Taking in a deep breath may take on a whole new meaning when you stop to think about the number of diseases caused by air pollution. In fact, air pollution is the single largest environmental health risk humans face, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
While the air we breathe is less harmful than it was a few decades ago, air pollution research still points to dirty air for being responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in the United States each year, even at pollution levels currently allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Diseases Caused by Air Pollution
Over the past three decades, researchers have discovered a number of health effects associated with air pollution exposure and even more alarming, air pollution research from Cornell University concluded that the pollutants we inhale is responsible for 3 million deaths a year worldwide.
Officially classified as carcinogenic to humans, the health effects of inhaling air pollution can range in everything from eyes and throat irritation to more serious conditions such as respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and even death.
Young children are particularly at risk for developing diseases caused by air pollution. Harvard researchers concluded that pregnant women who were exposed to high levels of pollution have up to twice the risk of developing autism as children of mothers breathing cleaner air. Evidence also suggests that it may be damaging to mental health in kids with a 2015 Swedish study linking even minimal exposure to air pollution with an increase in mental illness in children.
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