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Diseases Caused by Air Pollution

written by: Nicky LaMarco•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 3/1/2010

While the most visible consequences of air pollution is smog, the effects of this environmental problem are more devastating than what simply meets the eye. Breathing in these chemicals daily is damaging the body causing serious health problems. Below read about some diseases caused by air pollution

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    Although asthma may not be directly caused by air pollution, asthma attacks can be triggered by high levels of air pollution. The health condition asthma can also be caused by air pollution.

    A pollutant such as sulfur dioxide causes the constriction of smaller airways in the lungs and makes breathing harder even for healthy people. With someone prone to asthma attacks, this constriction can set off a serious and life-threatening attack.

    In fact, asthma attacks set off by pollutants are one of the largest causes of air pollution related death in Europe and in North America.

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    Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a disease spreading quickly due to increases in levels of air pollution.

    Basically, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) refers to recurring episodes of respiratory problems, such as bronchitis.

    While smoking has long been recognized as the chief factor in the development of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, recent research of subjects who lived through the Great Smog of 1952 found significant reductions in breathing capacity and increased rates of respiratory conditions, including emphysema in those patients.

    More than 100,000 people in the United States alone die from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

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    Cystic Fibrosis

    While cystic fibrosis is a serious disease itself, high levels of air pollution can further aggravate the condition.

    This hereditary disease affects the mucous glands found throughout the body, including in the lungs. Thick areas of mucous develop in the lungs and allow for certain types of harmful bacteria to thrive there. As a result, these patients have an increased number of lung infections and breathing problems. Studies have shown that the respiratory complications associated with cystic fibrosis are worsened in patients who live near urban areas where air pollution concentration is higher.

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    Other Diseases Associated with Air Pollution

    Besides the diseases discussed above, air pollution also contributes to other health problems. People who suffer from chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes have a higher risk of complications and death when living in areas with higher concentrations of air pollution.

    Also, the University of Birmingham released a study showing a strong correlation between an increase in the rate of pneumonia and motor vehicle exhaust levels. The study suggests that living near urban areas or congested traffic centers can dramatically increase your risk for developing this disease.