Air pollution causes acid rain, smoky fog and thinning of the ozone layer. However, the most important effect of air pollution is observed on human health. According to the statement by the World Health Organization, air pollution is at the top of the list of problems the world will face in 2019. According to the report of the World Health Organization, 9 out of every 10 people in the world breathe polluted air and 7 million people die annually due to diseases caused by air pollution.

It is aimed to raise awareness in the society about air pollution and its impact on human health through the Improving Air Quality and Raising Public Awareness in Cities in Turkey Project – CityAir. In line with this purpose, trainings will be organized in many provinces and individuals from all age groups will be informed about the negative effects of low air quality on human health.

Within the scope of the project, cooperation will be established with local municipalities, and the technical and administrative capacities of the competent authorities will be enhanced in order to solve the air pollution problem. With the emission measurements, the air quality of cities will be constantly monitored and changes in air quality will be reported by relevant units. In the long run, it is expected that health problems due to air pollution will decrease significantly with increasing awareness and effective combat.

Effects of air pollution on public health

Every day, more than 19 m3 (23 kilograms) of air moves inside & out of the lungs of an average person with an average weight. This amount varies according to the age and physical activity of the individual.

The quality of respiration is a major factor in the effective functioning of human metabolism and the air inhaled, is fundamental to that process.

When air pollutants first enter the respiratory system, they move past the lungs before reaching the circulatory system where they are carried around the body and capable of affecting all physiological processes.

Every year, 8 million people die because of air pollution. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared that air pollution is the main environmental cause of death from cancer.

Recent studies show that the risk of premature death and getting heart and respiratory diseases (Asthma, COPD, etc.), paralysis, cancer, and similar diseases caused by exposure to air pollution increase not just in children and also in older people as well. On the other hand air pollution is linked with especially heart and respiratory system diseases. Reduction of air pollution will also decrease death rates.

People most affected by air pollution

  • Patients with lung diseases such as asthma, COPD,
  • Patients with cardiovascular diseases
  • Patients with other serious illnesses like diabetes
  • Children and babies
  • The elderly
  • Pregnant women

Air Pollution is related to:

  • Increases in  the number of lung cancer cases

  • Increases in the prevalence of chronic asthma exacerbation

  • Increases in the prevalence of chest tightness

  • Increases in the prevalence of coughing/mucus production

  • Increases in the number of acute respiratory distress cases

  • Increases in the prevalence of eye, nose, and throat irritation

  • Increases in the mortality rate due to respiratory problems

  • Increases in the costs for health care

  • Decreases in breathing capacity

  • Decreases in Productivity

Particulate matter is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets in the air. The size of the particles ranges widely (PM10 ve PM2.5).

Coarse particles:
Particles where the diameter is between 2.5-10 μm (1 μm= 0.001 millimeters) are referred to as “coarse” particles.
Sources of coarse particles:
Can be re-suspended dust from roads and activities such as mechanical crushing, grinding as well as desert dust.

Fine particles:
Particles where the diameter is 2.5 μm or smaller are called “fine particles”. Fine particles can pass through the throat, nose and enter the lungs where they can accumulate in the respiratory tract, causing serious health problems.
Sources of fine particles:
Can be directly emitted from sources such as motor vehicles, power plants, burning wood as fuel, forest fires, agricultural fires, and industrial processes.

Health effects:
Particles smaller than 10 μm in diameter may cause some health problems or exacerbate existing health issues such as asthma. They are associated with deaths caused by heart and respiratory diseases. Researchers found that fourth-graders who are exposed to PM showed a significant reduction in lung function and development. Deficits were found to be higher for children spending more time outdoors. Besides, children exposed to high PM levels compared to less exposed ones will have a 4.67 points lower full scale and oral IQ level.

Risk Groups:

  • People with heart and respiratory diseases (COPD, asthma)
  • The elderly (with undiagnosed heart or respiratory diseases)
  • People with chronic diseases (hypertension, diabetes, etc.)
  • Children and pregnant women.

SO2 is an air pollutant, which contributes to acidification, with potentially significant impacts including adverse effects on aquatic ecosystems in rivers and lakes, and damage to forests. It reacts easily with other substances to form harmful compounds, such as sulphuric acid, sulfurous acid and sulfate particles.

It is emitted during the combustion of sulfurcontaining Fuels, especially in transportation, residential heating, and industry.

Health effects:
High concentrations of SO2 can affect airway function and inflame the respiratory tract causing respiratory diseases, including asthma.

Risk Groups:

  • People with lung diseases, such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema.
  • Children are at higher risk from SO2 exposure because their lungs are still developing.
  • Older adults may be more affected by SO2 exposure, possibly because they are more likely to have pre-existing lung or cardiovascular disease.
  • Active people of all ages who exercise or work outdoors.
  • People with chronic diseases (hypertension, diabetes, etc.) and pregnant women.

Ozone occurs both at ground level and in the upper atmosphere. It can be useful or harmful according to its location.

‘’Good’’ ozone:
Ozone forms naturally in the upper layer of the atmosphere, specifically in the lower stratosphere, from approximately 15 to 35 kilometers above ground level and protects the atmosphere by acting as a defensive layer against the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun.

Harmful or “Bad” ozone:
Ground-level ozone is considered to be a harmful pollutant, especially affecting negatively agricultural production and human health between May and October.

Sources of Bad ozone:

Ozone pollution occurs when pollutants released into the atmosphere from vehicle exhausts, power plants, industrial boilers, refineries, chemical factories, and similar sources react chemically under solar radiation.

Health effects:

  • Ozone may cause respiratory irritation by causing cough, throat issues, and chest discomfort. It might make it difficult to breathe deeply and strongly by causing decreased lung function. Also, respiration accelerates and becomes more superficial than usual.
  • During physical activity, ozone penetrates deep into the lungs and eventually may cause adverse effects and permanent damage.
  • Ozone can cause coughs, throat irritation, and chest discomfort and may cause inflammation of the respiratory tract.
  • Ozone may exacerbate asthma. Ozone has been shown to make people more vulnerable to asthma triggers such as pets and other allergens (pollen and house dust mites).

Risk Groups:

  • People who are active outside in the summer.
  • People who are very sensitive to ozone.
  • In people with respiratory disorders, including asthma patients, exposure to ozone can easily affect the lungs.
  • People with chronic diseases (hypertension, diabetes, etc.)
  • Exposure to children, pregnant women, and elders may result in adverse effects and cause permanent damage.

Carbon monoxide is a hazardous pollutant that is mainly caused by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and shows its effect through respiration.

Vehicle exhausts are the main source of CO in cities. Besides, residential heating and industrial sources contribute significantly.

Health effects:
CO enters the bloodstream through the lungs and attaches itself to hemoglobin thus preventing the cells’ ability to absorb oxygen. In healthy individuals, exposure to higher levels of CO may affect perception and vision. Healthy people may suffer from chest pain, especially when exercising, and may experience other heart conditions.

Risk Groups:

  • Newborn and unborn babies.
  • People with mild and severe heart and respiratory diseases (e.g., angina, heart failure, brain blood vessel-related diseases, anemia, people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease-COPD)
  • People with chronic diseases (hypertension, diabetes, etc.)
  • Children, pregnant women and elders.

NOx gases react to form smog and acid rain as well as being central to the formation of fine particles (PM) and ground-level ozone.

NOX is produced from the reaction of nitrogen and oxygen gases in the air during combustion, especially at high temperatures.

Health effects:
High concentrations of NOX can affect airway function and inflame the respiratory tract causing respiratory diseases, including asthma. Long-term exposure may limit lung function, increase the risk of respiratory problems, and makes easier interaction with allergens.

Risk Groups:

  • People with lung diseases, such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema.
  • People with chronic diseases (hypertension, diabetes, etc.)
  • Active people of all ages who exercise or work outdoors
  • Children are at higher risk because their lungs are still developing.
  • Pregnant women and elders.
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