8 conditions made worse by pollution outdoors
Why is pollution a threat to health?
Air pollution is linked to about 50,000 early deaths a year in the UK. Children (14 and under) and older people (65 and older) and those with heart and breathing problems are particularly at risk.
It isn't just particles in the air that have been linked with health problems. The noise from roads, industry, and airports has also been studied for its effect on health.
These conditions are all made worse by outdoors pollution:
1. High blood pressure
Living in the most polluted towns and cities may have a similar effect on raising your blood pressure as being overweight, according to research.
A study published in the European Heart Journal in 2016 found that people living in the most polluted areas were more likely to report having high blood pressure than those in the least polluted areas. Researchers also suggested that, to a lesser extent, traffic noise may be responsible for increasing blood pressure.
Research published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine in 2017 found that people who were exposed to the noise of night-time planes taking off and landing on a long-term basis were particularly at risk of developing high blood pressure. Researchers also found links from living near an airport to heart disease and heart rhythm flutter problems. The researchers said further studies were needed to prove cause and effect.
The British Heart Foundation says aircraft noise can disturb our sleep, and people who have disturbed or poor quality sleep are more likely to be stressed and see a rise in their blood pressure.
2. Heart conditions and strokes
Breathing in large amounts of polluted air is linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
Further research is needed into why this is the case, but a study published in 2017 by the University of Edinburgh and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands suggested that air pollution nanoparticles are able to get into the bloodstream to cause heart disease.
High levels of outdoor pollution can also make you feel worse if you have angina or atrial fibrillation.
In 2016 University of Edinburgh researchers put air pollution on a list of environmental factors they said may increase the risk of developing dementia.
However, writing in BMC Geriatrics they cautioned that there was not enough evidence to be certain.
A Canadian study published in the Lancet in 2017 said living close to a busy road could increase your chances of dementia.
It found that long-term exposure to two common pollutants – nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter – was associated with the disease.
Pollution can be a trigger for asthma attacks. Particles in the air can irritate the airways, causing a person to become out of breath and increasing their chances of having an attack. Asthma UK says air pollution has a severe impact on the health and the quality of life of people with asthma. It says it is important people with asthma living in highly polluted areas make sure their condition is well-managed.
Children with asthma who live in cities can expect their symptoms to worsen the further they live away from parks, a small study suggested in 2017. Researchers told the European Respiratory Society International Congress that green open spaces mean pollution levels are lower but opportunities for getting more exercise are important too.