Home / News / World /  WHO warns air pollution can cause these fatal diseases, harm fetuses. Check here

World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that air pollution can cause heart disease and stroke which are common reasons for premature death and evidence is also emerging of other effects such as diabetes and neurodegenerative conditions. From smog hanging over cities to smoke inside the home, air pollution poses a major threat to health and climate across the globe, the UN health agency has said.

This comes at a time when the air quality in Delhi and its neighbouring cities has dipped to ‘very poor’ category. As on Sunday, city's 24-hour average air quality index stood at 339, dropping from 381 a day ago. It was 447 on Friday, according to the Central Pollution Control Board. It had jumped to 450 on Thursday, just a notch short of the 'severe plus' category. Here is all you need to know:

How does air pollution lead to disease in our bodies?

The main pathway of exposure from air pollution is through the respiratory tract. Breathing in these pollutants leads to inflammation, oxidative stress, immunosuppression, and mutagenicity in cells throughout our body, impacting the lungs, heart, brain among other organs and ultimately leading to disease.

What organs are impacted by air pollution?

Almost every organ in the body can be impacted by air pollution. Due to their small size, some air pollutants are able to penetrate into the bloodstream via the lungs and circulate throughout the entire body leading to systemic inflammation and carcinogenicity.

What diseases are associated with exposure to air pollution?

Air pollution is a risk for all-cause mortality as well as specific diseases. The specific disease outcomes most strongly linked with exposure to air pollution include stroke, ischaemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, pneumonia, and cataract (household air pollution only).

There is suggestive evidence also linking air pollution exposure with increased risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes (i.e. low-birth weight, small for gestational age), other cancers, diabetes, cognitive impairment and neurological diseases.

Does exposure to air pollution during pregnancy impact the health of the fetus?

Maternal exposure to air pollution is associated with adverse birth outcomes, such as low birth weight, pre-term birth and small for gestational age births.

A growing body of evidence also suggests that air pollution may affect diabetes and neurological development in children.

How long does someone need to be exposed to air pollution to harm their health?

Health problems in children and adults can occur because of both short- and long-term exposure to air pollutants. The levels and duration of exposure that can be considered ‘safe’ vary by pollutant, as well as the related disease outcomes. For some pollutants, there are no thresholds below which adverse effects do not occur.

Exposure to high levels of particulate matter, for example, can lead to reduced lung function, respiratory infections and aggravated asthma from short-term exposure. Whereas long-term or chronic exposure to fine particulate matter increases a person’s risk for diseases with a longer onset, like some noncommunicable diseases including stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cancer.

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