You may have seen that air pollution has been in the news recently as a new UK study reveals a link between exposure to air pollution and changes to the structure of the heart. But what actually is air pollution and what effects can it have on our health?
What is air pollution?
Put simply, air pollution is the gasses and particles in the air that are harmful to both the planet and human health. Theses gasses come from a variety of sources with the main sources being from burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas etc.) and car emissions, particularly from diesel cars.
The highest contributor to air pollution is from man-made processes, but it can also come from natural sources such as volcanoes, acid rain and forest fires.
Where are the worst places for air pollution?
You might know that if you live in a busy city pollution levels are expected to be higher than if you’re in a rural area. The UK Emissions Interactive Map shows you the best and worst places for a variety of different types of pollution in your local area.
So, how does air pollution affect our health?
Air pollution has become the largest environmental risk factor in the UK. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified 6 types of air pollution which can potentially be harmful to human health, these are:
- Carbon monoxide
- Sulfur dioxide
- Nitrogen oxides
- Particulate Matter
The latest study led by Professor Steffen Petersen & Dr Nay Aung, consisted of 4,000 people in the UK which found those who lived by loud, busy roads and therefore have higher exposure to nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter, had larger hearts on average than those living in less polluted areas. These symptoms are seen in the early stages of heart failure.
The study concludes “Air pollution should be seen as a modifiable risk factor. Doctors and the general public all need to be aware of their exposure when they think about their heart health, just like they think about their blood pressure, their cholesterol and their weight.”
Air pollution has also been linked to the development of cardiovascular diseases, such as a stroke, lung and heart disease. Keep your ticker in tip top shape with our heart healthy tips.
Air pollutants and skincare
Perhaps the most visible effect of air pollution is the effect on our skin. Procter & Gamble released a report in 2016 that identified polluted air can contain over 200 chemicals known to age the skin. Banish those air pollutants from damaging your skin and learn how to perfect your anti-ageing skincare routine.
High exposure to high levels of air pollution has also been linked to the onset of asthma, and to accelerate lung function decline, or an ageing lung in adults and a known cause of lung cancer. As well as this, there's also a link between air pollution and developing type 2 diabetes in adults.
5 tips to limit your exposure to air pollution
- Check the Daily Air Quality Index.
- Drive less - walk or cycle and when this isn't an option, use carpooling.
- Exercise away from busy roads when pollution levels are low such as first thing in the morning.
- Plant more - plants are great for reducing toxins in the air, with some types holding air purifying qualities such as Peace Lilies, English Ivy and Chrysanthemums.
- Use pram covers to help prevent your child's exposure to high levels of pollution
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