How Is Air Pollution Making You Sick?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines air pollution as “any visible or invisible particle or gas found in the air that is not part of the natural composition of air.” This is a very serious problem—7 million premature deaths annually are linked to air pollution, according to the World Health Organization.[slideshow:102358]
Air contamination is really a heterogeneous, complex mixture of gases, liquids, and particulate matter (PM). PM itself is a mixture of elements that vary in chemical composition and size.
One of the most prevalent types of air pollution is smog. Also known as “ground-level ozone,” it occurs when emissions from combusting fossil fuels react with sunlight. Soot, or “particulate matter,” is made up of tiny particles of chemicals, soil, smoke, dust, or allergens, in the form of gas or solids, that are carried in the air.
The sources of smog and soot are alike. Both come from cars and trucks, factories, power plants, incinerators, engines—anything that combusts fossil fuels such as coal, gas, or natural gas.
But air pollution doesn’t only occur outside. You should be concerned about air contamination inside your home as well. It may be hard to believe but this is, usually, where you are exposed to most allergens and irritants. After all, you cook, eat, shower and play with pets in your house. It may have small particles in the air or damaging gases such as carbon monoxide.
Few risks have a greater influence on global health nowadays than air pollution; the evidence shows urgent need for action to clean up the air people breathe.