The Importance Of Air Quality For Long-Term Health

You probably already know to limit air pollution exposure when possible, but have you heard about the relationship between air quality and long-term health?

Health Condition Likelihood Rises Due To Air Pollution

A 2022 study of adults in England showed that long-term exposure to air pollution from traffic made people more likely to have multiple long-term mental and physical health conditions. Scientists already know people with numerous health conditions spend more on care and seek medical advice more often. However, this was the first study in the United Kingdom that connected multiple long-term conditions with air pollution.

Researchers collected genetic, lifestyle and health information from more than 500,000 participants aged 40 to 69. They then analyzed the prevalence of 36 physical and five mental health chronic conditions.

The results showed people exposed to high levels of fine particulate matter from automobiles had a 21% higher chance of having two or more health conditions at the same time than those living with lower concentrations of air pollution. The examination of high levels of exposure to nitrogen dioxide was similar, with people being 20% more likely to have at least two chronic health conditions simultaneously.

Possible Connection Found Between Pollution And Skin Health

Being in low-humidity environments can dry the skin, which is made of 64% water and is the body’s largest organ. Some people with chronic skin conditions find that dry air worsens them, too. As it turns out, that’s not the only air-related issue that can affect the skin.

 

A 2023 study analyzed how air pollution from Canadian wildfires affected people living in Boston, Massachusetts. One takeaway was a spike in dermatology appointments associated with atopic dermatitis and eczema. Those involved with the study said such conditions usually worsen in winter due to air dryness. However, their investigation occurred during a summer of severe wildfires.

When the researchers compared dermatologist visit data from the summer of high wildfire activity with the previous four years, they believed high levels of carbon monoxide could have caused the uptick in skin problems.

The team clarified that chronic air pollution exposure can cause cumulative damage to the skin by triggering a stress response that can lead to premature aging, increased skin damage and more inflammation.

Links Between Air Pollution And Cardiovascular Health

People rightfully paid a lot of attention to deaths caused by COVID-19. Something that often gets overlooked, however, is that air pollution kills more people than that virus.

When the American Heart Association published a research article that examined 30 years of data, they found a 31% worldwide increase in premature deaths and disabilities from cardiovascular disease linked to particulate matter air pollution.

There were gender-related differences to study, too. More specifically, there was a 43% increase in such deaths among men and a 28.2% increase in females.

Another finding was that a person’s socioeconomic status affected cardiovascular disease’s impact on their lives. When someone lived in a region with high socioeconomic conditions, they were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and lived more years disabled by it. However, the opposite was true for people living in places with comparatively worse socioeconomic conditions.

Protecting Yourself From Air Pollution

Almost everyone occasionally experiences air pollution, and it’s a daily occurrence for some people. Given what researchers have discovered about its adverse effects on health, what can you do to increase your chances of staying healthy for as long as possible, even if you can’t wholly avoid dirty air?

One practical step is to become familiar with your area’s air quality index. It’s a 500-point scale that indicates air pollution levels. If the daily level is 101 or higher, consider limiting your time outside to less than a half-hour. Then, if you can’t avoid going outside during these times, wear a high-quality mask, such as an N95.

Another great tip is to keep the dirty air outside when you’re indoors. Use an air conditioner with an effective filtration system rather than opening a window to stay cooler. Stay aware of how things such as candles, cigarettes, household cleaners and cooking techniques can reduce indoor air quality, too.

The main thing to remember is that you can’t prevent all air pollution exposures. The next best thing is to lessen their effects through measures within your control. That’s a proactive way to safeguard your long-term health.


Author Bio

Jane is an environmental writer and the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co where she covers sustainability and eco-friendly living.

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