Air Pollution and Illness Study Guide


Many important substances comprise air, including nitrogen and oxygen, essential for life to sustain on earth. Standard dry air consists of nitrogen, oxygen, argon, neon, helium, carbon dioxide, krypton, hydrogen, and xenon.

As air is the base for most species on earth, there are prerequisites for its quality. We need high-quality air to breathe and stay healthy! In this guide, we will better understand the pollutants that pollute the air, the impact the polluted air has on human beings, and the illnesses caused by the polluted air.

Impact of air pollution

One of the biggest threats that is closely linked to diseases caused by environmental pollution in humans, animals, crops, cities, forests, and aquatic ecosystems, is increasing air pollution.

Air pollution is considered the undesirable presence of impurity present in the air. This can abnormally rise in the proportion of some atmosphere constituents, and can be further classified into two types: visible and invisible air pollution.

It greatly affects the local, regional as well as global regions.

  • In the local regions, it is mainly concerned within a radius of a few kilometers, affecting ambient air quality.
  • On the regional level, it can affect the air quality of a few kilometers to a thousand kilometers by photochemical reactions and degradation of water quality and acid rainfall.
  • It also adversely affects the depletion of the ozone layer on a global level. It is caused by the emission of greenhouse gases which consist mainly of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Greenhouse EffectSource

Measuring Air Pollution

Air pollution levels can be checked with the help of the national or global Air Quality Index. It shows the air quality in the area within the range of 0-500. Within this range, 0-50 is considered as good air quality, with minimal impact on health. However, 301-500 indicates “hazardous” air quality that can affect healthy people and seriously impacts those with existing diseases.

Measuring Air PollutionSource

Along with the increasing risk of global warming, incidence of air pollution diseases create a very serious issue among humans. It is directly linked to lung disease, reduced life expectancy, asthma attacks, and bronchitis. This happens due to the tiny, invisible particles (pollutants) entering your lungs, bloodstream, and your body while breathing in polluted air.

Diseases Due to Pollution

Diseases of Air PollutionSource

In the short term:

  • Polluted air can make it more difficult for you to breathe, depending upon how well your lungs work.
  • It can irritate your airways that cause inflammation by causing soreness, scratch, throat, and cough. One can even experience congestion due to mucus building.
  • According to the World Health Organization, nearly 4.2 million deaths are reported worldwide due to poor quality air.
  • Allergies like hay fever and exacerbate respiratory conditions like asthma can also be caused, making the cold worse.
  • Polluted air also irritates the eyes and sore them. The eyes being a delicate part of the human body, need to be paid special attention to as the irritation in the eyes, if not attended to early, may develop serious consequences in the later stages.

In the long term:

  • Polluted air can give birth to heart disease and stroke conditions as pollutants affect the heart and blood vessels.
  • Emphysema is one of the most common diseases which polluted air is responsible for causing.


  • The ever-increasing vehicular traffic and unhealthy smoking practices in an individual’s lifestyle promote the long-term effects of polluted air in an individual’s lungs.
  • It can lead to Chronic Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or some serious infection like pneumonia and lung cancer.
  • Polluted air adds to the stress on the heart and lungs, which have to work much harder to supply oxygen to all body parts.
  • The respiratory system is highly affected as the cells get damaged within the body, thus aggravating cardiovascular and respiratory illness.


  • Polluted air has been seen causing immediate health problems among healthy individuals.
  • In today’s world even healthy people are susceptible to health hazards that are caused due to polluted air, including breathing difficulties while doing daily work or carrying out any physical activity.
  • The duration of time to which the individual was exposed to the polluted air plays a significant part in determining the damage taken by the body.
  • People who already have a history of heart problems in their family or suffer from heart ailments have a big reason to worry as polluted air may affect them very badly. The long-term effects of the bad air quality may seriously affect people with coronary artery problems and lung diseases.


1. How does air pollution affect health?

Air pollution has an adverse effect on health. It can start with small issues and diseases and can get severe over the course of time. It can directly affect the lungs, causing lung cancer, heart disease, and heart attacks. One of the biggest threats is Chronic Pulmonary Disease (COPD) which is caused due to pollutants going directly into the lungs and causing infections like pneumonia and lung infections.

2. What are four different symptoms in the human body caused by air pollution?

The four major symptoms in the human body caused by air pollution are worsening the respiratory system by causing diseases like bronchitis, asthma, and emphysema. Causing damage to the lung due to sore throat and excessive coughing. It can also reduce the resistance to infections and increase the chances of fatigue.

3. Does wearing a mask help with poor air quality?

No. Mask does not protect against the vapors, gases, and chemicals as both big and small particulate matter are PM10 and PM2.5. However, researchers say that wearing a mask can help in reducing allergy symptoms.

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  1. Air Pollution and Illness. Accessed on 6 Dec 2021
  2. WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF AIR POLLUTION?. Accessed on 6 Dec 2021
  3. SOLUTIONS TO AIR POLLUTION. Accessed on 6 Dec 2021

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