Up In The Air

June 20th, 2019

The Times recently posted an article stating that air pollution levels are already higher in 2019 than that of the previous year. Over the next 500 words I will talk about what air pollution is and the danger that it presents.

First of all, air pollution is when harmful or excessive quantities of substances such as gases or particles are introduced into the Earth’s atmosphere. This can cause diseases, allergies and even death to humans and also affects animals and our crops. We as a species massively contribute to air pollution by artificially exposing substances such as carbon dioxide, sulphur oxides, toxic metals and radioactive pollutants to the atmosphere.

How did it get like this?

So how did it get this bad? To start with, all living creatures emit carbon dioxide when they breathe out. The carbon dioxide then rises up and joins the other greenhouse gasses to trap heat into the atmosphere. This wouldn’t be so bad if it was all a natural process however through technology and manufacturing humans have pumped enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over the last 150 years to raise levels higher than they have been for hundreds of thousands of years. Some of the more adverse health effects from air pollution are cardiovascular disease, lung disease, lung cancer, and early exposure is thought to be also linked to changes in the brain such as autism and schizophrenia.

Air pollution is not limited to outdoors but also the indoors. Carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide are emitted from domestic appliances such as boilers and heaters that contain carbon-containing fuels such as coal, gas or wood. Volatile organic compounds such as cleaning products, paints and air fresheners also contribute to indoor air pollution.

Air Pollution and Occupational Health

In the UK, Kings College London found that air pollution could be linked to up to 36,000 early deaths. This has raised a lot of questions in the Occupational Health field such as, should employers be doing more to protect their workers from the polluted air?

The British Safety Council has called for air pollution to be recognised as an Occupational Health hazard. In short, they are asking for the UK to use the World Health Organisation’s exposure limits for main pollutants, for the government to make air pollution an Occupational Health hazard and for improvements to be made to pollution monitoring around the UK.

Here at NPH we already do tests such as spirometry to test lung function. This is not the only service that we provide. We do full pre-employment screenings and Health Surveillance to make sure that we can detect early signs of exposure. If you would like more information you can find it here.