How Air Pollution Contributes to Lung Disease

Have you ever seen a rusty pipe? Have you noticed how it gets discolored and corroded after being left in a toxic environment? This can happen to our respiratory tract leading to further health issues if we are surrounded by air pollution.

In this blog, we will discuss air pollution, its types, and how they affect your lungs. Moreover, symptoms and treatment options are elaborated on for your convenience. You can also visit a lung disease specialist and get treatment for sleep solutions and lung-related issues.

What is Air Pollution?

Air containing high concentrations of toxic and damaging pollutants causes harm to people, animals, or buildings. Air pollution affects all parts of our bodies and poses a greater danger to babies and the elderly. It is a silent killer. It is one of the greatest environmental threats to public health and the cause of numerous deaths around the world.

Furthermore, air pollution has gotten worse due to the rise in the number of industries. It is associated with several acute and chronic diseases, such as asthma, cardiovascular diseases, and lung cancer. There are different types of pollutants in the air that affect several parts of our body like the lungs.

Types of Air Pollutants and how they affect your lungs

Air pollution considerably influences respiratory health and some air pollutants have the strongest evidence for their adverse effects. The damaging effect on the lungs depends on the type and concentration of the air pollutants.  Some of them include

  • Carbon Monoxide

If there is too much carbon monoxide in your surroundings, your body replaces oxygen with CO. That results in severe tissue damage or even death.

  • Sulfur Dioxide 

High concentrations of sulfur dioxide can cause inflammation and irritation in the lungs. If you suffer from asthma, you should avoid staying in that environment as it will worsen your condition.

  • Ozone

Inhaling ozone can cause damage to the tissues of the respiratory tract, which results in inflammation and irritation. Some symptoms can arise due to high concentrations of ozone in the air. Some of them are chest tightness and repeated coughing. Ozone levels are lowest around sunshine and highest in the evening.

  • Nitrogen Dioxide

Nitrogen dioxide causes severe damage to the lungs. It reduces the body’s ability to resist infection, which causes nausea, choking, coughing, and fatigue. This harmful substance also initiates radical generation and damages specific structural and functional lung cells.

  • Particular matter or soot

It is divided into three groups depending on its particle size. Each group affects the lungs and the respiratory tract differently. The smaller the size, the deadlier they are because they can easily penetrate through the lungs. Coarse particular matter includes dust particles, mainly deposits in the trachea and the upper respiratory tract. They are of less concern and usually only irritate a person’s nose, throat, and eyes. Fine particulate matter involves industrial emissions that reach deep into the lungs and causes several respiratory diseases. Ultrafine particulate matter including diesel exhaust particles, can enter your bloodstream and travel to different parts of the body. That causes severe health issues, even death. Both fine particulate matter and ultrafine particulate matter are toxic to your health. They can reach high levels and reduce visibility which causes air to appear foggy.

Moreover, these pollutants attack different parts of the respiratory tract, which results in respiratory symptoms.

How are particles deposited in the respiratory system?

The three types of particulate we have discussed above get deposited in the respiratory tract through

  • The mode of breathing such as the mouth or nose
  • Breathing pattern
  • The characteristic of the particle such as its shape, size, or solubility

Furthermore, the water-soluble and other irritants initiate inflammation in the upper respiratory tract.

Respiratory symptoms of Air Pollution

Exposure to air pollution causes several health issues. You might start to have unwanted respiratory symptoms and won’t be able to identify the actual cause. These symptoms can occur due to short or long-term exposure to air pollutants. Some of them include

  • Irritation to the nose, eyes, and throat
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Irritation in the nasal cavity or throat
  • Increased asthma attacks
  • Respiratory diseases
  • Cardiovascular damage
  • Harm to the liver and blood
  • Damage to the nervous system
  • Birth defects
  • Cancer
  • Severe lung diseases

While short-term respiratory symptoms can be treated, long-term symptoms are not easily treatable. If you are facing any of these symptoms, consult a doctor immediately.

How to treat symptoms associated with Air Pollution?

There is no specific treatment for the symptoms of air pollution, mainly due to its similarity with the symptoms of allergy or infection. But there are some methods you can use to decrease the problem. Here are some of them:

  • Use nasal sprays and saline rinses that may provide relief of irritation caused in the nasal cavity
  • Use decongestants to relieve congestion
  • Throat sprays and cough suppressants will help relieve dry throat and cough
  • Eat vegetables to enhance the body’s antioxidant defenses
  • Take anticholinergics that may help relieve uncontrolled coughing
  • Intake of vitamins D and E to help protect against air pollution

Moreover, you can also take different herbs and teas to soothe your symptoms. These may include herbal tea, turmeric, mustard oil, and jaggery. For more severe symptoms your doctor will provide a more specific treatment plan.

Who is at Risk?

The quality of air affects everyone, but some people are more at risk than others. Especially children and older adults with preexisting medical conditions face a greater threat to their health. Children are particularly at higher risk because their lungs are still developing. They stay active most of the time, so they breathe faster and inhale more polluted air. This exposure leads them to suffer from health issues like asthma and other respiratory diseases. Your immune system tends to get weaker as you age, so older adults are at a higher risk. If you are pregnant, air pollution can also be detrimental to the health of your unborn baby. It may cause issues during labor and birth which will affect you too.

Furthermore, healthy individuals may also be at risk for toxic air pollutants due to higher sensitivity, genetics, or allergies.

How to reduce damage?

While it is impossible to avoid exposure to air pollutants, taking specific steps to reduce the damage will eventually decrease the adverse health effects. These include:

  • Reduce or avoid exercising in a polluted environment
  • Avoid taking busier routes
  • Check the routes and avoid the rush hours
  • Use an inhaler medication for asthma
  • Keep windows closed
  • Set the air conditioner to recycle air
  • Be aware of the local air quality
  • Wear a mask when visiting an industrial site
  • Keep your vehicles properly tuned
  • Use environment-friendly products whenever possible
  • Avoid unnecessary use of your automobile
  • Avoid burning different materials

These techniques are very helpful if you want to avoid air pollution. In addition to that, many organizations and governmental bodies are spreading awareness of the detrimental health consequences of air pollution. Numerous brands have also started using environment-friendly products to decrease medical risks.


Globally, air pollution has increased and become a nuisance to humans, animals, and plants. Death rates are increasing at a faster rate than they were before. It is vital to keep track of our health and reduce time spent in a toxic environment. We must protect ourselves and our environment and preserve what’s left of it. Industries must focus on the waste they dump all around. All of the pollutants that come from factories, automobiles, and biomass burning are hazardous to all living things. For further assistance on lung or sleep problems, search for a sleep doctor in my area for guidance.

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