Persons exposed to air pollution are more at risk of all sorts of diseases including hypertension, lung cancer, and renal failure, an Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist, Dr. Oyeleye Bello, has said.
Bello, who works at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada, said air pollution is dangerous to health and could affect almost every system in the body.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with PUNCH HealthWise, the ENT specialist, said air pollution could affect the respiratory system, cardiovascular system, neurological system, skin, and reproductive system.
She explained, “It can affect the respiratory system, it can affect the cardiovascular system, it can affect the eyes, it can affect the skin, it can affect the neurological system. Air pollution suppresses the immune system and predisposes the individual to a lot of health conditions that the body should have been able to fight.
“Under the respiratory system, air pollution is one of the predisposing factors to asthma, it causes chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. It can also cause emphysema.
“It could predispose to lung cancer. Then you could now have a cough as a minor symptom and then these major symptoms can occur.
“On the cardiovascular system, it can lead to heart diseases. It affects the beating of the heart and predisposes to high blood pressure.
“Under the neurological system, there are certain diseases that air pollution is a predisposing factor for, such as Parkinson’s, cognitive decline.”
According to the Journal of the American Heart Foundation, the effects of air pollution are consistent for all cardiovascular events including cardiovascular mortality, acute myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, and stroke.
The foundation affirmed that long‐term exposure to ambient air pollutants was a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.
“Ambient air pollution needs to be considered as a public health issue, and measures to control the level of air pollution are required to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease,” it noted.
Bello further observed that air pollution also has negative effects on children, adding that it had been found that air pollution causes low birth weight in babies.
“It affects foetal growth if the mother is exposed severely during pregnancy.
“There are some studies that have linked air pollution to increasing cases of autism. There is a substance that we call lead, it is one of those things that cause air pollution. It is dangerous. Once it accumulates in the brain, it can cause mental retardation.
“When lead accumulates in the renal system, it causes renal failure and can affect the liver. On the eyes, it can cause dry eyes and retinopathy. It causes cancer,” the ENT specialist said.
Bello called for awareness creation to let people know about the dangers of air pollution and its impact on health.
She urged the government to legislate and control activities that result in air pollution.
The ENT specialist also enjoined Nigerians to ensure proper waste disposal, adding that Nigerians should stop burning waste.
“We need to find a new source of clean household energy. We need stable electricity and adequate housing and ventilation,” she said.
The World Health Organisation says the air that people breathe is growing dangerously polluted, revealing that nine out of 10 people now breathe polluted air, which it says kills 7 million people every year.
According to the global health body, the health effects of air pollution are serious, stressing that one-third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer, and heart disease are due to air pollution.
“This is having an equivalent effect to that of smoking tobacco, and much higher than, say, the effects of eating too much salt,” it added.
In a document it released in 2018, the WHO noted, “Every day around 93 per cent of the world’s children under the age of 15 years (1.8 billion children) breathe air that is so polluted. It puts their health and development at serious risk. Tragically, many of them die.”
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