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Air Pollution and Your Health

 In Australia, we’re lucky enough that we very rarely see the air pollution in our immediate atmosphere. We know it’s there, but it’s almost impossible to see. We have no choice but to breathe the air around us, and while we can’t see the polluted air in front of us, it’s still playing a significant role in the overall health of the national and global population. 

From the fumes billowing out of industrial areas, to the bushfires occurring every summer, to the endless cars stuck in traffic during peak hour in each capital city pumping their exhausts and pollutants into the air, the pollution is everywhere. When you stop and think about it, every single one of these can have an effect on your health.

What Air Pollution is Doing to Your Health

Studies conducted in the US have shown that there’s evidence that people breathing air of a poorer quality has a negative effect on their bodies and brains, with studies conducted in China and Canada showing that children who breathe poor air are more likely to have breathing difficulties and asthma. Additional studies have shown that schoolchildren who breathe poor air are also more likely to need academic intervention at some point during their schooling.

But, it doesn’t only effect children. The cognitive, health and developmental effects caused by air pollution, such as slower academic performance and higher risks of asthma and other lung conditions can continue to build up throughout their life if intervention doesn’t happen. Research in the US shows that dementia and cognitive decline rates are higher in places with more air pollution, and that this only gets worse with age.

Additionally, even short-term exposure to high concentration of ground-level ozone, which Australia does have issues with, can increase rates for irregular heartbeats, contributing to increased risk for heart attacks, even for people without any pre-existing heart conditions.   

Australia’s Air Pollution Levels

While our air pollution level isn’t quite so high as countries like China or India, we’re still trailing behind where we need to be in terms of monitoring and implementing regulations for the overall health of the country and the population. With air pollution already a significant health problem in our country, it’s projected to only add to a rise in health issues and negatively affect the overall quality of life for a significant portion of the population.

Over the coming decades, we will experience worsening heat waves due to air pollution, meaning an increased severity in floods and storms and harsher bushfire seasons, which in turn will produce even more pollutants.

In Australia, an estimated 2.5 million people suffer from asthma, with conditions such as thunderstorm asthma becoming all the more common. These rates are only set to rise, with air pollution contributing to increased rates of respiratory illness, asthma, emphysema, lung cancer and throat cancer.

How You Can Improve Your Air Quality Throughout the Day

You may be feeling as though any attempts to curb the effects of air pollution might be futile, however there are some simple steps you can take to improve the air quality in your home and throughout your day.

  • Make a conscious effort not to leave your car idling – it wastes money and fuel, and dumps pollutants into the air.
  • Reduce your use of cleaning products or air fresheners in your home
  • Invest in some house plants – studies by NASA have discovered plants that can reduce the levels of formaldehyde in the home improving your air quality
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector
  • Open windows or use an extraction fan while cooking otherwise levels of nitrogen dioxide can exceed those on polluted roads
  • Routinely change your filters
  • Keep asthma triggers at bay by fixing leaks and drips in your home as soon as they start
  • Standing water and humidity can encourage dust mites, mould and mildew and act as common triggers for asthma sufferers.

As air pollution continues to impact the overall health of Australians, it’s important to take small steps in improving your immediate air quality. Additionally, if you suffer from asthma or other associated lung conditions, it’s important to monitor this and understand how to effectively treat it when air pollution rates are of a high level.

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