Air Pollution: Effects on Health, Prevention and Recommended Tests
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Air Pollution: Effects on Health, Prevention and Recommended Tests

Air pollution is defined as contamination of the air by natural and man-made pollutants. Most of these pollutants are poisonous and inhaling them directly affects our health conditions.
Air pollution is categorized into two parts: Outdoor air pollution and indoor air pollution.

Air Pollution Reasons

(1) Outdoor Air Pollution: Outdoor air pollution are the exposures taking place outside of the built atmosphere.

Examples include:

  • Burning of fossil fuels.
  • Noxious gases like sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, chemical vapours, etc.
  • Ground-level ozone.

(2) Indoor Air Pollution: Indoor air pollution includes exposures that are carried out by indoor activities.

Examples include:

  • Gases like carbon monoxide, radon, etc.
  • Buildings and construction materials.
  • Burning of crackers.
  • Tobacco and smoke.
  • House-hold products and chemicals.

Pollution nowadays is a serious problem in India especially in Delhi and the NCR region. The overall air quality of Delhi and NCR region has jumped into the “severe” category post-Diwali. According to AQI (air quality index), the total air quality was above 400.

AQI is a measure for the analysis of air quality daily. It tells you how clean or unhealthy the air is. AQI scale is divided into six categories:

Range Level of health concern
0- 50 Good
51- 100 Moderate
101- 150 Unhealthy for sensitive group
151- 200 Unhealthy
201-300 Very unhealthy
301- 500 Hazardous
Above 500 Emergency

Effects of Air Pollution on Human Health

Delhi’s hazardous air quality is causing serious health problems especially to those who are having pre-existing issues like asthma and heart disease.

Effects of air pollution

The immediate effects of air pollution are not to be ignored. Coughing, difficulty in breathing, chest discomfort, wheezing, watery eyes, sore throat are some of the common symptoms or reactions of the air pollution.

  1. Breath shortness – When pollutants or particulate is inhaled, it triggers the tissues of the nasal cavity causing cough and runny nose. When finer particulate such as PM 2.5 enter the airway of the lung. this can cause an infection and it could trigger inflammation, later causing breath shortness, asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

  2. Affect the cardiovascular health – Bad air quality can also, affect the cardiovascular health of a person which may increase the risk of heart attack and angina.

  3. Effect on pregnant women – Air pollution may lead to inflammation throughout the body including uterus which may lead to a miscarriage or preterm birth.

  4. Effect on childrens – Air pollution is linked with lung damage and inhibits the functions of the lungs. Also, it may cause pneumonia and hamper their brain development.

  5. Effect on life expectancy – As pollutant enter the body, life expectancy goes down. This is because both the lungs and heart are affected.

Why and How It is Important to be Preventive During the Pollutant Season

The enlisted problems can be caused by air pollution:

  • Asthma
  • Lung cancer
  • COPD
  • Pneumonia
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Leukaemia
  • Reduction of lungs functioning
  • Birth defects and immune system defects in infants etc.

Since these are some of the serious medical conditions and can deteriorate your health you are need to consult doctors and go for diagnostic tests.

For Asthma, You can Opt for the Following Tests:

  • Spirometry-  Spirometry is a simple test that measures how much and how fast a person can blow air out. Basically this type of test determines airway obstruction.

  • Exhaled nitric oxide- Nitric oxide is produced in the lungs and it is found to be an indicator for the inflammation. Since asthma is an inflammatory disorder, this test is useful in the diagnosis and management of asthma.

  • Peak air flow- Peak flow meter is an apparatus that measures how perfectly air moves out of the lungs.

For Lung Cancer You Can Go For The Following Tests:

  • Chest X-ray- It is the initial step to diagnose lung cancer. Most of the lung cancer appears as white-grey mass in the chest X-ray image. Although, chest X-ray does not give a definitive diagnosis of cancer.

  • CT-Scan- Utilizes X-ray to give cross-sectional images of the body. It produces much more detailed image than an X-ray image. CT scan can show the location, shape, and size of any lung cancer and also enlarge lymph nodes which might contain cancer.

  • PET CT-Scan- Stands for positron emission tomography-computerized tomography, show the locations of cancerous cells. It is mainly done if the CT-scan results in early-stage cancer. Before PET CT- scan, the patient will be injected with radioactive material. This scan is a completely painless process.

  • CECT- Stands for contrast-enhanced computed tomography. The process uses X-ray to visualize the internal structures of the body. CECT gives you more precise images than CT-scan.

  • HCRT- Stands for high resolution computed tomography is a highly used technique to picturise various lung pathology. This process produces high-definition images of alveoli, pulmonary vasculature, and airways.

  • Bronchoscopy and biopsy – Other procedures for cancer detection includes bronchoscopy and biopsy.

Note: Before getting any of the tests done, please always consult your physician.

Test For COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

Similarly for COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) a person can opt the following tests:

  • Lung function tests – These tests measure the amount of inhaled and exhaled air. You can go for spirometry test also.

  • Chest X-ray – Emphysema can be detected by chest X-ray which is one of the major cause of COPD.

  • CT-Scan – Detect emphysema and help to determine whether surgery is beneficial or not.

  • Arterial bloods gas analysis – this test measures whether your lungs are delivering oxygen into the blood and removing carbon dioxide or not.

Pneumonia can be diagnosed by following tests:

  • Blood tests- Blood tests used to detect any kind of infection and also identify micro-organisms causing that infection. CBC and blood culture sensitivity are the most common blood tests.

  • CBC stands for complete blood count, which is a test that estimates the blood components like red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. CBC is also recommended as a part of routine check-ups.

  • While blood culture sensitivity test figures out what kind of infection is running in your bloodstream. Also, this test is helpful in identifying the causative agent of the infection.

  • Chest X-ray- Helps to detect pneumonia and determine the area and location of infection.

  • Pulse Oximetry- measure oxygen level in your bloodstreams.

  • Sputum tests A fluid sample from your lungs is ejected you and then analysed. Sputum microscopy and sputum culture sensitivity are the two tests done to detect the pathogenic microbes causing pneumonia and other respiratory infections.

Suggested tests for cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular disease is the condition that affects our heart like coronary artery disease, arrhythmia etc. To diagnose heart disease, the doctor will suggest some of the following tests:

  • ECG (Electrocardiogram) – Monitors the electrical activity of your heart and shows whether it is working properly or not. An ECG records the rhythm of the heart on a moving paper strip.

  • Echocardiogram – Echocardiogram Is the ultrasound of your heart. It utilizes sound waves and creates a picture of your heart’s valves and the chambers of the heart. The echocardiogram helps the sonographer to calculate the pumping action of heart.

  • Carotid ultrasound – A carotid duplex scan uses high-frequency sound waves and creates images of carotid arteries of both sides of the neck. Also, it is helpful in detecting any plaque in your arteries.

  • Heart MRI – In MRI, large magnets and radio waves are used to create images of the internal part of the body. During this test, technicians create pictures of the blood vessels and heart while it beats.

  • Chest X-ray and CT-scan – Chest X-ray and CT scan is also suggested to be done in cardiovascular diseases.

  • Lipid profile – Lipid profile is a type of blood test that measures the cholesterol and fats (triglycerides) amount in the blood. Fats and cholesterol in the blood can block your arteries and increases the risk of heart disease.

[Before getting any of the tests done, please always consult your physician.]

  • Microalbuminuria – The urine test estimates the concentration of albumin in urine. Albumin is a protein used by cells and tissues for growth and repairing mechanisms. If certain concentration of albumin is found in the urine, it may lead to kidney damage.

  • Hs CRP – A high- sensitivity C- reactive protein test is a type of blood test use to evaluate the danger of developing coronary artery disease which may lead to angina. It usually measures the concentration of C- reactive protein in the blood.

  • Homocysteine test – Homocysteine is an amino acid present in the blood. This is a test that measures amount of homocysteine in the blood. If a person is detected with high level of homocysteine in his blood, the chances of having heart disease and vitamin deficiency gradually increases.

For leukaemia one can go for blood tests and bone marrow test.

  • Blood Tests – In blood tests, the amount of abnormal and normal levels of RBC, WBC and platelets can be estimated.

  • Bone Marrow Test – Sometimes doctor can recommend the patient for the bone marrow test.

Other Preventive Measures Include:

1. Avoid morning walks and outdoor activities

Exercise is necessary for a healthy life but not when air is toxic. People who run/jog or engaged in any kind of outdoor activity should try to avoid their activities until the condition improves.

2. Use face masks in outdoor

Whenever you step out of the house don’t forget to wear a face mask. Face masks filter out certain particles from the air.

3. Filter you air at home

Plant more air purifying plants such as Ivy, spider plant, aloe vera, etc. These plants help in purification of indoor air and minimizing air pollution.

4. Ventilation of your kitchen and bathroom

Make sure that there is a chimney and exhaust in your kitchen and bathroom respectively. This will give you a bit of satisfaction that the air is being recirculated.

Diagnostic and Pathology Tests Available At House of Diagnostics (HOD).



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Air Pollution: Effects on Health, Prevention and Recommended Tests
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Air Pollution: Effects on Health, Prevention and Recommended Tests
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