With the winter fast fading and springtime approaching, it’s time to get outside and take a breath of… dirty air.
It’s true, with 2012 serving as the hottest year in recorded history, climatologists continue to witness new heat records rising up like the temperature itself. And the polluted air continues to bloom more than the daffodils on your front porch.
Linda Marsa, author of the new book Fevered: Why a Hotter Planet Will Hurt Our Health—And How We Can Save Ourselves, believes that filthy air might be the most dangerous and underappreciated health issue that comes with a steadily-warming planet.
The rising temperatures cause heat to mingle more invasively with air pollution, effectively creating even more toxic compounds that you probably don’t even notice– yet.
“As temperatures rise and more pollutants are dumped into the atmosphere, the plume of that toxic cloud will spread like ink on a blotter, covering more land under a suffocating carbon canopy,” Marsa indicates.
Below are four of the biggest health problems linked with disgusting air.
#1: Ozone Smog
When you see a sky filled with a hazy orange glow, you know there’s something rotten in the atmosphere. This “haze,” Marsa writes, occurs when the heat “cooks” pollution coming from cars, trucks, power plants, and other machinery. This pollution is cooked into a lung-damaging ozone– a primary cause for asthma attacks and allergies alike, not to mention respiratory diseases from pneumonia to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
#2: Extremely Toxic Particulate Matter
Heat and sunlight also produces chemical compounds that form particulate matter in the air, Marsa continues. The largest of these particles is called PM10, which attaches themselves to dust, then sticks to the interior of your lungs when inhaled– which elicits a nasty and continuous cough. Smaller particles like PM2.5 linger in the ozone’s chemical fumes and are even more dangerous– once inside your lungs, they can cause chronic irritation that potentially becomes heart diseases and even cancer. Worse still, research discovered that it can infiltrate your brain and cause permanent concentration and memory problems.
#3: Deadly Diseases
Particulate matter doesn’t just wreck your lungs and ruin your brain– much of it also acts as a host for lethal fungal spores, Marsa indicates. One specific disease that is especially deadly is Valley Fever, a lung disease stemming from fungus that resides in soil. The disease has now hit an exponential amount of people, as the rates of those affected has quadrupled in the last decade. It kills approximately 200 people out of the 200,000 it afflicts each year– making it more dangerous than Lyme disease or the West Nile virus.
And it’s not just Valley Fever researchers are worried about– there have been documented cases involving meningitis being spread through dust, and study authors believe dust has been the source of SARS outbreaks, influenza, and many other harmful respiratory diseases.
#4: Childbirth Defects
Worse still, recent studies have found that air pollution has been associated with numerous breathing problems, primarily in developing countries– but a new preliminary study looking at New Jersey air pollution levels may have encountered an increased risk of stillbirths among pregnant women exposed to certain air-bound pollutants.
“We found that different pollutants are harmful in different trimesters of pregnancy,” said Dr. Ambarina Faiz, an instructor at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
In their study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology,researchers used statewide birth data between the years 1998 and 2004. They looked at mothers who lived within 10 kilometers of New Jersey’s 25 pollutant-monitoring stations and compared live births with stillbirths while considering factors found to affect stillbirth risk, such as the mother’s age, smoking preferences, ethnicity and prenatal care.
The studies showed that stillbirths were uncommon, with less than 1,000 among the hundreds of thousands of births in any region where the researchers calculated pollutants. For one point of reference, among more than 207,000 women whose carbon monoxide exposure was estimated as being at a higher level during their first trimester, there were only about 800 stillbirths.
However, the stillbirth risk rose for mothers who were exposed to pollutants during certain times of their pregnancy. Results indicated that, for every 10 parts per billion rise in nitrogen dioxide levels, risk of stillbirth rose with it a monumental 27 percent. Stillbirth risks increased by 16 percent for every increase of 10-ppb in the pollutant during the first trimester. Sulfur dioxide increased stillbirth risks by 13 percent with every 3-ppb increase in the first trimester, with a 26 percent rise for every 3-ppb increase in the third trimester. Lastly, carbon monoxide was linked with a 14 percent rise in stillbirth risk in the second and third trimesters for every 400-ppb increase in concentration.
Still, further research should be done to better understand how much caution pregnant women need to exert on the focus of air pollution.
“It increases the risk, but how much and to what extent, I’m not sure about that,” Faiz said.
Always consult your chiropractor or primary care physician for all your health related advice.
This article is made available for general, entertainment and educational purposes only. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of The Joint Corp (or its franchisees and affiliates). You should always seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.