Healthy Air Technology
The surprising link between poor air quality and health issues

The surprising link between poor air quality and health issues

21 March 2023

The consequences of poor air quality are grave, and if people are made more aware of how serious they can be, they would probably change their lifestyles or demand more protection.

With nine million deaths annually resulting from poor air quality, it’s clear that air pollution is linked to health issues.

The health consequences can be as serious as to cause respiratory diseases, cancer, and ultimately death – meaning that looking at the source of the problem and how to tackle it is of upmost importance.

What makes poor air quality?

“Air pollution is a rising issue. It affects air quality and therefore the air we breathe,” says Dr Chunli Cao, Managing Director of Healthy Air Technology and Fellow of CIBSE, who has worked towards creating ground-breaking solutions in the sector.

“It is caused by various factors and comes in different forms, meaning it is not a simple problem, and we can all be affected in different ways,” she adds.

With household air pollution, motor vehicle pollution, industrial pollution and more, the consequences come in the form of carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter.

The weather may also affect air quality, and levels can vary in different areas – such as cities with heavy road traffic.

The detrimental effects of air quality on our health

“Air pollution can affect different groups to varying extents,” says Chunli.

Children, pregnant women, elderly, individuals with respiratory diseases or issues, and those in areas of higher pollution are more at risk of suffering the consequences of poor air quality.

Chunli adds: “Being more aware of this can allow people to react to air quality and the issues around it, as well as allowing businesses and public services to mitigate the risks of air pollution where they are within their control.”

Air pollution can cause a variety of health problems, including cases of heart disease, strokes, and respiratory diseases like asthma.

There are short and long-term effects, where in the short-term, health impacts may include asthma and general damage to lungs and respiratory abilities.

In the long-term, it can shorten life expectancy. In fact, people who spend the majority of their time in vehicles, such as lorry drivers, have a life expectancy that is 16 years shorter than that of other professions.

Air pollution can also cause problems with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as being discovered to cause cases of lung cancer.

The connection between air quality and cancer

Poor air quality, particularly outdoor air pollution, causes 1 in 10 cases of lung cancer, with around 6,000 deaths a year caused by lung cancer without the person ever having smoked.

In fact, in 2019, there were 300,000 lung cancer deaths globally, all due to the exposure to fine particulate matter in air pollution.

There is evidence to suggest that air pollution can also cause other forms of cancer, such as breast, liver, and pancreatic cancer.

Air pollution has particles that can harm DNA in cells, changing how cells replicate and altering the body’s immune system.

The particles can also cause inflammation that sparks the growth of new blood vessels, letting tumours spread, or they can react with dormant mutations in lung cells and turn them cancerous.

“Poor air quality is not something to take lightly. With such serious health consequences, including shorter life expectancy and the potential to cause cancer, action needs to be taken,” says Chunli.

How to tackle the dangers of poor air quality

Going forward, fighting the effects of poor air quality should be a priority. This can be done in the form of prevention, as well as reaction.

“Councils can put measures in place to combat air pollution issues. With investments to improve public transport and reduce air pollution caused by traffic, as well as plans to encourage cycle routes, reducing air pollution should be encouraged for everyone,” says Chunli.

Going beyond this, putting efforts into raising awareness about the consequences of poor air quality should be considered. Councils could actively enforce education on what causes poor air quality, the problems that arise from it, and the available solutions.

Focussing efforts on indoor air quality is also important, such as with the use of air purifiers to control the levels of air quality in communal buildings and our homes.

With councils looking at tackling the problem externally, they have also began putting measures in place to face the problem internally, too.

“Air purifiers are extremely effective. If businesses and individuals put measures in place themselves, our health should be less at risk – and air purification systems are key to improving indoor air quality directly,” says Chunli.

She adds: “We don’t always have a choice in the air we breathe, but we are doing our best to monitor it as closely as possible.

“By making lifestyle changes like including the use of air purifiers, or making efforts to prevent further air pollution, it could help our health massively in the future – even with cases of cancer.”

You may find HATL HA800 is useful to clean up the pollutants.

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