The result of this heavy and rather sudden pollution was an increase in various health problems and reduced life spans.
Fortunately 1970 was also the year that saw the first Earth Day after a hard fought battle lead by the environmentalists and when Congress dramatically updated the Clean Air Act which was signed into law by President Richard Nixon.
Today the new Smog Capital of the World is Beijing, China where explosive urban expansion and industrialization with little environmental regulation has changed not only the air quality, but seen a sharp rise in various health issues among the people.
Here are seven indisputable benefits of cleaner air for us all:
1- Averting premature deaths from heart disease and respiratory disease
Many studies have proven that the Clean Air Act greatly enhanced air quality, resulting in tens of thousands of people avoiding premature death from both heart disease and respiratory disease.
2- Higher birth weight for newborns
The Chinese government began a strict series of measures to improve Beijing’s famously bad air quality in the months before the 2008 Olympics. This included restricting auto usage, shutting factories, halting construction projects and even earnest attempts of cloud seeding. As the government hoped this resulted in a six- seven week stretch that saw astounding measures of air pollution plummet below where they had been for years as well as a beautiful sky for people to enjoy.
One unanticipated result of this reduction in air pollution was that Beijing women whom were pregnant during the 2008 Olympics delivered heavier babies. A study in Environmental Perspectives showed that exposing a fetus to high levels of pollution in the final weeks of pregnancy can greatly affect the fetus’s size and development.
3- Enhanced Fetal Development
Just as air pollution may affect the size and weight of a newborn child, so too can it effect their development. A more developed fetus at birth is a healthier and stronger baby.
Weaker newborns have a higher likelihood of childhood illness and/ or cerebral issues for matters involving emotional and mental development.
4- Cardio Vascular Enhancement
Just as smoking tobacco is bad for your lungs and the entire cardio-vascular system in general, so too is air pollution. A build-up of outside particle exposure will gradually corrode and damage the lungs and the respiratory components beyond.
Strokes have been determined to be a common affliction from air pollution, especially in developing countries and where the highest levels air pollution are recorded. An air purifier for smoke helps, but only partially.
Another study in 2007 discovered the link between air pollution and women not with hemorrhagic, but ischemic strokes.
In 2011 another discovery was made linking increased cases of coronary strokes with air pollution.
Finally, other conditions believed to have a common link with air pollution are low-grade inflammation, vasoconstriction and atherosclerosis.
5- Central Nervous System Enhancement
A June 2014 University of Rochester Medical Center study discovered that early exposure to air pollution produced the identical kinds of brain damage as schizophrenia and autism- as well as affecting short term memory, learning ability and impulsivity.
Dr. Deborah Cory-Slechta who headed the research explained that when they investigated the ventricles, they could tell how the white matter had not completely developed, leaving them exposed. Thus, inflammation then damaged these brain cells- inhibiting normal development in that given cerebral area.
From here, the space was filled in by the ventricles which over grew into them.
They concluded that air pollution likely plays a role in autism and other neurodevelopment disorders.
Males also are negatively affected more severely by air pollution than females.
6- Agricultural Enhancement
Air pollution is bad for vegetation of all kinds.
The trees and plants we rely on to give us oxygen weaken and die in the presence of air pollution.
Many industrial communities around the US and the world have experienced this.
What is more, is this is the same for the food we grow.
A recent 2014 example of this occurred in India. It was discovered that air pollution, mainly of black carbon and ground level ozone, halved crop yields in the areas heaviest affected between 1980 and 2010.
Basically, Air Pollution kills both our oxygen and our food production.
7- Reduction of Cancer
After much study, in 2007 researchers found concrete data concluding that long-term exposure to fine particles raises the overall risk of non-accidental mortality.
This mortality increase includes lung cancer and cardio-vascular mortality.
The study noted that people residing in areas with heavy traffic seemed to be linked with increased risks of three outcomes: lung cancer, cardiovascular deaths and general non-accidental deaths.
Also, a 2011 Danish study discovered an increased risk of lung cancer among patients that lived in locations containing high levels of nitrogen oxide. An interesting note is that non-smokers had a higher link to cancer than smokers.
Another Danish study coincidentally also done that same year showed evidence linking air pollution to other forms of cancer- including cancer of the cervix and the brain.
Fine particle air pollution exposure seriously affects many aspects of health: early death, increased hospital admissions, asthma, low birth rate, cancer, respiratory disease and heart disease. Although avoiding exposure to fine particles outdoors may not be realistic, the best hepa air purifier with high clean air delivery rates may lower fine particle levels indoors.
Reduction of outdoor particle exposure (air pollution) is linked to significant drops in the risk of particle-related morbidity, the significant reduction to the overall public health burden and the population’s overall mortality.
Janet Miller is a yogi, nutritionist, health practitioner, mom of four and cofounder of JenReviews.com. She writes extensively and has been featured on Engadget, The Huffington Post and Fast Company.
Image Credit: Paul E. Harrer