Air Pollution and Your Health: Are We Risking Our Lives for the Big City?

Caitlin Register, Mercer University College of Pharmacy

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), air pollution presents a negative effect on asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, and stroke. [1] The United States National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), as established by Environmental Protection Agency, recommends ozone concentrations below 70 parts per billion (ppb) and annual average particles with a mass median aerodynamic diameter of less than 2.5 μg (PM2.5) concentrations less than 12.0 μg/m3 for “sensitive” populations such as asthmatics, children, and the elderly. For public welfare protection, PM2.5 concentrations less than 15.0 μg/m3 are recommended. [2] According to the World Health Organization (WHO), outdoor air pollution is estimated worldwide to cause about 8% of lung cancer deaths, 5% of cardiopulmonary deaths, and 3% of deaths from respiratory infections. [3] It is suggested that negative impacts on respiratory and cardiovascular health can follow both short and long-term exposures to particulate matter air pollution, and long-term exposure may be linked to atherosclerosis and childhood respiratory disease. With regard to these factors and public health, increased mortality may be the ultimate effect of air pollution. [4]

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