What are the Diseases Caused by Smog?
Smog, derived from the words ‘smoke’ and ‘fog’, refers to a mixture of smoke particles and solid and liquid fog. It is usually visible as a blackish or yellowish fog that stays suspended in the atmosphere. It is a kind of air pollution and poses serious environmental and health issues in many areas across the globe.
Given below is a detailed illustration of the various aspects related to diseases caused by smog.
Scroll through to know more!
What Are the Various Diseases Caused by Smog?
Illustrated below are the different diseases due to smog -
1. Aggravation of Asthma
Smog triggers asthma attacks and severely worsens asthma conditions.
An aggravated form of asthma can, in turn, worsen the symptoms and lead to the following health effects -
- Wheezing attacks
- Chest tightness
- Shortness of breath
The risk factors of this disease caused by smog or its aggravation include the following -
- Frequent exposure to pollutants
2. Allergies, Coughing and Irritation in Chest, Eyes, Throat and Nose
High levels of ozone irritate the respiratory system, leading to wheezing and coughing. After exposure, the affected individuals generally suffer from these effects for a few days. But the particles present in smog keep damaging the lungs even after the irritations go away.
Plus, a significant level of smog and air pollution may also raise the probability of allergies. As per researchers, cases of allergies are higher in areas having high smog concentrations.
All these health issues can lead to several effects in individuals, including -
- Chronic cough that can lead to heartburn or a sour taste in an individual’s mouth
- Sore throat
- Formation of postnasal drip
- Eye pain
- Nasal drainage
The various risk factors associated with these health issues are -
- Air pollution
- Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
- Common cold
3. Premature Deaths Due to Cancer and Respiratory Ailments
Continuous smog exposure increases the chances of premature death from respiratory ailments and cancers. Smog particles contain formaldehyde, butadiene, and benzene - all composed of carcinogens. Inhalation of smog particles is responsible for several premature deaths in Asian countries, the United States, and Europe.
Cancer and respiratory ailments can lead to many complications such as -
- Difficulty in breathing
- Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
- Respiratory arrest
- Loss of weight
- Chemical imbalances in the body
The various risk factors of these diseases caused by smog are listed below -
- Family history
- Chronic health conditions like ulcerative colitis
- Age of an individual
- Tobacco smoking (includes secondhand smoke)
- Air pollution
4. Lung Damage and Breathing Difficulties
Individuals wondering what type of disease is caused by smog, must note that there are various lung conditions that occur due to the harmful effects of smog. These include emphysema, bronchitis, and pneumonia. This is because smog causes damage to the lining of the lungs and also makes it difficult for individuals to breathe properly.
Lung damage can further lead to several complicated health conditions like -
- Pulmonary embolism (PE)
- Pulmonary oedema
- ARDS (Acute respiratory distress syndrome)
- Interstitial lung disease (ILD)
The various risk factors for lung damage and breathing problems include the following -
- Smoking (includes exposure to secondhand smoke)
- Exposure to asbestos
- Air pollution
5. Risk of Developing Rickets
Heavy smog lasting for a prolonged period blocks ultraviolet rays from reaching the surface of the earth. This leads to low vitamin D production in humans, thereby resulting in rickets owing to impaired metabolism of phosphorus and calcium in the bone marrow.
Rickets softens the regions of growing tissue at the ends of growth plates or bones of a child. It can lead to several skeletal deformities like -
- Knock knees or bowed legs
- Breastbone projection
- Thickened ankles and wrists
The various factors that increase the risk of rickets in children include the following -
- Certain types of antiretroviral and anti-seizure medications
- Dark skin
- Exclusive breastfeeding
- Premature birth
- Children living in some specific geographical locations (northern latitudes)
- Deficiency of vitamin D in the mother during pregnancy
6. Low Birth Weights and Birth Defects
Searching “what are the diseases caused by smog in newborn babies”?
Read through to get your answers!
Due to smog exposure, pregnant women can give birth to babies with birth defects and low birth weight.
Even exposure to smog particulate matter measuring as low as 5 μg can pose risks of extremely low birth weights at the time of delivery.
Smog exposure leads to some severe birth defects in newborns. These include spina bifida, which is a condition depicting spinal column malfunctions. It also results in anencephaly that refers to a formation defect of a baby's neural tube during development. The baby is born with an incomplete skull and an underdeveloped brain in this condition.
Newborn babies with low birth weights can have several problems like -
- Trouble gaining weight
- Difficulty to eat
- Breathing problems, such as respiratory distress syndrome
- Difficulty to fight off infections
- Low levels of oxygen at birth
- Gastrointestinal issues like necrotising enterocolitis
Several conditions can pose as a risk factor for having a baby with low birth weight -
- Certain medications to treat health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure, problems of the heart, kidney and lungs
- Some specific infections like chickenpox, rubella, toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus
- Preterm labour
- Problems with the placenta
- Exposure to lead or air pollution
Which Smog Causes Diseases?
Based on its characteristics and origins, smog is classified into two categories -
Photochemical Smog, Also Known as Los Angeles Smog
This is the most commonly occurring smog. Photochemical smog forms when sunlight reacts with at least one volatile organic compound (VOC) and nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere.
Los Angeles smog requires neither fog nor smoke and is mainly found in urban regions having a large number of automobiles. Automobiles, factories and power plants emit nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere. Besides these, gasoline, cleaning solvents and paints release volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere.
The harmful compound in this smog causes diseases and leads to conditions like difficulty in breathing, irreversible damage to the heart and the lungs.
Sulphurous Smog, Also Known as London Smog
Sulphurous smog usually forms due to burning of fossil fuels like coal, a temperature drop, and the accumulation of particulate matter from industrial activity. London smog contains a high concentration of dust, nitrogen dioxides and sulphur oxides in the atmosphere. This smog usually forms during the colder months.
London smog can lead to irritation in the lungs, nose and human eyes.
What Are the Preventive Measures to Control Diseases Caused By Smog?
To control the diseases caused by smog, it is imperative to find solutions to smog pollution in the first place. Illustrated below are some noteworthy solutions to the same -
1. Using Environment-friendly Consumer Products
Using household products containing high amounts of volatile organic compounds must be avoided altogether. These products emit particulate matter and hazardous substances into the atmosphere. These in turn form ground-level ozone by reacting in the presence of sunlight.
The usage of environment-friendly consumer products like eco-friendly sprays, paper, paints, plastics and solvents will help address smog pollution. Individuals can replace energy-intensive devices with energy-efficient ones to reduce energy demand and thus lower the problem of smog. They must also refrain from discarding packages of products as it exacerbates potential air and smog pollution.
2. Lowering and Managing Industrial and Vehicular Emissions
Industries and vehicles are the biggest contributors to smog-forming pollutants. Therefore, the best method of reducing smog is to manage gaseous emissions from industries and cars. It is fundamental for industries to use renewable energy sources and manufacture environment-friendly consumer products.
3. 3Rs - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
Looking for ways to keep diseases caused by smog at bay?
Following the 3R policy will go a long way in lowering the smog issue. Reducing consumption indicates reduced production of material things and usage of resources and fossil fuels. This, in turn, means lesser smog and air pollution.
Similarly, reusing and recycling will help check wasteful consumption of material and excessive waste production. This will again contribute towards reducing smog.
4. Conserving Energy and Increasing Energy Efficiency
Conserving energy and increasing its efficiency simultaneously reduces gaseous emissions into the atmosphere. These emissions are, in fact, responsible for smog. A productive and efficient system for energy management will help reduce smog, thereby lowering pollutants like sulphur and nitrogen oxides in the air.
5. Systems for Smog Detection and Monitoring
The usage of efficient systems to detect and monitor smog will help provide early warning signs. The meteorological departments can also assist with this by installing monitoring equipment that consistently records the amounts of particulate matter and emission in the air.
The Air Quality Index (AQI) is an example of an index that is used to report and monitor the relative concentrations of ground-level ozone and common air pollutants. This measure helps monitor the levels of smog-causing pollutants in the air, thereby helping employ strategies to cut down emissions and air pollution.
6. Choosing Renewable Energy
Opting for renewable energy will help reduce emissions from power generating plants. These plants are heavily dependent on fossil fuels. In simpler terms, using renewable energy will lower environmental impacts and cut down on smog and pollutants in the air.
7. Personal Protection
Last but not least, personal protection is imperative when it comes to dealing with high smog levels present in the air and keeping diseases caused by smog at bay. In order to personally protect themselves, individuals can consider wearing masks while going outside. This will protect from getting contaminated with harmful particles.
Individuals must consider all the vital aspects discussed in this article related to diseases caused by smog to protect themselves against it. Additionally, they must adopt different measures to control smog and, hence, keep these diseases at bay.