Air pollution has become a growing problem in most urban cities of the country, especially industrialized cities like Lagos, Port Harcourt, Nnewi, Kano among others. While the air pollution levels shoot up drastically during the winters and festival season, the pollution levels have started to be at a very high level, even otherwise.
High pollution levels can make people to stay indoors and avoid outdoor exercise, play, and activities. People at a higher risk of respiratory problems or those who have existing conditions like asthma are recommended to keep their medicines handy.
Breathing in polluted air has been linked with various health problems, both physical and mental, and in all age groups. Therefore, it is important to understand what happens to our body when we breathe in polluted air.
How polluted air affects the nose and olfactory system
When we breathe, the first point of contact between our body and the polluted air is the nose. When we breathe dirty, polluted air, the cell receptors in our nose may get irritated, and we may sneeze or cough to remove the pollutants from the body.
However, this is only true in case of bigger pollutants like dirt, and not in the cases of Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM).
How polluted air affects the lungs
The lungs are the first internal organ that comes in contact with polluted air. When you breathe in, the pollutants in the air are likely to irritate the airways. When this happens, the muscles around the bronchi get tight.
Bronchi are the airways in the lungs, which are further divided into small bronchioles. As the muscles get tighter, the lining of the bronchi may swell, and produce excess mucus. As the airways get constricted due to this, it becomes harder to breathe.
A similar mechanism takes place when there is an asthma attack. In people with asthma, the airways are already constricted, and the pollutants cause even more restriction in the movement of air, which puts asthmatic people at a higher risk of breathing problems in case of high pollution levels.
Restricted airways may also make it difficult for the lungs to filter viruses and other germs, increasing your risk of infections.
During the summers, we often assume that the levels of air pollution will be lower. However, warm weather can increase the presence of ozone in the environment. Exposure to even low levels of ozone can cause inflammation in the lungs, especially asthmatics, to go up, which may make it very hard for them to breathe.
How polluted air affects your heart
There are different types of pollutants present in the air. While some of them are more solid and stay in the lungs, others are gases, which can enter your body just like oxygen does.
These gases can also get transferred to your bloodstream. When pollutants enter the blood, they can affect your heart. Irregular heartbeats, narrowing of blood vessels, high blood pressure, etc are commonly caused due to polluted air.
When pollutants enter the blood from the lungs, they cause inflammation in the vessels. This can cause blood flow, and even put you at an increased risk of heart attacks. Plaque caused due to the pollutants can also cause clots and lead to strokes.
How air pollution affects your brain
High levels of air pollution have also been linked with poor mental and brain health. As mentioned before, pollutants can increase the risk of blood clots and strokes.
According to reports, the pollutants can enter the brain, once they enter the bloodstream. This can increase headaches, anxiety, and affect the central nervous system. Attention, IQ, and behaviour are likely to be affected by air pollution.
I urge you to help save the environment and save lives too.
From: Oduigwe Chidera Dok