Health impact of specific air pollutants

SPM - suspended matter consists of dust, fumes, mist and smoke. Short-term exposures can worsen heart or lung diseases and cause respiratory problems. Long-term exposures can cause heart or lung disease and sometimes premature deaths.

Sulphur dioxide (SO2) – in the air is caused due to the rise in combustion of fossil fuels. It can oxidize and form sulphuric acid mist Aggravates asthma and makes breathing difficult. It also contributes to particle formation with associated health effects.

Carbon monoxide (CO) - fuel combustion from vehicles and engines. Reduces the amount of oxygen reaching the body’s organs and tissues; aggravates heart disease, resulting in chest pain and other symptoms.

Ground-level Ozone (O3) - a secondary pollutant formed by chemical reaction of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and NOx in the presence of sunlight. This decreases lung function and causes respiratory symptoms, such as coughing and shortness of breath, and also makes asthma and other lung diseases worse.

Lead (Pb) - smelters (metal refineries) and other metal industries; combustion of leaded gasoline in piston engine aircraft; waste incinerators (waste burners), and battery manufacturing. Lead damages the developing nervous system, resulting in IQ loss and impacts on learning, memory and behaviour in children. Lead also had cardiovascular and renal effects in adults and early effects related to anaemia.

Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) - fuel combustion (electric utilities, big industrial boilers, vehicles) and wood burning worsens lung diseases leading to respiratory symptoms, increased susceptibility to respiratory infection.

Household and Farming Chemicals - crop dusting, fumigating homes, household cleaning products or painting supplies, over the counter insect/pest killers and fertilizer dust emit harmful chemicals into the air and cause pollution. In many cases, when we use these chemicals at home or in offices with no or little ventilation, we may fall ill if we breathe them.