Five Ways Environmental Pollution Can Affect Your Health
Environmental pollution is part of daily life for most people. Pollutants are found in higher concentrations in certain areas, such as in large cities. Certain types of pollutants are also unique to specific areas or industries, such as in farming areas where the use of pesticides is prevalent. However, all pollutants have one thing in common, which is the fact that they can be hazardous to your health over time or in large doses. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), almost two billion people around the world currently drink water containing potentially hazardous contaminants. There are also many airborne pollutants that can affect human health as well. The specific health hazards you may personally encounter as a result of pollution is dependent upon many factors, including where you live, your general health prior to exposure, the types of pollutants to which you are exposed and whether or not the exposure is prolonged. There are certain types of pollution and associated health risks that are generally more common than others. Below is a list of five ways the environmental pollution you may encounter on a regular basis can affect your health.
High Nitrate Levels in Drinking Water Can Cause Illness or Death
Nitrates are harmful substances which can contaminate drinking water in some areas. Although the most common sources of nitrates are fertilizers used in farming, nitrates can also be found in other products and industries. Therefore, nitrate levels can sometimes be high in urban drinking water sources as well. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitors nitrate levels in drinking water on a regular basis in an effort to keep instances of severe nitrate contamination under control. However, abnormally high nitrate concentrations in water supplies still occur on a fairly regular basis across the country.
Although you would have to consume large amounts of nitrates to become ill as an adult, the same may not be true for your child, especially if he or she is an infant. According to EPA evidence, exposure to high nitrate levels may cause your child to develop something known as Blue Baby Syndrome, which is a breathing disorder leading to decreased oxygen processing and blue-tinted skin. The syndrome has also been known to cause death in some severe instances.
Water Treatment Byproducts Increase Certain Health Risks
Water treatment is the process of cleaning a water supply. Many water supplies must be cleaned and decontaminated because storm water runoff carries pollutants into lakes and other bodies of water that serve as drinking water supplies for communities. However, occasionally the products and processes used in water treatment react negatively with the toxic algae or other substances that are being cleansed within the water supply. According to the EPA, the resulting water treatment byproducts, known as dioxins, have been shown to increase risks of certain types of cancer and other illnesses, such as reproductive disorders.
Air Pollution May Cause Increased Strain on Your Heart
Air pollution is a particularly invasive and hazardous form of environmental pollution because while you can choose where and when you drink water, you cannot choose the air you breathe. Air pollution is found almost everywhere to some degree, but the air in and around large cities tends to be more polluted than the air in less populated areas. According to the American Heart Association, the simple act of breathing in air containing pollutants can cause you to develop heart inflammation. If you are already suffering from a heart condition, the sudden exposure to airborne pollutants may cause you to suffer a stroke or heart attack.
Air Pollution May Cause You to Develop Asthma or Various Breathing Problems
The same airborne environmental pollutants which can increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke may also make you more prone to developing lung cancer or other breathing problems. These pollutants can infiltrate the lining of your lungs and the rest of your respiratory system. Asthma is one of the most common additional breathing-related illnesses that can occur due to such pollution. The symptoms of asthmas can also be aggravated by the introduction of environmental pollution. These pollutants can cause spasms which make it difficult for you to inhale and process enough air if you are asthmatic. If you have a child who is asthmatic, he or she may be particularly susceptible to a life-threatening asthma attack due to pollutants.
Environmental Pollution May Cause You to Develop Other Health Problems Indirectly
According to the World Health Organization, pollutants are causing the temperature of the planet to rise. Temperature changes can lead to changes in weather patterns, as well as the migration patterns of certain insects and animals which carry diseases. As a result, environmental pollution may indirectly increase your risks of additional illnesses related to climate or contact with disease carriers. For example, ticks carrying Lyme disease have been steadily migrating north, as have mosquitoes, which are capable of carrying many types of dangerous diseases.
Environmental changes caused by pollutants may also have other far-reaching consequences that are difficult to foresee, including additional potential health hazards you may encounter indirectly due to subtle changes in your environment as time passes. For instance, pollution can cause acid rain and other effects which can damage or contaminate crops. If you consume foods which have been negatively impacted by such pollution-induced environmental changes, you may develop any one of a number of illnesses.