How Does Air Pollution Affect our Health?

Through breathing, we get air pollution. Larger particles often get stuck in the nose or throat while gases and fine particles can get into the lungs. Because various impurities get trapped in the trachea, they can be absorbed by the blood and cause different types of symptoms and diseases.

Particles, ozone, and nitrogen oxides are examples of pollutants that cause many different types of problems and diseases. Organic substances such as benzene, ethylene and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are carcinogenic substances that come from incomplete combustion.

Nitrogen dioxide

Nitrogen dioxide is formed during combustion processes and comes mainly from road traffic. Small-scale combustion of firewood and pellets is a relatively large source of emissions of e.g. dioxins, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and particles. The industry contributes to emissions of pollutants through combustion processes but also through emissions of solvents and other substances such as sulfur dioxide.

This is how it affects our health

Nitrogen dioxide is irritating to the respiratory tract and can affect the lungs of sensitive persons. For example, asthma can be exacerbated. People with other respiratory or cardiovascular diseases may also suffer. High levels of nitrogen dioxide can also be an indicator of high levels of other air pollutants, such as carcinogens.

Sulfur dioxide

Many fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas contain sulfur. In combustion, this is converted to sulfur dioxide. The majority of the sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere comes from heating boilers and power plants where they burn with fossil fuels, traffic (diesel cars and ships) and industry. Emissions were greatest in the 70s and have since declined sharply.

This is how it affects our health

The sulfur dioxide forms sulfuric acid together with water and oxygen in the atmosphere. This gives a rainfall that acidifies soil and water. Sulfur dioxide and sulfuric acid cause direct damage to forests and plants and cause corrosion of metals and other materials. Sulfur dioxide is also a health problem as it can have effects on the respiratory organs. The effects are amplified if at the same time exposed to particles in the air.

Particles

Particles are formed by incomplete combustion of coal, oil, biofuels and other fuels and can spread far through air streams. In urban areas, particle levels are greatest during the spring when the snow has thawed away from the roads. Then many still drive with winter tires and sand and gravel remain on the streets. High levels can also occur in the fall and other times during the year.

This is how it affects our health

There is a connection between high particle levels in the air and an increased number of emergency visits and hospital admissions for respiratory diseases and asthma. This is because the particles create or exacerbate inflammation of the airways.
Knowledge about what makes the particles harmful is incomplete today and you do not know if the number, size, mass, surface or constituents are harmful.

Ozone

Ozone is a naturally occurring gas that is formed by oxidizing the air’s oxygen in the presence of hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and sunlight. Traffic emissions contribute to increased amounts of ground-level ozone. This should not be confused with the ozone content/hole in the atmosphere. High ozone levels usually occur when we have good weather and occur not only in cities with high levels of pollution but also in smaller towns.

This is how it affects our health

Ozone seems irritating to the respiratory tract. Health effects may include impaired lung function, respiratory distress, and inflammation. Ozone also damages vegetation. Forests and crops are damaged by the ozone and have poorer growth.

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