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How does air pollution affect our health?

Updated February 21, 2017

Human beings cannot live without air. Their lungs need to fill with air for the body to process and then be released through exhalation. If the air you breathe is polluted, your lungs will react to the pollution. The results can range from chronic infections to lung cancer.

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Those with existing chronic respiratory illnesses, such as asthma, often find that they are unable to spend time outdoors during certain times of excess pollution. This is due to an inability to get a sufficient amount of clean air into their lungs.

The Process of Breathing

In a normal exchange during respiration, clean air is breathed in and the oxygen processed. Carbon dioxide is released. Carbon dioxide is harmful to humans. That is why the body uses the gas exchange system, to release the build-up of harmful gases.

A large component of polluted air is carbon dioxide. When you breathe in polluted air, you are breathing in the harmful gas your body is meant to release through exhalation. Breathing polluted air is essentially breathing in the very gas your body is trying to eliminate.

Breathing in Polluted Air

Your lungs are largely made up of exposed membrane. The air you breathe in is filtered through the membrane to air sacs. It is in these air sacs that oxygen is exchanged with carbon dioxide. When you exhale, you release the carbon dioxide.

When the air you breathe in is polluted, the oxygen that is sent throughout your body includes the toxins that polluted the air to begin with. When you breathe in polluted air, the toxins begin breaking down cellular structures in your lungs and throughout your respiratory system, resulting in chronic respiratory distress.

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About the Author

Shelly McRae

Shelly McRae is a freelance writer residing in Phoenix, Ariz. Having earned an associate degree from Glendale Community College with a major in graphic design and technical writing, she turned to online writing. McRae has written articles for multiple websites, drawing on her experience in the home improvement industry and hydroponic gardening.

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