We’ve all heard about the various health risks of air pollution. It causes or aggravates asthma. It may lead to lung and cardiovascular disease. It may even increase the chance of you developing various forms of cancer. However, pollution also leads to other, less known, health issues. These are things that you probably know nothing about.
Now, I’m not involved in any green movements and, as a city-boy, I know full well the advantages of the modern, industrialized society and I enjoy the comforts that it provides. However, I am also aware of the negative aspects of our society and how it adversely affects our health. It’s something that most of us accept because it’s part of modern life. However, the more we know about it, especially the negative parts, the more we can do to reduce its adverse effects and to use our power as citizens to improve the quality of our air as much as possible. I believe that we can do much better in that respect than we do today.
So, let’s talk about some of the health risks of air pollution you may know nothing about:
1. Air Pollution Contributes To Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D is mostly created in our body by direct exposure to the sun, though it can also be found in various food sources and in supplements. Vitamin D deficiency, which is becoming more and more common, may lead to weaker bones, memory impairment, various forms of cancer, and other issues.
According to various studies, air pollution may actually lead to vitamin d deficiency. The conclusion of one study done in India was that children who live in high pollution areas may need to receive supplementation of this vitamin. Another study from Iran came to a similar conclusion, this time the subjects were healthy adult women.
The reason why this happens is that the UVB rays of the sun which are needed for the production of vitamin D are blocked by smog and pollutants in the air. So, even if you walk outside in the sun, you’re not getting the full dose of UVB rays that you could have gotten had the air been cleaner. This means that your body is not producing sufficient vitamin d and you may be headed for a deficiency.
Diabetes is a modern epidemic with millions of people, and even children. It is mostly caused by bad eating habits, weight gain, and lack of physical activity, along with genetic and other factors. Now it seems that air pollution may also contribute to the risk of diabetes.
A study conducted by Harvard researchers found a firm connection between particulate matters in the air and the prevalence of diabetes in the US. In the conclusions of the study the researchers add that:
These findings add to the growing evidence that air pollution is a risk factor for diabetes.
This shows that there is a growing amount of evidence that links pollution to diabetes. In fact, the US Government actually recognized that certain herbicides and pollutants that veterans were exposed to during their military service may cause diabetes.
I’ve had my appendix removed when I was in my late teens and it was one of the more painful experiences I’ve had. It is also potentially life threatening.
The rate of appendicitis have increases dramatically since the start of the industrialized revolution. However, once more strict regulations on air pollution were enacted there was a decline in the rate of appendicitis. This suggests that there is some connection between air pollution and this condition.
A study performed in Calgary, Canada found evidence that corroborates this assumption. The study examined over 5,000 people and found a number of correlations between cases of appendicitis and pollution. First, most of the cases occurred during warmer parts of the year when more people are outside and exposed to pollutants. Second, the researchers used data from Environment Canada and saw that there was an increase in cases when the pollution was heavier.
No one is sure how pollution leads to more cases of appendicitis, but there does seem to be a firm connection between the two.
4. Fertility, Pregnancy Problems, and Miscarriage
Air pollution may make it harder for you to have children. Studies done in Brazil, one of the fastest developing countries in the world, have shown that pollution leads to a reduction in sperm count and increases male infertility rates. In addition, babies born in highly polluted areas were more likely to be underweight. There is also an increase in the number of premature births in those areas.
In addition, the rate of male/female births changes in accordance with the pollution level in a specific area. The rate of miscarriages also rises.
5. Children IQ
The exposure of a mother to pollution may lead to dramatic effects on her children’s IQ. A study which was published in the Journal Of American Academy of Pediatrics showed that children who, while in the womb and up to the age of 5, were exposed to pollutants at a level which corresponds to the actual pollution in New York City scored lower on intelligence tests than their peers. This goes to show that the effects of pollution go beyond you and may harm your children as well.
6. Air Pollution May Lead To Excess Belly Fat
I first heard about this research from Mike Geary author of the Truth About Six Pack Abs program. Let me say straightaway that this research doesn’t provide conclusive proof, but it does make the case the pollution can be related to weight gain (a subject I will explore further in a future post).
A study done at Ohio State University examined how animals reacted in a polluted environment. The researchers exposed a group of mice to several hours of pollution each day. The test group of mice had a similar diet. The pollution resembled that found in many cities in the US.
What the research showed was that the mice who were exposed to pollution had larger fat cells in the abdomen and more of them. Their blood sugar level was also higher. Now, this may not be the case in humans. However, it is a worrying sign that suggests that there is one more cause for the obesity epidemic in industrialized countries: pollution.
What To Do With This Information
You can’t avoid air pollution and it’s health risks entirely, but you can try to minimize its effects:
1. Eat more food which is rich in antioxidants to minimize the inflammatory effect of pollutants.
2. Don’t do strenuous physical activity during rush hour or near roads where pollution is heavier.
3. Use your influence as a voter to pressure politicians to enact laws that will protect us all and help us have a cleaner environment.