Air pollution may have even more damaging effects than previously thought. A study released last year showed that not only is air pollution bad for the environment, but it’s also making children overweight and sick. The culprit is believed to be the inflammatory properties of polluted air.
Obesity has become a growing problem in America. According to the CDC, approximately 20% of children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 19 years old are considered clinically obese. Obesity is linked to an increased risk of many diseases, including asthma, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Could it be related to air pollution?
Air Pollution and Asthma
Air pollution is defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as “any visible or invisible particle or gas found in the air that is not part of its natural composition.” These particles can include fumes from car exhausts, the byproducts of coal production, and other manufacturing industries, as well as ammonia that is released into the air by agricultural companies.
There are many other sources of air pollutants. They include tobacco smoke, aerosol sprays, pesticides, mold, and more. What this means is that air pollution is virtually inescapable. Whether you live in a major city or a small rural town, air pollution is there. And it’s linked to asthma.
The Link with Asthma
It’s reported that as the micro-particles in the air make their way through our respiratory systems. The particles irritate the nose, throat, and lungs, leading to inflammation and difficulty breathing. On days when air pollution is at its highest, measured by the EPA via Air Quality Index, emergency rooms see a surge in asthmatic patients.
One way that you can see the Air Quality Index where you live without spending too much time checking the news or searching online is to get your own at-home air quality monitor.
It makes sense that breathing artificial, sometimes toxic substances would cause difficulty breathing. But how is it causing obesity and making children sick?
Air Pollution and Obesity
Another study linked exposure to air pollution to unhealthy adolescent diets. Children exposed to chronic air pollution were 34% more likely to consume foods high in trans fat. The study is the largest of its kind, having begun in 1992 and continuing to this day.
While obesity is more often linked to low-income areas and those with lower levels of education, this study found that regardless of these factors, the results were the same. All children who lived in highly polluted environments, regardless of socioeconomic class, were more likely to become obese.
It’s believed that this is a result of neuroinflammation, which affects parts of the brain responsible for food cravings and dietary-decision making behavior.
Asthma and Obesity
Additionally, a significant correlation between asthma and obesity has been identified. The CDC found that nearly 39% of obese individuals report struggling with asthma, and another study found that children with asthma are 51% more likely to become obese.
How does this happen? The two conditions go hand-in-hand. Many asthma medications include steroids, which can lead to rapid weight gain. Additionally, trouble breathing and being overweight can deter children from participating in physical activities and getting the recommended amount of exercise.
It’s an alarming cycle.
Additional Health Effects of Air Pollution
Not only does air pollution lead to asthma and obesity, but it presents a wide range of other health problems as well. Children who live in areas with high rates of air pollution are shown to have weakened immune systems, leading to frequent colds, sinus infections, and bronchitis.
It’s also shown that high levels of air pollution are linked to cancer later in life, coronary artery disease, and a higher risk of stroke. Not only is air pollution hurting our children now, but it could have potentially fatal effects in the future.
The World Health Organization reports that air pollution contributes to 7 million premature deaths every single year.
Protecting Our Children
The ultimate goal is to lower air pollution and reduce our carbon footprint to ensure a better tomorrow for everyone. However, there are steps that you can take now to protect yourself and your children against the damaging effects of air pollution.
Ways to negate the effects of pollution include:
- Using an air purifying and dehumidifier indoors
- Monitoring the Air Quality Index and staying inside on days rated “poor”
- Clean or replace your air conditioner filters regularly
- Don’t smoke indoors
- Check out these tips for maintaining healthy lungs
Join the green movement for a GR8ER tomorrow.