India’s air quality is worsening with Delhi repeatedly touching toxic levels is news to no one. Even clean and pristine mountain villages of Himalayas and towns along the sea are dealing with increasing health problems due to air pollution, a problem that only becomes more serious during winters as smog starts settling down to lower heights. Air pollution impacts the human health in both short and long term ways. While the immediate effects could be cough, asthma, eye infections, etc. all caused due to inflammation by the pollutants inside body, the long term effects are due to the oxidative damage gradually happening inside the body. This article deals with understanding the effect of air pollution on health, oxidative damage by air pollution and the ways of minimizing the effect on the body.
WHAT IS OXIDATION OF CELLS?
Science tells us that an atom with unpaired electrons has high reactivity and is referred to as a free radical. Inside the body, free radicals are dangerous since they can react with other molecules of any nature (protein, DNA, fats, etc.) by stealing their electron to fill up their electron vacancy. This process is called oxidation, and often renders the target atom inactive or damaged. Free radicals are created with many bodily procedures and can be found in food we eat, air we breathe, etc.
HOW IS HEALTH IMPACTED BY AIR POLLUTION?
Many pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxide and particulates, are free radicals. Exposure to them over a certain limit can trigger harmful oxidation reactions inside the lungs upon inhaling (which is particularly dangerous for people suffering from asthma or other lung related diseases). Even though lungs have a natural protective lining of antioxidants to protect itself from such foreign attacks, over exposure can leave them susceptible over time as the concentration of free radicals becomes greater than antioxidants present.
Other than this, air pollution decreases the amount of sunlight reaching the earth and lowers the synthesis of vitamin D in the body.
HOW TO STOP HEALTH DAMAGE DUE TO AIR POLLUTION?
Now that we have caused it, we can’t run away from the pollution until we learn to mend our ways and lifestyle as a whole country. The only possible thing is to try to reduce the impact of pollution on health.
- First and foremost, exposure to pollution should be reduced and having air purifiers at home should be considered to reduce some amount of indoor pollution.
- Limit exhausting physical activities that increase air intake.
- And like always, the underlying line of defense is the diet. Eat food rich in antioxidants and having anti-inflammatory properties and take good supplements if needed. Most common antioxidant nutrients are vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and Omega-3, and, some common anti-inflammatory foods are green vegetables, turmeric, ginger, etc.
While there is no research telling that such a diet can surely save you from the effects of air pollution and free radicals, they certainly help. Therefore, eating antioxidants, anti-inflammatory food and sufficient supplements wherever lacking is one step of prevention we should take to combat air pollution, which also is a solid advice in general too.