The Relationship Between Air Pollution And Health

The Relationship Between Air Pollution And Health

In the last century it has been established that air pollution has a direct impact on health. It is responsible for both the severity and likelihood of flu. If you live in an area that is heavily polluted, the effects are felt on the respiratory tract as well as influenza.

How Does Polluted Air Cause Flu

Elevated levels of air pollution increase the risk of influenza. This is due to the increase of pollutants such as PM10 particulates. These include emissions from natural and miscellaneous sources like fugitive dust from unpaved and paved roads, agricultural and forestry activities, wind erosion, wildfires and managed burning, diesel exhaust, nitric oxides, sulfur dioxide and ozone.

When human beings inhale PM10 particles, they are exposed to diseases of breathing and respiratory systems, damage to lung tissue, cancer, and premature death. People with chronic lung disease, influenza or asthma are particularly vulnerable and so are the elderly and the children.

Air Pollutants And Their Effect On Health






Motor vehicle exhausts and petrol evaporation

Human carcinogen

1-3 Butadiene

Motor vehicle exhausts and chemical industrial processes.

Human carcinogen

Carbon Monoxide

Incomplete combustion of organic materials (Carbon containing). Wood, coal, oil, gas. Outdoors: vehicle exhausts, heating appliances. Indoors: smoking, heaters (unvented).

Reduces the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood leading to headache, nausea, vomiting, eventually collapse and death.


Outdoors: motor vehicle exhausts. Indoors: may be present in water pipes and/or old paint.

Cumulative effects on the nervous system that may impair children's intelligence and concentration.

Nitrogen Dioxide

Combustion of fossil fuels, road vehicles' power generation, industrial processes. Indoors: unvented gas cookers and other appliances.

Throat and eye irritation (also involved in photochemical smog formation).


Product of chemical reaction between other pollutants (Nitrogen Oxide and hydrocarbons in the presence of sunlight).

Running eyes, throat irritation, breathing difficulties.

PM10 (particles less than 10 micrometres in diameter)

Combustion processes and natural sources such as dust, diesel and smoke.

Small particles can penetrate deep into the lungs and cannot be expelled. They may cause irritation and/or carry with them toxic or carcinogenic substances.

Sulphur Dioxide

Domestic and industrial burning of coal.

Irritation of the nerves in the nose, throat and airways. May also lead to constriction of the airways.


Building material, wall cladding, insulation, brake linings. Exposure usually indoors during building work and car maintenance.

Scarring of the lungs and increased risk of lung, chest and abdominal cancer.

Volatile Organic Compounds, e.g. Formaldehyde

Paints, varnishes, glues and preservatives used in wood products. Foam insulation. Exposure indoors during decoration or construction.

Breathing difficulties, eye and skin irritation, nausea and dizziness.


Rocks which contain naturally occurring radioactive material emit Radon gas.

Increased risk of lung cancer.

Cigarette smoke, Nicotine, tar, formaldehyde, oxides of nitrogen and Carbon Monoxide


Eye, throat and lung irritation. Increased liability to respiratory illness. Increased risk of lung cancer. Non-smokers breathing in others' smoke are also at risk.

Micro-organisms and allergens

Biological contaminants, moulds, spores, viruses and bacteria

Pneumonia-like respiratory illnesses, allergic reactions.

Steps To Prevent Flu

Flu is a serious disease, and can be fatal too if you suffer from diabetes, asthma, heart disease or even a weakened immune system. Follow the following steps in preventing flu.

  • Get vaccinated – Get yourself vaccinated against flu every year.
  • Take care of yourself – Eat a balanced diet. Exercise regularly.  Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep at night. All this will give the body strength to fight diseases.
  • Quit smoking – Smokers tend to react severely to flu germs. Not only that, evidence suggests that smokers tend to catch the flu more quickly than non smokers.
  • Take medication – In the event that you do catch the dreaded flu, then it is important to take your medication regularly to prevent the symptoms from getting worse.
  • Build a germ barrier – Flu germs can caught from the air, when infected people cough and sneeze or from dirty surfaces too. Try and stay away from infected people. Other things that you can do is:

- Wash your hands with warm water and soap every time you shake hands or touch a surface that might be germ-covered.

- Carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you for times when you can’t get to a sink.

- Bring along disinfectant wipes to clean any surfaces you're about to touch.

- Take extra care to not touch your mouth, eyes, or nose without washing your hands first.

Look After Yourself When Suffering From Flu

If you do catch the flu, you need to ensure that your family and work mates no not catch it off you. Follow the following regime till you get better.

  • Stay home until you feel better and your fever has been gone  for at least 24 hours.
  • Sneeze into your elbow, not your hand. That way you can’t pass it around.
  • Toss used tissues after you blow your nose. Don't leave them lying around for someone else to find.

Let’s join hands to prevent and fight flu. 

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