Document Type

Article

Publication Date

12-2009

Abstract

Ambient air pollution can be a serious cause of concern for any community. Anthropogenic ambient air pollutants can emanate from industries, traffic, geological sources and domestic heating and cooking. However, studies have shown that traffic related air pollution can have far more detrimental health effects than non-combustion sources. These adverse health effects are most profound in sensitive populations like the elderly and young children. The World Health Organization (WHO) attributes more than 300 million deaths every year to ambient air pollution. The WHO’s Air Quality Guidelines (AQG) and the United States Environment Protection Agency’s (USEPA) National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) provide specific ambient air quality standards for several air pollutants. This review paper describes some of the criteria air pollutants (as designated by USEPA) like particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide. Short and long term exposures to these pollutants can lead to cardiovascular, respiratory morbidity and premature death in some cases. In the elderly population, exposure to particulate matter has shown an increase in cases of atherosclerosis, irregular heartbeats, emphysema and onset of myocardial infarction. Young children are particularly vulnerable to damaging effects of traffic air pollutants. Children’s lungs are in the process of development and their airway exposure per unit time is more than adults. Also, their defense mechanisms are evolving, thereby, raising their susceptibility to air pollution. In young asthmatic children, exposure to high levels of particulate matter has led to the exacerbation of their asthma. High levels of nitrogen dioxide have shown a decrement in the lung function of young children. This leads to increased rates of school absenteeism, greater use of asthma medications, emergency room visits and hospital admissions. Elucidating the various health effects of traffic pollutants on these sensitive populations is another focal point of this paper.

Publication Title

Journal of Environmental Research and Development

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