Friday, May 17, 2019

Revealed: air pollution may be damaging 'every organ in the body’  

How air pollution reaches every part of the body ...

The WHO has called air pollution the “silent killer” because its widespread effects are often not ascribed to toxic air.  
Lungs and heart
The harmful effects of dirty air shown in the review begin when the pollution is inhaled.  This results in breathing problems, from asthma to emphysema to lung cancer. There is now overwhelming evidence that air pollution results in serious harm not only to the lungs, but also to the heart. Here it increases the risk of heart attacks as arteries narrow and muscles weaken. One reason for the wide-ranging damage from air pollution is that very small particles can penetrate the lungs and be carried around the body. “They land in the organs directly,” Schraufnagel said.  “Animal studies have shown they can even travel right up the olfactory nerve into the brain.” An emerging area of research also suggests air pollution can affect how genes function, he added.  

Brain and mind 
Strokes, dementia and reduced intelligence are all conditions affecting the brain that have been linked to air pollution.  There is also evidence that poor sleep can be a consequence of breathing toxic air.   The main reason for the far-reaching damage from air pollution is systemic inflammation, said Schraufnagel.  “Immune cells think a [pollution particle] is a bacteria, go after it and try to kill it by releasing enzymes and acids,” he said. “Those inflammatory proteins spread into the body, affecting the brain, the kidneys, the pancreas and so forth. In evolutionary terms, the body has evolved to defend itself against infections, not pollution.”  

Abdominal organs   
Among the many other organs affected is the liver. Schraufnagel said the latter surprised him, until he thought about the liver’s role in removing toxins from the body: “It makes perfect sense, but I would not have thought about it before starting the study.”  Research highlighted in the review also links air pollution to numerous cancers, including in the bladder and the gut, where an increase in irritable bowel syndrome has also been found.  Even skin and bones are affected, with skin ageing, hives and brittle bones associated with toxic air.   
Reproduction, babies
and children Perhaps the most disturbing impact of toxic air is the damage to reproduction and children. Fertility is reduced and miscarriages increased by exposure to air pollution.  The unborn are also affected, with a recent study finding pollutants in the placentas that nourish foetuses.  Air pollution is also strongly linked to low birthweights for babies, which has lifelong consequences.  Children are especially vulnerable, the review found, as their bodies are still developing.  Exposure to dirty air leads to stunted lungs, increases in childhood obesity, leukemia and mental health problems

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