Top 6 Negative Health Effects of Environmental Pollution

If you are still not convinced on the importance of reducing the amount of pollution that people produce then probably learning about the potential negative effects that it can have on your health might help you make up your mind. The following are just some of the many negative effects of environmental pollution to your health:


Particulate matter (PM), a major component of air pollution, is actually classified as a carcinogen according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). This means that there is more than enough evidence to conclude that air pollution causes cancer.

Respiratory disease

Aside from cancer, epidemiologists have also discovered that there is a correlation between an increased frequency of respiratory ailments in people living in highly urbanized areas compared to those who live in the countryside.

Particulate matter of a certain size, which is smaller than 0.1 micron (PM0.1) can be found in air pollution. It is also the most dangerous as it can reach the deepest part of the lungs and can even find its way into your bloodstream.

Brain damage

Aside from causing several different cognitive ailments, like brain fog, minor memory loss, and others, pollution can also trigger serious neurological disorders. Several medical studies show that PM smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) is associated with increased incidences of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and others.

Heart disease

There is also growing number of epidemiological and clinical evidence pointing towards a relationship between environmental pollution and heart disease.

It is most likely due to pollutants promoting vascular dysfunction, increased blood pressure, blood clot formation, and impaired functions of blood vessels. All of these are risk factors for developing heart disease. Moreover, ozone and PM can stimulate the lungs’ reflexes, resulting in irregular and increased heart rate.

Type 2 diabetes

Air pollution is one of the leading causes of insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. If the concentration of PM2.5 in the air is high enough, it can impair the body’s energy metabolism and glucose homeostasis. It can also increase the inflammation in organs that are responsive to insulin.

Skin diseases

Although it might seem coincidental, eczema, hives, and other forms of skin diseases are more prevalent in those living in highly urbanized areas compared to those in the rural places.

PM2.5 and PM10 are usually associated with eczema and hive breakouts in people. It is mainly because they are small enough that they can pass through the skin and activate inflammatory pathways.


Mentioned are only a few of the many different kinds of diseases that people can get when environmental pollution gets out of hand. Hopefully, this information can motivate everyone to contribute towards saving the environment.

FAQ: Health effects of pollution

What causes air pollution?

There are five main causes of air pollution, namely:

  • Vehicle exhaust fumes – This is the leading cause of air pollution in highly urbanized cities. These fumes are the by-products of internal combustion engines.
  • Fossil fuel power plants – What most people are ignorant about is that most of the electricity they are using comes from power plants that burn fossil fuels or coal. These power plants produce a lot of harmful emissions released into the air.
  • Industrial factories – Manufacturing factories make use of huge machines that also create harmful exhaust emissions.
  • Agricultural and livestock industries – Many are unaware that livestock farms are among the leading contributors to the world’s greenhouse gases. Agricultural industries also contribute through the machinery that they use.
  • Natural Causes – Forest fires are also among the leading causes of air pollution in certain areas.

What are the negative effects of air pollution on your health?

High levels of air pollution can cause some immediate health problems. Aside from aggravating existing respiratory ailments, air pollution can also cause the heart and lungs to work extra hard to supply the rest of the body with oxygen. It may also cause damage to the tissues in the respiratory system.

Long-term exposure also leads to permanent health issues, including the acceleration of the aging of the lungs, decreased lung capacity and functions, and the development of serious respiratory diseases. These include asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, and in worst cases, even cancer. Furthermore, it can significantly shorten life expectancy.

What are the harmful components of air pollution?

Air pollution contains a lot of harmful substances that cause negative effects on your health. These include:

  • Particulate Matter – These are the small particles suspended in the air, like soot, dust, and drops of liquids. Most of the particulate matter in urbanized areas come from burning fossil fuels.
  • Black Carbon – This is one of the different types of particulate matter that forms part of air pollution. It comes from burning fuel – diesel, coal, and wood in particular.
  • Nitrogen Oxide – Both nitrogen oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) come from gasoline-powered vehicle emissions. In large concentrations, these gases can be quite toxic.
  • Ozone – The atmosphere’s ozone protects us on the surface of the earth from the effects of ultraviolet rays. However, the ozone, which is also called smog, is a respiratory irritant.

These are only some of the harmful substances found in pollution, which is why you need to avoid exposure to air pollution as much as you can.