Air Pollution: the Silent Killer

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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For decades, society has expressed concern for a variety of different types of pollution taking place throughout the globe. One of the most vital types, air pollution, effects every individual on earth as well as our resources. The effects of air pollution create a myriad of problems, specifically an increased chance of health complications. Unclean air affects many of the body’s major organs including the lungs, the skin and even the heart. Many individuals are extremely unaware of the havoc this pollution brings into our communities regarding our health.

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Our responsibility as inhabitants of this planet is to strive to keep it as clean as possible, starting with reducing the amount of pollution produced. I believe we can start with air pollution and work to prevent the health issues associated with it.

Air pollution can be defined as the presence of toxic chemicals or compoundsin the air, at levels that oppose risk (What is Air Pollution?’). This was even a problem over 700 years ago in London, England. The coals being burned in the city let off a particularly thick smoke into the air, affecting those living in the surrounding areas. The King at the time banned those coals, but the start of the Industrial Revolution extended the air pollution he was trying to solve. During this revolution, factories were being constructed all over the world and operated at full speed to produce goods. As a result, smoke filled the atmosphere (An Introduction to Physical Science, pg. 599-600). According to an article on, between 8,000 and 12,000 London residents were killed within just a few days during the Great Smog of 1952 epidemic. This tragedy was a result of pollutants from factories and home fireplaces intermingling with condensation in the air. Pollution also increased in the United States due to the surrounding factories and mass-production of Henry Ford’s automobiles (Water and Air Pollution). Fast forward to modern times and pollution is still a resounding issue. Ozone, more commonly known as smog, is described by the American Lung Association as an irritating, invisible gas that is formed most often by a reaction of sunlight and vapors emitted when fuel is burned by cars and trucks, factories, power plants and other resources (Water and Air Pollution). This gas effects our lungs some to the point of developing asthma, chest pains or other respiratory illnesses and can even lead to death. In the U.S. alone, over 140 million people reside in areas with shockingly high ozone levels which subjects them to future cardiovascular complications and asthma (Roppolo). Despite having a long-standing history with air pollution, we can fight for cleaner air positively impacting our communities by preventing the development of health problems and in turn improving quality of life for many people.

Certain chemicals or gasses are invading our environments resulting in air pollution throughout the globe and leading to an increase in health complications. These chemicals usually emerge from the burning of fossil fuels or exhaust from factories. Pb, or lead, is one of the most toxic metals, but it is still used in many different industries. Pb is emitted by motor vehicles particularly those who use petrol. Children and infants are especially at risk from Pb exposure causing mental retardation, learning disabilities, impairment of memory, hyperactivity, and antisocial behaviors (NCBI). In adults, exposure to Pb is less noticeable but no less important. Side effects of Pb poisoning in adults may include stomach pain, loss of concentration and memory and sleep disorders. Another example of a common pollutant is Sulfur Dioxide which is a colorless, highly reactive gas (NCBI). This gas is then absorbed in the upper airways and can disperse throughout your body. Exposure to the gas may cause bronchitis, mucous secretion, and pneumonitis. Additionally, Nitrogen Oxide is emitted from motor vehicles making it a very common air pollutant. Nitrogen Oxide is one of the least threatening pollutants but may still cause coughing and wheezing. Eyes, nose or throat irritation, headache and fever are also common side effects (NCBI). Avoiding these toxins would be beneficial to our health, but unfortunately, they permeate the environment. Working to decrease and eliminate these pollutants is imperative to improve our futures and our health as a society.

As dwellers on this planet, we must do our part in taking care of the environment. If we live with no concern about the atmosphere and the influence we have on it, pollution will progress. This increase of pollution will continue to affect our health negatively. The likelihood for certain illnesses will continuously increase if circumstances do not change. In the past, programs have been implemented to encourage care for the environment. The Clean Air Act was passed in 1963 to reduce pollution by focusing on the reduction of ambientand source specificair pollution ( Many amendments were made to this act throughout the years, but the last addition was in 1990 mandating the decrease of specific gas emissions to control acid rain and eradicate contributors to ozone depletion ( The Clean Air Act is very expansive, regulating several different aspects that effect the air quality of our environment. Along with Congress implementing change, people should work individually to decrease the amount of pollution produced. Each person can make a difference living an environment-friendly lifestyle. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services explains that keeping vehicles maintained by changing the oil and filters regularly can impact the amount of pollution they emit. In addition, avoiding idling excessively in motor vehicles can decrease pollutants in the air. Overall, every person can play a part in reducing the pollution invading our environment. There are small things we can do as a society every day to make a difference. If everyone works diligently to decrease the pollutants they create, our world will become a much cleaner and healthier place.

Overall, air pollution has already greatly affected our planet. The number of people with illnesses caused by pollution is astounding and the number will continue to rise if pollution is not regulated. Between government policies and programs and working individually to make a difference, I believe our environment can become healthier. Freeing the air of unnecessary toxins and pollutants will make for an improved quality of life for all people, but particularly for those affected by pollutant-based illnesses. These environmental changes will also prevent others from developing those illnesses. I hope our society feels a call to action and responsibility for the care of our planet. Together, we can make a difference and make the world a cleaner place.

Works Cited

Ghorani-Azam, Adel et al. Effects of air pollution on human health and practical measures for prevention in Iran Journal of research in medical sciences : the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences vol. 21 65. 1 Sep. 2016, doi:10.4103/1735-1995.189646,, A&E Television Networks, environment/water-and-air-pollution

How Does Pollution Affect Humans? The World Counts,

Roppolo, Michael. Air Pollution Dangerously High for Almost Half of U.S., Report Finds. CBS News, CBS Interactive, 30 Apr. 2014,

The Great Smog of 1952., A&E Television Networks,

US Legal, Inc. Clean Air Act. Environmental Law,

What Can I Do to Help Reduce Air Pollution? New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services,

What Is Air Pollution? What Is Soil Pollution | Environmental Pollution Centers, Environmental Pollution Centers, 2017,

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Air Pollution: The Silent Killer. (2020, May 01). Retrieved from