to deal with and what the impact on our health.

Environmental pollution is directly intertwined with the evolution of technology and science, progress which in addition to considerable benefits to mankind it also has adverse effects on the environment and consequently on human health (the price changes)

The problem is taking alarming proportions especially in large urban centers. Indicative only say that 60,000 deaths every year in cities of Europe and 3,000,000 in the world due to prolonged exposure to air pollutants (from the report of the European Agency for the Environment).

The influence of the environment on health has been known since ancient times. Father of Medicine Hippocrates mentioned science in his work "on the gas-water sites" that regulates the climate on human health. It is also known that during the investigation of diseases very important role played by taking the patient's work history, as many diseases are directly related to the environment. After a whole group of diseases called "professional diseases". Examples are the 'pneumoconiosis "of miners, asbestosis (benign and malignant form is solely due to asbestos), et al. Also a number of diseases caused by environmental conditions such as endemic goiter (swelling of the thyroid gland) in some areas where iodine deficiency, tuberculosis directly related to unhealthy living conditions, etc.

But what we mean by saying environmental pollution;

Any environmental condition that has adverse effects on human health. May depend on three factors:

1. pollution sources (type and quantity of pollutants)

2. weather conditions and

3. the topography of the area.

The interaction of these factors may favor the concentration of pollutants or removal.

What are the sources?

These sources belong to two categories and are

(a) man, namely those due to human activity (cars, heating, industry, pesticides, sprays, etc.)

(b) natural, ie those due to natural drastirotita (volcanoes, electric shocks, etc.)

What are pollutants?

Any substance that can act harmful to human body or even cause death.

Depending on their status distinguished:

§ Hazardous chemicals

§ Gaseous pollutants (toxic gases and particles) and finally

§ Pesticides.

How to enter the human body?

Gates of these substances are:

§ The respiratory system (inhalation)

§ The gastrointestinal (Taking food and water) and finally

§ The skin.

The gateway of any substance depends on the properties thereof.

Major air pollutants

The pollutants are separated into two major categories

A. Primary Pollutants

B. Secondary pollutants

Called primary pollutants which originate from anthropogenic sources. Such sources are industry, cars (petrol, diesel), heating, etc. The main primary pollutants are carbon monoxide (CO), nitric oxide (NO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), hydrocarbons (HC ) and particulates. These pollutants including ozone (O3) are monitored regularly by the appropriate governmental bodies and are called "conventional pollutants".

The primary pollutants in the atmosphere through various chemical reactions to produce secondary pollutants, the main of which is nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone (O3). The ozone example is the reaction of nitrogen oxide with various volatile organic compounds in a reaction catalysed by sunlight.

Another important category of pollutants are suspended particles. These are solid particles or liquid phase, to be airborne. Such particles are dust, smoke, various metals, etc. can be distinguished according diameter. An important role for particles having a diameter up to 10 mm (mikrochiliosta) (PM-10) and in particular particles with very small diameter (PM-2, 5), because their size allows entering the respiratory system, causing serious respiratory problems.

Sources of these particles are industry, automotive, agricultural, wood burning, as well as the various dispensers.

What are the health effects?

Health effects are many and serious. The main system affected the human body is the respiratory and cardiovascular. Most vulnerable are the very old people, and particularly those suffering from lung and heart disease. It also presents a particular impact on children's ages for two reasons (a) children have an increased metabolic activity and (b) nervous, respiratory and reproductive systems of children are not fully developed.

More specifically and according to the European Commission's Environment and Health in Europe

§ one in seven children suffers from asthma

§ Asthma affects more children in Western Europe compared with those of Eastern Europe (ten-fold effect)

§ Asthma - allergies and other respiratory diseases is increasing and is one of the main causes of hospitalization.

Also, several environmental pollutants are often responsible for miscarriage, birth defects, physical and mental disabilities and disorders of the reproductive capacity of humans.

We should not forget the effects of passive smoking which can cause respiratory problems and increased risk of lung cancer in non smokers by 20-30%.

Finally we should mention another important cause of air pollution, noise, which can cause hearing deficiency. An estimated 10,000,000 people in Europe are exposed to high noise levels.

The European Union is sensitive to the risks to our health because of pollution, has announced the main strategic objectives which are: improving the legislation on air quality, the setting of maximum risk for various pollutants and monitoring them, a gradual significant reduction of pollutants in order to minimize the next few years, the morbidity and mortality effects of air pollution


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