Showing posts with label air pollution. Show all posts
Showing posts with label air pollution. Show all posts

Sunday, August 6, 2017



Air pollution can cause serious health problems. Rarely, it can even kill people — and we’re not exaggerating. That’s why we care so much about the laws that protect us from air pollution.
Read on to learn more about the specific parts of our bodies that are affected by air pollution.
Air pollution can be made of tiny particles or gases, and these get into your body when you breathe. Different types of air pollution do different things inside your body. Air pollution can directly irritate the eyes, nose, and throat, before it even gets into the lungs. It can cause runny nose, itchy eyes, and scratchy throat.


When you breathe in, air moves through your nose or mouth, down your throat into your trachea, and then into your lungs. Pollution can irritate the airways. When that happens, muscles around the bronchi get tight; the lining of the bronchi swell; and the bronchi produce excess mucous. When the airways are constricted, it becomes hard to breathe. That’s what happens during an asthma attack.
Air pollution makes infections worse and makes the lungs more susceptible to getting infections in the first place. Pollution causes your airways to narrow, decreasing airflow, and amps up the production of mucous. It also may prevent the lungs from effectively filtering bacteria and viruses.
Some air pollution causes lung cancer. Diesel exhaust, from trucks and cars, is a known human carcinogen. Some pollutants are gases. They come into the lungs easily, just like oxygen in the air. These gases pass directly from the alveoli in the lungs into the blood stream, just like oxygen does.
  • Asthma attacks
  • Infections
  • Decreased airflow
  • Excess mucous
  • Lung cancer


Air pollution gets into your blood and affects your heart. Air pollution can cause changes in the system that controls how your heart beats. This can cause the heartbeat to become irregular (an arrhythmia).
A narrowing in the blood vessels of the heart from cholesterol is called plaque. When the heartbeat becomes irregular, that can cause plaque to break off the wall of the blood vessel and block blood flow. This causes a heart attack.
When air pollution passes from your lungs into your blood, it can also cause inflammation throughout your body. Being in a state of systemic inflammation causes the blood vessels to become narrow. This decreases blood flow. The inflammation can also loosen plaque in the circulatory system or cause a blood clot to form — both of which can trigger a heart attack.
  • Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
  • Heart attacks
  • Systemic inflammation
  • Blood clots


Air pollution can harm your brain. In the brain, decreasing blood flow, loosening plaque, or triggering a blood clot causes a stroke.
Air pollution can have other impacts on the brain. When pollution gets into the bloodstream, it goes to the brain, too. There, it can cause headaches and anxiety and affect the central nervous system.
Over the long term, some kinds of pollution can lead to reduced IQ, reduced attention, and behavioral problems.
Another possible result of breathing in air pollution is an increased risk of dementia. Although the link between air pollution and dementia is uncertain, it may be a result of tiny particles triggering systemic inflammation. Tiny particles may also harm the brain directly, by entering the sensitive organ through the nose and eyes.
  • Stroke
  • Headaches and anxiety
  • Reduced IQ
  • Behavioral problems
  • Link to dementia


Air pollution gets into your baby. Air pollution can increase the risk of preterm birth and low-birth-weight babies.
When air pollution passes from the lungs into the blood, it can cause systemic inflammation throughout the body. This stressor may trigger labor or interfere with normal development of the baby.
When a pregnant woman breathes tiny particles of air pollution, her baby may be more likely to develop autism. Although the link between air pollution and autism is uncertain, it may be a result of systemic inflammation, which in turn may interfere with normal development of the baby’s brain.
  • Preterm birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Systemic inflammation
  • Link to autism


Children are especially vulnerable to air pollution. Children breathe faster than adults, so they are exposed to more air pollution than adults. They exercise more and spend more time outside than adults, which means that they breathe more outdoor air pollution. Children’s lungs are still developing, and developing lungs are more sensitive to pollution than fully formed lungs.
And the elderly are vulnerable too. As people age, their bodies are less able to compensate for the effects of pollution. The elderly are more likely to have other diseases and conditions, such as heart disease or emphysema, that can be aggravated by air pollution.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Fighting air pollution in China with social media

The serious air pollution problem in China has attracted the attention of online activists who want the government to take action, but their advocacy has had only limited success, a new study has revealed.

Instead, much of the online conversation has been co-opted by corporations wanting to sell masks, filters and other products and by government officials advancing its own environmental narrative, the study finds.
Researchers at The Ohio State University analyzed about 250,000 posts on the Chinese social media site Sina Weibo (similar to Twitter) that discussed the pollution problem in the country.
They concluded that online activists did force the Chinese government to take some actions to tackle the pollution problem. But they also found that business and government dominated much of the conversation and used it to their own advantage.
"Social media has been touted as a 'liberation technology' for citizens, but we found the story wasn't so straightforward in China," said Daniel Sui, co-author of the study and professor of geography at Ohio State.
"Along with the positive gains brought by social media, there were negatives."
Sui conducted the study with Samuel Kay and Bo Zhao, both graduate students at Ohio State at the time of the study. Their findings appear online in the journal The Professional Geographer.
The researchers used a custom-built web-crawler, designed by Zhao and housed on servers at Ohio State's Center for Urban and Regional Analysis, to search for air pollution-related posts on Sina Weibo from October 2012 to June 2013.
They also traveled to China to interview citizens and collect media coverage, government reports, diplomatic communications and public statements made by officials.
Sui said he and his students saw first-hand the air pollution problem in the country.
"Last summer all three of us were in Beijing and one day the smog was so bad that you literally couldn't see the building across the street," he said.
For decades, the Chinese government blamed hazy days on fog or dust. Government reports completely ignored certain pollutants, such as PM2.5, which is airborne particulate 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter. Because of its small size, PM2.5 can penetrate deep into the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.
But when the U.S. Embassy in Beijing began publishing air quality data on its official Twitter feed in 2008, local citizens began to take notice, Sui said.
Chinese citizens began posting about the issue on Sina Weibo, wondering why there wasn't official information on PM2.5 and asking for action by the Chinese government.
This online activism did have an impact, Sui said. Eventually, the Chinese central government acknowledged the air pollution problem, setting new air pollution guidelines and introducing new enforcement mechanisms.
"Social media raised public awareness and pressured the government to take some action. It had enormous power that way. Otherwise, the government wouldn't have done as much as they have," Sui said.
But the improvements in pollution have been relatively modest, and the researchers found that companies, the government and a few opinion leaders have been able to largely shape the online discussion along narrow and often profitable lines.
Sui and his students found that just one-tenth of 1 percent of the users of Sina Weibo in this discussion held more than 60 percent of what is called the "weighted-in degree," which is a measure of user influence. More than 80 percent of these top accounts belonged to government sources, companies or other organizations, while only 20 percent belonged to individuals.
"The most influential users in the debate were almost entirely composed of government sources, companies or famous individuals," Sui said.
Corporations used Sina Weibo to push products specifically designed to appeal to anxious citizens. One company advertised an air filtration system on Sina Weibo, saying that it was "using the most advanced technology for the filtration of PM2.5" and will enable customers to "breathe healthier air."
The attitude of corporations on social media was that Chinese citizens could simply avoid the air pollution problem -- if they could afford to buy these specialized products.
Sui said the Chinese government response on Sina Weibo was to attempt to "make air pollution a scientific rather than a political problem."
The government tried to give the impression that the air pollution problem could be solved mostly through technological fixes without hurting economic growth.
Sui said this case study shows both the power and the limits of online activism in China.
"Citizens acting online made some real changes to how the government handled the air pollution problem, but government and corporations used the same online tools to advance their own agendas as well," he said.

Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by Ohio State University. The original article was written by Jeff Grabmeier. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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