Air pollution is no longer a matter of discussion limited to intellectual circle only, rather it has become a matter of great concern for us people who live in the urban areas and is increasingly changing the ways we live. Auto fuel exhausts, industrial emissions, smells of chemicals from small factories and workshops, and so on, there is just no escape. People are restricting their outdoor activities including walking, jogging, or cycling when the air quality index ( AQI ) is high.
Diseases like asthma, lung cancer, heart diseases, etc. generally occupy the centerstage when we talk about the harmful effects of air pollution on our health but recent reports suggest that the physical health problems are not all, psychologists are reporting of growing number of mental problems caused by the air pollution.
Though more researches are needed to establish the facts, circumstantial evidences point to links between air pollution and mental health, a somewhat less travelled area which is now gaining increased attention.
Emotional contentment is as important as physical health. Not having good mental health is detrimental to a person’s overall well beings which has larger impacts in the family and the society he or she belongs in. Children especially develop a variety of difficulties including anxiety, depression, lack of confidence, conduct disorders, etc. due to improper mental health.
Studies are revealing strong connection between psychological disorder and air pollution. Poor air quality is forcing people to stay indoor for extended period because outdoor activities are threatening to pump in contaminated air into the body.
Children’s playing in the gardens, young men’s sports activities, or old people’s daily walking are being curtailed and therefore giving rise to a sense of isolation in their minds. People of all age groups are being increasingly consumed by depression, sadness, nervousness, and hopelessness.
The studies are using these factors as parameters to determine the level of stress in individuals due to pollution levels. Although, it will be too early to conclude at this stage but the findings from these researches are indicative of more serious problems such as psychosis, dementia, childhood cognitive deficiencies, autism and even suicides. Surveys conducted in the areas of high air pollution index report more of the above symptoms in people than in the people who live in lesser polluted areas.
Air pollution in the cities generally means particle pollution or PM that refers to domination of solid particles and liquid droplets in the air. Particles mostly are invisible and can be detected only by electronic microscope but sometimes they are the bigger particles like dust, dirt, soot, acids, organic chemicals, and metals that can be seen with the naked eyes. These particles consist mostly of the harmful chemicals emitted into the atmosphere from power plants, industries, and automobiles. Other sources of the particles include construction sites, smokestacks or fires
Particle pollution has direct relationship with lung cancer. Along with smoking, it is the particle pollution that poses greater risk of lung cancer. Because when we breathe in the polluted air, the floating particles in the air get deposited in the lungs and interfere with functions of the lungs. Particles smaller than ten micrometers in diameter cause the most harms as they can get deep into the lungs and can also go down to bloodstream. Although many surveys have provided large number of lung cancer patients from the highly polluted areas to establish a link between the disease and air pollution, the exact mechanism is yet to be known. It may be that inhaling of these particles cause changes in the DNA. Another theory says that the particles lead to chronic inflammation and affect the immune system.