Science or Hoax, Is Air Pollution Really Killing Us?

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Science or Hoax, Is Air Pollution Really Killing Us

Is Air Pollution Killing Us?

Recent research estimates that around 3.3 million people are killed annually by air pollution, a figure set to rise to 6.6 million by 2050. And that’s not to mention the acid rain, ozone depletion, and global climate change that is gradually degrading our planet’s natural systems. We’ve all heard of the most commonly cited culprits for the causes of this shift, and the most frequent effects. But what are the lesser known reasons that our air is becoming increasingly safe to breathe? And what is recent research telling us about the effects of these that we may not have realized?

Causes of air pollution

Farming

Although air travel, land vehicles, and power plants are often blamed as some of the biggest offenders for polluting the global atmosphere, recent research reveals that agriculture may have an effect just as significant. Ammonia from fertilizer and animal waste, increased by the intensive feeding programs designed for higher milk and meat yields, combines with sulfates from coal-fired power plants and nitrates from car fumes to form the soot which is one of the biggest killers.

Ultraviolet lamps

Although not strictly ‘air pollution’, this situation caused so much puzzlement among scientists that they launched an entire study to discover what was causing the symptoms of 21 students with conjunctivitis and skin irritation. It turned out that the irritant was a set of germicidal ultraviolet lamps designed to fight the spread of bacteria.

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Burning trash

Often a foreign concept to those of us who live in developed countries, it’s incredibly common to see huge piles of waste being burnt in places that don’t have adequate infrastructure for proper trash disposal. It’s estimated that up to 40% of the world’s waste is handled like this, producing greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide as well as tiny particulates that are fatally harmful to human lungs.

Effects of air pollution

Dementia

Research is starting to reveal a connection between air pollution in cities and Alzheimer’s, a disease that kills more US citizens than breast and prostate cancer combined, afflicting nearly one third of the population. The connection hinges on a build-up of magnetite, a particle found in dirty air, and which can accumulate in the brain. Although scientists aren’t sure of exactly how the connection between the disease and the particulate works, it’s evident that air pollution must be exacerbating this fatal illness.

Stroke

It seems a clear connection to make between often-cited lung conditions like pneumonia and the inhalation of harmful particulates. But a less obvious link exists between the burning of solid fuels for cooking and heating homes, and the often fatal medical condition, the stroke. Of the 3.4 million people who die from living in conditions that force them to heat their homes with open fires, 34% die from a fatal stroke. This problem is far more prevalent in developing countries where solid fuels like coal and wood are often used for heating and cooking, but can also be an issue with gas heaters that are still commonly used across the US.

Skin aging

Although it’s much less impactful than the other two in this list, wrinkles are a major occupation for many of us, especially those people living in developed countries. Recent research has found that air pollution is causing those of us who live in high pollution areas like cities or other densely populated spaces to get more wrinkles, more quickly, as well as age spots and even eczema and hives. And don’t immediately rush to renew your skin care routine – many of the products that we use every day, like exfoliating scrubs, can actually exacerbate the effects.

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