Asthma and Air Pollution

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The Prevalence of Asthma Associated with Air Pollution

Air pollution is the initiation of chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials that cause harm or discomfort to humans or other living organisms, or damages the natural environment into the atmosphere. Air pollution occurs when the air contains gases, fumes, dust, or other harmful agents. According to Morgan (2003), air pollution was not a problem until the 19th century and Industrial Revolution because pollution was readily diluted in the atmosphere (Morgan, Environmental Health, 2003, p. 247). Air pollution occurs in many forms but can generally be thought of as gaseous and particulate contaminants that are present in the earth's atmosphere (Air Pollution - Its Nature, Sources, and Effects, 2013). Natural sources of air pollution include forest fires, dust storms, and volcanic eruptions (Morgan, Environmental Health, 2003, p. 249).

Air pollution can affect an individual’s health in many different ways; from short–term exacerbations of illness to long-term effects. Individuals are affected by air pollution in different ways. Short-term effects include ear, nose and throat irritation, and upper respiratory infections. Long-term effects include respiratory disease, lung disease, and heart disease. People who have asthma can experience complications when the air is polluted. In the great "Smog Disaster" in London in 1952, four thousand people died in a few days due to the high concentrations of pollution (How can air pollution hurt my health?).

Asthma is a chronic lung disease characterized by wheezing. Asthma is a growing public health problem (Morgan, Environmental Health, 2003, p. 249). Asthma affects approximately 10 million persons and is associated with approximately 500,000 hospitalizations yearly. The prevalence of asthma in the U.S. has rapidly increased by more than 75% since 1980. This increase has been seen primarily in children and certain racial groups; especially African-Americans. The triggers of asthma include tobacco smoke, dust mites, pets, mold, pests, and outdoor air pollution. Urban outdoor air pollution is estimated to cause 1.3 million deaths worldwide (Air Quality and Health). Outdoor air pollution includes natural resources such as forest fires, pollen, volcanic eruptions, and natural radioactivity. Man-made sources of outdoor air pollution include burning fossil fuels. Fossil fuels release nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, and sulphur dioxide, amongst other various agents. These agents can contribute to asthma. According to Morgan (2003), experts estimate 30 million Americans with chronic respiratory problems are exposed to harmful levels of smog (Morgan, Environmental Health, 2003, p. 249). Indoor air pollution also affects the prevalence of asthma. Indoor air pollution includes dust mites, pets, mold, cockroach allergens, and tobacco smoke. In a study of eight inner city areas in the United States, exposure to high levels of cockroach allergens was linked to asthma related health problems (Asthma and the Role of Air Pollution, 1997). People who smoke are more likely to suffer from asthma. Asthma is a growing epidemic and can not necessarily be controlled by an individual.

Air Pollutants

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has established standards for six common air pollutants which are referred to as “criteria” pollutants: ozone (O3), particle pollution (PM), lead (Pb), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and sulfur dioxide (SO2) (Six Common Air Pollutants). Ozone is an invisible gas that is the main component of smog (Asthma and the Role of Air Pollution, 1997). Ozone has been linked to causing numerous ill effects that contribute asthma, including inflammation of airways, decreased lung function, heightened sensitivity to allergens and an increase in respiratory symptoms (Asthma and the Role of Air Pollution, 1997). Particle...
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