A new study conducted in the USA by a group of scientists has suggested that long term exposure to Air Pollution causes an impact on human lungs and respiratory system. It tells that breathing in a city with high rates of air pollution may have an impact equal to that of smoking a pack of cigarettes daily.

This is for everyone. Whether you are a smoker or not, but if you are living in a city with high rates of urbanisation and industrialisation, then it for sure that you are being exposed to a lot of air pollution. 

The research was conducted at the University of Washington. It involved the study of respiratory systems of around 7,000 adults from America’s 6 major cities. i.e. Chicago, Los Angeles, Baltimore, St. Paul, Minn., New York City and Winston-Salem, N.C. These adults were between the age of 45 to 84 years. 

The people involved in the study were those, who are generally exposed to pollutants or polluted air having annual average concentrations of between 10 and 25 parts per billion of ground-level ozone outside their homes. The study determined how the constant exposure to four main pollutants in the air outside their homes affects the respiratory system of these adults. The 4 major pollutants are particulate matter, nitrogen oxide, black carbon and ozone.

The researchers carried out CT scans regularly to determine the damage caused to lungs and level of emphysema in their body. Emphysema is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In this disease, the air sacs of your lungs get damaged on being exposed to particulate matter, causing problems in respiration. Apart from this, chronic cough & breathing problems while running or exercising are also symptoms of Emphysema.

The study took place for an average of 10 years on all the candidates and the scientists concluded that long-term exposure to all of the pollutants is responsible for an increase in Emphysema.

From the overall study, it was found that among the four major pollutants, ground-level ozone has the worst effect, which is equal to smoking a pack of cigarettes, every day for 29 years. The ground-level ozone pollutants are formed when the Ultra Violet (UV) rays that come from the sun, comes in contact with the emissions generated from the burning of fossil fuels. This mainly involves carbon compounds such as carbon-mono-oxide & CO2. These are also responsible for the rising temperature of the planet.

The senior co-author of the research Dr Joel Kaufman from the University of Washington said, “We were surprised to see how strong air pollution’s impact was on the progression of emphysema on lung scans, in the same league as the effects of cigarette smoking, which is by far the best-known cause of emphysema.”

This study proves that even if you are a non-smoker, you are not at the option of avoiding serious respiratory disorders. And if you are already a smoker, then you are doubling the rates of developing respiratory disorders already. 

This study is proof that we need to take serious steps to reduce the effects of pollution. Already global warming and climate change top the list of problems caused by pollution. We need to switch from fossil fuels to other methods for generating energy. Also, petrol and diesel-based vehicles should be replaced by e-vehicles.

Industries need to update its infrastructure to filter emissions before releasing into the environment. Planting more trees will help reduce pollution to a great extent because they are natural air filters. We need to understand the need to conserve our environment before it starts to kill us.