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Physical Effects of Pollution

by
author image Martin Hughes
Martin Hughes is a chiropractic physician, health writer and the co-owner of a website devoted to natural footgear. He writes about health, fitness, diet and lifestyle. Hughes earned his Bachelor of Science in kinesiology at the University of Waterloo and his doctoral degree from Western States Chiropractic College in Portland, Ore.
Physical Effects of Pollution
A woman is wearing a mask in a polluted city. Photo Credit lzf/iStock/Getty Images

Overview

The physical effects of pollution are manifold. Pollution, in its many forms, can have immediate and long-terms effects on your body's systems and your overall health. Exposure to pollution also affects your quality of life, and can increase your risk of certain chronic diseases. The physical effects of pollution on your health depend on the type of pollution to which you're most frequently exposed, including air, water or noise pollution.

Air Pollution

According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL), a laboratory conducting scientific research for the U.S. Department of Energy, the degree to which you're harmed by air pollution depends on your level of exposure to injurious chemicals. The longer your exposure to such chemicals, and the higher the concentration of the chemicals to which you're exposed, the higher your level of exposure and likelihood of suffering an air pollution-related illness. Short-term physical health effects of air pollution include the following: eye, nose and throat irritation, upper respiratory infections--including bronchitis and pneumonia--headaches, nausea, allergic reactions and exacerbation of medical conditions, such as emphysema and asthma. Long-term physical health effects of air pollution may include chronic respiratory disease, lung cancer and heart disease. Long-term exposure to air pollution may even cause damage to your brain, nerves, liver or kidneys, states LBL.

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Water Pollution

The Water Pollution Guide, a U.K. website dedicated to minimizing your risk of exposure to water pollution, states that water pollution is more likely to produce long-term health effects than immediate health effects. The Guide suggests that chemicals--such as heavy metals--from industrial processes are especially harmful sources of water pollution. Heavy metals that accumulate in lakes and rivers harm fish and other marine life and the humans who eat them. The physical health effects of heavy metals include blunted development, birth defects and possibly cancer. Other physical health effects associated with ingesting water contaminated with industrial waste include immune suppression, reproductive failure and acute poisoning. Other problematic pollutants that can be found in water include the following: microbial pollutants from sewage, excessive organic matter and nutrients and sulfate particles from acid rain.

Noise Pollution

According to a Jun. 5, 2007 article by Rick Weiss in the Washington Post, over 100 million Americans are exposed to noise levels over 55 decibels on a regular basis--a noise level federal agencies have suggested is a reasonable background intensity. Excessive exposure to noise pollution may provoke feelings of annoyance, disrupt your sleep and cause cognitive impairment and boost your blood pressure. According to the National Association of Noise Control Officials, noise is a stressor that affects your health, and it may exacerbate your stress-related medical conditions, including hypertension, ulcers, coronary disease, colitis and headaches. Excessive exposure to noise pollution may even result in your child being born with birth defects or a low birth weight, suggests NANCO. Short-term physical health effects of noise pollution include the following: elevated heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure, along with inhibition of your digestive processes.

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References

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