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Air Pollution And Health Risks
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Air Pollution And Health Risks

Today there are a record amount of vehicles on the road and the miles being traveled is steadily growing rapidly. With transportation being the number one source of pollution in the United States, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to connect the dots between air pollution and health risks.

Air pollution is emitted through the operation, refueling, manufacturing and the disposal processes of motor vehicles. You have the primary pollution emitted directly into the air, and the secondary pollution created from chemical reactions of these pollutants in the atmosphere.

Some of the major pollutants are particulate matter (PM), hydrocarbons (HC), nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), toxics, and greenhouse gases. Did you know that one in five Americans live within ten miles of a coal-fired power plant?

When coal and crude oil are burned it becomes a respiratory irritant which causes asthma attacks. Mostly refineries and diesel engines are responsible for emitting high amounts of SO2 into the air. Particulate matter covers a wide range of pollutants like dust, soot, wood burning particles, diesel engine particles and sulfate aerosols. These fine particles can be logged into the lungs and triggers asthma attacks.

Ground level ozone is a component of smog and big cities like Los Angeles and New York with lots of traffic have problems with smog. When tailpipe pollution from cars and trucks react with oxygen and sunlight you get ozone that can lead to the development of asthma in children. There are also studies that have found that children and young adults who have breathed polluted air have showed signs of inflammation in their brain. The changes they found were similar to those of Alzheimer patients.

These studies add to the growing research of the effects of pollution on the brain. If you are early on in pregnancy and breathing traffic pollution it can put your child at high risk for birth defects, according to new research from Stanford University School of Medicine.

They found an association between specific traffic related air pollutants and neural tube defects. Nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide exposures were linked to an increased risk of birth defects. Three times the risk to be more exact, according to the study.

If that’s not alarming to you, how about new estimates from a study recent published in the journal, Environmental Research Letters, that estimates approximately 2.1 million deaths occur each year worldwide due to human-caused particulate matter.

Many of these are in East and South Asia where the population is dense and pollution is incredibly bad. Air pollution poses a serious health risk to all of us and we need to actively clean up our act with cleaner alternative cars and trucks and more responsible refineries.


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